Obligations and Responsibilities of Officers of Instruction and Research


The University is committed to maintaining a climate of academic freedom, in which officers of instruction and research are given the widest possible latitude in their teaching and scholarship. However, the freedoms traditionally accorded those officers carry corresponding responsibilities. By accepting appointment at the University, officers of instruction and research assume varied obligations and duties.

Officers of instruction are expected to teach unless they are on an approved leave of absence or are serving in a full-time administrative capacity. With the exception of those who are appointed solely to offer instruction, they are expected to conduct research or its equivalent in the professional schools. Most faculty are also asked to serve on committees and otherwise to assist in the governance of their department, Faculty, and the University. Officers of research are appointed to participate in the research programs of the University, and they may also be called on to provide University service. Some may be asked to teach on a part-time basis in addition to performing their primary responsibilities, in which case they are given a second appointment as a member of the faculty for the period they are providing instructional services.

Guidelines for the standards of conduct expected of officers of instruction and research are provided in the University Senate’s resolution “Columbia University Institutional Policy on Misconduct in Research,” which is reprinted as Appendix C. The present section discusses the responsibilities of the faculty and research staff in further detail and describes other University policies relevant to the discharge of their duties.


Academic Freedom

The University’s commitment to the principle of academic freedom is defined in Section §70a of the University Statutes, which is reprinted as part of Appendix B. That commitment assures officers of the freedom to determine the content of what they teach and the manner in which it is taught and the freedom to choose the subjects of their research and publish the results. It also guarantees that they will not be penalized for expressions of opinion or associations in their private or civic capacity.

Last Revised November 2008



The educational programs of the University and the instructional responsibilities of its faculty are governed by policies, regulations, and procedures set at multiple levels. Most are determined by the individual schools. The University Senate has concurrent powers over the curricula of some schools and defines University policy on educational matters that affect more than one school. The instructional programs of the University must also comply with federal laws and regulations, with state regulations, particularly those issued by the New York State Education Department with which those programs are registered, and, in some cases, with the requirements of professional associations. Finally, they must meet the standards of accreditation of the Middle States Commission on Higher Education and the specialized agencies that accredit the programs offered by many of the schools.

Faculty should consult the school bulletins for the latest statements of the policies governing their educational programs. Where questions remain, they should contact the appropriate dean or the Registrar. Additional information of use to faculty in meeting their instructional responsibilities may be found on the web pages of the individual schools; the University Senate, which maintains an online archive of the resolutions passed since its inception in 1969; and the Registrar. For University policies governing their instructional responsibilities, faculty may also consult with the Office of the Provost

Instructional Responsibilities

The University leaves the organization and content of courses, in large measure, to the discretion of the faculty and respects their right to express freely their views on the subjects they are teaching. At the same time, it imposes certain obligations on the faculty in order to realize its instructional mission.

Officers of instruction are expected to assume the normal teaching load of faculty of similar rank in their department or school. Teaching loads differ from one school to another and can even vary among departments within a single school. Individuals should consult with their department chair, dean or vice president if they have any questions about the number of courses they are expected to teach. Variations from the norm are permitted with the authorization of the department chair and dean or vice president.

While faculty are given considerable freedom in deciding what they teach, their courses are subject to the approval of their department or school in order to ensure that they contribute to the curricular programs of the University. Each school has its own procedures for determining the instructional assignments of its faculty. Typically, these decisions are made by the individual officer in consultation with the department chair or dean, taking into account the need to ensure that the department or school meets its instructional obligations. New courses must also be approved by the appropriate Committee(s) on Instruction. Faculty should contact their department or dean’s office for information on the preparation of course proposals and for the deadlines for their submission. Proposals for major changes to existing courses, such as in the number of points of credit, their level, or manner of instruction, also need approval of the appropriate Committee(s) on Instruction and the dean or vice president.

Disagreements over what a faculty member will teach may be appealed to the dean or vice president in the first instance and then to the Provost. If still not satisfied, the faculty member may ask the Committee on Faculty Affairs, Academic Freedom, and Tenure of the University Senate to attempt to mediate the dispute. If the Committee is unable to find a resolution acceptable to the faculty member and the department chair, dean or vice president, it may submit a report on the dispute to the Provost, who will make the final determination.

Continuing students normally register in the fall for the following spring term and in the spring for the following fall. Therefore, the deadline for submitting teaching schedules is well in advance of the start of the term. Faculty should be prepared to submit teaching schedules for the coming academic year by mid-December. Once submitted, schedules should be considered final. Requests to change them should be limited to extraordinary circumstances.

It is the responsibility of the faculty to meet all scheduled classes. In the event of unavoidable absence due to emergencies, religious holidays, or other scheduling conflicts, an officer must reschedule missed classes, arrange for a replacement, or provide alternative instruction. Should an officer be absent for an extended period due to illness or injury, the department or school will provide substitute instructors for his or her courses.

No classes may be scheduled during study days or the final examination period.

Faculty should hold regular office hours of sufficient duration to advise students during the academic term. Those hours should be clearly communicated so that students will know when they are available. They are also expected to be available to advise students during registration and the final examination period following the end of classes.

Faculty who are on leave are expected to continue to supervise the work of their students but can discharge that responsibility by phone or in writing when it is not possible to meet in person. In particular, faculty on leave remain responsible for providing guidance to their student advisees who are conducting research for or writing doctoral dissertations, Master’s essays, or undergraduate senior theses. They should also provide prompt feedback on the drafts of manuscripts for which they are the second readers and should be present for qualifying exams and the defense of dissertations and other capstone projects if it is logistically feasible.

In conducting their classes, faculty should promote an atmosphere of mutual tolerance, respect, and civility. They should allow the free expression of opinions within the classroom that may be different from their own and should not permit any such differences to influence their evaluation of their students’ performance. They should confine their classes to the subject matter covered by their courses and not use them to advocate any political or social cause. These principles of classroom conduct help to promote a healthy learning environment, but they do not limit the authority of the faculty to determine the actual content of their courses nor do they interfere with the right of faculty to express personal political views outside of the classroom in the manner of their choosing. Students who feel that their faculty have not abided by these principles may file a complaint according to procedures described later in this chapter of the Handbook.

Faculty are expected to give students clear written statements of course requirements and to judge them solely on the basis of academic performance. During the course of the term, they should notify the academic advisers of those students who are at risk of failing their courses. At the end of the term, they are expected to submit their grades to the Registrar in a timely manner (see “Reporting of Grades,” below).

Full-time officers of instruction are also expected to direct student research, assist in administering special departmental or school examinations, serve on dissertation defenses, and, in the case of senior faculty, supervise doctoral dissertations. Part-time faculty may be asked to assume some of these responsibilities as part of the terms of their contracts.

Assignments of Instructional Facilities

Classroom assignments in the professional schools are made by personnel designated by their deans. For the schools in the Arts and Sciences, the Registrar performs that responsibility, although various departments have first scheduling rights to some instructional facilities. These are assigned in coordination with the Registrar, who has the right to schedule classes in any appropriate room if it is free at the times needed and if other facilities are not available.

Classes on the Morningside campus are scheduled according to the Uniform University Class Schedule and the scheduling principles developed by the Registrar with advice from the faculty. Special guidelines exist for the scheduling of electronic or “multimedia” classrooms on the Morningside campus. These classes are managed jointly by the Registrar, Columbia University Facilities, and Columbia University Information Technology (CUIT). Information on them may be obtained from CUIT’s web site, www.columbia.edu/acis/classrooms/. The Registrar is responsible for scheduling the electronic classrooms. However, departments that had scheduling rights to them before they were enhanced continue to have first access to them, provided teaching schedules are submitted by the mid-December deadline. The classrooms can be reserved online or by obtaining an application form from the Computing Support Center.

Special attention is given to the needs of disabled faculty and students in assigning classrooms. The Registrar works closely with the Director of the Office of Disability Services to ensure that classes are held in rooms that can accommodate those individuals. This will sometimes necessitate relocating classes at the start of a term.

The Registrar publishes a list of all courses given by the schools and departments on the Morningside campus in the Directory of Classes, with information on when they meet and their instructors as well as their locations. The Directory, which is available online at www.columbia.edu/cu/bulletin/uwb/home.html, also contains the classes for several schools and programs at the Medical Center. Room assignments in the rest of the Medical Center are communicated directly to their instructors and students by their respective dean’s offices. The instructional facilities at Barnard and Teachers Colleges are scheduled by their respective Registrars, but their courses also appear in the Directory.

