End of Another Successful Academic Year

May 19, 2004

To Fellow Columbians,

As we approach commencement and the end of the formal academic year, I want to update you on several areas of importance for the University. Since this is such a busy time for all of us, I will cover only the highlights of the significant developments in which so many of you played a crucial role. All of us can take pride in these many accomplishments.


I'm pleased to say that we finish the year in excellent financial shape. Weathering the recession much more soundly than other universities, Columbia continues to receive the highest ratings from both Moody's Investor Services and Standards & Poor's, two companies that evaluate the credit worthiness of institutional borrowers. We have become increasingly careful about the use of debt and continue to pursue balanced operating budgets even in the face of growing needs for increased support for faculty, students, and staff. Last year we significantly reduced administration expenditures in response to New York City and national economic challenges.

The result of everyone's hard work at Columbia is clear. Sponsored research attained by our faculty this year has grown by almost six percent, and Columbia's Investment Management Company is on its way to producing a year of stronger investment performance. All this has been accomplished while we have been tightening expenditures. As the economic climate appears to be brightening, I want to take this moment to thank you for your patience and sacrifice.

We have just had a remarkable reminder of how much the vitality of our academic enterprise derives from the involvement of alumni and friends. Last week, Trustee Gerry Lenfest ('58 Law) confirmed a $15 million gift from the Lenfest Foundation to the Earth Institute at Columbia. Gerry is an exemplary alumnus who has, literally, already helped build Columbia with a $15 million gift for the recent construction of Lenfest Hall, a student residence for the Law School. His new gift reaffirms his commitment to the University's future and helps set the stage for our next Capital Campaign.


With the help of many of you and many members of the community, we have embarked on a major initiative to acquire space sufficient to serve the University's academic needs for several generations.

As many of you know, we hope to purchase approximately 18 acres of property in Manhattanville in West Harlem for a new campus that will be fully integrated into the City's urban framework. With our partners, Renzo Piano Building Workshops and Skidmore, Owings & Merrill, two of the world's foremost architectural firms, the University seeks to transform an oft-overlooked parcel of northern Manhattan-from warehouses and parking lots to retail stores, science labs, studio and performance space, and classrooms. Our design and construction of the proposed facilities, stretching from 125th to 133rd streets, will deliver an estimated $4 billion of economic stimulus to New York's economy and yield a net increase for the area of 9,000 jobs.

For more than a year, we have engaged in continuous dialogue about these plans with community boards and organizations, as well as with faculty and student groups. We continue to hold meetings with elected officials and leaders in the area. Our goal over the next year is to deepen and expand these numerous collaborations with our existing community partners. My strong belief is that the community's values and goals are consistent with those of Columbia. Over the next 18 months, we plan to identify a set of arrangements that allow for Columbia to grow in a manner consistent with the long-term health of the neighborhood.


The 21st century discoveries in the life sciences and all related fields promise to be revolutionary in scale and among the greatest achievements of our time. Columbia must be at the forefront of those explorations, as it has been and continues to be in other natural sciences. Integrating previously distinct academic disciplines will ensure that information and perspectives are directed in a coordinated approach to common questions and challenges, some of which affect nothing less than matters of life and death.

I have appointed a senior faculty panel to begin planning science expansion and enrichment at Columbia in the years ahead. We must proceed with building a new facility in the Northwest corner of the Morningside campus to house the sciences. And, building on Columbia's long-term leadership in neurology and the neurosciences, we have begun the creation of a Neuroscience Institute whose focus will be on basic neuroscience research and its relationship to clinical investigations of neural diseases. As we look to the future, we envision the Institute as the foundation on which we develop a larger program that will foster innovative interactions between experts in the neurosciences and other complementary fields. These combined basic and clinical efforts will form a University-wide initiative reaching beyond the biomedical community to include faculty in physics, chemistry, psychology, anthropology, philosophy and the social sciences.


The emerging prospects for and concerns about the extraordinary developments of modern globalization require us to reassess how we deploy our resources and academic focus. Columbia's world-renowned faculty, our schools, regional centers, and institutes already, of course, are engaged in addressing issues of the moment. At the Mailman School of Public Health, for example, faculty members are helping stem the spread of transnational infectious diseases--including last year's SARS epidemic--through research and public health training. The Earth Institute's Center for Globalization and Sustainable Development continues to forge ties between Earth scientists and social scientists to create new approaches to sustainable development in resource-poor countries. With senior faculty members from the Business School and SIPA, we participated in the World Economic Forum in Davos this past January. Our presence was intended to underscore the role Columbia should and will play in addressing the many complex factors that affect global societies.

Much more, however, needs to be done for us to adapt to these rapid world changes. It is clear we have entered a new era, and universities should be ready to play the distinctive role only we can perform. In particular, we need new programs to better serve our increasing international student base and more research and teaching on global issues (trade, international institutions, poverty, environment). Last fall, I created a task force on globalization. Over the course of our first six meetings, we have explored changes in our academic attentions and in our curriculum. I hope to provide a report with recommendations this coming academic term.


