Organization and Governance of the University


Columbia University is an independent, privately supported, nonsectarian institution of higher education. Its official corporate name is “The Trustees of Columbia University in the City of New York.” Academic activity at the University is primarily organized through its Faculties and departments of instruction. To direct instruction and research that cross departmental and Faculty lines, the University establishes administrative boards, institutes, centers, laboratories, and interdepartmental programs. Affiliated with the University, but corporately separate, are other educational institutions, hospitals, and research institutes.

The University’s main campus is situated on Morningside Heights in Manhattan. The Columbia University Medical Center is located two and a half miles north in Washington Heights. The Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory occupies a separate estate in Palisades, in Rockland County, New York, and the Nevis Laboratories are located in Irvington, in Westchester County, New York. The University also maintains an educational facility at Reid Hall in Paris, France.

This section of the Handbook describes the organization and governance of the University. It begins by describing the documents that govern the University’s structure and operations and then discusses the powers of the Trustees, the University Senate, and the officers who form the central administration. It concludes with a description of the University’s academic structure and the responsibilities of the officers who direct its primary academic units.

Last Revised November 2008


Documents Governing the Structure of the University


Charter and Statutes

The Charter is the legal instrument under which the University operates. It defines the manner in which the Trustees are selected and empowers them to act in all matters on the University’s behalf. The University’s first Charter was granted in 1754 by King George II. The current Charter was first enacted in 1787 and last amended in 1810 by the New York State Legislature.

The University Statutes were adopted by the Trustees and are amended by them as the need arises. They enumerate the constituent units of the University, their powers and responsibilities. The Statutes also describe the types of officers that serve in the University, their duties, and prerogatives. Of particular importance to officers of instruction are the chapters that set forth the titles those officers may hold and the policies governing the terms and conditions of their appointments. Most of these policies can be found in Chapter VII of the Statutes, entitled “Code of Academic Freedom and Tenure,” which is reprinted as Appendix B of this Handbook.

The Charter and University Statutes take precedence over the stated rules of the Faculties and by-laws of the departments, and over all administrative documents issued by the various offices of the University.

Stated Rules and By-Laws

Each Faculty and administrative board functions under stated rules, and each department and institute according to by-laws, that they have adopted and that have been approved by the appropriate dean or vice president and the Provost. The stated rules and by-laws define the criteria for membership in the unit and who may vote on its internal affairs; they identify the unit’s chief officers and committees and their respective powers; and they contain provisions for their own amendment. Copies of these documents are kept on file in the offices of the appropriate dean or vice president, the Provost, and the Secretary of the University.

Administrative Policy Statements and Guidelines

The appointments and activities of officers of instruction and research are also affected by administrative documents issued by various offices of the University. The most important of these are summarized in subsequent chapters of this Handbook, which also provides links to web sites containing more detailed descriptions.

Last Revised November 2008


The Trustees

The University is governed by 24 Trustees, customarily including the President, who serves ex officio. The Trustees themselves are responsible for choosing their successors. Six of the 24 are nominated from a pool of candidates recommended by the Columbia Alumni Association. Another six are nominated by the Board in consultation with the Executive Committee of the University Senate. The remaining 12, including the President, are nominated by the Trustees themselves through their internal processes. The term of office for Trustees is six years. Generally, they serve for no more than two consecutive terms.

The Trustees appoint the President and other senior administrative officers of the University, and review and confirm faculty appointments as required. They determine the University’s financial and investment policies, authorize the budget, supervise the endowment, direct the management of the University’s real estate and other assets, and otherwise oversee the administration and management of the University. The Trustees have assigned the details of the University’s administration to the President, Provost, deans, and other administrative officers and have given the University Senate certain policymaking responsibilities subject to their reserve powers and other limitations set forth in the Statutes. However, they retain the final responsibility for the University and authority over all of its affairs.

