Meeting of the Faculty of the Arts & Sciences

May 5, 2008


President Bollinger opened the meeting at 12:14 p.m.  The faculty approved the minutes of the preceding meeting and authorized the President to bestow the pertinent degrees at Commencement on May 21.


Bob Friedman, chair of the Executive Committee of the Faculty of Arts & Sciences, reminded the faculty that, because the May A&S meeting traditionally doubles as the annual meeting of the Columbia College faculty, the present meeting would be concerned principally with undergraduate education.  Bob also mentioned the faculty forums (one on the expansion of the College, a second on grading policy) ECFAS had sponsored in the course of the year.

Patricia Dailey, one of the three untenured members of ECFAS, reported on a third forum that was dedicated to the concerns of untenured faculty, some of which issues are less comfortably raised in the presence of senior colleagues.  The October forum was attended by over 80 junior professorial-rank faculty members, lecturers in discipline, and officers of research.   A follow-up forum in April specifically for lecturers was similarly well attended.  Tenure-track faculty voiced concerns about review procedures (clarity, fairness, structures); teaching loads (heavier than elsewhere because of the Core); retirement benefits (low institutional contributions); compensation (especially in light of the cost of living in New York and the incommensurate rent increases); professional development (the policy against topping off grants, the withdrawal of benefit subsidies during the second semester of unpaid leave, and insufficient mentoring, publication subventions, funds for outside speakers).  Lecturers spoke of financial strains and the need for greater transparency in the review process, more appropriate criteria for pedagogical leaves, and a better articulated policy on the role of lecturers in the University.  Above all, clear guidelines about teaching loads (contact time, teaching hours, class size) need to be developed—and observed consistently—if there is to be equity across departments.  

In this connection, the suggestion was made that the role of the faculty affairs committee of the University Senate be studied and compared to that of its counterparts at peer institutions.  Bob concluded with the reassurance that that the ARC review of faculty governance structures (spearheaded by ECFAS as part of its ongoing effort to bolster faculty governance at Columbia) is proceeding apace and is expected to be in full swing in the coming academic year. 


President Lee Bollinger had positive developments to report on several fronts.  First, the Capital Campaign is significantly ahead of schedule; as of today we have raised $2.7 billion.  In spite of the economic downturn, fundraising across the whole University is ahead of where it was last year at this time.  Moreover, in 2007 Columbia moved into 3rd place in the Ivies (5th in the US) in actual dollars raised in a single year. 


We are similarly on track in terms of space.  Since the December approvals for the rezoning of Manhattanville, attention has turned toward practical matters, such as the massive basement that will allow for subterranean deliveries, etc.  Similar attention will be brought to bear on the possible academic directions opened up by the new space.  Fundraising for the various components has also moved ahead.


Even the housing situation is less dire than it has been of late.  In addition to the mortgage program developed by Provost Alan Brinkley (with the support of Senior Executive Vice President Robert Kasdin) as an alternative to the rentals that are in such short supply, concerted efforts have been made over the past few months to reconcile departmental recruiting and available apartments.  Thanks to the combined efforts of Provost Brinkley, Vice President Nicholas Dirks, Robert Kasdin, and the department chairs, the latest news is good: the University has purchased a building with upward of 120 apartments that is just being completed in Riverdale (near the #1 train).  It is an outstanding building, and the University has acquired it for a good price.  The new units, which will be occupied by faculty and graduate students, will be available either in 2008-2009 or the following year; relief is thus on the way in the relatively near term.


In conclusion, though, Lee sounded a note of realism on the position of Arts and Sciences in the fiscal environment of the University at large.  Columbia has invested a great deal in A&S, increasing the faculty size by a substantial 10% over the past several years.   While this makes a great deal of sense and is a point of pride, it represents a rate of growth that cannot be sustained.  We should expect to remain at steady state for a year or two.  But while we cannot continue to grow at present, there is no discussion of decreasing the size of the A&S faculty, and a resumption of growth at some point in the foreseeable future is desirable.


