COLUMBIA UNIVERSITY FACULTY OF ARTS AND SCIENCES:
MINUTES OF APRIL 28, 1999
Convene and remarks: President George Rupp called the meeting to order at 12:10 p.m. in the Faculty Room in Low Library. He made five announcements:
--Later in the day the University bookstore would officially open. It was fitting that the first facility in Lerner Hall to begin operations would highlight the new center's intellectual role.
--The continuing renovation of Butler Library will include a series of themed reading rooms on the fifth and sixth floors.
--Michael Cunningham of the School of the Arts has won the Pulitzer Prize for fiction for the novel The Hours.
--Students have recognized two professors, bestowing the Mark Van Doren Award, for outstanding teaching, on Henry Pinkham, and the Lionel Trilling Award on Robert Lieberman for his book Shifting the Color Line: Race and the American Welfare State.
--After lengthy negotiations with the campus local of the TWU, the University has reached a settlement notable for its provisions for the training and advancement of union members.
Provost Cole added that David Walker and Horst Sturmer, both of the Arts and Sciences faculty, were recently elected to the National Academy of Sciences.
Approval of the minutes: Richard Bulliet, chair of the Executive Committee of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences, asked for approval of the minutes of the meeting of February 16, which were at the door and on the Arts and Sciences faculty website.
Luciano Rebay noted that the minutes had not been on the web an hour earlier. He also noted that the minutes of February 16 record Prof. Bulliet's remark that the minutes of the previous meeting were on the website. Prof. Rebay said they were not.
Prof. Bulliet accepted responsibility for these oversights. He said he was stepping down as chair of ECFAS, but hoped his successor would be more attentive to this matter. He said having minutes at all was a step forward, and he thanked Prof. Rebay for pushing for this improvement.
Prof. Pinkham, caretaker for the recently developed A&S faculty website, said he had loaded the minutes before the previous meeting, so Prof. Bulliet's statement was correct.
Prof. Bulliet asked for adoption of the minutes, pending corrections to be made later, after faculty had had a chance to read them on the web. The minutes were adopted with this understanding.
Remarks from the ECFAS chair: Prof. Bulliet repeated that this was his last meeting as ECFAS chair. He thanked the administrative team that had worked with the committee during the year. He said his successor would be Lynn Cooper of the Psychology Dept., who will also chair a faculty study group to consider questions related to faculty size that were raised at the February meeting and to report, perhaps at the first meeting in the fall. ECFAS was also trying to arrange a workshop on the implications of Morningside Ventures, the new for-profit enterprise to produce and distribute new media educational programs. This topic had been dropped from the agenda of the present meeting because Vice Provost Michael Crow had to go out of town on short notice. The workshop, to take place in about a week, would include Dr. Crow, Morningside Ventures director Ann Kirschner, and perhaps the Provost. Prof. Bulliet said that important questions of intellectual property are involved, and that the pace of change in the development of new media is so rapid that faculty should be brought up to date before the fall.
To applause, President Rupp praised Prof. Bulliet's service as ECFAS chair.
Discussion of FY 00-04 Budget: After adding his own praise for Prof. Bulliet's work, Vice President David Cohen reported on the five-year budget plan that had been attached to the mailing for the present meeting. It is the first five-year plan for Arts and Sciences in some time that projects balanced budgets throughout. Dr. Cohen expressed satisfaction that the health of the budget is continuing to improve. He said efforts to budget more conservatively would continue. For example, whereas past budgets required the commitment in full of any contingency money to meet expenses, the present plan includes the first true contingency fund, which by the fifth year will amount to nearly one percent of the operating budget. Two principal exposures remain: graduate school financial aid and the level of tuition increases. The first year of the enhancement plan for graduate financial aid has been difficult. Some of Columbia's peers have sharply increased stipends, leaving our graduate students, with standard stipends for next year of $12,000, well behind. A multi-year planning effort, focusing on stipends, will begin soon.