The Trustees do most of their work through nine standing committees: Alumni Relations and Development, Audit, Compensation, Education Policy, Finance, Health Sciences, Physical Assets, Public Affairs, and Trusteeship. Each standing committee has a written charter that describes its common recurring duties. Subject to certain limitations, the standing committees generally have the power to take such action as they deem proper on all matters within their province.

There is also an Officers Committee comprised of the Board’s Chair and Vice Chairs elected by the Trustees. Subject to certain limitations, the Officers Committee may exercise the authority of the Trustees between meetings but is generally required to consult with the chair of the appropriate standing committee before taking action on matters that relate to the standing committee’s duties or responsibilities.

The Board generally meets four times a year, three times at the University and once at an off-site retreat. Teleconference meetings are often set between these regular meetings, and special meetings are convened as needed. The standing committees customarily meet in conjunction with the regular Trustee meetings.

Last Revised November 2008


The University Senate

The University Senate was established by the Trustees after a University-wide referendum in 1969. It succeeded to the powers of the University Council, which was created in 1890 as a body of faculty, deans, and other administrators to regulate inter-Faculty affairs and consider issues of University-wide concern.

The University Senate is a unicameral body consisting of 107 members drawn from all constituencies of the University. These include the President of the University, the Provost, the Deans of Columbia College and the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, all who serve ex officio, and five additional representatives, appointed by the President, from the University’s administration. The President serves as the Senate’s presiding officer. The membership of the Senate may be found at

Faculty constitute a majority of the representatives in the Senate. There are 42 tenured and 15 nontenured representatives from Columbia proper. In addition, the faculty of Barnard College and Teachers College are represented by two senators each, who may be either tenured or nontenured, while those at Union Theological Seminary are represented by one.

The tenured and nontenured seats are distributed among the Faculties of the University with the following exceptions: The Faculties of Arts and Sciences and of Health Sciences do not have representatives of their own since their faculty are represented by senators elected by other Faculties or departmental groupings. Within the Arts and Sciences, the Faculty of the Arts and the Faculty of International and Public Affairs each has its own tenured representatives. The remaining tenured seats in the Arts and Sciences are divided among the departments in the Humanities, Social Sciences, and Natural Sciences rather than by Faculty.

The tenured seats are apportioned every five years according to the unit’s percentage of the University’s total tenured faculty, with each Faculty or departmental grouping having at least one tenured representative. Each Faculty, or departmental grouping within the Arts and Sciences, also has one nontenured representative.

The remaining elected seats in the Senate are apportioned as follows: There are 24 student senators. Six seats are reserved for officers of research, of which four are elected by professional officers of research and one each by postdoctoral and staff officers of research. (See “Research Titles,” Chapter IV, for a definition of each of these categories.) There are also two alumni representatives and two representatives each for officers of the libraries and members of the administrative staff in Grades 7 and above.

Anyone within a constituency may run for the Senate. The elections are organized by the Office of the University Senate or by divisional commissioners appointed by a dean, student council, or other governing authority depending on the constituency. Results are certified by the Senate’s Elections Commission, which also determines the policies and procedures governing the elections and serves as an appellate body for any electoral dispute.

The powers of the Senate are defined in Chapter II of the University Statutes. Subject to the reserve powers of the Trustees and the limitations specified in the Statutes, the Senate considers matters that are of University-wide concern, affect more than one Faculty or school, or pertain to affiliation agreements with other institutions. Within its areas of jurisdiction, resolutions passed by the Senate are final unless they require Trustee concurrence. When their approval is needed, the Trustees normally make their decision within two of their regularly scheduled meetings. If they do not concur with a Senate resolution, they will return it to the Senate with an explanation of their reasons.