Academic Calendar

The University Senate determines the University’s academic calendar, with the assistance of the Registrar, who reviews it for conformity with the educational regulations of the State of New York.

The University Academic Calendar conforms to the “early semester” model, with classes and final examinations ending before Christmas in the fall and in mid-May in the spring. Classes start on a Tuesday in both semesters. In the fall, classes begin the day after Labor Day and in the spring, the day after the observance of Martin Luther King Jr. Day. Commencement takes place on the Wednesday after the last examination in the spring term.

This calendar is used by the schools in the Arts and Sciences, Barnard College, and, with some variations, most professional schools on the Morningside campus. At the Medical Center it is also followed by the Mailman School of Public Health and by the Programs in Human Nutrition, Occupational Therapy, and Physical Therapy. The Graduate School of Business and the School of Nursing offer a third full term during the summer months. The College of Physicians and Surgeons and the College of Dental Medicine have separate academic calendars.

Faculty should consult the bulletins of the individual schools and programs for their academic calendars. The calendars are also published in the Directory of Classes for those schools and programs that use it to list their courses.

University Holidays

The University recognizes the following as official holidays: New Year’s Day, Martin Luther King Jr. Day, Memorial Day, Independence Day, Labor Day, Election Day, Thanksgiving, and Christmas. In addition, the day after Thanksgiving and a weekday immediately before or after New Year’s and Christmas are designated as University holidays. At the Medical Center, but not on the Morningside campus, President’s Day in February is also an official holiday. Faculty at the Harlem Hospital Center have a separate holiday schedule that may be obtained by consulting their UDA contract or by contacting their departmental administrator.

The day before Election Day is designated an academic holiday by all schools on both campuses, with the exception of Law, Physicians and Surgeons, and Dental Medicine. Students in Social Work must also meet their fieldwork obligations, and many administrative offices remain open on that day.

Religious Holidays

It is the policy of the University, and a requirement of New York State law, to respect the religious beliefs of its faculty, students, and staff. Officers of administration and instruction responsible for scheduling required academic activities or essential services are expected to avoid conflicts with religious holidays as much as possible. Such activities include registration, classes, examinations, and various deadlines that are a part of the academic calendar.

When scheduling conflicts prove unavoidable, no student may be penalized for absences due to religious beliefs. Faculty are expected to find alternative means by which those students can satisfy missed academic requirements. If a suitable arrangement cannot be worked out between the student and the instructor, they should consult the appropriate department chair, dean or director. If an additional appeal is needed, it may be taken to the Provost whose determination is final.

Officers of instruction wishing to be excused from classes or other instructional duties that conflict with the observance of their own religious holidays must make alternative arrangements in consultation with their department chair or dean. Those arrangements should not substantially inconvenience their students or colleagues.

Class Hours

The regulations of the New York State Education Department define the number of hours of instruction required for each point of academic credit. Starting with those regulations, the University and its schools have established timetables that govern when classes may meet. The Registrar regularly communicates these to the departments and faculty. Aside from ensuring conformity with State requirements, the timetables are designed to make the most efficient use of available classrooms and to minimize scheduling problems for students. Since there are considerable variations among the different schools in their standard class meeting times, faculty should direct questions about acceptable class hours to the appropriate dean’s office. They may also consult with the Office of the Registrar.

Class Attendance and Missed Assignments

Faculty have the discretion of setting their own policies on class attendance and on making up missed assignments, subject to the limitations defined by the University’s policies on religious holidays, described above, and any requirements set by their schools. However, they have an obligation to provide their students with a clearly written description of their policies and to follow them consistently. Students who feel that a faculty member has not fairly applied those policies have the right to appeal to their dean.

Final Examinations

The policies and procedures governing final course examinations are established and supervised by the Committees on Instruction of the various schools. A statement of these policies may be found in their academic bulletins.

Columbia College, the School of General Studies, the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, the School of International and Public Affairs, and The Fu Foundation School of Engineering and Applied Science observe a common schedule for final examinations. Early in each term, the Registrar publishes a projected schedule for final examinations in those schools and updates it with a final examination schedule after midterms. This schedule may be found among the services the Registrar has posted on the web for faculty and staff at www.columbia.edu/cu/registrar/docs/faculty-and-staff/.

The schools and programs other than those listed above establish their own examination schedules, which they publicize through their web sites and student publications.

Faculty should not reschedule final exams that have been set by the Registrar or their school, unless a change is unavoidable in which case the faculty member must find a day and time that is acceptable to the students in the course. Students who do not wish to take the examination at the alternative time the faculty member chooses must be given the opportunity of making it up at a different time.

Some schools limit the number of final examinations a student may be required to take on a single day or two consecutive days. Where those limits exist, faculty are expected to cooperate with affected students in finding an alternative time for their examinations. They also should consult with the dean’s office of the school in which the course is offered to determine if there are any restrictions on when the student must complete his or her examinations.


There are five grading systems in use at the University. Most schools use the letter grades of A, B, C, D, F, with plus and minus as modifiers to the first three, or a variant on this system without the grade of D. In addition, there are three nontraditional grading systems:

  • H to F, with gradations (in the Graduate School of Business);
  • P and F only (in the Graduate School of Journalism); and
  • H, P, and F (in the College of Physicians and Surgeons and in the School of the Arts).

Officers should address any questions regarding the meaning and appropriate use of grades to the dean of the relevant school.

Students always receive traditional letter grades when taking a course outside of their school of enrollment, regardless of the grading system in use in either school.

The Pass/Fail option, which should not be confused with the P/F grading system in Journalism, is used only in undergraduate divisions. It enables students to take elective courses they might not otherwise attempt and receive a “Pass” or “Fail” rather than the finer distinctions of the traditional letter grades. The course instructor is not informed that a student has taken this option and assigns a qualitative grade, which the Registrar converts to P or F as appropriate.

The grade of R, which is awarded in place of a qualitative grade, signifies that the student has received credit only for registering for a course. The student is expected to fulfill all requirements set by the instructor, including attendance, with the exception of sitting for a final examination or writing a final paper. Once awarded, R credit cannot be changed, nor may a course that has been taken for R credit be repeated later for a qualitative grade. Students should be instructed to consult with their dean’s office if they have questions on which courses, if any, they may take for R credit and whether those courses will fulfill degree requirements.

Students who have discontinued attendance in a course but who are still officially registered for it are assigned an F* or UW, depending upon their school. In some schools, these grades are also given when a student does not have an acceptable excuse for failing to take a final examination.

Two notations are used for students who have not met all of the requirements of a course, depending on their school: ABS (absence) and INC (incomplete). In some schools, these may be given at the discretion of the faculty member; in others they can be granted only by the dean or they require the dean’s concurrence.

The time limit allowed to make up incompletes varies according to the school of enrollment and the level of the course. Typically, it is one year, although it may be as little as one term or less, or, in the case of some graduate seminars, as long as the instructor chooses. For students who have cross-registered, the time limit is governed by the policies of the school offering the course rather than the school of enrollment. If a student fails to complete the required work within the prescribed time, the grade is automatically changed to F, F*, R, or UW, depending on the school.

Each school’s policies on incompletes can be found in its bulletin. A faculty member in need of additional information should consult the appropriate dean’s office.

Reporting of Grades

Columbia, with the exception of the School of Law, uses a common web system for reporting grades, which the Office of the Registrar opens prior to the start of the final examination period. The system is accessible via Student Services Online at https://ssol.columbia.edu and may be used to obtain class rosters at any time during the term as well as to post grades. Faculty may also obtain student rosters for their courses through CourseWorks. Faculty in the School of Law submit their grades through Lawnet, which can be accessed through www.law.columbia.edu/lawnet.

Faculty are expected to submit their grades no later than 72 hours after the final examination. A shorter deadline exists for the spring grades of students who are candidates for graduation in May. The web grading system in May separates out the students who are expected to graduate at the end of the spring term. Grades for those students must be entered no later than 48 hours after the final examination or by 5 p.m. on the Friday preceding Commencement, whichever is sooner.

Faculty who are unable to submit a grade because of absence or illness are expected to inform their department chair or dean. Faculty continue to be responsible for submitting grades after resigning or retiring from the University as long as students have the privilege of submitting work required in their courses.

Grades are confidential information protected by federal law. Faculty may not divulge them to anyone who is not authorized to see them.

