News | Administration

SEAS tenured faculty vote no confidence in Peña-Mora, prof says

  • NO CONFIDENCE | Embattled SEAS Dean Feniosky Peña-Mora recently faced a no confidence vote in which a vast majority of the tenured SEAS faculty voted against him.

An overwhelming majority of the School of Engineering and Applied Science tenured faculty recently voted no confidence in Dean Feniosky Peña-Mora, according to a SEAS professor—a new setback for the embattled dean.

“The vote of no confidence was overwhelming—on the order of 90 percent,” a SEAS professor, who asked to remain anonymous because the vote was intended to be private, said.

According to the professor, the vote was a written, secret ballot taken over a number of days leading up to the day after University Commencement, which included “almost everyone” of the about 120 tenured SEAS faculty.

“For the moment it is intended to be private, I would imagine that if there’s no satisfactory action taken, it will become public,” the professor said.

The only satisfactory action would be Peña-Mora’s removal, the professor said.

“There is no future for the dean in the school of engineering,” the professor said. “When trust and when confidence has been lost to this extent, it is a totally unworkable situation, and not likely to be reversed.”

A University spokesperson could not immediately comment on Friday evening. Peña-Mora, who was traveling Thursday, could not be reached through a SEAS spokesperson.

Peña-Mora has been harshly criticized by SEAS faculty members, many of whom have called for his resignation. The New York Times first reported in December that many senior professors had signed a letter to Provost John Coatsworth stating that the “morale of the faculty and their trust in Dean Peña-Mora are reaching an all-time low.” Professors said that Peña-Mora had worsened SEAS’ long-standing space crunch, sacrificed graduate students’ education for short-term profits, and compromised the quality of the faculty, among other complaints.

“The dean’s actions and way of dealing with the school has alienated an awful lot of people,” the professor who asked to remain anonymous said.

In November, industrial engineering and operations professor Don Goldfarb was appointed to the newly created position of executive vice dean, which has absorbed many of the administrative responsibilities previously held by the dean. But the professor said that Goldfarb’s appointment wasn’t enough.

“The executive vice dean has helped tremendously, but it is still an unworkable situation,” the professor said. “The dean has to be the dean.”

Student SEAS representatives maintained their support of Peña-Mora. Engineering Student Council President Tim Qin, SEAS ’13, said that the council is sticking to its previous statements.

“We support Dean Peña-Mora for what he’s done with students,” Qin said. “I can’t really comment on faculty issues, I’m not privy to what faculty talk about, but from a student perspective, for what he’s done for students, we support him there.”

“He’s generally popular among students,” SEAS University Senator Akshay Shah, SEAS ’14, said. “I don’t want to comment on the relationship between the faculty and the dean, I don’t know what the dynamic is.”

“In my interactions with the dean, either as student or member of ESC or senator, he was always very open and respectful,” Shah, the co-founder of EventSalsa, which has an advertising partnership with Spectator, said. “He tried to help however he could to improve student life or implement something like open course evaluations.”

The vote comes as several local politicians recently came out in support of Peña-Mora, who was born in the Dominican Republic and lived in Washington Heights. According to city council member Ydanis Rodriguez, the chair of the council’s higher education committee, Peña-Mora has a lot of support "especially in the community of color."

“It makes us so proud to know we have one of the best deans in the nation,” Rodriguez said, adding that “the community is on alert” for any attempt by the University to remove Peña-Mora as dean.

Check back for updates.

Avantika Kumar contributed reporting.

casey.tolan@columbiaspectator.com

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Anonymous posted on

 If the professulas can inflict Sarbox and RICO on the rest of us, then they should live under the same scrutiny

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Anonymous posted on

They should just make it public now. The professors need to make their names public.

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Anonymous posted on

There is no need to make the names public.
90% means essentially all the tenured faculty have no confidence in the deam.

Peña-Mora must go.

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Anonymous posted on

So we should just ignore the confidence of the students and alumni? Also, the vote was tenured faculty, not all the faculty.

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Anonymous posted on

1) There are very obvious reasons why untenured faculty should not be involved in a vote like this.  