The Senate is charged with reviewing the educational policies, physical development, budget, and external relations of the University. It oversees the welfare and academic freedom of the faculty and the welfare of students. Its approval is required to establish or change the conditions for granting most degrees and certificates. It may report to the Trustees on the conduct or efficiency of faculty and administrators. It makes recommendations on policies concerning the award of honorary degrees and other prizes and honors, and assists the Trustees in selecting their recipients. It monitors policies governing the conduct of faculty, students, and staff, including the “Rules of University Conduct” (see, which deal with rallies, picketing, and demonstrations. It works to foster cooperative relationships with the University’s neighboring communities. It promulgates the University calendar. Finally, it advises the administration on such other matters as may be brought before it.

The Senate holds regular meetings once a month from September through April. Additional meetings may be called by the members themselves, by the Senate Executive Committee, or by the President, as prescribed in the by-laws of the Senate. All meetings are open to members of the University community unless the Executive Committee designates them as closed and a majority of senators do not object.

Most of the business of the Senate is conducted by its 15 standing committees: the Executive Committee, the Committee on Faculty Affairs, Academic Freedom, and Tenure, and the committees on Alumni Relations, Budget Review, Education, External Relations and Research Policy, Honors and Prizes, Housing Policy, Information and Communications Technology, Libraries and Digital Resources, Physical Development of the University, Research Officers, Rules of University Conduct, Student Affairs, and Senate Structure and Operations. The membership and responsibilities of these committees are defined in the by-laws of the Senate, which are available on its web site.

There are also three special committees of long-standing significance: the Commission on the Status of Women, the Elections Commission, and the Task Force on Campus Planning. The Senate forms other committees and task forces as the need arises.

Last Revised November 2008


The Administration

The President, who is selected by the Trustees in consultation with the Executive Committee of the University Senate and who serves at the Trustees’ pleasure, is the chief executive officer of the University. Assisting the President in administering the University are the Provost, the Senior Executive Vice President, the Executive Vice President for Health and Biomedical Sciences, several other vice presidents, the General Counsel, the Secretary of the University, and the deans of the Faculties, all of whom are appointed by the Trustees on the nomination of the President and serve at their pleasure.

The President

As the chief executive officer of the University, the President exercises jurisdiction over all of its affairs, subject to the control of the Trustees. The President serves as the channel of communication between the Faculties and the Trustees; nominates deans of Faculties and directors of administrative boards; appoints department chairs and directors of institutes and centers; administers discipline in accordance with the Statutes; grants leaves of absence; confers academic degrees and certificates on candidates recommended by the Faculties, administrative boards, and institutes; and awards honorary degrees and University medals for excellence. The President also presides over the University Senate and is the chair of every Faculty and administrative board established by the Trustees.

In the event the President is disabled, resigns, retires, or dies, the Provost performs the duties and exercises the authority of the President until the Trustees select a successor or an acting president.

The responsibilities of the Provost and the Senior Executive Vice President are described below. Among the other senior officers of administration reporting directly to the President are the following:

The General Counsel is responsible for all the legal affairs of the University.

The Secretary of the University staffs the work of the Trustees; records and preserves the minutes of their meetings; serves as liaison between the President and them; is the University’s corporate secretary; has custody of the corporate seal; and issues letters of appointment to University officers.

The Executive Vice President for Research oversees the University’s strategic efforts to strengthen its research programs and extend them into new areas of intellectual inquiry. On behalf of the President, the Executive Vice President also directs the work of the University offices responsible for sponsored projects and research compliance.

The Executive Vice President for Communications provides leadership and support to the University community in conveying information about Columbia to both external and internal audiences.

The Executive Vice President for Government and Community Affairs serves as the University’s chief liaison to government and directs its efforts to strengthen its partnerships with its neighboring communities.

The Executive Vice President for University Development and Alumni Relations directs the fundraising activities of the University and coordinates its relations with its alumni.

The Director of Physical Education and Intercollegiate Athletics supervises the physical education programs of the University, directs the intercollegiate athletics programs, and manages the University gymnasium.

