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February 16, 2011

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Policy and planning committee

Minutes of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences Meeting

February 16, 2011

Teodolinda Barolini, Da Ponte Professor of Italian and Chair of the Policy Planning Committee (PPC) convened the meeting at 12:10pm. This meeting inaugurated a new era of faculty meetings under the auspices of the newly constituted (September 2010) PPC. Both the PPC and its sponsored faculty meetings share the same goal: to talk in real time with the Vice President and his offices. Professor Barolini noted that, with the exception of the Provost’s remarks, all items on the agenda had been discussed by PPC and selected for the meeting as topics that warranted discussion by the faculty. She announced that Vice President Nicholas B. Dirks and PPC had appointed Professor Patricia Grieve as Faculty Scribe. Finally, Professor Barolini invited the faculty to send inquiries ahead of time about announced agenda items and to contact any member of PPC with suggestions for future topics.

Vice President Dirks reported that he is leading the Arts and Sciences through a comprehensive examination of the functions within the offices of Arts and Sciences, and also their relationship to the many offices outside the Arts and Sciences (i.e. HR, IT, Business Services, Facilities renovations, etc.). The goal—finding ways to do things better—requires thorough study of the financial structure of Arts and Sciences and how it fits into the University financial structure; how Arts and Sciences is structured and organized administratively; and how it works with other schools. If we were to create Arts and Sciences now, what would it look like? In addition to working closely with the Provost and Michele Moody-Adams, in her capacity as Dean of the College and Vice President for Undergraduate Education, the VP and PPC are utilizing the services of the consulting firm, McKinsey and Co. VP Dirks also stressed that the current review is not curricular, but administrative. Finally, VP Dirks asked Scott Norum to describe the Arts and Sciences budget summary with a power point presentation (see link). Our budget continues to be more tuition-driven than that of our peers; common charges levied by the University means that a significant percentage of our expenditures do not depend on decisions made by Arts and Sciences. In the last seven years or so, we have been in a mode of expansion: faculty growth, increased expenditures in financial aid and graduate students support, and renovated buildings. The economic crisis of 2008 caused us to fight revenue shortfalls, principally by recovering income through an increase in the number of students. However, as to be expected, that increase has put pressure on other areas in Arts and Sciences, including financial aid. Arts and Sciences executed a number of one-time actions to address the shortfalls. In addition to other expected avenues of income, we anticipate receiving a significant amount of money from the donations by John Kluge.

Professor Jean Howard presented the recommendations of the Classroom Committee, which included making all classrooms electronic; finding better ways of using our stock of classrooms (i.e. by changing the schedule to create two more course time slots, while increasing the time between classes from the currently insufficient ten minutes to fifteen minutes); and requiring departments to spread courses across the week.

We welcomed our new Registrar, Barry Kane, who has worked at Wellesley, Harvard, and Yale. Registrar Kane described what he called the Philosophy of the Registrar’s Office, which is that the office is best serving the needs of the university community when it is not noticed; that is, the goal is to make the office the invisible glue that holds the academic enterprise together. To that end, he assured us that his office is there to listen and to serve the needs of the faculty, and he invited the faculty to contact him with requests and suggestions.

Provost Claude Steele explained that the expansion into Manhattanville and the increasing imperative to globalize the University results in an expansion of the academic enterprise. To prepare for these initiatives, the Provost is expanding his office to that he may be maximally informed by faculty committees. By Fall 2011, he expects to have in place various standing committees that will be robust in faculty involvement, with whose help he can determine the priority and impact of the inevitable trade- offs that will emerge during the period of these initiatives. The Provost reported that the Task Force on University Benefits was nearing a proposal, and that the recommendations would be available to the University community for critique. Next, he announced that Professor Marianne Hirsch, chair of the committee to examine the ad hoc process at Columbia, whose report recommends a Tenure Standing Committee, will talk to PPC and department chairs, and will request feedback from faculty when the report goes online soon. Finally, Provost Steele re-affirmed the University’s commitment to the needs of the sciences at Columbia, and thanked the VP for Research, Michael Purdy, for his help in steering the Provost’s office through the ongoing process of identifying pressing needs, and finding and implementing solutions. A faculty member offered an observation from the floor that the truly great universities succeed to the degree that they create and listen to university-wide conversations. He expressed his hope that, in his view of the expanded consultation needed to meet our current and future challenges, the Provost would not restrict all committee composition to individual schools.

Professor Barolini thanked everyone for coming, and adjourned the meeting at 1:40pm.

Respectfully submitted,

Patricia E. Grieve
Nancy and Jeffrey Marcus Professor in the Humanities