2) There is a clear inverse relationship between how closely a given group works with this Dean and their level of confidence in him.  The groups with the highest confidence are students and alumni, both of whose interactions with the dean are very superficial (desserts and beanies for the students, handshakes and fundraising dinners for the alumni).  The faculty who actually work with the Dean more closely seem to have very little confidence in him, and it's my impression that the Department Chairs -- who work most closely with the Dean -- have essentially zero confidence in him (a previous article describes them as having serious concerns as far back as 2010).  Draw your own conclusions from this.

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Anonymous posted on

So you're saying that you would rather have a Dean that doesn't even try getting involved with the students? All of these events were new things that the Dean did to try to foster a sense of community at an otherwise school that was jealous of its sister school CC. Should the students not support a Dean who actually reaches out to them, has events for them, and visits their club/group meetings from time to time? These are tangible things that may seem trivial to people not involved, but they do mean a lot to students (like me).

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Anonymous posted on

They might mean a lot to students, but that's like a governer who shakes hands with voters and goes to 4th of July BBQs while at the same time passing laws that run the state's economy into the ground.

What does it matter if your dean goes to your events if he's also ruining the long-term reputation of your school (and therefore your degree), which is something the faculty have a much better handle on, given that they have access to much more information?

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Anonymous posted on

1) Alumni are not mentioned in the article (he's only been dean for a few years).

2) The students' relationship with the dean does not have to be as close as that between the dean and the tenured faculty. Students only deal with the current dean for 4 years, while tenured faculty have to deal with him for much longer than that. For students, he is more like a celebrity on campus ("look, there goes the dean!") and someone to whom ESC can talk about some issues. On the other hand, the dean has to be able to work closely with the tenured faculty to shape the future of the school as an educational and research institution. Remember that Columbia is a research university, not a college. Students' opinion is obviously important, but it's not the only one that counts.

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Anonymous posted on

Columbia University should be ashamed of themselves for allowing the faculty to make this situation public. Columbia has the capacity to ensure that their dirty laundry is not aired. The faculty at SEAS states they have lost confidence and trust yet they can not cite anything that concretely supports his removal.

It's clear that this is personal. The faculty hates the dean because he has set higher expectations and they are not used to working this hard or maybe it's just plain old racism. The President hired the dean so that he could make SEAS better and his record actually speaks for itself as well as the sentiments of the alumni and the current student body. If the president supports the vote of not confidence that was cowardly conducted in secret it would be unjust because he did exactly what was asked of him- make SEAS a competitive program again nationally. The dean has and these "feelings" of the faculty seem like just anger because a person of color could out perform them....

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Anonymous posted on

Have you even bothered to read the complaints listed in the previous (signed) letter? The faculty is complain that he has failed to do everything that you list as his "accomplishments", and that his actions will, over time, ruin the long-term reputation of the school - a far cry from making it a "competitive program nationally".

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Anonymous posted on

 The faculty kept it quiet for 3 years, it was the dean who made it public by going forward with the public claim of racism.

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Anonymous posted on

Last time I checked, that letter was written by political and community leaders; not the dean. 

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Anonymous posted on

Hello 123, You are totally clueless or worse!
Do you think if even what you say were half true almost the entire senior faculty would vote agaisnt the dean? You depict them as a bunch of of idiots and cowards. Or perhaps you assume that they are bunch of irresponsible people that will support such an extreme position for mystrious reasons.

The vote was confidential for two reasons: 1. that nobody will know what anyone voted so no group pressure was possible and everyone would vote according to their coscience. 2. That there would not be retribution by the dean if he stays or by the higer up. WHile you blame them of cowardness you are very brave and remain anonymous unless 123 is your real name.

From the results of the vote it is now clear that something like 90% of the faculty want the dean out. So when you see a tenured faculty member of SEAS it is almost certain he/she voted against the dean and that he/she is convinced that the dean is totally unfit for the job and if he contiunes the  School will be damaged.

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Anonymous posted on

Wait, you are complaining about the faculty making the situation public (Columbia University should be ashamed!!) and the fact that they conducted the no confidence vote in secret (cowards!!).  
Which is it?  It would be nice if you thought things through before just picking sides. 