The assumption of 6 percent annual tuition increases, made a few years ago for the Enlargement and Enhancement plan for Columbia College, was unsustainable from the beginning. Efforts to moderate College tuition have brought the guideline increase for this year down to 5.1 percent, but peer institutions have curtailed increases more sharply. A collaborative planning effort by Columbia administrators last summer enabled the College to bring its increase for next year's term bill down to 3.9 percent. These numbers are close to increases announced by peers so far, which have averaged 3.74 percent. Dr. Cohen said restraining undergraduate increases is a critical step, since Columbia College tuition accounts for 45 percent of A&S tuition revenue.
But serious tuition challenges remain for the School of International and Public Affairs and the School of the Arts. A temporary plan calls for lowering SIPA's annual increase to 4 percent over the next five years, a reduction that might not be deep enough. Efforts to moderate School of the Arts increases have made only nominal headway, though financial aid has been increased.
What can Arts and Sciences do to provide more discretionary funds? One effort, already under way, is to transform continuing education programs into a school. A planning effort, with the participation of a consultant, will develop a business plan before the fall to exploit opportunities, consistent with Columbia's ethos, that Continuing Education can pursue. A second approach involves distance learning. Finally, after the present fund-raising campaign a major effort to increase substitutional endowment will still be required. The portion of the Arts and Sciences revenue budget derived from tuition is an exceedingly high 88 percent. At Harvard that fraction is only 34 percent.
Robert Jervis noted an increase in enrollments in General Studies in the last few years, and asked what the projection was for the size of that school. GS Dean Peter Awn said the size would remain about the same. He said there are between 1000 and 1100 undergraduates, about 46 percent of whom are full-time students, adding up to just 900 Full Time Equivalents. That number does not include the 300 or so students in the pre-med post-bac program, who take 6-9 credits. Dean Awn said that bigger is not better for GS, which is still trying to deepen the applicant pool. Tuition numbers have increased because the school's retention rate has improved dramatically, with better admissions operations and student services. This has also enabled students to get through the program faster.
Dr. Cohen said GS still has not recovered to earlier enrollment levels. He said Dean Awn has done an outstanding job of balancing increases in FTE with improvements in student quality.
The President noted that the condition of the Arts and Sciences budget has improved substantially. It is more comprehensible and more adaptable to unexpected news than before, thanks to the efforts of Dr. Cohen and his colleagues. He said serious challenges remain, notably the degree of dependence of the Arts and Sciences on tuition income. He led the meeting in another round of applause.
Update on the Academic Quality Fund: Provost Jonathan Cole added his thanks to Prof. Bulliet for his service on behalf of the faculty. He said that there was substantial progress toward a final agreement on the remote storage facility that Columbia has been planning with Princeton and the New York Public Library. He expected a formal agreement to be submitted to the Trustees for their June meeting, with construction in the next six months. He added his own congratulations to Vice President Cohen for bringing the A&S budget into balance and developing a genuine contingency fund. He said a recent budget meeting for the Arts and Sciences was a substantive discussion of priorities, rather than an argument about whether the numbers work.
Provost Cole said the problem that still worries him the most is financial aid for graduate students. At a recent conference in Michigan about the effects of Mellon funding, he and GSAS Dean Eduardo Macagno learned that a number of peer institutions are escalating stipend levels and continuing summer support for Ph.D. students. He is looking forward to participating in Vice President Cohen's planning effort in the summer to address this problem. Unless Columbia can do a lot better in financial aid, it will lose head-to-head competitions for graduate students.
The Provost called attention to the recent opening of the Center for New Media Teaching and Learning, for faculty interested in using digital technology in their courses. He invited faculty to pick up brochures for the center before leaving the meeting.