 Vice President Dirks’s presentation amplified the University’s investments in A&S over the last 4-5 years and previewed what a temporary “consolidation” of our resources might entail.  If our overall numbers are to remain constant, some faculty lines will have to be redistributed in order to maintain the momentum in departments whose needs have not yet been addressed.  Nick thanked the Faculty Development Committee, the Standing Committee on Language Lecturers, and the Academic Review Committee, faculty bodies that are critical for thinking about the nature and shape of our departments’ teaching and hiring.  In any consideration of the way knowledge is reproduced in the Arts &Sciences, the intellectual power of the faculty is essential.  Though ARC itself doesn’t allocate resources, it helps administrators think intelligently about allocation and redistribution.  (If only we were in a position to do everything ARC recommends!)  ECFAS plays an important roll as well; the elections for that committee’s new members will be held soon.


Faculty growth:

2004-8     Ladder-rank faculty increased 11.3% (the 10% figure cited above excludes diversity hires)

2004-9     Full-time lecturers increased 25%

Combined increase is 14.4% (to 878 full-time faculty members)


Initiatives to improve to faculty life:

Computer replacement program

FRAP increase

Space refresh

Increased personnel to handle academic affairs (VPs office adds 4-5 officers)

Increased departmental administrative support (6.5 positions added, 38 upgraded:  DAs become ADAs)


Financial initiatives:

Financial aid enhancements

Closer collaboration between College and GS; the 2 schools moving toward an integrated budget

Career education, especially for MA students; initiative to establish relationship between tuition and career prospects           

Mechanisms for better integrating curricular planning and hiring

Enhanced recruiting in GS



Interdisciplinary Science Building ($274 million)

Knox Hall ($40 million)

80 Clarement ($13 million)

Statistics ($10 million)

Major space renovations ($30 million)

Science renovations ($25)

Uris Hall—committee not yet formed


Columbia campaign:

$608 million raised to date toward the A&S goal of $1 billion

$548 million earmarked for undergraduate education


Nick concluded by reemphasizing the extent of the support Arts and Sciences has received and recognizing the commitment of Alan Brinkley, Robert Kasdin, and Lee Bollinger to the A&S mission.   He acknowledged as well the responsiveness of UDAR and introduced Kathy Okun, the new UDAR officer tasked with fundraising specifically for the Arts and Sciences. 





Provost Alan Brinkley announced the creation of the Science Planning Review Committee, convened to build on the 2002 ARC science report in light of the new space detailed above.  The committee, which has representatives from A&S, SEAS, and P&S, has met once thus far.  Its mandate is to address the following questions: 1. Where do we stand in the US as a university committed to science?  2. What choices do we need to be making in next 5-10 years?  Since we can’t do everything, what should our priorities be?  3. How can we facilitate interdisciplinary work (bringing together science and engineering, for example)?  The committee’s report is expected by the end of the next academic year.


Returning to the housing question, Alan reassured the faculty that a number of efforts are being made to find solutions to our very significant shortage, efforts that address both the supply and the demand sides.  First, since the Morningside Heights neighborhood is saturated, the University has begun to look elsewhere for some short term, and perhaps long term, leasing.  The new building in Riverdale is comparable to the new housing at 110th and 103rd streets; the units are very attractive, the transportation very easy, and the area elementary schools very good.  It is hoped that this will be an attractive option for some faculty.  The mortgage pilot will continue, and the University is exploring the feasibility of establishing a pool of funds for those who need help with a down payment.  We need to think about our retiree policy as well.  We want to ensure fairness; at the same time we cannot allow our housing pool to become a retirement community over time.  In the meantime, we will be conducting a census to make sure that the occupants of University apartments are the tenants of record.  Demand will always exceed supply, but we want to do the best we possibly can.



