USenate, PACSA, and the rules committee

Never heard of the University Senate’s PACSA before? Don’t know the difference between the USenate and the U.S. Senate? (Hint: this guy isn’t in the USenate.) Too busy planning your Jay and Bey-themed Valentine’s dinner to figure out what the Senate’s Rules Committee does? Worry not—you’re not alone.

Here’s the deal: I’ll give you a freebie here—the PACSA is the Presidential Advisory Committee on Sexual Assault. The Senate’s Student Affairs Committee is conducting a review of PACSA in the wake of outcry over the University’s handling of sexual assault cases. Although University President Lee Bollinger has said that he would consider proposals to increase PACSA’s transparency, the committee’s membership and proceedings are still not public. This push for more openness with regards to PACSA follows op-eds by University Senator Jared Odessky and David Froomkin, both CC ’15, calling for more information about the Senate’s internal proceedings.

Here’s my take: Odessky summed up the Senate’s M.O. best in his Feb. 4 op-ed reacting to Vice Provost Stephen Rittenberg’s statement in an email to Columbia Lion reporter Daniel Stone that the revived Rules Committee would follow “standard” Senate practices: “This euphemism veils one of the University Senate’s biggest flaws: ‘Standard’ in senate language means a complete lack of transparency.”

The Senate could be planning to bring foie gras to Ferris or distribute free Corgi puppies in Lerner (or fix the toilet in my suite PLEASE), but we’ll never really know what they’re doing—good or bad—if they won’t tell us. There could be promising and much-needed changes coming to PACSA, but it’s going to be hard to take comfort in that possibility without having the slightest idea what those changes are.

What’s yours? What changes, if any, do you want to see to the amount and types of information that the Senate releases about its proceedings? In what areas do you want to see more transparency? What do you want a reformed PACSA to look like?

Before you get back to work internship applications pretending you’re not on Facebook in 209, drop me a line in the comments section (or at opinion@columbiaspectator.com).

Correction: A previous version of this article incorrectly stated that Vice Provost Stephen Rittenberg's statement about the Rules Committee was an announcement. Spectator regrets the error.


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dgaristo posted on

Thanks! We've fixed the error.

"your take" posted on

you undermine your credibility when you make basic mistakes in reading your sources. rittenberg didn't "annouce" anything. he emailed that to a lion reporter.

FYI posted on

U Senate meetings, held monthly, are open to all members of the University community and minutes from said meetings are posted online (senate.columbia.edu).