Changes in Grades

Grades are considered final upon submission to the Registrar, other than those defined as temporary in nature. Once given, they may not be improved through the submission of additional work. Changes to final grades normally may be made only to correct an error. Corrections to final grades and changes from temporary to final grades must be made in accordance with the regulations of the student’s school and the Registrar’s procedures. In all such cases, the changes must be submitted to the appropriate dean, or a designated representative, in the student’s school. If the school gives its approval, the change will then be forwarded to the Registrar for review as to form and for posting.

Students may appeal grades to the department chair or the dean in the case of disputes that cannot be resolved with the instructor. In such cases, the chair or dean may have the student’s work evaluated by a second faculty member. Grades are not changed without first consulting with the instructor and obtaining the approval of the dean of the student’s school of enrollment. The grounds for changing a disputed grade are limited. A dean will authorize an improved grade only when there is compelling evidence that the faculty member acted out of hostility toward the student or the student’s grade is clearly out of line with those of other students in the same course who produced work of similar quality. In the absence of such evidence, the dean will defer to the judgment of the instructor.

Use of Copyrighted and Other Materials for Instructional Purposes

Faculty who wish to reproduce articles, portions of books, and other printed materials for use by their students must comply with the requirements of federal copyright law, which protects an author’s rights in original work regardless of whether it contains a copyright notice. Those requirements apply to both the individual use of works and to their inclusion in “course packs.” In September 2006, the Provost issued a statement, available at http://www.columbia.edu/cu/provost/docs/copyrightfaq.html, to provide faculty with guidance on the types of materials that may be copied without prior permission and the steps they must take to obtain the author’s consent when it is needed.

Certain printed materials are considered in the public domain and, therefore, may be freely copied. In addition, certain types of copying may be permitted if it falls within the law’s definition of “fair use.” The criteria for determining whether a work meets either of these exceptions are described in the Provost’s 2006 statement. They are complex and often require a subjective interpretation that needs to be applied on a case-by-case basis. Faculty may ask the Office of the General Counsel for help in determining whether the materials they wish to reproduce for their classes require copyright permission.

When it is needed, faculty may obtain permission directly from a publisher or through the Copyright Clearance Center, a non-profit organization that licenses the use of printed materials on behalf of a large number of publishing houses and individuals. In addition, they may turn to the Columbia Bookstore for assistance in securing copyright clearance. These mechanisms are also described in the Provost’s 2006 statement.

In preparation for teaching their courses, faculty prepare syllabi, notes, study aids, and other materials, both printed and electronic, for their students. These are generally the intellectual property of the faculty who create them, although there are some conditions in which Columbia or another university or college will assert ownership rights to them. The conditions in which Columbia claims ownership to such materials are described in the University’s copyright policy, which is reprinted as Appendix H. Consistent with commonly accepted academic practices as well as with copyright law, before using any such instructional materials for their own courses, faculty should obtain the permission of the individual who created them or the institution that holds the copyright. They should also acknowledge the creator in any course materials they may develop.

Students with Disabilities

Columbia is committed to creating a campus environment that is sensitive to the needs of students with disabilities and helps them achieve academic success and personal independence. The Office of Disability Services (ODS) is responsible for providing support for students with disabilities on both the Morningside and Medical Center campuses. The Office works with the faculty to ensure that the accommodations the students receive are consistent with course requirements and the academic standards of the programs in which those students are enrolled.

While students with disabilities are expected to meet the same academic requirements as other students, they may require special arrangements in order to do so, such as tape recording class lectures, the assistance of a sign language interpreter, and extended time or separate space for in-class examinations. Such arrangements do not include asking faculty to employ a lesser standard in evaluating the student’s performance. The Office of Disability Services informs faculty of any accommodations that need to be provided to students enrolled in their courses, directly or through the appropriate members of their dean’s staff, and encourages the students to discuss their needs directly with their instructors.

Students are required to register with the Office of Disability Services and must provide current documentation that verifies their disability status and accommodation needs. Faculty members are not required to make adjustments for students who have not registered with that Office and are advised not to make academic adjustments on their own. Faculty who would like additional information about the University’s student disability services or who have concerns about specific students should contact that Office or go to www.health.columbia.edu/.

Students in Need of Psychological Counseling

When faculty encounter students who appear in need of psychological counseling, they should contact the appropriate Dean of Students and Counseling and Psychological Services (CPS) for advice and assistance. They should not try to help the students on their own. Professional counselors in the CPS can advise faculty on how to respond to students in crisis or obvious distress and how to refer them to their office for counseling. Faculty can also ask the counselors for confidential consultations about difficult situations relating to students. However, members of the CPS staff cannot share privileged information about students using their clinical services.

In addition to providing help with individual students, CPS offers staff training on specific mental health topics and is available to meet with faculty, deans, and members of the administrative staff to discuss mental health questions such as early warning signs of psychiatric illness, bipolar disorder, and disruptive students and employees. For more information on the office and its services, faculty should consult the Health Services’ web site at http://www.health.columbia.edu/docs/about_us/cps.html.

Student Grievances against Faculty

The University seeks to provide a learning environment that promotes intellectual inquiry and analytical thinking. In pursuit of those goals and the objectives of their courses, faculty may find it necessary to engage their students in discussions about issues that are contentious and emotionally charged, to respond critically to students’ reasoning, and to challenge them to reexamine deeply held beliefs. This is an important part of the faculty’s responsibility to their students and the educational mission of the University, but it must be done with civility, tolerance, and respect for ideas that differ from their own.

When students feel that one of their professors has not met that requirement, they are encouraged to resolve the problems directly with the faculty member but may instead turn to several offices for assistance. They may also seek a formal hearing of their complaints against the faculty member under the grievance procedures of their school. Each school has its own procedures for evaluating student complaints about the conduct of their instructors. These are posted on the school’s web site and may also be obtained by contacting the office of its dean. Faculty with questions about those procedures should also contact their dean.

Privacy of Student Records

The University’s policy on access to student records is guided by the Federal Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act of 1974, as amended (sometimes referred to as FERPA or the Buckley Amendment). This policy is reprinted in Essential Policies for the Columbia Community, a compendium of information to help students, faculty, and staff understand the policies and regulations of the University. It regulates the access of students to their educational records at the University and defines the conditions under which the University will grant access or release those records to others. The policy is binding on all University employees, including faculty. Further information on the University’s FERPA policy may be obtained from the Office of the Registrar.

In general, the University will not release a student’s transcript or other information from or about a student’s educational records without his or her written consent. The policy also provides that students generally may have access to their educational records at the University. Specific exceptions to both of these statements are set forth in the policy.

Student Discipline

The continuance of each student on the rolls of the University, the receipt of academic credits, graduation, and the conferring of any degree or certificate are subject to the disciplinary powers of the University, which is free to cancel registration at any time on any grounds it deems advisable. The Trustees and the President have delegated responsibility for student discipline primarily to the deans of the individual schools and divisions. Their administration of that responsibility is known as Dean’s Discipline. In general, Dean’s Discipline is administered by the Dean of Students within the student’s school, with the Dean serving as the final source of appeal. In limited situations, students who are subject to Dean’s Discipline may make a further appeal to the President. A faculty member who believes that a student has engaged in an academically dishonest practice, such as cheating on an examination or plagiarism, or that their personal behavior seriously disrupts the academic environment should consult the appropriate dean’s office.

Alternatives to the procedural rules of Dean’s Discipline exist for alleged violations of the “Rules of University Conduct” and allegations of sexual assault. A description of the Rules may be found later in this chapter (see “General University Policies Affecting Officers of Instruction and Research”). Information on the University’s procedures for investigating complaints of sexual misconduct is contained in Essential Policies for the Columbia Community.

Last Revised November 2008



This section of the Handbook contains a summary of the policies and procedures the University follows to promote the scholarly and scientific inquiries of its academic officers and to meet the regulatory requirements of the outside funding agencies that provide the financial resources that sustain much of that research. More detailed information is available in the Sponsored Projects Handbook, available at www.sponsoredprojectshandbook.columbia.edu.

Research Policies

The University does not impose limitations on the research that faculty and officers of research may pursue in their individual capacity, other than to expect that such work will not interfere with their other University responsibilities. It has, however, adopted policies to regulate the conduct of research, the most important of which are discussed below. The University’s policies on conflicts of interest and conflicts of commitment are described later in this chapter under “Outside Interests and Employment” and are reprinted in full in Appendices E, F, and G.

