Minutes

Meeting of the Faculty of the Arts & Sciences

February 19, 2008

 

President Bollinger opened the meeting at 12:15p.m. The faculty approved the minutes of the preceding meeting.

 

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Bob Friedman, chair of the Executive Committee of the Faculty of Arts & Sciences, announced that in addition to the second spring faculty meeting on May 5, there will be two more informal meetings on March 11 and April 16 to discuss a variety of matters, including issues of undergraduate education and academic policy. ECFAS is also in the process of organizing an ARC-style review of faculty governance at Columbia that will assess current structures and make recommendations for improvement. Finally, Bob solicited nominations for the coming ECFAS elections; interested faculty members should contact their department chairs.

 

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Vice President Nick Dirks reported on A&S matters and announced that at the final faculty meeting of the spring, the taskforces on undergraduate education will report on their work. He introduced the new Dean of the School of the Arts, Carol Becker, and reported that the Manhattanville expansion was approved last semester, pointing out that the new campus will have a dramatic impact on A&S, especially in terms of new space that will become available. Nick briefly touched on a number of other issues, including the problem of the A&S budget deficit (due in part to the growth of A&S in the past years; Nick announced that moderate growth would continue); the new science building; the diversity initiative; the fact that A&S now holds weekly meetings with College; and the pressing issue of financial aid. He announced that he will send out a report on recent achievements and developments in a couple of days.

 

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President Lee Bollinger then made a number of remarks on the topic of financial aid, stressing Columbia's fundamental principle of need-blind admissions. In the light of the announcements, in recent weeks, of substantially more generous financial aid policies on the part of other Ivy-league institutions, Columbia is under pressure to modify its own approach to financial aid, and Lee invited an open discussion of the matter. He suggested that only funds already committed to financial aid should be used in financing further enhancements and that the focus should be on lower-income families. However, he also acknowledged that Columbia is finding itself in a competitive situation.

 

Lee then turned to budgetary issues. Columbia's endowment ranges between $7 and 8 billion, but since Columbia has the largest array of individual schools of any Ivy League institution, we do not have many resources to move around. The A&S structural deficit of about $25 million has arisen as a result of certain policy choices (e.g., growth); the administration is working on reducing this to a manageable level.

 

Finally, Lee gave a detailed account of the status of the Manhattanville plans. Since on December 21, the City Council gave its approval of the new campus as a whole, Columbia does not need to get individual approval for individual buildings and can move ahead with construction; Columbia has also reached an agreement with the local management association. The 17 acres, 7 million square-feet area will be built up in separate phases. Phase 1, which is expected to take five to seven years, involves the following construction steps and individual building sites (buildings will be designed by Renzo Piano): an extensive (and expensive) basement of the whole area, to be financed through revenue from the central endowment; Building 1 (conference space); Building 2 (Mind/Brain/Behavior; $250 million are in hand, further $250 million need to be raised); Building 4 (Business School; $100 million will come from central, $200 million from the Business School itself; NB: after the move of the Business School, Uris will become available for A&S); Building 3 (School of the Arts and possibly Business School; $75 million will have to be raised); and Building 7 (SIPA and residential; $200 million must be raised). There are also plans for a public high school and more space for the School of the Arts south of 125th St. In addition to the Manhattanville campus, Lee touched on the new science building currently under construction (a $25 million gift has been received, but more money needs to be raised); the renovation of Knox Hall; space issues at the Medical Center campus; and plans for a new athletic center on Baker Field (for which money must be raised). Summing up, Lee pointed to the challenge of raising the needed funds for all these projects.

 

This was followed by a discussion on issues surrounding Manhattanville.

 

Jean Howard: What does "five to seven years for Phase 1" really mean?

Lee: We actually expect to move in after that time. The only way to do this is fast!

Jean: What processes of consultation are in place to make decisions about who moves where?

Lee: We are thinking about how to do this. ECFAS will be involved. We also need a University advisory group. In addition, we have formed an advisory group of wealthy and successful people outside the University.

 

John Huber: Is the SIPA move set in stone?

Lee: Pretty much.

John Coatsworth (Dean, SIPA): Yes, we want to move there.

 

Q: Will the Wallach Art Gallery move to Manhattanville too?

Lee: Ideally yes, but we don't know at this point.

 

Q: Are there alternative plans for the location of the public school?

Lee: There are various alternatives; it's not fixed yet.

 

Q: It would be good if Buildings 1 and 2 had performance spaces.

Lee: We'll have to think about this.

 

Janet Currie: The Economics Department feels it should move along with the Business School. Also, how will traffic patterns be reconfigured?

Lee: There are many fundamental questions to consider: walking distance between buildings/campuses; the distribution of disciplines; and the integration of the surrounding community (there will be retail spaces; streets will be kept open; there will be open spaces). The challenge is to have it be a public space at the same time as a Columbia campus.

 

Andrew Delbanco: Who will move into the 800 residential units?

Lee: Not clear; it could be permanent faculty or visitors; additional housing will be constructed.

Andrew: Will there be a Metro North station?

Lee: This has not been part of our thinking.

 

Carol Rovane: What about other traffic issues, e.g., a new entrance to the Westside Highway?

Lee: This is in our thinking, but not for the near future,

 

Don Hood: How is the use of endowment money for the construction of the basement justified?

