Meeting of the Faculty of the Arts and Sciences

Monday, October 16, 2006

12:00 noon – 2:00 p.m.




President Bollinger called the meeting to order at 12:13 p.m.


It was moved, seconded, and voted that the minutes of the last meeting be approved.


Christia Mercer, Chair of the Executive Committee of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences, identified five areas of progress toward the goal of making the faculty voice more audible in the workings of A&S and the University at large:


1. With the help of President Bollinger, ECFAS has begun meeting with members of the Board of Trustees to give them a sense of faculty perspective.


2. Dean Quigley has facilitated contact with the College Board of Visitors, whose President, Mike Rothfeld, has welcomed faculty participation and consultation.


3. Provost Brinkley has agreed to let ECFAS to play a larger role on the Quality of Life Committee. 


4. Vice President Dirks has welcomed faculty collaboration on fundraising and the A&S budget.  The Faculty Fundraising Committee (under the leadership of Stuart Firestein and Hilary Ballon) has been a resounding success (detailed report later in the meeting).  Scott Norum, Vice President for University Budget and Financial Planning (temporarily on loan to A&S) has met with the ECFAS to clarify the structure of the A&S budget, and both the Steering Committee of Chairs and ECFAS have representation on the A&S Budget Committee.  Vice President Norum’s report follows VP Dirks’s comments.


5. Efforts have been made to establish better communication between ECFAS and the faculty it represents.  It is important that ECFAS hear from faculty members about any areas of concern.  Email Christia Mercer (cm50) or other members of ECFAS, all of whom are listed (with departmental affiliation) on the ECFAS website (, where you will also find minutes of A&S Faculty meetings.


President Bollinger’s update emphasized his on-going initiatives on space issues and resources.  The Northwest Corner Building is progressing.  Some questions about design and adjacency remain, but collaboration with a specific architect is underway.


The Manhattanville project will extend several decades into the future, but we are in the final few weeks of work on the environmental impact statement.  A team of several dozen is working around the clock with the city and communities to produce this 1500-page document on the size of sidewalks, shadows, traffic patterns, effects on housing, pollution, and so on.  Certification from the city is expected.  Discussions about what we’re prepared to do out in the local community are also proceeding well; we want to be neighbors.  Five years from this fall will mark the first academic move-in phase, and planning for this is going well, too.  The Mind-Brain institute (underwritten by a generous gift from Dawn Green) will be located in Manhattanville.  The business school is giving serious consideration to moving. The School of Arts will have major facilities there as well.


The Capital Campaign has been successfully launched with the announcement that we have already raised $1 billion, 621 million---which means we’re 40% of the way toward the ambitious goal of $4 billion.  This figure is significant; it makes Columbia the first university to announce a campaign of this magnitude, and it represents a level of fundraising we have not, until now, been able to achieve.   Whereas we had been averaging $280 million per year, last year the number went up to $340 million, and this year we have raised $377 million.  One billion of the projected $4 billion is earmarked for A&S, reflecting the university’s commitment to Arts and Sciences and the College.  The last Capital Campaign (which ran for 12 years, as opposed to the 7 years allotted for the current initiative) netted only $577 million for A&S.  To raise a billion in 7 years will require that we activate thousands of people.


The President will shortly be announcing a task force on undergraduate education to address a number of major issues that are important as we enter the Capital Campaign.  President Bollinger will chair the committee (consisting of a couple dozen faculty representatives and some staff) with the mandate of thinking through things like the scale—and relative proportions—of the College, SEAS, and GS.  Should we increase in size?  A number of peer institutions have announced intentions to do so.  What type of students should we be trying to attract?  The President is inclined to develop an increasingly global student body (much as we have now truly nation-wide representation).  What kinds of things do we want our undergraduates to know about?  Questions arise as well about the scale of the A&S faculty; President Bollinger repeated his assertion that it needs to grow.  It has grown by 6% over the past few years, and it should grow by another 10% over the next five years.  The number of graduate students should also be increased.  Columbia has long been one of the greatest institutions of higher learning, constrained only by a lack of space and resources.  The 60s and 70s were not kind to Columbia.  When our peers took off financially, we had to start over from scratch.  Now that we are in a position to build on the resources we’ve built up over the past two decades, it is essential to engage questions about scale, intellectual direction, and so on.