* * *


Turning to the meeting’s principle concern, Dean Austin Quigley enumerated the challenges that motivated the creation of the Presidential Taskforce on Undergraduate Education:  1. How can we link the goals of our several undergraduate schools?  2. How should we think about the ongoing efforts to pull the College and A&S together when the College Dean is responsible for the curriculum and the Vice President is responsible for the faculty?  3.  How can faculty governance be enhanced as we address both of the preceding topics?  Whatever structures might be suggested, it is essential that the faculty be closely involved with their implementation.


This has been a banner year for the College: we have had nine Rhodes finalists and two winners; seven Marshall finalists and two winners (including one student who won both prestigious fellowships); nineteen Fulbright finalists, fifteen of whom have received placements thus far; we even have two (likely) presidential candidates (Obama as an alumnus, McCain as a College parent).  Our fundraising (through the Annual Fund) is right on schedule, and both the number of gifts and the dollar value are up.  Over 20 endowed chairs have come in for Arts and Sciences during this campaign, more than half of which are from alumni and parents.  The latest exit survey administered to the graduating class shows the highest approval rating in the category of classroom experience.  Our students are very grateful for what they gain in their classes.


The world our students are graduating into is changing; most students will make several career changes over their lifetimes.  Given this trend, Austin wondered, what should we be providing—a broad education? opportunities to specialize? transferable skills?  Clearly what happens outside the classroom has become more important.  Students are looking for study abroad experiences that provide genuine immersion in another culture.  There is increasing interest in internships; here we should play our New York hand.  Through the Arts Initiative we have recently added MOMA, Carnegie Hall, Lincoln Center, Ballet Hispanico, and the New York City Ballet to the list of cultural institutions and performances our students can access free of charge or at a discounted rate.  Austin urged the faculty to think, as they are teaching and developing courses, about possible links between course material and resources outside the classroom.  It is not difficult to raise money for initiatives that give students access to course-related activities in the city around us.


As to who will be in our classes, it is still too early to report on the yield from this year’s admissions process, though Austin did indicate that there were 19,000 applications from 60 countries.  It is also too early to say how the new financial aid situation has affected admissions.  Early trends suggest that our yield may be down, but this is still only a projection.  There will certainly be detailed analyses of which (if any) constituencies go down in number.  Austin reiterated Nick’s reassurance that the enhancements in financial aid were drawn solely from funds restricted to the financial aid endowment.  No other priorities have been impinged upon to underwrite the new financial aid policy.


Austin reported as well on the most recent meeting of the Ivy Deans, where the discussion of financial aid focused on accessibility in terms of social obligation.  He emphasized that the excellence of our institution derives from the range of voices we bring to the debate; this is the same logic that informs our faculty diversity initiative.  According to the Journal of Blacks in Higher Education, Columbia has the highest percentage among our peers of African-American students in the incoming class.


Noting that 2008 marks the 40th anniversary of the 1968 campus protests, Austin remarked upon the strength of the moral convictions and the emotions that continue to this day.  This year also marks the 100th birthday of Jacques Barzun.  In this connection, Austin remarked on the importance of continuing to review the Core Curriculum.  A survey of opinions on its workings from both students and faculty (including those who do not teach Core courses) indicates that a significant change in the Major Cultures requirement is in order.  That will be the first specific fix.   Beyond this, we need to consider carefully the more general question of the goals of the Core Curriculum in today’s world.


Austin thanked the faculty for establishing a new record for the number of instructors signed up to participate in the to Class Day exercises.  Faculty attendance is extremely important to the graduating students, ALL of whom now attend the senior dinner and most of whom have tears in their eyes by the end of the evening.  The announcement of the percentage of giving toward this year’s senior class gift is forthcoming.  In the past three years that percentage has been in the 80s, which has made it consistently the highest level of giving in the Ivies.