He recalled that one of the last steps in the process of budget reform was to set up a centrally managed discretionary fund to support new initiatives in teaching and research. The Academic Quality Fund began at $1 million a year ago, and was devoted entirely to the Libraries. This year saw the first competition for grants from the fund, which has grown to about $2 million. The AQF will grow over time to more than $5 million. Fifteen proposals were received, and submitted to an informal peer review panel, whose members are Caroline Bynum, Norman Christ, Glenn Hubbard from the Business School, Ira Katznelson (this year's chair), Gerald Neuman from the Law School, Peter Schlosser, and Nicholas Turro. The committee, staffed by Raphael Kasper, took care to establish the right procedural precedents and identified problems to correct in managing the fund. For example, humanities professors submitted very few proposals, perhaps because scientists are far more familiar with the grant process, and with the kind of collaborative efforts that the AQF encourages. Eight of the 15 pre-proposals were from the Arts and Sciences; eight applicants were asked to submit full-length proposals, and the committee has just submitted its final recommendations. The Arts and Sciences are strongly represented among the finalists. The Provost will announce the final funding decisions in the coming week. He welcomed suggestions from faculty about ways to improve the management of the fund. He announced one basic change in the fund since its inception. Since Columbia is not as well endowed as Harvard, Princeton, Yale or Stanford, it may make sense to draw on the AQF for a kind of bridge funding for two or three years to help a Columbia unit with critical needs, such as financial aid for graduate students, if the unit can demonstrate that it is preparing to build those costs into its base budget.
Prof. Bulliet expressed doubt about how transitional funding of various kinds from the AQF can be replaced in base budgets. Provost Cole said one purpose of the fund is to seed pilot projects that can win external funding. This is how Columbia Innovation Enterprises works. The Provost also noted that the proposals have to go through the deans, so that there are no unfunded mandates. Some of the proposals are for purely transitional projects.
President Rupp added that bridge funding for core priorities could be a good use of the AQF. He said some priorities are so important that one cannot afford not to take special measures, like supplying temporary funding in anticipation of revenue streams that are not yet flowing. In Arts and Sciences, for example, the AQF could help shore up graduate student stipends until additional revenue from fund-raising, the enlargement of Columbia College, and new M.A.-only programs starts to arrive. He cautioned that a fund of only $5 million would have only a limited impact on the financial aid problem.
Vice President Cohen said pre-proposals from Arts and Sciences faculty for AQF grants went through his office. The deans of the A&S schools reviewed them, and assigned priority to some, before passing them on to the Provost. This conveyed some indication of the prospects for continued funding of a project after an AQF grant runs out. The Vice President's office then returned the pre-proposals approved by the Provost's faculty committee with comments to the applicants, and then relayed them back to the Provost's committee with more developed statements of commitment. He said these steps added another layer, but seemed to work well.
Walter Frisch said he was gratified to learn about efforts to increase graduate student stipends, but asked what place the graduate school would have in the capital campaign and in the University's future plans generally. He said that the focus during President Rupp's administration has logically been on the College, but the graduate school has suffered during this period. He said raising stipend levels should be just one component of an overall strategy to restore the identity of the graduate school. He asked what some of the other strategies are.
Prof. Frisch said he had spoken to development officers who are disillusioned about prospects for attracting large gifts from alumni of Ph.D. programs. He wondered how fund raising for the graduate school could be drastically expanded.
President Rupp said the University will make progress in fund raising for the graduate school, but said it is unrealistic to think that fund raising alone can solve the problem. Donors give to the schools that have their deepest loyalty, no matter what he or anyone else tells them. It is up to the administration as a matter of internal management to make sure that the highest priorities get funded. One major effort is the plan that David Cohen and Eduardo Macagno have worked on for several years of increasing stipends while reducing dependence on self-funding graduate students of somewhat lower quality.
The President said he understood the worry that his emphasis on undergraduate education has come at the expense of graduate education, but said this is a misperception. His approach has been based on a strategic judgment of how to achieve the necessary resources, and not simply in fund raising. The net tuition revenue from each undergraduate student is about 75 percent. Such levels are impossible with Ph.D. students, but may be approached in M.A.-only programs.
Internal budgeting must support the University's recognition of the value of its Ph.D. program, and that means subsidizing it from Arts and Sciences, as well as other parts of the institution, including the central Academic Quality Fund. Until a few years ago, Columbia, along with M.I.T, Cal Tech, and Stanford, had a brilliant way to get external funding, from the federal government, by having the whole institution, through the fringe pool, subsidize graduate school tuition. But a change in federal regulations ended this arrangement.
