Meeting of the Faculty of the Arts and Sciences

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

12:00 noon – 2:00 p.m



President Lee Bollinger convened the meeting.


Christia Mercer: Introduced herself as chair of ECFAS and welcomed faculty to the

first topic-based A & S faculty meeting. ECFAS has been working to increase its role as representative body of the faculty of A & S. Since Lee Bollinger became president, Alan Brinkley provost, and Nick Dirks VP, ECFAS has developed an honest and open working relation with Columbia’s top administrators. In light of the capital campaign, the plans for Manhattanville, and the important priority setting these entail, it has seemed especially important that the voices of faculty be heard.

As everyone in this room knows, in order to remain a great university with healthy departments full of productive researchers, we face a number of challenges.  ECFAS believes that the more we faculty are involved in working with our administrators to set priorities and face these challenges, the better. Fortunately, our top administrators have agreed to this.

ECFAS decided in the fall to organize topic-based A & S faculty meetings and moreover to ask faculty what they think about the many challenges we face. To this end, we convened the first ECFAS Faculty Forum on Wednesday, February 21. Our intention was to elicit faculty opinions and identify top concerns.  While we fully understand that there are a number of issues we discussed, we chose two main points of discussion for that meeting: (1) what sort of procedural, professional, office, and other support is most important as we do our jobs; and (2) what are the major concerns about the graduate program, graduate instruction, and its relation to our undergraduate teaching duties? The latter seemed like an obvious question to ask because a part of the Feb. A & S meeting has traditionally been devoted to GSAS. We chose the former – roughly quality of life issues - because we believed that small changes in these areas could make a significant difference in our academic lives. We will discuss other topics at length at future Faculty Forums. We encourage you to tell us what those should be. We plan to devote a Faculty Forum in late April to matters concerning undergraduate education.


            Our first Faculty Forum was a success in that faculty expressed their opinions with eloquence and passion. There were four main areas of concern within our first topic. These were:


Facilities: our offices, labs, and classrooms – their upkeep and maintenance

Faculty Support: administrative, computer, and technological

Information: Faculty noted the difficulty both in obtaining basic information about schools and childcare, about tenure and promotion procedures and about the consistent application across departments of university procedures.

Housing: housing availability, rent relative to faculty salaries (not mentioned).


The second part of the discussion is about the graduate school. We will hear from Dean of the GS, Henry Pinkham. We’ve asked Henry to offer his perspective on the grad school and to respond to concerns expressed at the Faculty Forum.


At our Forum, Faculty emphasized the need to increase the size of the graduate program and some expressed their dissatisfaction with the M.A.O.

“As one person noted: M.A. programs have grown with little coherent thought, treated largely as cash cows; some are certainly good and intellectually useful, but others are not.”


Finally, last but not least, we will hear from Vice Provost for Diversity Initiatives, Jean Howard, both about her extraordinary successes in diversity hires, on childcare issues, and about our new Work-Life position. The latter is directly relevant to some of the concerns noted at the Faculty Forum.


I am very pleased to give the podium now to VP Nick Dirks.


Nick Dirks

It has been a good year with ECFAS on all sorts of issues. Attended forum and remarks that I give here will address issues raised there and work that our office has been doing. I will start with context.

An active year: consisting in an ambitious program with strategic hiring. Increased faculty over 5% -- economics initiative, diversity initiative, both supported by president and provost.

Investments in chemistry, math, psych, physics. E3B – has developed.

Have worked to replace departing faculty in depts. With jr and sr hiring, shifting towards jr lines. Jr hiring has moderated some costs. Work with administration helped sustain these enhancements of faculty during this budget deficit.