Martha Howell presented the proposal that has emerged from her working group (on curriculum), one of four that makes up the Presidential Task Force on Undergraduate Education.  The proposal has now been endorsed by the remaining three working groups, and, since it involves recommendations in the area of faculty governance—especially on the question of how we allocate resources for teaching.—it is important that the faculty be informed and invited to weigh in.


Martha identified each of the four working groups: 1) Science Education (under the leadership of Ann McDermott); 2) International Education (chaired by Peter Awn; its work is ongoing); 3) Classrooms and related matters (concerned with the size of classrooms, the number of students that occupy them, enrollment patterns, and grading, and chaired by David Weinstein); 4) Martha’s curriculum group, charged with examining the shape of the curriculum in general:  how all the parts of the curriculum fit together and how the different student constituencies (Columbia College, Barnard, SEAS, GS, Post-Bac, GSAS) access those different parts.  Of the total undergraduate enrollments, only half are accounted for by Columbia College and GS students.


The membership of the curriculum group, which was self selected from among the Task Force members, includes: Martha Howell, Andrew Delbanco, Michele Diamond (CC student), Jean Howard, Andrew Laine, Jacob M— (GS student), Ann McDermott, Christia Mercer, Susan Pedersen, Austin Quigley, Robert Shapiro (who replaced Ira Katznelson), and Elaine Sisman).  Indispensable administrative assistance was provided by Roxie Smith, Mia Mendicino, and Lucy Drotning.


What made the task particularly daunting was the unavailability of most of the information needed by the group.  What did exist was partial at best and organized in ways that made the data incommensurate with comparable information from other constituencies.  CC had the best data and was generous in providing it.  There was no data at all that tracked enrollments, grade distribution, grading patterns, or electives  across the Arts & Sciences as a whole, which made it impossible to make valid comparisons with peer institutions.  Most of the year was spent acquiring this information from scratch and constructing a system to make it possible to collect.


The recommendation that comes out of all this is for the establishment of a faculty chaired and faculty dominated committee that would operate with the advice of the Deans of Columbia College and the School of General Studies and the Vice President of Arts and Sciences; there has never been a formal structure of this sort at Columbia.  Working with dedicated administrative and research support provided by the VP and Provost, the Committee’s mandate would be: to look at curriculum both in terms of individual constituencies and in terms of the whole; to keep the various bodies (the Core office, the respective Committees on Instruction, the Committee on Science Instruction) in touch with each other; to make recommendations about matters that go across schools (grading, academic honesty, scheduling, course numbering, etc); to provide the VP with the information he needs to think about undergraduate needs as considers the needs of departments.  Until now the VP has had neither the data nor a clear pipeline through which to acquire it.  Pressing issues have thus either not been taken up or addressed piecemeal.  Nor has there been any venue for following up on the recommendations of the COSI; COSI had urged, for instance, that both the Northwest Corner building and Manhattanville include dedicated space for undergraduate research, but there has been no venue that for that recommendation to be translated into action.  The faculty has been disenfranchised by absence of a committee like this.  Shared control of the curriculum should be at the center.  At present we have control over isolated pieces of the curriculum, but without full understanding of or knowledge about what’s going on in other departments.  For similar reasons, problems in cross-disciplinary teaching go largely unaddressed, as each department and each body deliberates more or less independently.  As a result, decisions made in one venue often disrupt what’s going on in other parts of the curriculum.  Reform of the Major Cultures requirement needs to be thought about in terms of the departments and not just as an aspect of the Core.  Moreover, these courses serve not only College students, but also students from SIPA, Barnard, GS, and so on.


The only thing close to what is envisioned here is the Academic Review Committee.  ARC, it is generally agreed, is a model faculty body.  But ARC’s mandate is to study departments one by one, program by program.  It doesn’t see an undergraduate English major in relation to the Core, for example; nor does it take up matters like grading, scheduling, and undergraduate advising.  Above all, ARC does not report to the faculty as a whole but rather to the Vice President, who uses its recommendations to make decisions about hiring, etc. 