The increased emphasis on and slight enlargement of undergraduate education are simply a recognition that this is the main way to increase overall revenue, which can then be redeployed internally. This effort has had to overcome a balkanization of the Arts and Sciences that is more pronounced at Columbia than at any other institution the President has known. But there is a growing recognition of the interdependence of graduate and undergraduate programs--for example, the best undergraduate education requires the best possible graduate students to serve as teaching assistants and preceptors.
The President said that special programs and continuing education are another key source of net tuition revenue, to be redeployed for the highest intellectual purposes. He concluded that the administration has to take responsibility for supporting graduate education through strategic budget decisions. It cannot rely on a wish that a donor will step forward whose top priority is to shore up graduate student stipends.
Provost Cole said that alternative revenue sources, for example in continuing education, have played a significant role for some peer institutions. In addition to the big endowment that reduces its dependence on tuition revenue, Harvard's continuing education division brings in some $50 million a year. NYU's annual revenue from continuing education exceeds $100 million.
The President expressed optimism that the projection of Columbia's annual continuing education revenues over the course of the five-year span that Vice President Cohen had discussed earlier--from $19 million to $27 million a year--was conservative. Vice President Cohen noted that his budget projections did not include any revenues from programs still to be developed.
Barbara Fields noted another disadvantage Columbia faces in recruiting graduate students. When one recruit received a Mellon grant, Yale and Princeton told her she could have a stipend in addition to the grant. Columbia did not match this offer.
New business: Prof. Luciano Rebay reminded colleagues of a pledge he had made two years earlier to raise issues at faculty meetings that he considers important, and he thanked them for supporting his request at the previous meeting to add a regular agenda item for new business.
He mentioned two new issues that he looked forward to discussing in the coming year, both in the University Senate and at Arts and Sciences faculty meetings: term limits for senior Columbia administrators, such as the president, vice presidents, and deans, and a freedom of information act for the university.
Focusing on the second issue, Prof. Rebay said he was shocked when the Provost had turned down his request to see the contract setting forth the terms of the sale of the Casa Italiana to the Italian government. He said the Provost had told him the administration does not have to show him every contract it signs. Prof. Rebay said this was an offensive remark to make to a senior professor of Italian and former director of the Casa, but also a signal that there is something in the contract he should see. He soon got hold of copies of the contract in English and Italian, and has made them available for inspection in the Senate office.
Prof. Rebay traced his preoccupation with the issue of the Casa Italiana back to 1957, when he first came to Columbia with a dual appointment as an instructor in Italian and assistant director of the Casa. At the time three members of the Italian department were known Fascists. The Columbia administrators who entrusted Prof. Rebay with this assignment, including Jacques Barzun, told him to keep Italian politics out of the Casa at all costs. Prof. Rebay said he took this injunction so seriously that more than 40 years later his c.v. does not include a single award from the Italian government, and he has acquired a reputation for difficulty with more than one Italian consul in New York.
Given this background, Prof. Rebay said he was particularly distressed to learn that Provost Cole, in overseeing the contract selling the Casa to the Italian government, had opened the floodgates to Italian politicians, who he said represent the bilge of Italian culture. Prof. Rebay said that six of the 12 members of the board of guarantors of the Italian Academy in America, which was established under the contract, are appointees of the Italian foreign minister. In recent correspondence with Low Library, an Italian board member has complained that Columbia has not consulted sufficiently with Italian board members about issues that the contract says require consultation. In particular, the complaint goes, Columbia officials have failed to schedule meetings with prominent Italian politicians. Prof. Rebay said the Italian members have expressed their displeasure by canceling a board meeting scheduled to take place in a few days.
Prof. Rebay repeated that he expected to discuss this issue further next year. He said he would ask the Provost why he has not revealed the details of the contract with the Italian government. He asked the Provost to tell the whole truth for the first time about this episode, which Prof. Rebay characterized as a scandal.
The President said that ECFAS, in its agenda-setting role, can decide whether and how to deal with this issue in the coming year. With the topic listed on a meeting agenda in advance, the faculty could give it proper attention, he said, and there would be an opportunity to correct some of the misinformation in Prof. Rebay's preceding remarks.
There being no further business, the President adjourned the meeting at about 1:35 pm.