Columbia University

Communications and Calendars

Letters to the Faculty:

February 13, 2005

Dear Colleagues,

During the months since I wrote my first letter, we have been living in unusual times. Many of us in the Arts and Sciences have been subjected to forms of public attention and pressure that feel unprecedented. It is therefore appropriate that ECFAS has been preoccupied with the issue of academic freedom, at the same time that we have all come to appreciate the need to re-enunciate and protect our normal protocols and procedures of academic review and faculty governance. Happily, the routine work of my office continues, and I want to use this letter to bring you up to date on some of that business. But I hope that you will all join us for the general faculty meeting at noon on Wednesday, February 16th, to find out more and to discuss all of these matters. 

First, the Academic Review Committee has been busily completing its reviews of Political Science, the Columbia Program at Reid Hall, Paris and the Language Resource Center. ARC will soon take up the final review of the Department of Physics, and has begun reviews of Statistics, Sociology, the School for Continuing Education, and ISERP. We have been working to make recommendations for academic planning that reflect both our real budgetary constraints and the need to work collaboratively across departments, programs, and schools to make every level of planning, faculty recruitment, and curricular development more integrated and productive. Deans Austin Quigley and Henry Pinkham, in their respective roles as Associate Vice Presidents of Undergraduate and Graduate Education, have also begun working closely with the ARC process. 

Second, we have been working with the Arts and Sciences Fundraising Committee in order to prepare materials for the capital campaign. We are currently building a data base that will allow us to organize specific requests from the departments and schools, as well as those generated by our own office, according to those themes and according to the kind of need and the particular constituency served. That process is still underway, but we expect to have it completed within the month. Soon after that we will provide the Committee and the Department Chairs a report of our plans for the campaign and a sense of how those plans reflect our general goals for Arts and Sciences. 

We are extremely pleased with the help we have received from Susan Feagin and her staff at UDAR. They have provided expert advice and, what is much more, Susan has dedicated staff to our office specifically to help with the campaign. Ember Deitz Goldstein, Director of Special Operations, whom some of you may remember from her earlier work with the Graduate School and the departments, is now working regularly with us to build our database and translate specific requests into goals for the University campaign. This work will soon be assumed on a permanent basis by a new colleague, Rob Franklin, who will be joining UDAR as Executive Director of Development Planning on March 1. Rob, a Ph.D. in Anthropology from Harvard, served for seven years as Associate Dean for External Affairs at Stanford University's School of Humanities and Sciences, and before that for six years as a senior fundraiser for Harvard's Faculty of Arts and Sciences. His initial responsibilities in this key new position will include campaign planning for the Arts and Sciences and school based efforts, as well as University campaign planning.

I also want to highlight the important appointment of Linda Nelson, Dean for Development and Alumni Relations at the Law School for the last five years, as UDAR's Senior Deputy Vice President for Development, effective April 1. Linda's new charge is to provide day to day leadership for the development and execution of the ambitious campaign elements for the five Arts and Sciences schools. She will head up a team of experienced fund raisers that includes Ember as well as Erica Marks, Director of Development for the School of the Arts; Yun Won Cho, Director of Development for SIPA; and Elaine Yaniv, Director of Major Gifts, who, as some of you know, oversees a growing team of major gifts officers working with the Arts and Sciences schools. Linda will also work closely with Columbia College Dean for Alumni Affairs and Development Derek Wittner in coordinating with College Fund efforts. Prior to joining Columbia Law School, Linda spent thirteen years at Yale University as a senior major gifts officer directing major gifts activities in the northeast and Midwest and three years as Vice President for Development at American University.
These appointments are significant marks of the University's commitment to Arts and Sciences and its importance in the capital campaign, and we have every reason to believe that our needs will be well represented and well served as the campaign unfolds. We will be back in the spring with a fuller report, but I wanted to make sure you know we are making progress.
Third, planning for the building of the new science building on the Northwest Comer of the Morningside Campus has been proceeding apace. David Hirsh has been convening a series of discussions about academic planning. A number of the strongest proposals for the building are based on existing interdisciplinary collaborations between biology, physics, chemistry, and related centers, advancing the emerging scientific areas of molecular imaging, chemical biology, biophysics, nanoscience and neurobiology. A committee representing Facilities (Lefkowitz, Fox and Ienuso) as well as faculty science interests (Hirsh, Weinberg, McDermott) interviewed several firms for the programming of the building. GPR, a firm with extensive laboratory planning and architectural experience in urban settings and for interdisciplinary buildings, came to the top of the list and has been selected to work on defining the program for this building. Their work will rely on discussions with faculty from the science departments in a process that will be coordinated by McDermott and Hirsh, and that is expected to span a (roughly) 12-week period, beginning imminently. Meanwhile, we keenly await the final selection of an architect for the building itself.