Fundamental Principles Governing Externally Funded Research

The University regularly obtains grants from or enters into agreements with external funding sources, such as government agencies, foundations, and corporations, to support research undertaken by its faculty and officers of research. To ensure that these projects do not compromise the University’s commitment to unrestricted scholarship, all proposals for externally funded research are expected to conform to the principles contained in Chapter XLIII of the University Statutes.

These principles specify certain conditions under which the University will not enter into agreements for the support of research:

  • An outside party may not be given the power to censor, exercise an effective veto over, or unreasonably delay the publication or other dissemination of the results of the project.
  • An outside party may not determine who can participate in a research project on the basis of political beliefs or exclude anyone on criteria that violate the University’s nondiscriminatory policies, subject to the University’s obligations under state and federal laws.
  • The University will not be a party to classified research. It will not handle or transmit classified information, documents, material, or equipment; it will not seek security clearances for any individual or facility; and it will not control access to information in accordance with any security regulation.

Research Misconduct

Integrity in the conduct of research and the dissemination of the results is essential to the scholarly purposes to which the University is dedicated. Unethical practices and fraud can destroy the mutual trust that exists among colleagues; undermine the relationship between faculty and students; severely, if not irreparably, injure the careers of associates and subordinates; damage the University; and diminish public confidence in the scholarly enterprise. In recognition of the harm academic misconduct can cause, the University Senate adopted a revised “Institutional Policy on Misconduct in Research” in February 2006. That policy, which is reprinted as Appendix C, covers misconduct in research involving falsification, fabrication, and plagiarism. It also establishes principles and guidelines for promptly and fairly investigating cases in which such misconduct is alleged to have occurred. The policy applies to the entire University.

The University’s Standing Committee on the Conduct of Research implements the policy. The Office of Research Compliance and Training helps administer the policy and is a resource for anyone with concerns or questions about possible research misconduct.

Principal Investigators

The full administrative, fiscal, and scientific responsibility for the management of a sponsored project resides with the principal investigator named in the award. A principal investigator is required to:

  • ensure that all of the information in the proposal is presented in a manner that is complete, accurate, and developed according to the practices commonly accepted within the academic community;
  • ensure that all required University forms and certifications, such as the conflict of interest disclosure and the agreement on the assignment of rights to inventions, are completed in a timely manner;
  • conduct the work on the project according to the research protocol or statement of work that was submitted with the original proposal or as subsequently modified by the sponsor in agreement with the principal investigator and the University;
  • ensure that all work meets the highest ethical standards and is conducted without real or apparent conflicts of interest, in accordance with the University’s policies;
  • ensure that all work performed is conducted in compliance with applicable federal, state, and local laws and regulations and with University policies and requirements;
  • submit reports on the research in a timely manner, according to the sponsor’s requirements;
  • abide by the terms and conditions of the award; and
  • manage the project’s budget so that funds are spent correctly, taking into account any restrictions imposed by the sponsor and avoiding overdrafts.

Questions concerning the duties of a principal investigator should be directed to the Office of Sponsored Projects Administration (SPA) or to the Sponsored Projects Finance (SPF) Division of the Controller’s Office.

The principal investigator normally must be an officer of instruction with a full-time appointment in the rank of professor, associate professor, assistant professor, or instructor or an officer of research with a full-time appointment as a senior research scientist/scholar or a research scientist/scholar, with certain exceptions described below. Persons with appointments carrying other instructional or research titles, including those in a visiting or adjunct grade, may act as co-principal investigators with officers in one of the instructional or research grades cited above. However, they may not serve as the sole principal investigator without the approval of their department chair, director, dean or vice president, and the Provost.

The Provost has delegated the authority to make such exceptions to the Executive Vice President for Health and Biomedical Sciences for officers at the Medical Center and to the Executive Vice President for Research for those holding appointments elsewhere in the University, with the exception of the Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory, where that authority has been delegated to the Director.

Officers seeking an exception should submit their requests to the Office of Sponsored Projects Administration, which will forward them to the appropriate approving authority. They may ask for exceptions for specific projects or to be the principal investigator for any award they may receive. The request must be countersigned by the appropriate chair or director and dean or vice president in order to acknowledge the financial responsibility of the department or school for the proposed project or projects. In addition the request must include the individual’s curriculum vitae and, if it relates to a specific project, an abstract of the proposed project.

A faculty member or an officer of research who is a principal investigator may continue in that capacity after retirement until the expiration of the current term of funding of the sponsored project. The officer may serve as a principal investigator beyond that date only with the special permission of the appropriate designee of the Provost.

Offices of Research Management and Compliance

Several central administrative offices of the University assist faculty and officers of research to identify external funding opportunities, administer the grants and contracts they receive, and ensure that they comply with both University and external regulations governing the conduct of research. Most of these offices operate under the supervision of the Executive Vice President for Research. Several of these offices are described below: the Office of Sponsored Projects Administration, the Office of Research Compliance and Training, the Clinical Trials Office, and the Office of Postdoctoral Affairs. Others are discussed later in this section of the Handbook: the Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee, the Institute of Comparative Medicine, the Institutional Review Boards, and the Office of Environmental Health and Safety.

Office of the Executive Vice President for Research

The Office of the Executive Vice President for Research defines and administers the policies governing the conduct of research at the University and oversees the management of its research programs. It assists investigators seeking external funding, promotes interdisciplinary research, and provides seed money for early stage investigations through the Initiatives in Science and Engineering Program. It also works to promote an institutional environment that sustains the high quality of the University’s research programs and maximizes their productivity.

Reporting to the Executive Vice President, the Vice President for Research Operations manages the administration of research at the University. In addition, the Vice President works with the Executive Vice President to define the University’s research policies; enhance the services and resources that support the University’s research mission; identify new research opportunities; and strengthen the University’s relationships with external research collaborators.

Office of Sponsored Projects Administration

The Office of Sponsored Projects Administration coordinates the submission of proposals for sponsored projects to external funding sources and provides certain post-award services for those projects that are funded. Sponsored research proposals must be signed on behalf of the University by a representative of the Office who has been designated by the Trustees to exercise that responsibility. The sole exception to this requirement consists of research agreements with private-sector companies that do not involve clinical trials, for which the Office of Science and Technology Ventures (see “Intellectual Property,” below) has signatory authority.

Each department is served by a dedicated project officer who assists with proposal development and submission, and by a financial analyst who assists with aspects of post-award management. A directory of these officers may be found on the web site of the Office of Sponsored Projects Administration at http://spa.columbia.edu. The web site contains other informational resources of assistance to investigators in applying for and managing externally funded awards. It also has links to the web sites of governmental and non-governmental sponsors with information about funding opportunities and policies governing sponsored research.

The University administers the sponsored awards for which its full-time faculty and officers of research serve as the principal investigators. Those officers may not, therefore, submit proposals for outside funding through another institution without first obtaining permission from the appropriate representative of the Provost. Requests for exceptions should be directed to the Office of Sponsored Projects Administration. They are normally granted only in the case of collaborative projects where, by prior agreement among the institutions involved, it is determined that Columbia should not administer the award.

Office of Research Compliance and Training

The Office of Research Compliance and Training ensures that the University is in compliance with the complex web of regulatory requirements that govern research. It fulfills that mission in collaboration with many of the other offices discussed in this section of the Handbook. The Office administers the University’s policies on conflicts of interest, research misconduct, and international research, and serves as a resource on compliance questions including those relating to effort reporting. It also promotes an understanding among the faculty and staff of the requirements they must observe in conducting research through the development of integrated educational programming on compliance across the University. Its web site at http://www.columbia.edu/cu/compliance contains detailed information about both the research compliance requirements under which the University operates and the programming it provides.

Clinical Trials Office

Clinical trials are planned experiments designed to assess the efficacy of a treatment in humans. They also may be used to answer specific questions about the safety and efficacy of new drugs or therapies or new uses of known treatments.

The primary administrative responsibility for assisting investigators in the Faculty of Medicine in managing clinical trials rests with the Clinical Trials Office, which serves both the University and New York-Presbyterian Hospital. Investigators in other parts of the University engaged in clinical trials should work with the Office of Sponsored Projects Administration.

The Clinical Trials Office serves as an intermediary between investigators and the sponsors of clinical trials and works with potential sponsors who are interested in placing clinical trials at the University. It supports investigators in the development of protocols, helps with budgeting and contract negotiations, assists in post-award financial management, and assists in ensuring that the trials are conducted in a manner that complies with the requirements of the sponsor and government regulations. While the Office supports the development of proposals and budgets for clinical trials, the applications and contracts themselves must be submitted through the Office of Sponsored Projects Administration.

