The discussion that took place during Friday’s University Senate meeting at Jerome Greene Hall was punctuated by a thunderstorm and flashes of lightning, but the tone of the discourse was temperate—three different resolutions were approved nearly unanimously.
The senate meeting included University faculty members, administrators, and students, although it appeared that, following established trends, many members of were absent. There were few contentious issues discussed and even fewer disagreements.
University President Lee Bollinger began the meeting by reiterating his comments from previous meetings about the impact of the economic crisis on Columbia’s endowment, budget, and fundraising. He said that while the current situation “is extremely difficult” and that it is “not a pleasant time,” Columbia is faring better than many of its peer institutions.
Additionally, Bollinger said that fundraising is continuing, though less effectively than in prosperous times. He also said that the current numbers on financial aid in light of the financial crisis are not available, and that he would be reluctant to release such numbers about Columbia’s financial performance out of concern that the school would be evaluated based on these short-term reports.
After Bollinger’s announcements, University Provost Alan Brinkley presented the recent work of the Task Force on Undergraduate Education. This report mainly consisted of a list of recommendations that the Task Force has written and rewritten over the course of the past academic year, such as increasing the size of Columbia College’s student body—which would provide financial benefits as well as have other helpful effects—attempting to equalize the experiences of Columbia College and General Studies students, increasing the availability of financial aid to international students, and expanding opportunities for interdisciplinary studies, along with other recommendations.
While Bollinger acknowledged the significance of these suggestions, he also mentioned that such goals may be hard to achieve in the near future because of both financial and administrative hurdles.
“Even if these things aren’t done soon, they can remain a blueprint for the future,” Bollinger said.
The discussion then turned to the passing of three proposed resolutions: “Resolution to Establish a New Program Leading to the Degree of Master of Science in Communications Practice in the School of Continuing Education,” “Resolution to Establish a Certificate in International Criminal Law Between Columbia Law School, and the University of Amsterdam Law School,” and “Resolution to Establish a Certificate in Global Business Law and Governance Between Columbia Law School and the University of Paris I/Sciences Po.” All three resolutions passed with nearly unanimous approval.
The last topic for discussion was the proposed University policy on financial conflicts of interest in research, specifically regarding the draft created on March 10. Additionally, the senate discussed the “Resolution to Complete a Comprehensive University-Wide Policy on the Reporting of Individual Income from Non-University Sources,” proposed by University Senators Robert Pollack (Ten., A&S/NS) and Samuel Silverstein (Ten., P&S), which stipulated that “the University establish an initial floor that would require reporting in advance all income from all sources by all members of the University, in excess of $10,000 or 1/5 of annual University income, whichever is larger.”
The purpose of this proposed resolution is transparency, which is an “obligation to each other” that University faculty must uphold, Silverstein said. While the resolution states that “the Conflict of Interest Policy to be voted on today [during the University Senate meeting] is a satisfactory policy,” Silverstein pointed out that it included some loopholes that “are not in the spirit of transparency.”
While the proposed conflict-of-interest policy was passed unanimously save for one abstention, the resolution on the reporting of individual income was tabled for an “appropriate” committee to discuss further, Bollinger said.
Alexa Davis can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.