There is a gridlock in depts., no room for faculty expansion. Renovation is limited; however, I can report an interdisciplinary science bldg on Morningside – 180,000 sq feet of facilities for sciences. Real construction begins in 1 yr. Knox hall for MEALAC, to decompress space in other depts.  Plans begun to renovate spaces that will be relieved. Still not sufficient, but we work hard to come up with a coherent academic plan. Once the business school moves to MV, this will allow for more space. Short and medium term goals are being addressed. At the same time, close to $400,000 are expected in classroom enhancement, nevertheless, years of budget constraint have prevented needed upkeep. Have been reminded, by external reviews, of the dilapidated conditions. Cannot promise that all deparments will see changes in the short term. But we promise to work together in the following ways:


VP’s office will review each dept’s space and identify opportunities for faculty offices: painting furniture lighting. Most obvious shortcomings will be targeted. Will be done through a standardized review, with a schedule sensitive to other issues (moves of depts.) Directly affected are Philosophy Hall, Kent, Hamilton, Schermerhorn). Will make sure the right connections are being made for this with Joe Ienuso of facilities.


Plan to renovate Pupin.


Turning to administrative support. Much has changed in last 10 yrs. Dept admin task force: 12 elected by DA’s. A number of actions taken: new business mgrs, increased salaries, rise in the base budget of certain depts. For base level support we have HR staff to help with people-soft processing.  Have tried to streamline FRAP reimbursement, will try to shift work towards administration.  This is just part of the departmental support.


I have been thinking is needed for admin support is a model from U Michigan consisting in computer upgrade program for faculty. Will work over exact details, but want to find a way to replace computers after 4 years.  For faculty without research accts greater than FRAP, we will enhance support, virus protection, computer configurations, etc. Every 4 yrs, faculty will be able to have a new computer. 


Finally, faculty salaries: cost of living vs. rents (rise at higher percentage levels). Working to increase salary pool and to figure out ways of addressing equity issues. Market forces have driven tensions between those who have availed themselves of the market themselves and those who have not. We have continued to invest time and resources to these issues.


To implement these improvements means that we will have to review policies about retention. I will work with chairs and deparments to see when we should respond to the market, and when not. We work already with Chairs of departments in that we are aware that we have to make certain serious decisions regarding resources A sr. recruitment may not always be possible. We will continue to be more transparent and will make it a better environment in which to work and enjoy ourselves at Columbia.


Alan Brinkley

Quality of life committee created: identified 4 areas to examine

1) Parenting, childcare, schooling.

2) Housing – allocation, shortage, etc.

3) Work life, issues that Nick raised (in part).

4) Retirement – how we make it stable and comfortable.

I will turn to Jean Howard re. issues, especially concerning the first area. One of the results of this committee is a Work Life Officer in the central administration. The associate provost will be appointed in HR and my office to improve quality of life for faculty. Nothing to say yet about retirement as there is nothing done yet. Many people are concerned about the tighter housing market within university housing. This is a problem that if left to its own devices will not improve. What can we do to enhance adequate housing? Proposal that has been looked at with deans and chairs and various committees introduced this spring is a housing purchase plan. Faculty with some means to do so can take advantage of this. This is a program in the making, not yet approved by trustees, but available now for new recruits. We can offer university-organized mortgage program with below market rates, normally 1 pt or 1 1/2 points below market. We will offer an AFR mortgage through a lender, it has to be bought by the university through a lender (thus requiring our funding). These mortgages can be up to 1 million dollars. We might agree to larger ones, but over that one pays taxes on the interest. Second is a housing subsidy for those who move out or want to live elsewhere. Roughly $40,000 a year – about the equivalent of what we already pay. This initiative targets very senior or retired officers, who might be more likely to move than midcareer faculty. The housing subsidy should make it possible for any vacating faculty member to afford a mortgage for no more than (or less) than what we are paying in the rent differential below market. The deductibility in spending for a mortgage rather than rent might leave money left over for purchase. Down payment: we do not yet have a program for a down payment. The subsidy program will be interesting to those who have equity in some form available to them. This program will be attractive to everyone and is an effort to encourage people, although it is currently in a pilot stage. We expect to staff it and create an office and website that any faculty can go to, in order to use housing options. This could be in place by the end of this academic year.


