Columbia University

Communications and Calendars


Statement Delivered to Hunger Strikers (Update)

November 19, 2007

Dear Student,

This is an updated version of the document distributed earlier this week to representatives of the hunger strikers. This document now registers the agreement we have made with them, and it is introduced by a mutually agreed upon statement. As it is our responsibility to represent all students as well as faculty in these discussions, we thought it appropriate, once again, to keep you informed.

Nicholas Dirks
Vice-President of Arts and Sciences

Austin Quigley
Dean of Columbia College

Joint Statement from Administrators and Students

Any successful negotiation results in an agreement that enables both sides to claim victory. In this case, however, there is only one winner and one side, because we all share the same commitment to building a better Columbia.

The administration recognizes the deep seriousness of the student strikers' commitment to institutional changes that will reduce the marginalization experienced by some of our communities and enhance inclusiveness for all.

The students recognize the strength of the administration’s commitment to advancing change through the channels that represent the interests of the whole Columbia community.

We have worked hard together to bring these two imperatives into complementary relationship and we are confident we have succeeded.

Coming to this agreement has required a great amount of trust; trust that we must continue to build and sustain together.

Updated Document from Vice President Dirks and Dean Quigley (11/15/2007)

In general terms, the University is already taking initiatives and conducting reviews in many of the areas you raise for discussion. We will include concerned students in these processes, along with other students already involved. We will also invite you to meet with standing faculty committees whose current deliberations bear directly on some of the matters at issue.

Academic Matters

In the first instance it needs to be recognized that the faculty are in charge of the academic curriculum through the standing departmental and interdepartmental committees. Administrators convene many of these meetings, we have been assured faculty wish to hear from you, and we have arranged for them to do so.

(i) CSER – IRAAS and related issues
As a result of regular meetings this fall between Claudio Lomnitz, Director of the Center for the Study of Ethnicity and Race (CSER) and Nicholas Dirks, Vice President for Arts and Sciences, and as part of ongoing meetings with concerned students about the future of Ethnic Studies that began in the spring of 2007, the following new investments have been made. First, a search committee for senior positions in Ethnic Studies has been authorized to recruit up to three senior faculty from its current interdepartmental search. These positions are incremental to the junior lines already allocated to CSER. Second, the recruitment of a scholar in Native American Studies has been authorized. Third, one senior hire in the field of African American studies is currently being conducted by IRAAS. Fourth, incremental resources have been committed both for programs directly conducted by CSER and for the development of a collaborative programmatic relationship between CSER and two other units: the Institute for Research in African American Studies (IRAAS), and the Institute for Research on Women and Gender (IRWAG).

Finally, we have committed to a review of CSER by the Academic Review Committee. This review will include in its mandate relationships between CSER, IRAAS, and IRWAG. Although student participation is a routine part of these academic reviews, we will ensure that student voices will play an especially important role in this review given the particular history of CSER as the outgrowth of student interests, concerns, and activism. The Ethnic Studies faculty have invited you to work immediately with them to formalize your participation in the long term academic review of the Center and in the hiring processes already underway. This review, along with the ongoing search, are precious opportunities to establish a consistent student input in the direction and governance of the CSER. Vice President Dirks has received the agreement of Claudio Lomnitz to move this process forward in the following way:

  1. Renewed participation of student representatives in the current search. They will have unprecedented input in the process and are invited to the next meeting of the search committee on December 4.
  1. A meeting with students and the leadership of the Center will be held early next semester to discuss the intellectual project guiding current changes, views of the future, and commitments to guarantee continuing student participation in the governance of the center.
  1. Academic review of the center.

One student representative will sit on the committee that will draft the self-study of the center. This representative of the students will also guarantee the continuing consultation with students throughout the research and writing of the study. The ARC guidelines provide the basic structure of the items to be covered in that study (including current status of the program, plans for next five years, and areas where consensus has not been achieved). The review has been scheduled for the 2008-2009 academic year. This will allow the spring of 2008 for the production of the self study.

After the self-study is delivered to the ARC, students will participate individually and collectively in the review through meetings with the Internal Review Subcommittee in Fall 2008.

Students and faculty of CSER will advise ARC on the composition of the external review committee which will work and issue recommendations during the Spring of 2009.

Students will participate in meetings with the Vice President of Arts and Sciences in Spring 2009 to discuss recommendations of the final ARC report. Since this report is confidential, ARC, CSER and the VP of Arts and Sciences will determine, in consultation with student representatives, which parts of the reports can be discussed in the community of the center.