The Provost

As Columbia’s chief academic officer, the Provost is responsible for ensuring that its programs and academic staff are of the highest quality. The Provost directs academic planning at the University; supervises the work of all academic units and periodically evaluates their programs; and authorizes the appointments of the faculty, officers of research, and officers of the libraries. In cooperation with the Senior Executive Vice President and other central administrative officers, the Provost also oversees the budgets and financial planning of the Faculties and the creation of strong administrative services to support the University’s academic activities.

With respect to academic appointments, the Provost’s duties include:

  • reviewing nominations to tenure, with the assistance of ad hoc committees, and recommending to the President and Trustees whether tenure should be granted (see “Appointment to Tenure,” in Chapter III);
  • developing and administering the University’s policies governing the terms of appointment of its officers of instruction, research, and the libraries;
  • promoting excellence and diversity among the University’s academic officers and ensuring that recruitment to positions as officers of instruction, research, and the libraries is conducted in accordance with the University’s Affirmative Action Plan (see “Appointment and Promotion,” in Chapters III and IV);
  • reviewing and approving academic appointments and salaries;
  • granting sabbaticals and other leaves of absence on behalf of the President (see “Leaves of Absence,” in Chapters III and IV); and
  • reviewing faculty grievances and, for those cases heard by the Committee on Faculty Affairs, Academic Freedom, and Tenure of the University Senate, deciding whether to accept its recommendations.

The Provost exercises these responsibilities directly or through representatives, most importantly the Executive Vice President for Health and Biomedical Sciences to whom the Provost has delegated broad authority for academic appointments at the Medical Center.

The Provost is a member of all Faculties and administrative boards, evaluates the annual reports of their deans and directors on their activities, and presides at their meetings in the absence of the President. The Provost’s approval is required for all changes to the stated rules of the Faculties and administrative boards and to the by-laws of the departments and institutes.

The Provost reviews all proposals for changes in academic programs before they are submitted, as appropriate, to the University Senate and the New York State Education Department for approval. These include the creation and elimination of programs and changes in programmatic content that are sufficiently significant as to require authorization beyond the appropriate Committees on Instruction. If a proposed program will be offered in collaboration with another institution, the Provost signs the document that defines the terms of the agreement and the responsibilities of the collaborating parties on behalf of the University.

The Provost is appointed by the Trustees on the nomination of the President. In selecting the nominee, the President consults with the Executive Committee of the University Senate.

The Provost is aided by a staff that includes several vice and associate provosts. Information on the responsibilities of these officers may be obtained through the Provost’s web site at

Reporting to the Provost, the Vice President for Arts and Sciences and Dean of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences supervises the operations of the seven Faculties, 30 departments, and other academic units in the Arts and Sciences, coordinates their curricular programs, controls their budgets, and reviews and approves all nominations of officers of instruction and research in those departments before they are forwarded to the Provost.

The Provost directly oversees the activities of the other Faculties on the Morningside campus and is responsible for various special academic programs, institutes, and centers outside of the Medical Center. The Provost also has authority over academic activity at the Medical Center but primarily exercises it through the Executive Vice President for Health and Biomedical Sciences.

Also reporting to the Provost are the Vice President for Information Services and University Librarian, who oversees the operations of the University Libraries and other organizational units responsible for providing information services to the University community; the Director of The Earth Institute at Columbia University, who coordinates the integration of centers and programs within the University that are dedicated to the study of Earth and the environment; and the Director of the Italian Academy for Advanced Studies in America.

Executive Vice President for Health and Biomedical Sciences

The Executive Vice President for Health and Biomedical Sciences and Dean of the Faculty of Health Sciences is responsible to the President for planning and policy affecting the Columbia University Medical Center but reports to the Provost on matters relating to academic programs and personnel. The Executive Vice President also supervises the relationship of the University with its affiliated hospitals and other institutions that interact with the Medical Center, serves as the Dean of the Faculty of Medicine, and oversees the programs of the Faculties of Dental Medicine, Nursing, and Public Health.

