Meeting of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences
Thursday, September 28, 2000

President Rupp convened the meeting at 12:10 PM in the Faculty Room in Low Library.
  1. It was moved, seconded, and passed on a voice vote that the minutes of the April 28, 2000 meeting of the Faculty of the Arts and Sciences be approved. The minutes were available on the website of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences http://www.columbia.edu/cu/ecfas/.

  2. Professor Helfand, chair of the Executive Committee of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences (ECFAS), gave a brief report.

    • He indicated that a ballot would be distributed the following week for elections for the membership to ECFAS.
    • He summarized for the group the new items on the ECFAS agenda this year. He listed the following 8 items.

      • Review the current structure of faculty governance in the Arts and Sciences.
      • Professor Pinkham is chairing a working group considering historical trends and projections in faculty size.
      • Announced that there will be a proposal for creating lecturers in laboratory teaching under consideration this fall and ECFAS will be considering the status of lecturers more broadly in light of the overall instructional need.
      • ECFAS will be asking for regular updates on the review of science by the Academic Review Committee and by the space committee established by the Provost.
      • Looking at the needs of schools with respect to their curricula as they relate to Arts and Sciences faculty.
      • Will be establishing a working group on human resources to explore ways to improve services.
      • Will be providing two reports over the course of the year from the working group on fundraising -- one summarizing the end-of-year results for FY 00 and the other summarizing the total campaign outcome.
      • Will explore ways to reduce the amount of general announcement phonemail currently received by faculty.

    Professor Helfand invited faculty to submit additional agenda items for consideration by ECFAS.

  3. Vice President Cohen gave remarks on two items. He indicated that at the November faculty meeting the annual report on faculty size and effort would be provided. It is expected that the percentage of tenure will remain at the same level for the third year in a row - 69%. He indicated that he looks forward to working with the working group being chaired by Professor Pinkham.

    As context for discussion of the next agenda item, Vice President Cohen gave a brief summary of the evolution of the proposal. He described the many iterations that it had gone through to reach the final product being presented for discussion at the meeting. He also summarized the review process which had involved all of the relevant formal structures in the Arts and Sciences, including the Planning and Budgeting Committee of the Arts and Sciences, the Departmental Chairs of the Arts and Sciences and the Executive Committee of the Faculty of the Arts and Sciences.

  4. Professor Helfand invited Professor Melnick, who had shepherded development of the proposal, to make some opening remarks to begin the discussion of the proposal to create a Department of Ecology, Evolution and Environmental Biology. Professor Melnick began by thanking everyone who assisted in developing and refining the proposal. He reiterated that the core faculty would be six full-time faculty but that the department was being created on a new model - one that had a core of faculty buttressed by research-level faculty from the American Museum of Natural History, the Wildlife Conservation Society, the Wildlife Preservation Trust International and the New York Botanical Garden. These faculty have been functioning together for nearly five years and have a track record of offering quality undergraduate, masters and Ph.D. programming. He noted that, while other options such as continuing as a center or seeking a home in some other department had been explored, it ultimately was concluded that creating a department was the only option for preserving the enterprise that had been developed, especially the educational component. He noted that the area was one of serious intellectual activity that is found at many peer institutions and that an institution of Columbia's quality needs to have a presence in it.

    The floor was opened for discussion. Professor Weinberg raised the question about the size of the core faculty and its implications for the ability to meet instructional commitments. Professor Melnick noted that they had already had to confront that challenge and that they had created a successful model for mounting the programming. He also described a different role for the continuing "core faculty" from the affiliated institutions. They would be attending faculty meetings and participating in curricular review, although they would not participate in tenure review decisions. At the same time, there would be Columbia faculty always present to insure quality control. Professor Hayes asked about the ratio of core department faculty to the affiliated faculty. Professor Melnick indicated that 13 affiliated faculty had taught courses last year and also pointed out that faculty in other Columbia departments are heavily involved in teaching courses relevant to the program. Professor Sisman raised the question of establishment of the new department at this point in light of the review of science being conducted by the Academic Review Committee. Professor Melnick noted that the Departments of Biological Sciences, Earth and Environmental Sciences and Anthropology had been asked to consider this question explicitly as part of the review process for the proposed department. All three departments had concluded that the new department would be complementary to their efforts. Vice President Cohen noted that the review of the proposed department was really quite far along before the Academic Review Committee had even contemplated its review of science. He also indicated that the Academic Review Committee review of the Department of Biological Sciences had spoken to the desirability of having this area of inquiry represented at Columbia and observed that a large proportion of the costs of establishing the new department were being borne by an external source. He concluded that, ultimately, we would be likely to arrive at the same decision -- to create such a department -- but might not at that point have the resources to do it. Professor Jervis inquired about review of the program and Professor Melnick indicated that all of the educational programs had been extensively reviewed and approved by the relevant Committees on Instruction.