The Clinical Trials Office also supports clinical research at the Medical Center with services that include the Research Pharmacy, biostatistics services, and the Hispanic Translation Center. In addition, it provides funding for certain research initiatives through the new Investigator Pilot Awards, and loans and grants for clinical infrastructure and departmental projects.

The Office is overseen by a Clinical Trials Advisory Committee, whose members include clinical investigators and senior administrators of the University and New York-Presbyterian Hospital. The Committee advises the Clinical Trials Office on policy issues that may arise with respect to clinical trials and on matters relating to the promotion of clinical trials. It also reviews and recommends meritorious “seed” clinical research projects and other clinical trial research support provided by the Clinical Trials Office.

Information on the Clinical Trials Office, the Advisory Committee, and the programs they manage is available at www.columbiaclinicaltrials.org.

Office of Research Initiatives

The Office of Research Initiatives works to foster interdisciplinary research across departments and schools and, more generally, to identify opportunities and strategies that will enhance research at the University. It also administers Columbia’s internal process for selecting nominees for funding opportunities that limit the number of proposals any one institution is permitted to submit, and supports the investigators’ efforts to obtain those awards.

Office of Postdoctoral Affairs

The Office of Postdoctoral Affairs serves the University’s postdoctoral research scientists, scholars, and fellows. Its mission is to enhance their educational and training experience and to provide them with administrative support while they are at Columbia. It also works to promote clear, consistent policies relating to postdoctoral officers across the University and serves as an information clearinghouse for those officers and the individuals and offices responsible for their training. Information on the Office of Postdoctoral Affairs and resources for postdoctoral officers is available at www.columbia.edu/cu/postdocs/.

Administration of Externally Funded Research

Applications for Sponsored Research

A proposal for sponsored research must be approved by the appropriate department chair or director and by the appropriate dean or vice president to ensure that the project is consistent with the purposes and priorities of the department, school, institute, or center. When a proposal involves personnel or activity in more than one unit, it requires the approval of the heads of all of the units that will be involved. If another institution will participate in the proposed project, the proposal must also be signed by its authorized representative.

The Office of Sponsored Projects Administration reviews all proposals to ensure that they conform with the policies of the University and the guidelines of the sponsor, and submits them to the funding source. To permit this review, all proposals must be submitted to the Office in final form at least five business days before the sponsor’s deadline for submission.

Additional special authorizations may also be necessary, depending upon the requirements of the project. In particular, as discussed later in this section of the Handbook, authorizations are required when the proposed research involves human subjects, vertebrate animals, recombinant DNA, stem cells, or radioactive or hazardous materials. Investigators are expected to comply with all applicable laws, regulations, and University procedures governing their use. For information on those laws, regulations, and procedures, and, more generally, on how to obtain the special authorizations when they are required, investigators should contact the Office of Sponsored Projects Administration, the Clinical Trials Office, or the Office of Research Compliance and Training.

The University recently implemented a new grants management system that permits proposals to be developed by investigators and tracked by the Office of Sponsored Projects Administration online. The system also allows the Office to send proposals to funding agencies that permit electronic submission and to disseminate information electronically on funding opportunities to individual investigators, based on their research interests and the applicable eligibility criteria.

Post-Award Administration

Once a proposal has been accepted, the Office of Sponsored Projects Administration negotiates the terms of the award with the sponsor to ensure compliance with University policies and applicable regulations. It establishes accounts for the project, acts as a liaison to the sponsor, and helps to administer the nonfinancial aspects of the project throughout its life. In the case of clinical trials, some of these tasks are performed by the Office of Clinical Trials.

The Office of the Controller, through its Division of Sponsored Projects Finance, is responsible for the overall fiscal administration of grants and contracts awarded to the University. The specific responsibilities of the Division of Sponsored Projects Finance include grant and contract cash management, financial reporting to sponsors, negotiating of the University’s indirect cost recovery and fringe benefit rates, and responding to financial audits of sponsored projects.

Acceptance of externally funded awards carries with it the obligation to comply with the sponsor’s conditions governing expenditures and reporting. Those responsibilities rest primarily with the principal investigators, who are expected to ensure that expenditures from their sponsored projects are appropriate and allowable under the conditions of the awards, properly documented, and in compliance with the requirements of the sponsor as well as government regulations and University policies. The University recognizes that in some cases principal investigators may delegate these duties to administrative personnel, but they retain overall responsibility for the financial and administrative management of their sponsored projects.

Principal investigators are required to ensure that expenditures and future commitments do not exceed the amounts authorized by the project sponsor. Under certain conditions, expenditures incurred during one budget period of a sponsored project may be carried over, in full or in part, to the next budget period, but only when University and agency policies permit. Investigators should contact the Division of Sponsored Projects Finance in the Office of the Controller or the Office of Sponsored Projects Administration to determine if these policies are applicable in the case of a particular project. Responsibility for funding any overdrafts rests with the principal investigator, the department, institute, or center, and ultimately the school to which the project is assigned.

The University does not maintain a separate set of financial policies applicable solely to government grants and contracts. All of its policies apply to all sponsored projects, irrespective of funding source, unless otherwise noted in the policies themselves.

There are several University policies directly relevant to the management of sponsored research funds. In particular, the University has implemented policies governing cost sharing, cost transfers, financial reporting, and closeout. These emphasize the need to manage sponsored research funds appropriately and to document all transactions. They are listed in the Administrative Policy Library at www.columbia.edu/cu/administration/policylibrary/. Information on financial management of sponsored awards is also available in the Sponsored Projects Handbook (www.sponsoredprojectshandbook.columbia.edu) and on the web site of the Division of Sponsored Projects Finance at http://finance.columbia.edu/controller/spf/index.html.


In some cases, the University may need to issue a subaward to another institution or organization in order to meet the requirements of a sponsored project award. In such cases, the University bears the responsibility of ensuring that the sub-recipient properly complies with all project requirements.

Effort Reporting

Federal regulations require that the effort devoted to sponsored projects is appropriately documented by an annual certification, and that the salaries charged are reasonable in relation to the effort devoted to those projects. Accordingly, while salary charges to sponsored projects may initially be made on the basis of planned or estimated workloads, the actual effort of each individual working on a sponsored project must be monitored and the charges to the project must be modified when there is a variance between the estimated and actual effort.

The University’s policy on effort reporting can be found at http://effortreporting.columbia.edu/policy.html. Each faculty member and officer of research (excepting postdoctoral officers) who receives sponsored project funding must annually certify his or her own effort. In addition, principal investigators must certify the effort of graduate students, postdoctoral officers, and staff funded by their projects. The University has implemented an electronic certification system called ECRT (Effort Certification and Reporting Technology) that is required for all effort reporting.

International Research

The University encourages international research and service but recognizes that such projects may involve distinctive arrangements and risks that are not associated with projects located in this country. It has established special procedures to manage those projects and support investigators engaged in international research and service. Information on these procedures is available at www.columbia.edu/research/international_research_policy.pdf. Investigators with questions should contact the Office of Sponsored Projects Administration or the Office of Research Compliance and Training.

Indirect Costs

The federal government and most other sponsors provide funding for both the direct costs of a given research project and the related indirect costs. The former consists of those expenses directly attributable to a grant or contract, such as the salaries of participants, supplies, and equipment. Indirect costs, in contrast, cannot be easily associated with any single project. They are expenses that the University incurs in its overall operations in the process of providing support for sponsored research. Examples include expenditures on the operation and maintenance of the physical plant, central and academic administrative offices, and the libraries. The University recovers these costs through the application of an indirect cost rate to certain direct expenditures charged to each grant. That rate is calculated by the Division of Sponsored Projects Finance, subject to the approval of government representatives in accordance with federal regulations. Investigators may not agree to an indirect cost rate with a non-federal sponsor that is less than the federal indirect cost rate unless such rate is approved by the appropriate University officials. Investigators should request any such waiver through the Office of Sponsored Projects Administration.

Small Business Program

The University is committed to promoting opportunities for small firms, particularly those owned and controlled by socially or economically disadvantaged individuals or by women, to do business with its departments. The policies it has adopted to further that objective also ensure that the University’s practices are in conformity with the applicable laws and regulations regarding small businesses. They are described in the University’s Small Business Concerns Policy Statement, which may be found at http://www.columbia.edu/cu/purchasing/pdf/sba_statement.pdf.