President Bollinger

When I began 5 yrs ago, while we were among top universities (10), in many ways we were the least well situated. The financial strains initiated in the 70s are tremendous. The A&S and med school are severe in this regard. There are many things regarding university deficits that had a profound impact on our ability to achieve our aspirations. We want to secure our position as one of the best, but our deficits stand in our way. Our relation with alumnae also stands in our way. Other practices that evolved over time have made the institution less efficient, less able to function in ways that one would want.  Explanations lie in the 1970’s. In order to get us to the point where we could develop the resources and build it for a very secure future, as one of the leading institutions in the world, we need a very long-term plan. The issues of space are the critical issues. What we do with space determines whether we are a great intellectual center or not. Without the space we will wither over time. Long term planning for financial resources (capital campaign) is crucial. The long-term plan (over several decades) – is easy to think of as taking away from the present when it is critical to succeeding at the moment. I say that because, in order to enlist the dedication of alums and dedication of trustees and people to give money to the institution in both long and short term, it is vital for people to see a future that they are excited about and want to be a part of. I could give examples of very significant gifts in a capital campaign that are given only because of the ability to conceive of an institution over a significant period of time. There’s a very important interaction between long-term thinking and short term needs. We have also made investments in anticipation of greater resources. The long term thinking make it possible to do that because as we try to convince trustees that it is financially prudent to do so, because resources will flow to this, they are convinced of the future of the institution.


I can also report the expansion of A&S faculty as well as programs for students whose families have less than $50,000 a year income.


Capital campaign is going very well. Five years ago $270 million a year was being raised. We were at $370M last year, and this year we expect to match it again. Harvard raises over $500M/year, and Stanford raised $900M in one year. Our trajectory is to get up to $500M on a regular basis. Linking with alumnae and clubs, building relationships will feed into the success of this goal.

In terms of space – both medium plan and midterm plan (Knox renovation for MEALAC)—and long-term plan (Manhattanville). The mayor of NY explicitly endorsed the expansion plan. The Baptist minister’s convention supports the expansion and a number of things are bringing together political alignment. The next 6-8 months are crucial. I am optimistic at this point.


As you know, we have a task force on undergrad education. The idea is to try to consider a range of issues in relation to undergrad education: structure, scale of college, and aspects of increase in scale, like increasing the number of international students. This international emphasis is a way, I think, we should be going. This is one set of issues. Another set: content of curriculum, opportunities for interdisciplinary work. There are no recommendations at this point. It would be good to set up a fund for students to take internships during summer abroad. Significant progress has been made in terms of structural issues. (content is 2nd aspect). Trustees have a retreat this weekend and task force will make a presentation to them. I think it is time to think about how we will respond as an institution to globalization. Are we going to have presences in regions around the world? This is actively being considered by other institutions. Over the next months, we will have a number of things to announce in this area.


Christia Mercer:

Next 15 minutes open for discussion.  Note we have just heard responses from our administrators about all four of the main topics arising from the Faculty Forum, namely, information, housing, facilities, and support. Very excited about this unprecedented discussion.


Ron Breslow, Chemistry  Question re housing:

All of Claremont was available for purchase a few years ago, deemed not needed.  Is the university purchasing more housing?


Alan Brinkley

There is an effort to identify apartments in the Broadway corridor that we can offer to faculty this spring. We do not have any plans to build new buildings.  We have saturated the area, it is increasingly expensive and we do not have a site near campus to do so. We have not ruled this option out, especially near Manhattanville. The purchase plan will help but will not solve the problem. We are looking to lease and purchase housing to help.


Cathy Popkin  Question:

Would the $40,000 subsidy mentioned re. housing be subject to income tax?

Alan Brinkley:

Taxable if used for rent, not taxable if used for mortgage (presumably within the itemized deduction allowances).


Anna Frajlick-Zajac:

Facilities question: even in recent renovations, the designers think only about looking good for aesthetic reasons, but not for use.  The heating for example cannot be adjusted in Hamilton. Bathrooms: not usable when you have coats, books, etc. Why are there no hangars? Places to put belongings? Students need this because they have no offices to park their coats and books for the day.