Senior Executive Vice President

The President has assigned responsibility for financial management and the University’s administrative operational services to the Senior Executive Vice President. These services include management of the University’s administrative computing systems, the physical plant, public safety, human resources, institutional real estate, student services, and administrative support functions.

Three executive vice presidents and other senior administrators report to the Senior Executive Vice President:

As the chief financial officer of the University, the Executive Vice President for Finance is responsible for the management of the University’s budget and its financial accounting system, directs its long-term financial planning, and oversees the investment of its endowment. Among the senior officers reporting to the Executive Vice President are the following:

  • The Vice President for University Budget and Financial Planning develops and administers the University’s operating and capital budgets, coordinates University-wide financial planning, and makes recommendations on financial policies and guidelines. The Vice President has an indirect reporting relationship to the Provost.
  • The President of the Columbia Investment Management Company develops the University’s investment policies and manages its portfolio.
  • The Controller maintains the University’s financial accounting system, develops and implements its accounting policies, and leads such financial operations as payroll, grant and contract financial management, effort reporting, and the fixed asset inventory.
  • The Treasurer is responsible for risk management, trust and estate administration, cash management, bank relations, and capital financing.
  • The Vice President for Procurement Services oversees all acquisition activity across the University, including sourcing, purchasing, travel, accounts payable, and the procurement card program.

The Executive Vice President for Facilities supports the educational and research missions of the University by maintaining a safe, beautiful, and functional campus environment that meets the needs of its students, faculty, staff, and visitors. The Executive Vice President is responsible for maintaining the buildings, grounds, and physical plant of the main campus, the Baker Field Athletics Complex, the Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory, and Nevis Laboratories; designing and building new facilities when they are needed; leading campus planning and space management; ensuring public safety; managing University housing and parking; and assisting Columbia affiliates in finding off-campus housing.

The Executive Vice President for Student and Administrative Services oversees many of the support services provided to Columbia students, faculty, and administrators. The Executive Vice President supervises the delivery of the University’s student services, including Student Financial Services and the Registrar, Faculty House, print services, and mail.

Three vice presidents report to the Executive Vice President:

  • The Vice President for Human Resources administers the University’s personnel policies and benefits plans; supports administrative recruiting by the departments and schools; administers the University’s policies governing staff employment and manages relations with its labor unions; delivers training programs; and provides other services designed to enhance individual and organizational effectiveness.
  • The Vice President for Columbia University Information Technology (CUIT) maintains the University computer and communications systems.
  • The Vice President for Student Auxiliary and Business Services oversees student housing, dining, and health; University Event Management (comprised of the student center, Alfred Lerner Hall; Columbia Catering; and Faculty House); print services; campus and student mail; and transportation services.

The Executive Director for Columbia Technology Ventures oversees the University’s relationship with industry with respect to collaborative and license agreements, new patents and inventions, and copyright materials and the start-up of new business ventures.

Ombuds Officer

The Ombuds Officer serves as an informal, confidential resource for assisting members of the University community with confiict resolution. The Ombuds Officer provides information, counseling, and, if so requested, informal communications and mediation to faculty, of.cers of research, officers of the libraries, students, and staff with concerns about any matter relating to their lives at the University. The Ombuds Officer does not arbitrate or adjudicate disputes and does not participate in any formal University grievance proceedings. As the need arises, he or she reports patterns of concern to the appropriate academic or administrative of.cers and makes recommendations on matters of University policy and life that need improvement. In order to maintain the independence and impartiality of the office, the Ombuds Officer reports directly to the President.

Last Revised November 2008


Academic Structure of the University

The basic organizing units of the University are its 20 Faculties and 78 departments of instruction. The Faculties are commonly referred to as schools or colleges, depending upon historical circumstances. However, the terms are not synonymous, since some schools and colleges are units within larger Faculties. Academic activity is also conducted through administrative boards, institutes, interdepartmental programs, centers, and laboratories.