The Procurement Services Office administers the University’s Small Business Program. It is responsible for identifying potential small business vendors, assisting them in competing for business with the University, and promoting greater awareness of the Program among the University’s departments. The Office also serves as a resource for information, both internally and externally, concerning small business vendors.

Investigators with sponsored projects must use their best efforts to spend the maximum possible funds with small business vendors, as defined by the Program. Those with federal contracts whose budgets are in excess of $550,000 must also obtain the approval of the funding agency in the proposal stage for a “Small and Small Disadvantaged Business Subcontracting Plan,” which details how the funds will be expended. That plan becomes a contractual obligation upon receipt of the award.

Principal investigators may obtain information on the University’s Small Business Program, the relevant laws and regulations, and a list of vendors who potentially can meet their obligations by contacting the Office of Sponsored Projects Administration or the Procurement Services Office. They may also consult the latter’s web site at www.columbia.edu/cu/purchasing.

Research on Human Subjects

Research involving human subjects has the potential to yield substantial benefits in the form of new medical treatments, answers to social problems, and the advancement of knowledge. However, it must always take into account the well-being and rights of the individuals who serve as research subjects. The University has an ethical commitment to minimize the risks associated with such research and to make sure that individuals who participate in projects conducted under its auspices or the auspices of New York-Presbyterian Hospital do so voluntarily and with an informed understanding of what their involvement will mean.

The University’s policies on human subjects reflect its obligations under federal regulations and state law and the written assurances it has given to the Office of Human Research Protections of the Department of Health and Human Services. All such research must not only comply with those regulations but must also meet or exceed the standards established by the Association for Accreditation of Human Research Protection Programs.

The research covered by the University’s policies consists of any systematic investigation involving human subjects, including research development, testing, and evaluation, designed to develop or contribute to generalizable knowledge. This includes research conducted with or without external funding. As outlined in the federal policy:

  • “Human subjects” are any living individuals about whom an investigator (whether a professional or a student) conducting the research obtains
    1. data through intervention or interaction with the individual or
    2. identifiable private information.
  • “Intervention” includes both physical procedures by which data are gathered and manipulations of the subject or the subject’s environment that are performed for research purposes.
  • “Interaction” includes communication or interpersonal contact between investigator and subject.
  • “Private information” includes information about behavior that occurs in a context in which an individual can reasonably expect that no observation or recording is taking place, and information that has been provided for specific purposes by an individual and which the individual can reasonably expect will not be made public.

Food and Drug Administration regulations also apply to research involving a drug, device, or biological product that falls under its purview.

All research that involves human subjects must be reviewed by one of the University’s Institutional Review Boards (IRBs) before the study begins. This is true irrespective of whether the research is being funded by a government agency or from another source. If a project meets the requisite criteria, an IRB may determine that the project is exempt from this requirement or may be subject to an expedited review. Faculty and other investigators should consult with the appropriate IRB well in advance of submitting a project proposal to discuss any issues relating to human subjects that may affect the design of their study.

The University has multiple IRBs, including several dedicated to reviewing research conducted by faculty and officers of research at the Medical Center and one that performs that function for research in other parts of the University. Information on the policies governing human subjects research and the process for obtaining IRB approval is available online at www.cumc.columbia.edu/dept/irb/ for officers located at the Medical Center and www.columbia.edu/cu/irb/ for those in the rest of the University.

Certain research projects, in particular those conducted at affiliate institutions, such as the New York State Psychiatric Institute, may be reviewed by an IRB other than one of the Columbia IRBs. Information regarding which IRB is appropriate for the review of such projects is available on the web site of the Medical Center IRB.

Research with Animals

Columbia employs animals in research only when all other options have been determined to be inadequate or inappropriate. While recognizing that such research can yield extensive medical benefits, the University looks forward to a time when further advances can be achieved without using animals. Until then, it is committed to providing the highest level of ethical and humane care for the animals that are part of its research programs.

All animal research protocols must be approved by one of the University’s Institutional Animal Care and Use Committees (IACUCs). Comprised of scientists, veterinarians, and representatives of the non-scientific community, the IACUCs review all animal research proposals to ensure the animals’ humane care and use. In addition, the IACUCs determine the level of training required of scientists before they can begin to conduct research involving animals. There are separate IACUCs for research on the Morningside campus and at the Medical Center. More information on the committees and on the University’s policies governing the use of animals in research is available at http://cumc.columbia.edu/research/animal.

All animals used for research are ordered through, managed by, and cared for by the Institute of Comparative Medicine. The Institute has veterinary specialists, certified by the American College of Laboratory Animal Medicine, who are assisted by experienced clinical veterinarians and by other veterinary and animal care professionals. The Institute also ensures that the care and use of animals is in compliance with federal and state policies and that the facilities at the Medical Center remain accredited by the Association for the Assessment and Accreditation of Laboratory Animal Care, International.

The Institute of Comparative Medicine contributes to the broader goal of increasing biomedical knowledge through an accredited training program for veterinary specialists in comparative medicine; the training courses investigators and technical staff must take on the humane care of animals; and the scholarship and teaching of its members. Information on the Institute may be found at www.cumc.columbia.edu/dept/icm/.

Environmental Health and Safety

Columbia seeks to maintain a safe and healthy environment for its faculty, students, staff, and neighbors. As part of that effort, it is committed to ensuring that its research programs do not pose a risk to individuals working on or near its campuses or to the environment. Its health and safety programs are designed to minimize exposure to hazardous agents, work-related injury and illness, and the impact of University activity on the environment.

The Office of Environmental Health and Safety is responsible for achieving these goals. It provides a broad range of services, actively develops partnerships with researchers and departmental personnel to maintain a safe work environment, and ensures that research and other activities are carried out in a manner that complies with University policies and applicable federal, state, and local regulations. These endeavors are realized through programs including safety training, laboratory and chemical safety, hazardous waste management, industrial hygiene and occupational safety, asbestos and lead management, biological and fire safety, chemical tracking, and radiation protection. Additional information on the full range of its programs and on the requirements investigators must meet in conducting their research can be found at www.ehrs.columbia.edu.

While the main emphasis of this office is on prevention, it also has the primary responsibility for responding to accidents and emergencies whenever they occur. Laboratory safety emergencies, including biological, chemical, or radioactive spills or leaks, must be reported immediately to it. After hours, they should be reported to the Public Safety Office, which will, in turn, contact the appropriate members of the University’s health and safety staff. Individuals should not try to deal with an emergency on their own, as that could inadvertently result in injury or long-term health problems for themselves and for others.

All personnel conducting basic laboratory research that involves chemicals, blood borne pathogens, and recombinant DNA must receive safety training in their use. In addition, research involving recombinant DNA or human gene transfer must be approved by the University’s Institutional Biosafety Committee. Further information on the safe use of biological materials is available at http://www.ehrs.columbia.edu/BioSafety.pdf.

All personnel utilizing radioactive material or machines that produce radiation must be approved by the Radiation Safety Committee and receive radiation safety training. For additional information, individuals should consult www.ehrs.columbia.edu/RadiationSafety.html.

Last Revised November 2008


Intellectual Property

Unless it has specifically waived its rights, the University holds the intellectual property rights to patentable inventions and discoveries, and any associated technology, that result primarily from the use of its facilities or from the activity of its officers while engaged in its service. Similarly, the University claims the copyright on any work of authorship created with the substantial use of its resources beyond the level commonly provided to faculty, for its use, or subject to contractual obligations requiring the copyright be in the name of the University.

The University’s policies on proprietary rights in the intellectual products of faculty activity are set forth in two policy statements endorsed by the University Senate and adopted by the Trustees. The policy applicable to inventions and discoveries that may be patented, as well as to the technology associated with them, is described in the document Statement of Policy on Proprietary Rights in the Intellectual Products of Faculty Activity, which is reproduced in full as Appendix D. This policy was designed to achieve a balance between the rights and needs of the University and individual faculty members, and to define the responsibilities and privileges of each to the other with respect to inventions or discoveries that can be patented and the supporting technologies. The policy also sets forth the formula by which any revenues generated by inventions and discoveries will be shared among the University and their originators.