Andy Millis (physics)   Question regarding computers: is this for all or some depts.?


Nick Dirks: program will not address physics dept’s needs. But grants can support this. We are going through questions for social sciences and sciences for computer support that need more than basic PC support. I thought it would be easy to begin where there is great need. We are also working with CUIT to evaluate the structure for Ethernet – even those cables put in 10 yrs ago are obsolete. The bill for fixing this is huge --50 million, but the possibility for wirelesss could be more cost effective and useful – we are figuring this out.


Millis followup:  We do university functions on our grant-bought computers…

NBD –  thanked Mellis for volunteering to serve on the computer allocation committee.



Joe Bizup   Question re. school: this year a number of A&S faculty were not granted admission to school. Does ECFAS and school have plans to address this?


Christia Mercer: we have just started looking into this and are examining this more closely.


Alan Brinkley:  The applications for the school grow every year, and capacities shrink. Just this year, the total capacity is less than originally imagined (we have gotten up to 8th grade). There is an increasing demand and decreasing supply. This year 9 A&S faculty did not get admitted, the first year that any were turned down. The selection process was a blind lottery so there were no favorites. We hope that over the course of the next few months we can incorporate everyone. We did not establish priorities on any basis for A&S faculty. There is a ranked waiting list – for faculty and people from other schools. We hope via attrition that people will be admitted over time. We know this creates anxieties, wish we could do more, but will continue to notify faculty as space is freed. I hope we will accommodate all.


Janet Currie (Econ): Question concerning the tradeoff between short run and long run. Is some of our deficit due to tax for future expansion? Trustees and donors want long term but faculty want to know that our lives will be better in next 5 years. The faculty who are here now and might be recruited now operate on a shorter time scale that the decadal vision. Retention and any growth presupposes that you have space and competitive support to offer now. If we meet the capital goals for this year, we only settle our deficit not increase our capital. What is being done about short term?


Lee Bollinger: Two things: repeat the point about major donors being interested in future needs to be realistic. Over next several months, there will be benefits. It is important that the institution plan to get those commitments.

Second thing: hard to answer without data in front of me. Anyone who looks at what has happened over last 5 years notes that the A&S has been one of the top 2 beneficiaries of institution. We have put 100 of millions of dollars in to it. We feel it intensely every year. A&S has been at the top re. money. It is clear that there are lots of ways in which A&S does not have all that we need in order to achieve what we want academically, relative to our peers. In trying to sustain this effort to build A&S and make it the heart of the university, each year A&S has been at the top in terms of beneficiaries, even in sets of fundraising issues.


David Helfand (Astro): Would like to follow up on Janet’s point. I do not agree that it has not caused damage today – in budget. My departmental operating budget has dropped 39% over time I have been chairman. Taxes have gone up 8.9% a year. Only 1/4 of budget problem will be addressed. A&S cannot plan or innovate, administrators are left to do things, vendors refuse to fill orders. Situation is dire. Leadership is needed to fix structural deficit in order to address problem. A&S is a servile client state indentured to the structural budget deficit crafted by the central administration.


Lee Bollinger: It is clear that there are hard choices that have to be made when you have scarce resources. Our deficit is not a deliberate choice to not support A&S. It is an inherited problem, with limited endowment and resources. Using available resources and getting new resources is what we are trying to do. Re. numbers, I leave it to Nick and Alan. If you look at the numbers, AS has been critical beneficiary over the last years, and there is a rationale: it is important for the institution as a whole. Disagrees with the ‘servile’ characterization (with a smile).


Christia Mercer:

Would like members of ECFAS to stand up and introduce ourselves. (Introduction of those present).


