Go to Columbia Web

Senate Office

406 Low Memorial Library
Telephone 854-2023
Mon.-Fri. 9am-5pm
Tom Mathewson, Manager
e-mail: tmm2@columbia.edu

Where to Find It

The University Senate Web is accessible on the Administration and Index pages of ColumbiaWeb.

Record Banner
VOL. 22, NO. 19APRIL 4, 1997


Senate Considers Proposals for Ethnic Studies

By Tom Mathewson

On Mar. 28 the Senate discussed two reports on ethnic studies and a Faculty Affairs Committee proposal to revise the ad hoc tenure review process. Fifty-five of 86 senators were present during the meeting.

  Prof. Ira Katznelson, chairman of the President's Advisory Committee on Ethnic Studies, and Prof. Joan Ferrante, chairman of a subcommittee of the Senate Education Committee, answered questions about their groups' reports, which both had called for the establishment of a center, or institute, for the study of ethnicity and race. Katznel-son's comments emphasized the search for intellectual and administrative flexibility in his committee's proposal, including an account of "racialized minorities"--the primary subjects of study in the new initiative--as a category whose membership had shifted and would continue to shift during American history, and a preference for calling the new organization a "center," the kind of educational unit that would impose the fewest restrictions on its faculty leaders, yet to be hired. He also elaborated on his committee's recommendations for a comparative and international dimension to the ethnic studies curriculum, with "intellectual synergy" with other programs, and for "incremental" faculty lines to staff the new program, which would not come at the expense of current departmental teaching responsibilities.

  While the Katznelson report had already received wide distribution in February, the Education Committee report had just reached the Senate. Ferrante outlined recommendations that were similar to those of the Katznelson report, with added emphasis on the need for interdisciplinary graduate programs in the study of ethnicity.

  For discussion only, Faculty Affairs offered an addendum to the guidelines on tenure review procedures that the Provost's Office maintains and updates from year to year. Prof. James Valentini, chair of the subcommittee that produced the proposal, summarized its innovations, including the addition of a witness responsible only for representing the candidate in the deliberations of the "ad hoc" (tenure review) committee, a newly constituted Tenure Review Advisory Committee representing each academic unit,--to be appointed by deans instead of the Provost--and a more precise statement of the Provost's role in ad hoc deliberations and their aftermath.

  In the discussion that followed, Provost Jonathan R. Cole offered numbers to show that Faculty Affairs was basing its reform proposal on a very small number of problematic cases: there are 42 tenure reviews per year on average, with an average annual turndown rate of 13 percent. There had been 304 ad hoc reviews since Cole had become Provost in 1989, with 38 negative decisions; he had overruled favorable ad hoc votes in only 14 of those 38 cases, and only five cases had resulted in law suits; the University had not lost any of those suits. The Provost asked for further written elaboration of the proposal, and promised to respond in writing. Prof. Eben Moglen, chair of Faculty Affairs, agreed to provide a more complete record in time for the April meeting.

  In other business, the Senate rejected, for the second time this year, a proposal to add an alumni senator to the Senate Executive Committee. The proposal failed to reach a majority by 7 votes.