The relationship between Faculties and departments is a complex one. In general, Faculties are responsible for curricular programs leading to degrees and certificates, while departments provide the instruction required by those programs. The focus of some Faculties is sufficiently limited that they are simultaneously departments, while others draw on many departments to meet their instructional needs. Conversely, some departments are part of more than one Faculty.


The Arts and Sciences consists of seven Faculties. The Faculty of Arts and Sciences, which is led by the Vice President for Arts and Sciences, coordinates the programs of the other six Faculties – Columbia College, the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, and the Schools of General Studies, International and Public Affairs, the Arts, and Continuing Education – as well as the 30 departments in the Arts and Sciences, and addresses questions of common concern.

In addition to the Arts and Sciences, there are six professional Faculties on the Morningside campus: Architecture, Planning and Preservation; Business; Engineering and Applied Science; Journalism; Law; and Social Work. Located at the Columbia University Medical Center are the Faculties of Dental Medicine, Medicine, Nursing, and Public Health. The Faculty of Health Sciences, which is led by the Executive Vice President for Health and Biomedical Sciences, coordinates their programs and addresses academic issues affecting the Medical Center as a whole.

Two affiliated institutions – Barnard College and Teachers College – are also Faculties of the University.

The Faculties are responsible for organizing and conducting the programs of study leading to the degrees and certificates conferred by the University. They set the academic standards for admission, determine the requirements for graduation from those programs, and approve the courses that fulfill those requirements. They establish the rules and procedures for evaluating the proficiency of their students and recommend those who have successfully completed their programs to the President for degrees and certificates. They also periodically publish bulletins that specify the work to be pursued in each of their programs and list the courses, with their instructors, offered in each of the departments of instruction under their jurisdiction. The authority of the Faculties to direct their curricular programs is subject only to the reserve powers of the Trustees, the provisions of the University Statutes, and certain concurrent powers of the University Senate with respect to the educational policies and programs of the University (see “University Senate,” above).

A Faculty is governed according to the stated rules it has adopted, subject to the approval of the Provost and the provisions of the University Statutes. These rules determine who has the right to vote, define the standing committees that handle most of the business of the Faculty, and specify the procedures by which its affairs are conducted.

Each Faculty consists of the President, the Provost, the dean, the Vice President for Arts and Sciences or the Executive Vice President for Health and Biomedical Sciences, where appropriate, and those officers of instruction and of administration who are appointed by the Trustees on the nomination of the Faculty. The specific eligibility requirements for membership in each Faculty are set forth in its stated rules. These requirements will differ from one Faculty to another, but full-time officers of instruction customarily are nominated for membership if they perform at least half of their instructional responsibilities within the Faculty. In addition, if the stated rules permit, retired faculty who are offering instruction as special lecturers may be nominated for the period of their appointments if they were members of the Faculty immediately before retirement. Part-time officers of instruction may also be eligible for nomination to a Faculty after their second consecutive year of appointment. No officer who is a candidate for a degree or certificate may simultaneously be a member of the Faculty in which it is given.

Each Faculty is headed by a dean or academic vice president who serves as its chief executive officer and is immediately responsible for its academic program, including maintaining a faculty of academic excellence, overseeing its admissions and curriculum, and enforcing its rules and regulations. The deans are appointed by the Trustees, on the nomination of the President, and serve at their pleasure for unspecified terms of office. They are subordinate to the Provost, and in the Arts and Sciences and at the Medical Center, to the appropriate vice president.

The University also has three administrative boards that serve as surrogate Faculties for special instructional programs that are not directly supervised by a single Faculty. The Executive Committee of the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences also serves as the Administrative Board of the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences for the purpose of supervising programs leading to the M.A. and Ph.D. degrees outside the departments of the Graduate School. In cooperation with the Faculty of Teachers College, the Administrative Board for the Master of Arts in Teaching supervises programs leading to that degree. The Parker School of Foreign and Comparative Law provides for the instructional needs of the Schools of Law and International and Public Affairs in the laws of foreign countries.

