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EPPC will bridge communication, strategy on academic policy between A&S schools

After almost three years in the making, the Educational Policy and Planning Committee is poised to unite communication across the Faculty of Arts and Sciences, helping administrators create more effective academic policy.

The EPPC will hold its first meeting on Thursday, coordinating the efforts of various committees that already craft educational and curricular standards for students.

The committee will discuss issues ranging from the Frontiers of Science curriculum to study abroad programs, but will have no “formal” powers, noted history professor Susan Pedersen, who will chair the committee.

“It’s not an executive body,” she said. “What it was asked to do was to coordinate the work of curriculum committees and to offer advice about curriculum across the board.”

The Committee on Instruction will remain the body responsible for course approval, curriculum development, and major requirements for Columbia College and the School of General Studies, and the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences Executive Committee will do the same at the graduate level.

But until the formation of the EPPC, Pedersen said, there wasn’t a “venue in which people highly involved in, say, the Core, would necessarily talk to people involved in the graduate school” or in the Policy and Planning Committee.

The EPPC will represent the five A&S schools: CC, GS, GSAS, the School of the Arts, and the School of Continuing Education.

Mathematics professor Robert Friedman, a member of the EPPC and former member of the PPC, said that while the COI is a “very good committee,” it often has no time to contextualize issues and consider how they may affect those outside of the College.

“There isn’t time to step back and have a more thoughtful look at the issues,” he said. “The EPPC can address some of these bigger questions in a more detailed and thoughtful way and it can be a means of outreach to the faculty and students as a whole.”

Cathy Popkin, a professor of Slavic languages and member of the EPPC, said that she had served on the COI previously and called it “a group of people who really care about the College”—but said that it did not serve as the voice of the faculty.

“I usually had an opinion but I didn’t feel like I should be deciding for everyone,” she said. “That was one very concrete context in which to see that academic policy needed much broader discussion.”

The Task Force on Undergraduate Education, a group of Columbia faculty and administrators that reviews the structure and curriculum of undergraduate schools, recommended the creation of the EPPC in 2009.

Popkin said that the formation of the EPPC reflected a “reshuffling and reorganization” of A&S that began in 2004 in order “to facilitate communication in order to make sure things make sense.”

When Popkin was hired at Columbia in 1986, she said that she was given “four, five, or six different [committee] appointment letters.”

“I happened to be on what seemed like 100 committees,” she said. “It became clear that no individual committee really knew what other committees were doing and that seemed insane—at the very least, counter-productive.”

Executive Vice President for Arts and Sciences Nicholas Dirks also echoed the call for more engagement in “curricular and educational issues across A&S” in his January letter to the faculty.

The EPPC will report to the PPC, which reports directly to Dirks. It will comprise of 17 A&S faculty and administrators, along with one student representative from each of CC, GS, and GSAS. The GS Dean and the chair of the School of Engineering and Applied Science COI will be ex-officio members of the committee, but will not vote.

Columbia College Student Council President Karishma Habbu, CC ’13, said that after CCSC was placed in charge of selecting their student representative, she received over 60 applications for the student representative position. She and Steven Castellano, CC ’13 and academic affairs representative for CCSC, headed the application review and the Academic Affairs Office will interview the finalists and make their final selection by the end of the week.

Pedersen said that although it could take some time for the committee to craft a smooth way of making educational recommendations, she emphasized its creation would not mean more administrative red tape.

“I would like the faculty and the administration to feel that the EPPC is helping to solve problems and make things run better, not creating some hoops to jump through,” she said.

Friedman called the EPPC a “natural vehicle” that could bring issues before the entire A&S faculty to engage those issues.

While curricular issues will be a major focus of the EPPC, Pedersen, Friedman, and Popkin all said that they would like to discuss distance and online learning, an issue with which Columbia has struggled in the past.

“There’s no lack of interesting issues,” Friedman said.

jeremy.budd@columbiaspectator.com

Correction: The School of International and Public Affairs is no longer a unit within the Arts and Science, but rather an independent professional school. Spectator regrets the error.

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