Henry Pinkham:

Would like to say it is a good year: good meetings with depts. We’re reading admissions files with extraordinary PhD students we’re bringing in. Would like to address the structure of grad school right now. The GS enhancement plan (last 10 yrs): an effort made by admin and AS to improve the material circumstances of PhD students at Columbia. They come because of excellence of faculty – thus I support the recent initiatives to improve the faulty. This is the first thing, we need to attract the best. But we must make sure material circumstances are competitive. We are competing with 3-4 institutions. We are as competitive as we are with stipends/salaries. One of the main goals concerns decrease time to degree and attrition. I have been trying to remedy problem of attrition and time to degree. The enhancement plan: we expected time to degree to improve and planned previously to only support them for 5 years. Then re. TA’s needed: it was underestimating what was needed. The number of undergrads increased and we brought in Masters students (in 4000 level classes that needed TA’s). When we told faculty rules for TA’s, we said, only for classes with over 30 students. This was seen as an entitlement for classes over 30 – and it became the norm for students over 30. Our undergraduate students take more classes per year – part of an increasing trend.

We tried to increase the number of MA only? Move towards full funding had to be accompanied by MAO, with minimum number of students set and overflow to feed other students. Finally, idea to decrease the number of PhD students. One program was admitting 60, now they have 18 fully funded. There was some lack of understanding, despite having signed onto this, for depts. to have a much smaller number of students to teach. We forget that people were complaining about quality of unfunded students, and many forgot about the tradeoff made. Since the enhancement plan, we’ve stayed frozen at the levels we are at. The stipend for each student rose tremendously over the past 10 years. We have been going up $1,000 a year in terms of stipend (more than faculty salary pool). Most remarks concern social sciences and humanities: (sciences had no change, but we’re facing a big problem, since we require that the dept’s grants pay a lot of the tuition for grad students – we charge $16,000 a year for each science student supported, the years they are supported by grants.) Astronomy and other sciences costs GSAS $2-3000 a year, which is very little, per student, because the grants carry the tuition which flows to GSAS.  I’ll turn to humanities and social sciences first, but re. MAO program. I’ve heard there was a lot of concern raised at the forum. But 15 million is coming in from the MAO program, which balances almost all the money that pays PhD stipends. From financial point of view, they are extraordinarily successful and we are also dependant upon them. Would like to make a task force to evaluate the MAO, but right now we cannot turn it down as an option. All extra money has gone into support individual students, not towards fellowships.  The rationale for allocations in PhD programs (brochure) is based on historic realities of 7-8 yrs ago. As depts. change, this makes less and less sense. What do I do? I feel strongly that the grad school will be remembered by the top students we try to attract. What can be done so that depts. can attract the best students?  With little money beyond the increments to increase stipends, I try for maximum flexibility within my limits of no more fellowships. One dept had time to degree as 7 years, it needed more fellowships, a deal was made time to degree drops to 5 years and this would be translated into more entering fellowships for the dept.  Another dept wanted the reverse: (one that was capable of getting jobs for students at high rate) they wanted to increase the resources per student (to cannibalize fellowships for summer funding for students we want most to attract). This was agreed to. In sciences: with grants, they needed flexibility. As long as money remained the same, that was fine with me.

Fellowship students, those that were not fully funded: there was often 1 year of paying. Departments could trade in 3 deferred for 2 fully funded fellowships, and only a handful are left of the deferred ones. Where do we go from here? Over the past 3 years, faculty size has increased by 5%. We are improving quality of applications when we bring in key figures (senior). The faculty are coming and expect a greater number of students to work with, which we are unable to do at the moment. There is a plan to increase faculty by 5% more. What I’d like to propose is to increase the number of entering fellowships by the same proportions, or even 5%. This would solve a number of problems. It would restore rationality of level of PhD students to dept. The only way to restore rationality to allocation process is to increase the total number of fellowships in GSAS. Criteria include:

--ability to attract strong students

--quality of the training of the dept

--placement of the students (depts. with good job of placement should be rewarded).

In recruiting students; central admin resources are much smaller. They often have houses devoted to grad students, communal space and even office space for grad students). In prep for Jean’s remark, GSAS has implemented a child-birth policy for grad students (an extra semester on clock of time to degree).


Frances Pritchett  Question: Columbia undergrads take more courses than at peer institutions. Might CC reconsider this?


Nick Dirks & Alan Brinkley: we’re looking at this right now. Hear the task force report.