Lee: Thanks to professional management, the past few years have seen spectacular returns on the endowment; we will take advantage of this. The idea is to increase the spending rate for a short period of time to make an investment that is worth it (ditto for financial aid). This is the trustees' decision; they would probably not be willing to increase the spending rate simply for ongoing expenditures.

 

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Henry Pinkham, Dean of the Graduate School, then reported on Graduate School matters. He announced the creation of two new MA programs: Oral History and International History (in cooperation with the London School of Economics). The MA in Finance will in the future collaborate with the University of Paris. There are more plans for international cooperation; specifically, Henry has made a number of trips to China to investigate ways of collaborating with Chinese universities. He solicited suggestions on this matter from the faculty.

 

Another important issue is outside funding. GSAS has received a Mellon grant of $6 million to finance summer support, academic travel, and teaching in the humanities and history. It has also received an NSF grant to finance an outreach program to New York City public schools. Finally, there are incentives for departments whose students receive outside funding.

 

Henry introduced Steve Mintz, the new head of the Teaching Center; he also reported on the new summer teaching project, which allows graduate students to design their own courses for the Columbia Summer Session. Generally, the level of funding for Ph.D. students is satisfactory at the moment, though Henry would like to increase the number of Ph.D. students by about 10% (this would also alleviate the chronic shortage of T.A.s). M.A. students, on the other hand, do not receive any financial support, and Henry suggested that something might be done to change this (525 M.A. only students were admitted last year, representing a revenue of over $17 million). Finally, there are two major administrative changes: the progress report for Ph.D. students is now done electronically; and there is a new rule that students may no longer register beyond the 9th year of study.

 

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Owing to constraints of time, it was decided to skip the next two items on the agenda, reports by Carol Hoffman (Work/Life) and Kevin Fox (Refresh Program).

 

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The discussion next turned to the matter of financial aid. Nick reported that all other Ivies have announced changes in their financial aid policies, with the exception of Brown, which will make an announcement on February 24. Under the circumstances, and given that applications for the class of 2012 are in, Columbia is under pressure to act. Nick reiterated that changes should be financed exclusively from endowment dedicated to College financial aid; he also pointed out that Columbia does better than our peers in attracting low-income students.

 

Austin Quigley, Dean of Columbia College, made a number of remarks, stressing again the importance of need-blind admissions coupled with full-need financial aid. The definition of "need" is controversial, but given the rise in tuition in recent years, the burden on families, in terms of both parental contribution and loans, has increased. It is important to focus on low-income families, but where is the cut-off point for financial aid? While an annual income of $180,000 (Harvard) and $200,000 (Yale) may seem too high as a cut-off point, there is a real concern about middle-income families ($60,000-150,000). There is also the increasingly widespread perception that loans, esp. of $20,000 or more, are not an acceptable burden. However, all enhancements to Columbia financial aid should be financed by endowment and gifts devoted particularly to this purpose.

 

The floor was then opened for discussion.

 

Tom diPrete and James Applegate suggested that Columbia might use merit scholarships to be able to compete with Princeton, Harvard, and Yale.

Austin: This is being discussed, but there is some unease.

 

Jean Howard: Are there models for how to offer support for the $60,000-100,000 income group with existing funds?

Austin: Yes. Supporting this "middle" is very important, also as far as the recruitment of students from underrepresented minorities is concerned. Contrary to what is sometimes thought, minority students come from all income groups.

 

Michael Thaddeus: What is the current proportion of students in the various income groups?

Austin: 45% of Columbia College students are on financial aid, with a third in each of the following groups: annual income under $60,000; between $60,000 and 100,000; and over $100,000.

 

Don Hood: Just to confirm our ideological principles (need-blind admission; stress on lower-income students). Are there any other principles?

Austin: Our values are important. We shouldn't just react to other schools, but act according to our principles. Outreach is important; in cooperation with local prep programs, we are specifically trying to encourage lower-income, minority, and first-generation students to apply to Columbia.

 

Q: Is the John Jay Fellowship not a merit fellowship?

Austin: The John Jay Fellowship is awarded to those with financial need, but replaces loans with a University contribution.

 

John Huber: Are we competitive with schools like Penn, Cornell, and Dartmouth?

Austin: Basically yes, but we also have to compete with a whole number of other schools (including many liberal arts colleges) that have announced that they are getting rid of loans.

Nick: It's all a question of money. For the students with $60,000 and below, we can offer no loan and no parental contribution, but what about the $60,000-100,00 group? We have to make trade-offs of some sort.

 

Andrew Delbanco: It is unfortunate that we are caught in this emergency situation. That something like this would happen was predictable. There will be more similar developments in the future, and we should be prepared (this also touches on the issue of the expansion of the College). While we have to respond to what other schools are doing, we should not commit to policies we don't like; there is no point in emulating Harvard and Yale. Getting rid of loans is not necessarily the best policy; would there perhaps be a way to connect loan-forgiveness to public service? Merit scholarships are not the way to go.

 

Lee: We have limited resources of about $10 million a year. We could use it all for lower-income families, but then we might lose some middle-class students, including minorities. There is much to be said for loan-forgiveness rather than getting rid of loans, but admissions officers point out that families are very averse to, or afraid of, loans. Please make your opinions about this matter known to me by phone or e-mail.

 

At 2:10p.m., President Bollinger adjourned the meeting.