We end the year at the halfway mark of our 250th anniversary celebration. Last October, the University welcomed several thousand alumni and friends back to campus for a week of events. We have continued the celebration throughout the year with a series of intellectual colloquia to highlight our rich heritage as well as address critical contemporary issues.

Symposia have included a celebration of the seminal turning point in education and the idea of social justice in this country--the 50th anniversary of Brown v. Board of Education--featuring a keynote address by former President Bill Clinton. Last week's Brain and Mind symposium took a comprehensive look at what we understand, and might come to know, about the human brain. The Earth's Future: Taming the Climate brought Governor George Pataki to campus to lead discussions on climate change. At last fall's Fred Friendly Seminar on liberty and security in the age of terrorism, several First Amendment scholars, civil liberties experts, and law enforcement officials considered the dilemmas of rights and security in the post-September 11th world.


Last September, I asked a small committee of faculty to explore the principles that guide academic freedom and freedom of speech on our campus. These issues have been particularly controversial at Columbia over the past few years, and we should expect that to continue. I believe we should never act to discipline or penalize faculty for statements made as citizens participating in discussion and debate on public issues. This view, however, is intensely contested by those who believe that the university may sanction faculty who damage the university by their statements.

Another issue involves the classroom. Does that principle protect a professor who retaliates against or penalizes students who fail to share the professor's political views? I believe it does not. I asked the committee to reflect on what principles should guide us in dealing with such issues; it was not charged with investigating particular departments, faculty, or classes. The committee recently reported back to me saying they agreed with these interpretations of academic freedom and that our procedures for the exercise of speech on campus are sound. The committee also told me that, in the course of their discussions of these issues on campus, they did not find any evidence of systematic bias in our classrooms.

We will continue to review University policies and guidelines as part of our steadfast commitment to the spirit of tolerance and mutual respect at Columbia.


We applaud the tremendous accomplishments of our superb faculty members, students, and alumni. This year, five Columbia University professors were elected to the National Academy of Sciences and five additional faculty members were appointed to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. The National Academy of Engineering elected our engineering dean, Zvi Galil, to its membership board. Additionally, three Columbians were elected members of The American Philosophical Society.

Columbia now boasts a roster of 70 Nobel Prize winners. Four members of our community--the Earth Institute's Pedro Sanchez, School of the Arts' Sarah Sze, GSAS alumnus Anders Winroth and Barnard's alumna Lydia Davis--were among 24 individuals awarded MacArthur Fellowships last semester.

We continue to make key appointments that solidify our leadership across many disciplines. George Lewis, Pace Jazz & American Music Professor from the University of California, will greatly strengthen both our Center for Jazz Studies and Institute for Research in African-American Studies. With prominent historian Robin Kelley's appointment last July, we now have one of the strongest interdisciplinary African-American studies programs in the nation.

We also recruited renowned oceanographer Peter Keleman to be the Stork Professor in Earth and Environmental Sciences. David Reichman, coming to us from Harvard, is one of the most distinguished young chemists in the country. We welcome mathematicians Hubert Bray from MIT and Eric Urban from the University of Paris

At the professional schools we have all benefited from the first year of leadership by Nick Lemann, Dean of the Journalism School. I am also pleased that Glenn Hubbard, former head of President Bush's Council of Economic Advisors, is joining us as the new dean of our Business School. In addition, we have recruited two leading scientists from Bell Labs, Ismail Noyan and Michael Weinstein, to the Fu Foundation School of Engineering and Applied Science, Department of Applied Physics and Math.

As you know, we now refer to Columbia's uptown campus as Columbia University Medical Center, which more accurately reflects its identity and mission. We also welcome James Rothman, Ph.D., one of the world's leading cell biologists, to help establish a new Center for Chemical Biology at Columbia University College of Physicians & Surgeons (P&S). Dr. Rothman also joins the faculty as a professor in the Department of Physiology and Cellular Biophysics.


As part of our anniversary celebration and in order to build our connections to alumni and friends, I have spent significant time this year meeting with graduates throughout the United States and abroad.

With several faculty members, I traveled to Tokyo, Seoul, Beijing, Taipei and Hong Kong in April for a series of C250 alumni events, to meet with government officials, and to explore increased cooperation with educational institutions throughout Asia.

Finally, on a personal note, I would like you all to know that Jean and I moved into Columbia University's presidential residence at 60 Morningside Drive in March of this semester. Before our arrival, Columbia University's Trustees approved the restoration of the 100-year-old landmark. Now that we are in The House and Jean has her studio in West Harlem, we are beginning to feel settled. We are pleased to be on the campus and we look forward to welcoming all of you to our new home over the coming months. Best wishes for a safe and creative summer.


Lee C. Bollinger