It seems to me the faculty did not want to air the dirty laundry.  They sent a letter to just the dean, and then a couple years later, sent a letter to the provost and president.  The fact that the vote was taking place was NOT secret from the administration (dean, provost, president).  The only secret part was that it was a secret ballot vote (surely you see why that's a good idea, right?), and the fact that the faculty didn't run to the press to discuss it.  

What are you complaining about? 

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Anonymous posted on

About things that concretely support his removal -- again, maybe the faculty didn't go to the press in order not to make the situation too public, but listed very concrete things to the administration?  In fact, some concrete complaints did make it to the press (see the links someone posted under "faq" above).  Here are a few I heard that didn't see in those articles (and if I'm not accurate,maybe it's because the faculty is trying to not air their laundry?):  He recently appointed a new chair to one of the departments -- a new tenure hire from outside, without the approval of that department and without discussing with the vice dean (who is supposed to be in charge of hiring), nor the provost.   He accepts a ton of unqualified MS students (in addition to good, qualified ones) which derail the quality of graduate classes.  He changed some TAing rules which resulted in fewer students getting funding as TAs, fewer TAs per  class (at a time enrollments are huge an class sizes are enormous!) and more restrictions about choosing TAs, which means smaller chance of good, qualified TAs.     These are things that directly and immediately affect students. 

Finally, even if your analysis about what is going on (based on just your impression of how things "seem" to you) is correct, do you think the school can be functional with a dean and a faculty of 120 tenured faculty, 90% of whom are jealous racists, angry that a person of color could outperform them? and, if you are a SEAS student, why are you staying in a school with 90% racist faculty?  

And finally finally -- is there anyone anywhere openly supporting him who has worked very closely with him for any period of time?  This inverse relationship was pointed in another comment,and it's a good point. 

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Anonymous posted on

Dear Professor (part of the 90% - I would say, since you know so many intimate details about hiring in the school), I respectfully ask you to do as you tell us to do and check your facts. This year "The PhD selectivity rate was 10%, with a mean GRE of 790, as compared to an acceptance rate of 18% and GRE mean of 777 in 2009. The MS acceptance rate this year is 25%, with a mean GRE of 791, compared to 45% acceptance and 774 mean GRE scores in 2009." If you consider us unqualified students, how did you call the students that came before Dean Pena-Mora's tenure?  Furthermore,  I am at lost on why we came to Columbia, getting insulted by the very same faculty that is supposed to teach us is unfanthomable. 

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Anonymous posted on

I thought that engineering faculty should be writing grants and getting government contracts to hire graduate students and no expect their graduate students be paid by the school as TAs - are we in the humanities?

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Anonymous posted on

When we asked the dean about the TA situation in one of our graduate student meetings, his answer sounded very logical to me. He wanted students to be able to spend time in the lab and to graduate on time. I can tell you from experience that some departments have been using TAs to cover the whole graduate education of students, forcing them to TA even for classes that were not part of their main area of expertise and keeping them away from the labs. Some take longer to graduate and some even drop all together from school. So, the faculty should be working on getting more grants for students instead of forcing us to be their cheap labor.

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Anonymous posted on

Another clueless student that only sees his immeidate interest.
So who should be the TAs for all these classes if not graduate students?

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Anonymous posted on

Tim Qin and Akshay Shah need to stop hiding behind this thing of only commenting on the Dean as far as his interactions with students go. If the faculty-dean relationship is souring, then that is something that affects the integrity of SEAS and thus the quality of the student experience. You can't just support the Dean without taking into account the whole picture. Just because he's nice to students, smiles and jokes, gives out free stuff, and comes to council meetings to make students feel important, should not deceive students into thinking that the Dean deserves the support of students. Come on SEAS student reps - step up and dig into this. Stop pretending like this is someone else's issue to deal with. Look at how diligently CC's elected student reps are working on the Dean selection process. SEAS students deserve better.