Jenny Davidson: From English dept, we’re at 18 students right now in our graduate school, perhaps this is even too big. Might we devote resources to supplementary funding, and concerning job placement, might we not be jumping too quickly re. growing? 


Henry Pinkham: If we had extra money, I’d allocate it to nominal fellowships – departments could choose either to give new fellowships or divide it among students already there.


Cathy Popkin: I’m happy to see quality of training mentioned as well as time to degree because the two are related. In some cases faster time to degree dangerously decreases that quality.


Henry Pinkham: Am trying to maintain time to degree – 7 years of funding, in fields like Slavic, we have chosen to support the full 7 years. If you’re proposing an expansion, I’d be opposed. I think 7 years is sufficient, even given field-work. Students are staying longer than usual. We have only recently been changing the unlimited nature of years allowed for degree.


Cathy Popkin: I was not thinking of expanding time, but rather reconsider the internal deadlines (M.A., M.Phil.). Fields don’t necessarily require the same ampunt of training of the same sort at the same stage. Now we are coaching people through milestones rather than mentoring intellectually.


Report from Jean Howard:

Efforts of office to creating more diverse faculty and retaining diversity are as follows:

1) Hiring and recruitment

2) Work life – how can we make it easier with children, find work for partners, elder care

3) Faculty development, especially untenured faculty (mentorship needed), establishing research networks.

I have done interviews with chairs and deans. There have been search and hiring dinners with chairs of depts. and chairs of search committees. We’ve been using the hiring fund that the president issued to make 10 appointments, and will make 10 more.

Whether or not this effort makes a long-term difference will be determined by our staying power. We have to continue to think about these issues over the next decade to make a difference.


[Distribution of a handout: impact of these initiatives.]

Minority hires: acceptances in 06 was 4 and 9, a big increase. A difference in the hiring of women and under represented minorities.

Work Life: Chairs said it is frustrating to do a search when you cannot place a partner, or when you have young faculty with young children. The past two years have brought new things into place. Using a consultancy and a committee, 3 programs are starting;

Infant care (greatest need as only the Teacher’s College was doing this). We will expand Tompkins hall for 10 infants. Red Balloon in 560 Riverside will get a new room for 1 yr olds. (15). We are making new contracts with new centers with infant programs (Montessori on 103red) – which will give us greater capacity for the youngest children and will allow us to place faculty hired after May. Lee and Allen have approved emergency backup plan: fac/staff/phd’s and postdocs, allow 80-100 hours at a highly subsidized rate to call for assistance for snow days, illness, or other life needs. It is a program that helps with life problems, highly subsidized costing faculty $4 an hour. Should be finalized by late spring.

ON 2nd page. HERC – launched last week. All the schools will post jobs in a job bank for schools. It works best for jr faculty and is useful for entry level jobs or grad students in the area.  Many different kinds of jobs came up through this initiative and continue to.

We realized we needed professional help. Work life assoc provost: will work from provost’s office and HR – Carol Hoffman, from Berkeley. Has done a lot with childcare and eldercare.

Faculty development: talking with untenured faculty re. their experiences here. We do not distribute information well enough. We’re running a workshop on March 23rd for untenured faculty, There will be a questionnaire in terms of what they need – when depts. do not do what they need to (mentor their jr fac). We are getting an idea of what other institutions do and are establishing a database for this.

Statistics re. things that must change. See data handed out – regarding university leadership, and how we give out named chairs. Data showed how women stand in terms of named chairs. In A&S women are represented at a lesser rate than their % among faculty, same for minorities, except for humanities. How we can make our leadership more diverse and give out awards and prizes should take this into consideration.


Christia Mercer:

It’s important to acknowledge what has happened today. ECFAS held a Faculty Forum, listened to what faculty had to say, discussed these matters with our administrators, and have already received important responses. There is still a lot more to work towards, but we have made a step towards defeating ‘pessimism and passivity.” While we are not going to change the culture of faculty representation over night at Columbia, I believe that we have witnessed here today a significant step in that direction.