Vice President Dirks referred the faculty to the long letter he sent out in the interest of keeping his remarks short.  He limited himself to reporting the sense of momentum he feels is due in large part to the close working relationship A&S now has with the Central Administration (especially the Provost and President), a collaboration that has enabled us to achieve a new level of financial stability (rather than just lurching from year to year).  Scott Norum, who has been working full time in the VP’s office, is a godsend. 


Much can be attributed to new initiatives as well. Major headway toward faculty development had been made even before the campaign was formally launched; most promising in this regard is the all-new relationship established between the faculty and UDAR.  Vice President Dirks highlighted as well the differences between the present campaign and the last one; this one aims to raise twice the money in half the time.


VP Dirks drew special attention to the diversity initiative, thanking Jean Howard for her energy and vision.  In addition to facilitating a number of extraordinary appointments, the diversity initiative is changing the very culture of searches at Columbia, for infusions of money alone cannot bring about the necessary shifts in the way we think about the recognition of academic excellence.


The global initiative is to be modeled on the diversity effort.  It has been harder than expected to recruit the kind of faculty we need—to address, for instance, the paucity of faculty working on Africa.  The Institute for African Studies, which has been closed this year, will reopen in July.  Negotiations are in progress with a prominent scholar who is being recruited to assume the directorship of the Institute.


In some ways we have already begun the global initiative.  The first person we were able to hire was Orhan Pamuk, though his arrival was delayed by difficulties with his H1 visa.  The University responded by initiating the application process for Extraordinary Scholar Status for Pamuk to make up for his atypical (academic) profile; fortunately, the small print allowed that recipients of the Nobel Prize might be admitted without the otherwise obligatory letters of support.  Pamuk was duly congratulated, as was Ned Phelps of the Economics Department, who had just been awarded the Nobel Prize in that field.  Economics was also cited for its effective department building.


The science Initiative continues as well.  In the design of and planning for the NW corner building, even architectural issues are about science.  Discussions have focused on how to configure space to maximize interdisciplinary connections. Location, cooperation, synergy, etc. are as important as space itself.  Knox and the like will provide relief for some of our key departments.  Patience.  We will get to you all.  We can’t simply wait for Manhattanville. 


Our professorial ranks have grown from 595 (fall 2004) to 627.  This contributes to our budget deficit, but it is also at the core of the investments and enhancements we have to make to ensure the vitality of our faculty.  The number of tenured faculty has decreased by a full point to under 60%.  The overall rate of faculty growth is 5.4%.  Student head counts have also increased but at a slower rate (3.3 %).   We will use the new endowed chairs stipulated by the Lenfest gift to grow but also to recognize existing superb senior faculty, and we will do so all across the Arts and Sciences.  Both growth and rebuilding are intended to enhance teaching capacity and quality.


The details of the $1 billion anticipated for A&S from the Capital Campaign are complicated, and we will be talking them through in smaller groups (department chairs, ECFAS).  The two main areas of concern are faculty positions and financial aid (especially for College students, but also for other undergraduates and graduate students).


President Bollinger introduced Scott Norum from Robert Kasdin’s office.  Vice President Norum spent the last twelve months putting together the A&S budget that went into effect in July and is currently devoting himself full time to developing a longer-term budget model.  Norum presented an overview of the A&S Budget.


Our FY07 budget relies on a significant contribution from Central Administration, which has historically provided special support to A&S to close deficits (e.g., $10 million for PhD programs, $37 million to replace government funding for PhD fellowships, $4 million for college financial aid, $3 million for the economics initiative, $6 million for general operating expenses).   The first pass at the FY07 budget showed a deficit of $27 million. 