The copyright policy, which is reprinted as Appendix H, reaffirms the University’s historical commitment to the basic academic principle that faculty are free to pursue their research without interference and to share the products of their own intellectual efforts with others. At the same time, it clarifies the rights of the University with respect to works produced by the members of the Columbia community, balances them against the rights and privileges of the works’ creators, and, like the patent policy, establishes a framework by which any revenues generated by copyrighted materials will be shared by the University and their creators. The policy assigns responsibility for overseeing the new copyright policy and for adjudicating disputes arising from its application to a standing committee that is appointed by the Provost and includes faculty, academic administrators, and a student officer. A majority of its members are faculty.

Technology Development and Transfers

Columbia maintains an active technology transfer program that is designed to realize the potential commercial value of the creativity of its faculty, students, and staff. The program was made possible by federal law that allows universities to retain title to any innovations financed with federal funds, provided that they are diligent in transferring those innovations to the public domain. The University’s rights in such innovations, as well as other inventions and discoveries resulting from the use of its facilities and resources, are governed by the policies and guidelines in the University’s Statement of Policy on Proprietary Rights in the Intellectual Products of Faculty Activity (see Appendix D). The University office responsible for promoting the University’s objectives in the area of technology development and transfers is the Office of Columbia Technology Ventures.

Columbia Technology Ventures

Columbia Technology Ventures is the technology transfer office of Columbia University. Through technology transfer, Columbia inventions and innovations may be incorporated into products and services that directly benefit people across the globe. The University itself also benefits, as technology transfer brings in licensing revenues, which are reinvested to enhance the quality and breadth of education and research at Columbia.

On average, our office triages more than 300 new invention disclosures, executes 40-50 license agreements, and helps launch 12-15 start-up companies each year. We also manage more than 60 industry-sponsored research agreements and more than 1,300 material transfer and confidentiality agreements annually.

For information on any of our services or to report a potential invention, please send an email to techventures@columbia.edu, or call our office at (212) 854-8444. Additional information on Columbia Technology Ventures is available at www.techventures.columbia.edu.

Assignment of Rights

The University requires all full-time faculty and all salaried officers of research, including full-time postdoctoral officers and student officers of research, to sign an agreement that they will assign to the University their rights to any patentable invention or discovery conceived of or reduced to practice in the course of conducting research. No one may be appointed in a category covered by this requirement without completing an assignment agreement.

Graduate students who do not hold appointments as student officers must also sign the agreement if they are supported by most types of external funding. In addition, other faculty and officers of research, other officers and staff, and other students are required to execute assignments of intellectual property rights to the University if required by the University’s patent and copyright policies.

Information on the purpose of the assignment agreement and who must complete it may be obtained from Columbia Technology Ventures. Questions relating to the processing of appointments with the assignment agreement should be addressed to the Assistant Provost for Academic Appointments for Morningside appointments or to the Office of the Executive Vice President for Health and Biomedical Sciences for appointments at the Medical Center. A copy of the form may be found at www.techventures.columbia.edu.

Protecting Intellectual Property

Officers are responsible for reporting any discoveries or inventions that may have commercial value and any work that seems likely to produce such discoveries or inventions to Columbia Technology Ventures as early as possible. This should be done by submission of an Invention Disclosure and Report Form, which may be downloaded from Columbia Technology Ventures web site, www.techventures.columbia.edu. Officers should be aware that any publication or dissemination of information about an innovation outside of the University could jeopardize or limit its patentability. There is no inherent conflict between the freedom of officers to communicate the results of their research as they consider appropriate and the protection of the University’s patent rights. Columbia Technology Ventures can apply for and obtain a patent without interfering with the scholarly dissemination of information about an innovation, provided that the officer communicates with the Office in a timely manner.

Last Revised November 2008


Outside Interests and Employment

Outside professional activities and interests are an accepted part of academic life. They make faculty better scholars and teachers, and thereby better equip them to serve the University. Nonetheless, the opportunities available to faculty and other officers to conduct research, engage in consulting, practice their professions, and turn their discoveries and ideas into commercial ventures create the potential for conflict between their outside interests and commitments and their responsibilities to the University. Outside professional interests and employment, whether gainful or not, must not interfere with an officer’s teaching, scholarly research, and other departmental and University duties. Even the appearance of conflict can be injurious to both the individual officer and the University.

The primary professional obligations of full-time faculty are to the University. They consequently may not participate in any outside activities, for or without compensation, that will absorb an undue amount of their time and thereby interfere with the performance of their duties as officers of the University. Outside employment, consulting, and other interests may not require an average commitment of more than one day a week during the period in which a faculty member is expected to provide services to the University, except in the case of participants in faculty practice plans at the Medical Center whose outside activities are determined by those plans.

Depending upon the nature of the outside activity, a conflict of interest or a conflict of commitment may exist even when a faculty member observes the time limit prescribed by the University’s policies or engages in them during vacations or the summer months in the case of those serving in schools on eight- or nine-month academic calendars. This has become increasingly true in recent years as new information technologies have greatly expanded the opportunities for faculty and other members of the University community to create and disseminate their works to new audiences in new ways. Faculty may not engage in outside activities that directly compete with the mission and interests of the University or are in conflict with their University responsibilities, regardless of the time they require. Those activities may not adversely affect their independence or compromise the integrity of the University.

Full-time faculty may not create courses, substantial parts of courses, or courseware for other educational institutions or a commercial enterprise, nor may they accept teaching assignments outside of Columbia, unless specifically authorized in advance by the Provost on the recommendation of the appropriate dean or vice president. This policy applies equally to courses taught in person, via the Internet, or by some other method of electronic transmittal. It does not prevent faculty from giving guest lectures at another institution or engaging in similar activities, but faculty should be sensitive to the fact that the distinction between occasional lectures, which are a normal part of academic life, and a teaching assignment, which requires prior approval, is not always clear cut. When there is any question as to whether an outside engagement falls within the range of allowable activities, a faculty member should first consult with the appropriate dean or vice president. Prior provostial approval is also required to hold full-time positions outside of the University. Officers who wish to be the principal investigator on an externally funded award that is administered by another institution need the prior authorization of the Executive Vice President for Research.

Outside activities must not conflict with the University’s patent and copyright policies. As described earlier in this chapter of the Handbook, intellectual property rights in the patentable inventions and discoveries, and any associated technology, of its officers generally vest in the University if they result primarily from the use of its facilities or from work while engaged in its service. The University claims copyright ownership to works of authorship by its faculty and officers of research in more limited circumstances, as defined by its Copyright Policy (see Appendix H), primarily when the works are created with substantial use of University resources or are commissioned for use by the University.

Faculty and officers of research may not engage in consulting activity involving any technology in which the University has rights, or involving University work that seems likely to give rise to such technology, on terms that vest control of it in a commercial enterprise, without the prior approval of the Office of Science and Technology Ventures. They may not divert University materials, supplies, facilities, or personnel to support outside consulting assignments. Finally, they should avoid entering into consulting agreements that could give rise to overlapping intellectual property claims by both the University and the sponsoring entity.

The responsibility for recognizing and avoiding conflicts of interest rests primarily with the individual. To aid and protect all concerned, the University has put in place a number of policies and procedures. Many of these were incorporated into the Statement of University Policy on Conflicts of Interest, which was issued in 1987 and is reprinted as Appendix E. In 1986, the University adopted a separate statement on the potential commercial and industrial applications of scientific and technological research. This statement provides guidelines for avoiding conflicts between the commercial opportunities arising from such research and an officer’s University responsibilities. These guidelines are reprinted as Appendix F. Given the distinctive conflicts that can arise from the activities of faculty and staff at the Medical Center, the Faculty of Medicine adopted separate guidelines in 1993 that incorporate the policies of the University. These are included in Appendix G.

To monitor for conflicts of interest and provide guidance regarding specific activities, the University requires officers to file an annual disclosure statement of their outside interests. Outside of the Medical Center, disclosures must be filed by all officers of instruction, research, and the libraries; all officers of administration in Grades 14 and above; and those officers of administration in a lower grade who have the authority to make purchases from or transact business with outside entities. Within the Medical Center, disclosures are required from all officers.

The Office of Sponsored Projects Administration or the Office of Research Compliance and Training review the disclosure forms completed by faculty and officers of research. If either identifies an activity associated with research that appears to create a conflict of interest, the Office of Research Compliance and Training seeks to resolve the apparent conflict with the officer. If the Office is unable to find a resolution, it refers the case to a committee on conflicts of interest, which is appointed by the Executive Vice President for Research and consists of representatives from the faculty as well as senior officers of administration. Officers may appeal committee decisions to the Executive Vice President for Research whose determination is final.