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Anonymous posted on

I don't understand what you are trying to say. What do you want ESC to do? Start attacking the professors or the Dean? CCSC has no dean right now (at least no permanent dean), that is the reason why they are so involved in the selection process. If you look back at the previous articles regarding Dean Moody-Adams' removal, CCSC was just as cautious and defensive of their Dean. Maybe you should be true about your convictions and bring this up with Tim or Akshay? I'm sure they would be more than happy to hear your thoughts?

As for faculty-dean relationship souring, it is more of a political fight for power rather than anything that truly affects the students' experience at Columbia (referring to undergraduates). We all know that faculty think too highly of themselves.

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Anonymous posted on

Do you think only Peña-Mora is engaged with the students? Wrong! All deans do, but in  slightly different versions and have their preferred styles. To me, who was at SEAS when Galil was the Dean, I voice that he had been the best Dean. Do not give the wrong impression that all other Deans are doing nothing for the students except your Dean. I do not praise the Dean simply because he invited me to dessert. If the students said they do not have a full view of what is going on, they should better stay aside and do not get involved in such politics. They would regret.

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Anonymous posted on

current students have no way of comparing deans usually, as they are here only for 4 years.  The dean before the current one was an interim dean, anyway.  So it's hard for students to form an opinion based on comparison.  

What did Galil do for the students?  what makes you say he was the best dean?  (I'm not at all doubting it, I am just curious) 

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Anonymous posted on

The students should consider their point of view, and it is very understandable why they support and like the dean.  He's done some things that are good, he seems to listen to their concerns, etc.  I don't think ESC needs to come out with a strong opinion about the dean vs faculty, as they don't know everything that is happening, who is responsible for what, etc.  So I agree the ESC is fine with their response so far, and don't think 'concerned student' is right in criticizing them.  

However, I disagree with Student that the faculty-dean is just power rather than anything that truly affects the students' experience. 
Having racist faculty affects the students experience. 
Having low quality grad students in classes affects student experience. 
Having not enough TAs affects student experience.  
etc. 
These are some of the accusations among the different sides, and they definitely affect undergraduate student experience.  Not to mention longer term effects like faculty leaving or not joining, rankings/value of the degree going down, etc.  

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Anonymous posted on

You need to check your sources since from the time Dean Pena-Mora has been here, the degree value (as you call it) is going through the roof (it went from 21 to 15 in the national graduate rankings and from 26 to 20 in the National Undergraduate ranking). If that is not increasing in value during his leadership, then what is it?

 It is interesting to read how someone that considers him/herself not to be racist, seems to be very biased by not even acknowledging the accomplishment of people of color.

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Anonymous posted on

Sorry Dsr45, you don't know what you are talking about.
The School was in a great momentum before he came.
It went from 21 to 18 in the first month of his tenure.
The improvement in quality and reputation is first and foremost thanks
to the faculty, 90% of which voted no confidence in his leadership.
Some of your friends want to fire the faculty..
I am amazed that we have such clueless Columbia students.

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Anonymous posted on

Dude, entire Columbia community had the momentum. Remember how Columbia got to 4th from 8th, in national university ranking? 

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Anonymous posted on

This also shows how ranking doesnt matter. Look at the mess that the Arts and Sciences was in just last year, faculty benefits being caught, a war with the college over funding, the departure of a provost. Look at the mess the college was and still is in, the Core, the undergraduate financial aid, the departure of Dean Moody-Adams, the bickering over quality of undergraduate education, the lack of community/school spirit, etc. CU has a lot of problems, but it does not show in rankings.  

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Anonymous posted on

I am a PhD student. I got my MS in 2007, Galil's last year. Hundereds of students screamed during commencement: Zvi, Zvi, Don't leave Columbia. He was the email dean. He communicated regularly with the students. We all loved his great sense of humor. It was a bit quirky, but it was great. He also interacted a lot with student leaders. He instituted grad social which was great. Any student who wanbted to see him could come and see him. I saw him about some problem and he fixed it (by sending email to the apprpriate person).

The current dean is fine with the students. But Galil was far better. I have no data to claim he was the best dean. But he was great.

In any case, this is NOT the issue. When 90% of the senoir faculty vote no confidence it means a lot. I believe them that our dean is not fit for the job.