An administrative board consists of those officers of instruction and administration who have been assigned to it by the Trustees. Presiding over it is a dean or director, who is appointed by the Trustees on the nomination of the President and has the same powers and duties as a dean of a Faculty.

Departments of Instruction

The University’s 78 active departments of instruction serve as the primary units within which faculty are appointed, instruction is provided, and research is conducted. Twelve are simultaneously Faculties.

The Faculties that make up the Arts and Sciences draw on 30 departments of instruction. By tradition, these are grouped into six divisions. The Humanities are composed of 13 departments:

  • Art History and Archaeology
  • Classics
  • East Asian Languages and Cultures
  • English and Comparative Literature
  • French and Romance Philology
  • Germanic Languages
  • Italian
  • Middle East and Asian Languages and Cultures
  • Music
  • Philosophy
  • Religion
  • Slavic Languages
  • Spanish and Portuguese

Five departments make up the Social Sciences:

  • Anthropology
  • Economics
  • History
  • Political Science
  • Sociology

Another nine departments constitute the Natural Sciences:

  • Astronomy
  • Biological Sciences
  • Chemistry
  • Earth and Environmental Sciences
  • Ecology, Evolution and Environmental Biology
  • Mathematics
  • Physics
  • Psychology
  • Statistics

The Schools of the Arts, International and Public Affairs, and Continuing Education, which are both Faculties and departments of instruction, form the remaining three divisions of the Arts and Sciences.

The Statutes of the University assign responsibility for offering programs leading to the Ph.D. solely to the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences. For educational purposes, therefore, the Graduate School includes the departments in The Fu Foundation School of Engineering and Applied Science and the Basic Health Sciences departments in the Faculty of Medicine, enumerated below, as well as those in the Humanities, Social Sciences, and Natural Sciences, listed above.

Five of the six professional Faculties on the Morningside Heights campus are also simultaneously departments:

  • Graduate School of Architecture, Planning and Preservation
  • Graduate School of Business
  • Graduate School of Journalism
  • School of Law
  • School of Social Work

The sixth, The Fu Foundation School of Engineering and Applied Science, includes nine academic departments:

  • Applied Physics and Applied Mathematics
  • Biomedical Engineering
  • Chemical Engineering
  • Civil Engineering and Engineering Mechanics
  • Computer Science
  • Earth and Environmental Engineering
  • Electrical Engineering
  • Industrial Engineering and Operations Research
  • Mechanical Engineering

At the Medical Center, there are 24 departments in the Faculty of Medicine and another six in the Faculty of Public Health. In addition, the Faculties of Dental Medicine and Nursing are simultaneously departments. Seven of the departments in the Faculty of Medicine constitute the preclinical or Basic Health Sciences:

  • Biochemistry and Molecular Biophysics
  • Genetics and Development
  • Microbiology
  • Neuroscience
  • Pathology and Cell Biology
  • Pharmacology
  • Physiology and Cellular Biophysics

Another 17 form the Clinical Health Sciences:

  • Anesthesiology
  • Biomedical Informatics
  • Dermatology
  • Medicine
  • Neurological Surgery
  • Neurology
  • Obstetrics and Gynecology
  • Ophthalmology
  • Orthopedic Surgery
  • Otolaryngology/Head and Neck Surgery
  • Pediatrics
  • Psychiatry
  • Radiation Oncology
  • Radiology
  • Rehabilitation Medicine
  • Surgery
  • Urology

Six departments constitute the Mailman School of Public Health:

  • Biostatistics
  • Environmental Health Sciences
  • Epidemiology
  • Health Policy and Management
  • Population and Family Health
  • Sociomedical Sciences

The Faculty of Teachers College serves as the University’s Department of Education.

One department, Physical Education and Intercollegiate Athletics, reports directly to the President and is not part of any Faculty.