Fourth, we are evaluating various aspects of our budget, as we are concerned not just about the usual challenges that confront the Arts and Sciences, but a number of issues to which we are trying to give some priority. Among these are the needs of the science departments for quality laboratory space and for adequate start up funds for new science recruits; the initiative in economics; the rebuilding of a number of departments in the humanities; research support for our junior faculty across all the divisions; the extraordinary demands exerted by market conditions around recruitment and retention both at junior and senior levels; the need to build concerns about the diversity of our faculty into every level of our deliberation about academic planning; and our commitment to greater salary equity, fundamental to which is the need to find sufficient funds for more robust raises in the annual salary budget. As we are still in the midst of the budget season, it is impossible to say more than that we are working closely with our excellent staff to be creative and responsive under mounting financial pressure.

Finally, a report on non-routine business. The Ad Hoc Committee chaired by Ira Katznelson has been meeting with students and faculty in order to evaluate recent allegations by students. I attach a copy of the charge to this committee with my letter. The Committee will report to me its findings as soon as possible. I have requested the committee to make recommendations about the grievance procedures as they currently exist in the Arts and Sciences, and have been working with ECF AS and the Deans to develop both greater transparency for the procedures we have and possible new procedures that we might implement across all the units and Schools that make up the Arts and Sciences.

As always, I am indebted to my superb staff in Low Library. Margaret Edsall has joined us as Associate Vice President for Academic Affairs since our last meeting, and has been doing a wonderful job even as we have been struggling together to learn the full dimensions of the tasks that confront us on a daily basis. And Martha Howell and Ann McDermott have been magnificent in their contributions to the work and life of the office, making clear the value of having dedicated faculty work on special projects in more direct collaboration with the office of the Vice President for Arts and Sciences than was customary in the past. Martha has been coordinating our fundraising efforts, among many other things, while Ann has been working closely with David Hirsh in the planning for the Northwest Science Building. We are still discussing the longer term questions around restructuring in the office, and will have more to report on this in our spring meeting.

My best,

Nicholas B. Dirks
Franz Boas Professor of Anthropology and History
Vice President for Arts and Sciences
Dean of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences


Charge to Ad Hoc Committee from the Vice President for Arts and Sciences.
The ad hoc faculty committee was established as a result of the expression of concern by a number of students that they were being intimidated by faculty members and being excluded from participating fully in classroom discussions because of their views. When it was judged that the existing procedures were not adequate to resolve those questions, this ad hoc committee was formed.

The significance of the issues raised by the students' complaints was emphasized by President Bollinger in his letter to the Columbia community on December 8, 2004:

Acts of intimidation or discrimination against students or any other members of our community on the basis of ethnicity, gender, political beliefs, race, religion, or for any other reason are antithetical to University policies and principles and are an affront to our community. I am confident that we all agree that such behavior is inconsistent with our values and must not be tolerated under any circumstances.
To assure that these deeply rooted values are protected, I have asked this committee to hear the complaints and grievances of students who choose to speak with it; to evaluate accusations that it considers appropriate for further examination; and to determine the facts surrounding the claims it investigated. Since the determination of the merits of such complaints and grievances is more complicated than simply determining what happened, it may also be necessary for the committee to consider the context within which events occur. I have also asked the committee to take notice of any related complaints that may come to its attention in the course of its consultations.

In the course of the committee's investigations, it will listen not only to those who lodge complaints, but to those against whom complaints have been lodged, as well as those deans and faculty members to whom complaints were previously brought, and others who in the committee's judgment might have relevant information. The committee is specifically not being asked to investigate political or scholarly opinions, curriculum, or departments, but to identify cases where there appear to be violations of the obligation to create a civil and tolerant teaching environment.

In the committee's report to me, the committee will describe in appropriate detail the factual findings on which it has agreed. Any other observations will be welcome, but the committee is not charged with making any recommendations as to how the University should respond to its findings. However, the committee should recommend any necessary changes in Arts and Sciences grievance procedures, or in the training of chairs, deans, and others charged with receiving student grievances.