To explain the significantly larger deficit projected in this year’s budget, Norum examined the period from FY04 to FY07, focusing on the Vice President’s budget (the centralized A&S budget rather than the resources of individual schools).  The VP receives all tuition and fees (the net revenue of which supplies 80% of his budget) and pays for (virtually) all instruction and common costs.  While revenue growth is forecast at almost 6% per year, expenses are growing at nearly 9%.—hence the increasing deficit, which Central has defrayed.  Even after the $10 million support from Central this year, a significant gap remains. Which expenses are growing most quickly?


  1. common costs (8.3 % annually): increases from buildings and grounds, central services, libraries, UDAR, campus expansion assessment, faculty housing expansion.


  1. instructional expenses (8.1%): 5% continuing faculty pool + additional 3% for targeted departments; new full-time instructors in core; enrollment increases that require additional instruction.


  1. capital investments (mainly in the natural sciences): larger start-up packages, the higher cost of equipment, greater renovation expectations.  (Because debt financing has been conserved for larger projects, renovation costs have gone into operating budgets.)


We are also carrying an additional $5 million deficit left over from FY04.



The deficit is structural.

            Our increased expenses are the result of desirable investments, not waste or inefficiency.

            We need new revenue streams.

            Central will need to help fund the shortfalls.



Access to debt financing for lab renovations restored.

Unrestricted $19 million Tam bequest allocated to A&S (for addition to Lenfest matching fund)

MAO revenue collected in excess of budget forecast.

Cross registration reviewed; discussions underway with SEAS on reimbursement for the

            added costs of cross-registrants.


These developments reduce the projected deficit for FY07 from $27 million to $18 million, and the latter amount is being covered by Central.  The Trustees have approved this solution for the short run.  In the long run, we will need to look at tuition revenue.  Because the rates are already high, increases must come in volume rather than in rate, which means deepening the application pool so that the quality of our programs is not affected.  For any increase in the student body, faculty resources must also be added.  Continuing education programs will be aggressively explored.


The Capital Campaign will fund a combination of existing activities and new ones; it is essential that the priorities of the Arts and Sciences be clearly articulated for the fundraisers so that gifts correspond to needs.  All A&S priorities must also be carefully considered in conjunction with the President and Provost so that long-range goals are not inadvertently undermined by short-term plans.


In the discussion that followed, caution was urged about the assumption that 30 new chairs can be added via the Lenfest funds, because $3 million per chair is insufficient.  What are needed are more substitutional chairs.  VP Dirks reiterated the intention to recognize existing faculty with these chairs, both for budgetary and for academic reasons.  VP Norum added that the 30 incremental faculty positions of the past two years have already been accounted for in the campaign.


In response to questions about budgetary assumptions, President Bollinger acknowledged that there are so many moving parts that a change in any individual piece may have unforeseen consequences.  While it might seem desirable to reopen the question of common costs, for instance, the results of such a reconsideration are likely to be disadvantageous to A&S.  Tuition, too, is up against a resisting market.  If the overall economy of the US does very well in next five years, so will we; if not, we will feel the pressure.  Some things that will be emphasized in the capital campaign might seem to be drawing attention away from something you care about.  But look more closely: money spent in one place can free up funds for other purposes.  Furthermore, some decisions in the university’s interest are long term and may not produce immediate returns, but these are absolutely crucial.  President Bollinger conceded that some may think of Manhattanville that way, but he does not, because he is convinced it will confer immediate and medium range benefits as well.


David Helfand thanked VP Norum for the clarity of his presentation but objected that even solving the immediate deficit does not address the long term problems, such as the fact that many things that should be in the budget are not even there.  Moreover, there has been a 39% decrease in the purchasing power of departmental budgets.  Faculty salaries, too, have fallen behind those of our peers by 15%.  VP Dirks responded that the budget team is attempting to identify precisely such things and get them into the operating budgets.


Questions ensued about the planning horizon: how long is long term?  VP Norum acknowledged that the model is not yet fully refined, but he suggested a time frame that extends until about 2012 (when the campaign will be concluding and the northwest corner building will be in place), though even then the balance might not have been reached.