Each department consists of the officers of instruction and administration who have been appointed to give academic service within the disciplines it covers. Most officers of instruction are members of only one department, but they may be appointed jointly in more than one on the nomination of the departments in which they will serve and with the approval of the appropriate deans and vice presidents. At the Medical Center, officers of instruction in a professorial rank who fulfill significant functions in more than one department or in a department and an institute or center may also hold interdisciplinary appointments. Such appointments are typically given to faculty with a background that qualifies them for appointment in one department but who work in another department or in an institute or center.

Each department functions under by-laws adopted by its members and approved by the dean or vice president and the Provost. Subject to the general provisions of the University Statutes concerning departments and the stated rules of the appropriate Faculty, these by-laws define how a department conducts its internal affairs.

Each department is headed by a chair who is responsible for directing its instructional and research programs and ensuring its smooth administrative operation. Chairs in the Arts and Sciences and in Engineering and Applied Science are nominated by election, according to the procedures specified in the by-laws of their respective departments, and appointed by the President, with the concurrence of the dean or vice president and the Provost, for a term normally of three years. In the Faculties of Medicine and Public Health, the nomination of a chair originates with a search committee appointed by the dean and is approved by the Executive Vice President for Health and Biomedical Sciences and then the Provost before it is forwarded to the President. Chairs in both Faculties serve at the pleasure of the President but are subject to periodic review. In those departments that are simultaneously Faculties, the deans, who are appointed by the Trustees on the recommendation of the President, also perform the duties of a department chair.

The chair represents the department in discussions on academic and administrative matters with other departments and Faculties and with the administration of the University. He or she directs the negotiations with persons being considered for appointment in the department and confirms in writing the terms and conditions of each appointment subject to the approval of the appropriate vice president or dean, except in special cases where the dean, vice president, or Provost performs those functions in consultation with the chair. Other duties of the chair include ensuring that nontenured faculty are reviewed for reappointment, promotion, and tenure in a timely manner and reviewing all requests for leaves, with the exception of sabbaticals, before they are forwarded to the appropriate dean or vice president and the Provost. The chair also prepares the department’s annual budget proposal, makes recommendations to the dean or vice president on the salaries of its faculty, directs its curricular programs, assigns teaching responsibilities, oversees relations between its students and faculty, and performs such other duties as are needed to direct its programs.

Under the provisions of the University Statutes, voting privileges on instructional matters under consideration by a department are limited to faculty in the ranks of professor, associate professor, assistant professor, and instructor. Only tenured faculty may vote on nominations to tenure.

Institutes, Centers, Laboratories, and Interdepartmental Programs

To manage research and instruction that cross departmental and Faculty boundaries, the University establishes institutes, centers, laboratories, and interdepartmental programs. Centers and laboratories are organized primarily to conduct research, while interdepartmental programs provide instruction. Institutes combine research and teaching.

Institutes are established by the President on the advice of the Provost and with the concurrence of the University Senate. They are headed by a director and an administrative committee nominated by the President and appointed by the Trustees. Changes in interdepartmental programs generally require the concurrence of the University Senate since they serve as vehicles for curricular programs. The creation of a center or laboratory requires the approval of the Provost or a designee.

Most of these units work under the supervision of a dean or vice president. In the case of those that cross Faculty lines, the Provost, or a designee, exercises that supervisory responsibility. Their members may include officers of instruction, officers of research, and such other officers as will further the objectives of their interdisciplinary programs. They may make appointments as officers of research but not as officers of instruction who can only be appointed in academic departments.

Last Revised November 2008



Reservation of University's Rights | Contact Us | ©Columbia University
Introduction Organization and Governance of the University Officers of Instruction Officers of Research Benefits and Family Services
Obligations and Responsibilities of Officers of Instruction and Research Student Officers of Instruction and Research Visiting Scholars/Scientists and Seminar Associates
University Libraries and Information Services University Resources and Services Appendices