Students will then discuss with CSER faculty the implementation plan that will be the response to the final report.

Students will participate in the monitoring process of the implementation plan from Fall 2009 through Spring 2011.

Major investments over the last three years, totaling now over $20 million, have been directed specifically to increasing the diversity of the faculty in the Arts and Sciences, and many of the faculty hired through this initiative have already begun to work closely with CSER, IRAAS, IRWAG, as well as with other units on campus that contribute broadly to the work and concerns of these units (including new programs in the Institute for Social and Economic Research and Policy (ISERP), and the re-opening and strengthening of the Institute for African Studies).

(ii) Core Curriculum
President Bollinger convened a major Task Force on Undergraduate Education in the autumn of 2006. The Task Force is made up of senior faculty and administrators along with student leaders, and has undertaken an extensive review of the entire undergraduate curriculum and experience. Four working committees have been established, on the structure of the curriculum, on the issues around teaching and learning in Columbia classrooms, on the challenges of globalization for the undergraduate experience, and on science. As part of this review, the Core curriculum is being re-examined, in particular the kinds of requirements it entails in relationship to majors and electives, the demands it makes on instruction, the relationship it has to a changing world, and the demands this world makes on what students should learn and encounter during their undergraduate years.

There is already widespread agreement that the Major Cultures component of the Core needs to be strengthened, bringing it into parity in terms of classroom size and curricular importance with other parts of the Core. At the same time, the Major Cultures section of the Core is also currently under review as part of the work of the Committee on the Core. Immediately after Vice President Dirks has received approval from the Task Force and the Committee on the Core, departments will be invited to submit new Major Cultures course proposals, and efforts will be initiated to secure the necessary funding. Though students already sit on these committees, further arrangements will be made to enable concerned students to address these committees and contribute to their deliberations. Specifically, to enable you to address your requests to faculty committees as soon as possible:

Your representatives were invited to yesterday's meeting of the Committee on the Core so that your opinions could be heard;

Professor Grieve, chair of the Committee on the Core and the Committee on Major Cultures, has agreed to put on the agenda of the December meeting of the Committee on the Core discussion of your views on student participation in the committee's work;

Vice President Dirks has received agreement from Professor Martha Howell, chair of the Working Group on Curricular Structure, that your representatives will address the next meeting of the committee, later this semester.

Administrative Matters

Last month, Dean Nair informed student leaders that a professional consultant has been engaged to assist the Office of Multicultural Affairs and the Division of Student Affairs to conduct a review of the OMA and its services. This consultant was involved with recent reviews of both the Center for Career Education and the Center for Student Advising. These reviews have resulted in the development of action plans to enhance student services, hire and train new staff, and establish the need for additional space.

The OMA review process will incorporate a wide range of student voices, including yours, along with those of alumni and staff. It will also include data already collected from multiple student surveys, program assessments, and strategic planning done by the staff of OMA. The review will result in an action plan for the further development of the office, and as soon as that is established, efforts will be begun to provide the funds needed to implement the plan.

In the light of your concerns, this review will be extended to incorporate consideration of the need for, and possible function of, a Multicultural Affairs officer in Arts and Sciences. Dean Colombo has confirmed that the Office of Multicultural Affairs is open to all undergraduates including those from General Studies.

Expansion plans for the Office of Multicultural Affairs and the Intercultural Resource Center continue to move forward, as students involved in the planning are aware. The Division of Student Affairs has been working closely with Columbia University Housing and Facilities to secure suite-style housing contiguous to the Intercultural Resource Center (IRC). We expect to announce by the end of the semester the exact location of the IRC extension, and the launch of an initiative to secure the necessary funding.

The annual orientation program for new faculty will incorporate more extensive discussion of diversity issues, incorporating perspectives that address the socio-historical legacies of power and privilege.

The Office of Public Safety has primary responsibility for responding to incidents of possible hate crimes. Among their responsibilities are: documentation of the incident, notification to the relevant deans, and, in the case of criminal acts, notification to the N.Y.P.D. for investigation. These protocols are discussed more fully in a pamphlet prepared by the Division of Student Affairs, titled, "Community Support: Responding to Acts of Bias and Hate." Dean Colombo has confirmed that the Office of Public Safety has agreed to meet with students to discuss staff diversity education and training, as well as other issues of mutual concern. Every effort will be made to meet before the end of the semester.

Given the importance of these agreements and their multi-year implementation, an oversight committee of faculty, students, and alumni will be created to monitor their progress over the next five years.