John Morgan expressed wariness about the logic of assuming that growth (as opposed to fundraising) will resolve the deficit   If the cost of each student outstrips the revenue per student, admitting more of them won’t solve anything.  President Bollinger agreed that growth could already be adding to the strain on the budget and that the whole system requires careful analysis to see what kind of revenues would be freed up by expansion.  He reminded the faculty of the essential connection between the ambitions of an institution and the resources that come in during fundraising in general and a capital campaign in particular.  The engagement of major donors is almost always predicated on a sense that the institution is improving and has a plan to improve, even if it is experiencing short term difficulty.  The President expressed confidence that we are now running the institution in a prudent way.  The Trustees and Boards, who are both more active and more keenly attuned to financial matters than they were twenty years ago, are very satisfied that we are behaving soundly.  Yet it is also necessary to push the institution in order to move it ahead.  If we were to say let’s just pause for five years and not do anything new, we would be dead in the water.  Universities live on dreams.  Find the dreams first and resources then come.  It is astonishing how much money there is in the world ready to come to universities that have the right dreams.


Nick Dirks offered the reassurance that the question of expansion is measured with academic criteria and many pads of yellow paper to figure costs; under consideration is not the economy of scale alone but rather how good a department can be related to questions of scale.  The scrutiny of individual departments reveals that many of our initiatives require additional faculty because their existing faculty is entailed by other things (such as the Core).  It is also essential to balance the graduate and undergraduate populations.  We all think some expansion is necessary in order to continue to be as good as we are.


President Bollinger emphasized that it is very important to recognize that the current situation is not a crisis.  Things are going exceedingly well, both across the institution and within Arts and Sciences; indeed, the President has been able to direct resources to A&S that might otherwise have gone elsewhere.  The Lenfest gift, for instance, is notable not only for its magnitude but because Lenfest himself is a graduate of the Law School rather than an Arts and Sciences alumnus.  Having been persuaded that the arts and sciences represent the very core of the institution, he wants to be part of their mission and has earmarked his contribution accordingly.  Undesignated gifts are few, but the ones that do come in are directed by the President himself.  Most recently, President Bollinger announced that $19 million of the unspecified $27 million Tam gift will be used to supplement Lenfest’s $37.5 million aimed at underwriting 50 new A&S professorships.  Tam, like Lenfest, is a professional school (business) graduate.  We are making serious and sustained efforts to bring in new funds to Ars and Sciences.  “It’s a very bright future,” the President concluded.


John Morgan clarified his earlier reservation, acknowledging that “dreams” suggest growth and growth brings in funds.  He meant rather to question the assumption that growth would resolve the structural budget deficit. 


It was also emphasized that the discussion of visionary plans and the thought of increasing the size of the faculty are “heartening.”  But the planning also has to take on board how ramshackle ordinary departmental life is.  If those numbers aren’t changing over time, the deterioration only increases.


President Bollinger reassured the faculty that the amount of money going into infrastructure (including such things as window washing) is increasing and that all questions about the physical plant are ultimately connected with the issue of space.  Invoking Manhattanville, the President mentioned the possibility of the Business School’s relocation, which would make URIS available for Arts and Sciences.  The University has already set aside a significant amount of money to compensate Business for the building and undertake the necessary renovations.  The goal is to get Arts and Sciences more space in the next five years than it can use in a decade.  Recognizing that this is only one part of the equation—that operating budgets, administrative costs and so on are also at issue—President Bollinger reminded the faculty of the disparity between the Harvard endowment and our own and confirmed that we are finding our way through all of this.


Vice President Dirks mentioned some of the specific ways Arts and Sciences has been addressing problems in our institutional lives: taking stock of the challenges that confront DAs; increasing research support (for junior faculty first); increasing resources for centers, etc.  He made it clears that the administration is aware that increasing the size of the faculty is not just a matter of the additional salary; it means improving working conditions overall, which is what makes it such an expensive proposition.  We need to assess the REAL costs of adding faculty, especially given the amount we invest in housing and the exponential increases in costs in the sciences.  All things considered, we’re doing better than we were.