When the Office of Sponsored Projects Administration and the Office of Research Compliance and Training identify potential conflicts of interest that do not involve research, they refer the cases to the appropriate dean or vice president or to the Provost whose determination is final.

Last Revised November 2008


General University Policies Affecting Officers of Instruction and Research


Rules of University Conduct

To maintain an open environment in which individuals can freely state their opinions and debate public issues, Columbia has adopted the “Rules of University Conduct” to govern demonstrations, rallies, and picketing on its campuses. These Rules have been incorporated into the University Statutes. They protect the rights of free expression on campus while ensuring that the University continues to function properly. The Rules apply not only to students, but also to faculty, other officers, staff, and visitors to the campus.

For students, the Rules replace Dean’s Discipline, although a student charged with certain types of violations has the option of choosing Dean’s Discipline. Faculty and staff may elect to have charges of Rules violations reviewed under the disciplinary procedures to which they are ordinarily subject.

The “Rules of University Conduct” are available in Essential Policies for the Columbia Community and at facets.columbia.edu. Copies may be obtained from the Senior Vice Provost for Academic Administration who serves as the Rules Administrator.

Political Activity

As a center of learning and intellectual inquiry, it is important that Columbia remains a place in which divergent political views can be freely expressed. However, as a tax-exempt educational institution, the University is prohibited by the Internal Revenue Code and by other federal and state laws from participating or intervening in any political campaign in support of or opposition to political candidates. Political intervention includes not only making financial contributions but also the publication or distribution of written or oral statements on behalf of or in opposition to a particular candidate. Any violation of that prohibition could result in fines and place the University’s tax-exempt status in jeopardy. The University regulates political activity on campus to ensure that it remains within the bounds of the relevant laws. The regulations it has adopted for that purpose are described in the statement, Policy on Partisan Political Activity, which is available in Essential Policies for the Columbia Community and at facets.columbia.edu.

Policies on Discrimination, Discriminatory Harassment, and Sexual Harassment

Columbia University is committed to fostering a community founded upon the fundamental dignity and worth of all of its members. The University is an equal opportunity and affirmative action employer. It does not discriminate against or permit harassment of employees or applicants for employment on the basis of race, color, sex, gender, pregnancy, religion, creed, national origin, age, alienage and citizenship, status as a perceived or actual victim of domestic violence, disability, marital status, sexual orientation, military status, partnership status, genetic predisposition or carrier status, arrest record, or any other legally protected status.

All members of the University community are expected to adhere to and to cooperate with the procedures for responding to complaints of discrimination and harassment found in the Employment Policies and Procedures on Discrimination and Harassment described in Chapter I of this Handbook and reprinted in full as Appendix A. Management and supervisory personnel have a duty to act; they are responsible for taking reasonable and necessary action to prevent discrimination and harassment and for responding promptly and thoroughly to any such claims. Faculty have supervisory responsibility over other faculty when they serve in positions such as department chair, dean or vice president, or institute or center director. Those who are principal investigators on grants and contracts similarly act in a supervisory capacity over the individuals in the laboratories and research groups they lead.

All University employees who learn of an allegation of gender-based misconduct, discrimination or harassment have a duty to report that information to the Office of Equal Opportunity and Affirmative Action. An employee who fails to report may be found to have violated Columbia’s policies even though the underlying event does not constitute gender-based misconduct, discrimination or harassment.

The University provides a variety of resources for individuals who believe they have experienced discrimination or harassment in violation of these policies. These resources include guidance and assistance, mediation (in certain circumstances), and formal processes for having complaints reviewed. In the event of a formal investigation, individuals found to have engaged in discrimination or harassment may be subject to discipline, up to and including termination. Retaliation against anyone who files a complaint or participates in an investigation is prohibited and may be addressed as a separate violation.

The University Senate’s Committee on Faculty Affairs, Academic Freedom, and Tenure is the appropriate forum for reviewing faculty claims that they were denied tenure or reappointment in a nontenured capacity due to discrimination and harassment. The Associate Provost for Equal Opportunity and Affirmative Action is the designated University officer for conducting investigations of most other complaints of discrimination and harassment by a faculty member or officer of research. (See “Grievance Procedures,” in Chapters III and IV.) The procedures followed in such investigations are described in theEmployment Policies and Procedures on Discrimination and Harassment, which is reprinted as Appendix A.

Romantic Relationships Advisory

Columbia University’s educational mission is promoted by the professionalism in its faculty-student and staff-student relationships. Faculty and staff are cautioned that consensual romantic relationships with student members of the University community, while not expressly prohibited, can prove problematic. While some relationships may begin and remain harmonious, they are susceptible to being characterized as non-consensual and even coercive. This sometimes occurs when such a relationship ends and is exacerbated by the inherent power differential between the parties. A faculty or staff member involved in a consensual relationship with a student is expected to remove him/herself from academic or professional decisions concerning the student. This expectation arises because the relationship may impair, or may be perceived as impairing, a faculty or staff member’s ability to make objective judgments about that student. The Provost has authorized some departments to adopt more restrictive policies, given the special nature of the relationship between their students and faculty or staff. Individuals are, therefore, encouraged to contact their department head if they have any questions about whether a more restrictive policy applies to them. Departments that wish to establish more restrictive policies should contact the Associate Provost for Equal Opportunity and Affirmative Action before implementation. Should a romantic relationship with a student lead to a charge of sexual harassment against a faculty or staff member, the University is obligated to investigate and resolve the charge in accordance with the Employment Policies and Procedures on Discrimination and Harassment.

Use of the University’s Name

Columbia’s name and reputation are assets of both academic and economic value. The University, therefore, has a compelling interest in ensuring that its name; insignias, such as the Columbia Crown and Columbia Shield; and the emblems of individual schools are used in a manner that furthers its mission and is consistent with its institutional interests. No officer should use the official title of the University, or any of its parts, except in connection with legitimate University purposes. The name of the University, its insignias, and the emblems of its schools may not be used to advertise or recommend commercial products and services, to promote the activities of outside organizations, or to further social or political causes. Exceptions require the prior approval of the Provost. These policies also apply to the use of the University name and insignias in any electronic media, including Internet addresses, web sites, and domain names. In connection with their outside activities, faculty and other officers may identify themselves as holding appointments at Columbia by listing their University titles. They should, however, be careful not to imply that the University supports, sponsors, or endorses those activities.

University’s Facilities and Equipment

Officers may not use University materials, supplies, facilities, or personnel to promote outside activities and interests of their own. The University may, at its discretion, grant permission to an officer or to an employee of another institution to use University facilities.

Policy on Smoking

In recognition of the health risks associated with smoking, and in compliance with New York City law, the University has adopted a policy that restricts the right to smoke on its premises. Smoking is not permitted in any indoor area, outdoor eating area, and any other area with signs prohibiting smoking. This policy applies to all enclosed work areas, including private offices. There are limited exceptions to these restrictions in certain areas that are enumerated in the University’s Smoking Policy. That policy can be found in the Administrative Policy Library at www.columbia.edu/cu/administration/policylibrary/.

Policy on Drugs and Alcohol

It is a violation of University policy to unlawfully manufacture, distribute, dispense, possess, or use a controlled substance in a University workplace.

Faculty and staff may not report to work, or remain at work, while under the influence of a controlled substance or alcohol.

Any officer or member of the supporting staff who has been convicted of an offense under any criminal drug statute must notify the Vice President for Human Resources in writing within five days of the conviction. Within 30 days of notification, the University will determine if disciplinary action is warranted. Such action may include termination or the requirement that the individual participate in a drug assistance or rehabilitation program.

Policy on Firearms

University policy and New York State law prohibit possession of firearms on campus without the University’s expressed written consent.

Administrative Policy Library

The University maintains an online repository for the policies administered by the departments reporting to the Senior Executive Vice President. The collection also contains policies issued by selected other departments. The Administrative Policy Library summarizes those policies and the procedures used to implement them to facilitate a shared understanding of University requirements and protocols.

The contents of the library can be browsed alphabetically by policy or practice, by category of policies, and by responsible office. Users can also search the library using key words. Each entry includes the office responsible for the policy, whom to contact for additional information, and links to web sites with related information. Many have links to the full text of the policy. To take advantage of the Administrative Policy Library, faculty and officers of research should go to http://policylibrary.columbia.edu/.

Last Revised February 2012
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