    Professor Helfand, speaking as ECFAS chair, indicated that the proposal had been discussed extensively and that a wide spectrum of views were represented on the committee. He noted that the questions raised by ECFAS had been cited in their April 17, 2000, letter to the faculty that had accompanied the agenda for the April 24, 2000 meeting. Professor Anders raised the question about whether every cross-disciplinary effort started in the Arts and Sciences should ultimately result in a department. Professor Melnick provided a larger historical perspective on the creation of this department, noting that the intellectual area had previously been extensively represented at Columbia and that, in many ways, the proposed department was a way to recapture and sustain over time an area of the natural sciences that had been lost.

    Professor Barolini observed that we need coherence in institutional decisions about when new departments are developed. Professor S. Kahn indicated that the faculty model is of concern given that there are many examples of similar structures that have failed. Professor Melnick responded that they had very strict guidelines about who is eligible to be an adjunct, that they had structures in place for maintaining quality control and that there is an extensive review of qualifications before someone is accepted for this role. Professor Richards noted that the use of the adjuncts recognized the reality that faculty are more often linked to others outside of Columbia and in the discipline as opposed to colleagues elsewhere in the Arts and Sciences. Professor Higgins asked whether having a department was a common response to pressures in this area. Professor Melnick noted that a number of peer institutions had over the last ten years developed separate departments in this discipline. He observed that the thing that set Columbia apart was that the establishment of the program was not happening in an environment of acrimony as had been the hallmark at many other institutions.

    Professor Hayes called attention to the fact that the Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences had previously submitted a position paper on the topic of the proposed department. That paper had presented the views of the DEES faculty and indicated their support of the proposal. He read a series of bullets that summarized the key points of the position paper and ended by reiterating the department's strong support for the proposal.

    Professor Helfand resumed the chair to oversee the voting process. He indicated that there had been a recommendation that faculty be permitted to vote by proxy. After discussion, it was determined that it would not be an appropriate precedent to set. It had also been recommended that Arts and Sciences consider written ballots. It was determined that, since there had been no history of using written ballots, it was not appropriate to do so now. As in the past, the vote would be by a show of hands following the usual procedure.

    President Rupp then asked those present in favor of the proposal to do so by a show of hands; he then asked, in turn, for those opposed and those abstaining. The majority voted in favor of the proposal.

  5. Professor Rebay rose under new business to speak to his concern over the inadequacy of coverage for mental illness under the CIGNA point of service plan. He cited reasons why he believed it was important for coverage for mental illness to be the same as coverage provided for other health conditions. He reminded President Rupp of the letter he had previously sent to him and pointed out his desire to insure that the issue of mental illness is not forgotten. President Rupp indicated that mental health coverage had been a major item of discussion with CIGNA. Although they had not yet managed to work through it, he assured Professor Rebay and the faculty that the University would continue to work on the matter. Provost Cole reiterated that this was a high priority. He noted that Columbia's Department of Psychiatry did not limit its unwillingness to contract only to CIGNA. It was not willing to enter into any agreement for managed care. He further observed that departments of psychiatry in other institutions in the city shared this reluctance. He indicated that he and other central administrative personnel were working with the Columbia Department of Psychiatry to explore ways in which coverage could be extended.

    Professor Barolini asked for assurances that the Oxford point of service plan would continue to be available and was assured that it would be for the foreseeable future. President Rupp observed that we cannot compel physicians to enter specific plans but have tried to persuade them to become part of the CIGNA point of service program. He expressed interest in getting feedback on how the existing plans were meeting faculty needs.

By consensus the meeting was adjourned at 1:30 PM

Prepared by
Roxie R. Smith