Christia Mercer thanked President Bollinger and Vice Presidents Norum and Dirks for opening up the budget for faculty scrutiny and for the explanations that made sense of what we saw.


Stuart Firestein, co-chair (with Hilary Ballon) of the Faculty Fundraising Committee, reported on the newly constituted committee’s goals and activities.  Referring to Scott Norum’s conclusion that if help is going to come it’s going to come on the revenue side, Firestein described the committee’s efforts to expand the role of the A&S faculty in A&S fundraising.  Currently at 7 members, the committee will expand its membership to 10 with an eye to making the body as representative as possible.  The committee’s meetings have been regularly attended by Linda Nelson and Rob Franklin, and sometimes by Susan Feagin as well.  Its mandates:


  1. Oversight—meeting with UDAR to keep abreast of its efforts
  2. Participation—expanding the faculty’s role to take advantage of faculty perspectives and faculty expertise 
  3. Communciation—reporting regularly to ECFAS and to the faculty at large on the status of fundraising initiatives


The committee was formed in March, 2006, and it hit the ground running.  Two major sets of activities were initiated right away: first, informational meetings for UDAR staff (and these have now been expanded to reflect the capital campaign).  It is essential for the people who are fundraising for Arts and Sciences to be well informed about what goes on under its auspices and why its work is important.  The committee held four informational lunch meetings—with a good deal of faculty participation; two of these dealt with undergraduate education at Columbia (one on the Core Curriculum, the other on the majors), a third focussed on the Graduate School, and the fourth concerned faculty recruitment and retention.  The UDAR staff got a much better idea about how to use faculty to raise money from the alumni.


The second initiative consists of events planned by UDAR but involving faculty.  The first of these was “Playground of the Mind: A Science Symposium” (UDAR having recently appointed the extraordinarily energetic Cookie Neil to spearhead fundraising efforts specifically for the sciences).  David Helfand was also a key player in organizing the event, which featured fifteen faculty members from the sciences, three field trips, a great deal of participation on the side of the administration (including a dinner hosted by President Bollinger and attended by the Provost and VP), a talk by Brian Green, and over 70 alumni, all of whom were major donors.  The organizing committee had anticipated twenty-five participants, thirty at most.


The committee drew two important conclusions from the success of that event.  First, the overwhelming response to the announcement of the symposium was not a result of its subject matter.  Science was chosen (and worked so well) expressly because of the presence of a dedicated science person at UDAR.  Professor Firestein expressed the committee’s unanimous hope that UDAR will be able to hire analogous staff for the social sciences, the humanities, and the arts. Second, the alumni who attended had no particular interest in science.  They were CEOs, opera singers, lawyers, etc., who viewed the symposium chiefly as an opportunity to spend quality time with Arts and Sciences faculty.  (“They like us more now than they did when they were here,” Firestein suggested.)  The committee is certain that we could have equal success with events rooted in the other divisions.  Indeed, a second project is in the works, an event on American culture run by Andy del Banco and Hillary Ballon.  Firestein expressed the hope that a growing number of faculty will want to participate in future endeavors of this sort.


Professor Firestein emphasized that it’s a mistake to associate fundraising solely with alumni.  It is essential—and feasible—to sell Columbia to larger constituency: New Yorkers who care about the quality of New York.  Of the 70 participants in the Science Symposium, 23 had no connection whatsoever with Columbia.  New York is also a destination city, and interesting events might be organized to coincide with art or music or theatrical openings.


It was observed that if the committee wants to get faculty more involved, it should get its ideas (and dreams) from faculty.  Firestein concurred, explaining that the committee took the initiative to get things started, but that the faculty’s ideas are not only welcome, but energetically sought. 


Christia Mercer invited everyone with ideas or projects to contact the committee or herself.  The committee is keen to collaborate with faculty to come up with new ideas and more of them.


There was no new business.


The meeting was adjourned 1:42 p.m..


Respectfully submitted,

Cathy Popkin