The proposed committee—the Educational Policy and Planning Committee (EPPC)—will report directly to the faculty (or via ECFAS) about issues are under discussion or decisions taken in an effort to keep us up to date and well informed in a way that goes beyond the individual purview of each faculty member.

Only in this way can the faculty be central in the planning of undergraduate education.


A lively discussion ensued:


Janet Currie:  Has your committee thought about rectifying the problem of insufficient information by adding staff dedicated to record-keeping rather than forming another committee?  And you’re specific about makeup of the committee, but some of the departments teaching the most undergraduates (Economics, Political Science) are not well represented.  Why disenfranchise the departments with the highest undergraduate enrollments?


Martha Howell:  On the question of information—one of our specific recommendations is that institutional research staff be developed and maintained.  The make-up of the committee—the task force report recommends that it be chaired by a senior faculty member and include 5 other faculty, plus administrators (including GSAS), and the Chairs of the Committee on the Core, the Major Cultures Committee, and the Committee on Science Instruction.  ECFAS and the Steering Committee of Chairs would nominate the six members of the faculty (two from each discipline).   The biggest majors (in declining order) are: Economics, Political Science, History, and English, which account for 50% of undergraduates majors.  But in terms of total enrollments, Poli Sci and Econ represent only 10% of the whole.  For electives, students go to the humanities.


Currie:  We haven’t been able to staff most of our electives and most of our courses capped.  Your data is therefore flawed.


MH: The same is true of other departments.  All are limited by the size of rooms and availability of staff.


Paul Anderer:  What relationship do you envision between the EPPC and ECFAS.  Shouldn’t these discussions be held right here at A&S meetings? 


MH:  The two committees would collaborate closely, but how this would work is still to be worked out.  The EPPC chair would be appointed by the VP with the advice of the College Dean, ECFAS, and the Chairs’ Steering Committee and would report regularly to ECFAS.  ECFAS could request special meetings.  The hope is that when EPPC really has this information to share, it could raise these issues in a forum in which they could be fully discussed.


Bob Friedman:  While ECFAS is a little unsure of its mission, it is certainly not to set educational policy; it rather works to create venues for discussion. 


Richard Korb: Lecturers should be represented.


President Bollinger offered his thanks Martha. The trustees are genuinely impressed by all the information the working group has acquired and communicated.


Cathy Popkin: As someone who has served on a large number of committees at any given time, I have often felt as if I were engaging in insider trading, rushing from meeting to meeting and cluing each successive body in on what the others are undertaking in order to prevent all concerned from duplicating and/or counteracting each other’s efforts.  The lack of an institutionalized structure that would make communication and cooperation normal operating procedure rather than a fluke is one of our most pernicious problems.  If the EPPC would address this need, I’m for it.



Dean Henry Pinkham reported on a number of matters connected with the GSAS.  The rational allocation of space in the new science building has been hampered by the fact that our programs are department based.  We would like to have interdepartmental groups working together.


Henry also reported that GSAS is trying to put in place combined BA/MA programs in which Columbia undergraduates complete the requirements for an MA during a fifth year of study.  The first such program is going into effect in Poli Sci.  This works especially well for students who go abroad for a semester and thereby get to stay an extra year. 


Because he is well aware that, while the faculty size has increased, the number of graduate students has not, Henry is doing all he can to address the mismatch that has resulted.


Responding to the undergraduate task force report, Henry reminded us that our students take many more courses than those in other schools. If we need 15-20% more TAs it is because Columbia students take six or seven courses per semester (as opposed to the four taken by Harvard students).  This creates an intractable financial problem for the graduate school.  Departments are unhappy that not there are not enough TAs to handle the enrollments.  The CUE report had recommended that we count in terms of courses rather than points.  Admittedly, if we try to move our curriculum toward a four course per semester limit we run into difficulties because of the Core

Nick Dirks expressed his thanks.


The meeting was adjourned at 2:03 p.m.


Respectfully submitted,

Cathy Popkin