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Anonymous posted on

I want to add to Fg3. I am SEAS 2007 alum and what he says
about commencement is true. I was there. I was on the ESC and worked closely
with the dean. The Class of 2007 had 100% participation gift – EVERY student
gave. I don’t know if it has ever been achieved even in the rara-schools like
Yale or Duke. The students made a cardboard figure of dean Galil. See http://engineering.columbia.ed...

See reflections on Dean by all the constituencies of the
School, in particular from the president of ESC: http://engineering.columbia.ed...

I don’t agree with Fg3 on one point: Galil must have been the best
dean SEAS has ever  had.

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Anonymous posted on

How gullible are you?  Why do you think they selected to do a ballot instead of taking the vote at the faculty meeting in May 9 that they had announced in the Spectator? it is not because they did not want to embarrass all of us during graduation, but because the organizers wanted most likely to fix the outcome plus the faculty may not have had the spine to stand up and show how they stood against excellence. What better way to have a kangaroo vote?

I heard that Chairs were given the ballots to their faculty, who where then asked to signed an envelop and return it to their same department Chair to count  [Remember, the chairs are the ones evaluating professors at the end of the year, so your raise is tied up to the Chairs' whims]. It is amazing that they only got 90% of the faculty.  I applaud the 10% for standing up against bullying.

Spectator, what about a story about the process followed to get the votes?  That will be interesting to know.  We would like this time to hear also from the 10% that voted in favor.

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Anonymous posted on

If this is true, Spectator, please report about this.

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Anonymous posted on

Do you really believe in what he claimed? That was not true. The Chairs were not involved in the process. We felt so sorry for him. He did not have even a clue of what is going on.

Where are his 10% supporters?

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Anonymous posted on

Supporteds were about 5% and abstained 5%.
The vote was done very carefully with double envelopes.
So nobody knows who voted what and nobody could pressure anyone to vote one way or another.

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Anonymous posted on

Anonymous professor, please!!  We see this for what it is, A) a group of racist faculty who can not stand the excellent leadership of a person of color and B) a group of professors afraid of losing their jobs, (most of the senior faculty would not stand a chance at being hired under Dean Pena-Mora's leadership and his high standards of excellence.  Remember most of the senior faculty must have gottent their jobs when Columbia was ranked in the 30's and 40's).

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Anonymous posted on

Please stop accusing the faculty of being racist -- that's a scurrilous charge and you have no evidence. The fact is that the faculty overwhelmingly feel that the Dean is damaging the school and should be replaced ASAP. It's as simple as that.

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CU_Alum posted on

1.  A substantial percentage of the senior faculty are minority members.  The idea that 90% of the profs are racists who are out to get Feni due to his minority status is absurd.

2.  The professors who voted all have tenure.  That means they can only be fired under extraordinary circumstances.  None of them has even the slightest reason to be "afraid of losing their jobs".

3.  SEAS's current high standards in faculty hiring pre-date Feni.  Had someone else become Dean instead, the standards would be pretty much the same.  So even if professors with job security somehow feel threatened by the school's rising standards (a preposterous idea), ousting Feni would not lessen the threat.

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Anonymous posted on

I'm laughing at the idea of a professor thinking that their school's reputation is TOO high, and that their graduates are being TOO  successful.

Except columbia's not even in a position to joke about such matters - we're far away from these first-world-engineering-school problems.

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Anonymous posted on

In response to (B), you must be out of your mind.

First, we're talking about tenured professors, so there's literally no chance in hell that they'd lose their jobs. 

Second, look at the CS department - we have some of the top professors in the entire world, as evidenced by the fact that they literally wrote the damn textbooks (not the textbooks that just they themselves use, but the textbooks that are considered the de facto standard at every university in the country).One of these such professors, Cliff Stein, is also the chair of the IEOR department. Presumably he therefore has no confidence in the dean either.Okay, sure, you can tell me that you think those professors are afraid they'd lose their jobs. Let's put it to the test - let's fire them (despite their tenure), and watch and see just how quickly they get snatched away by Stanford and MIT. 

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Anonymous posted on

It is amazing how an uniformed individual can claim excellence in Pena-Mora. Don't you know that he was denied tenure at MIT, a place that would bend backwards to tenure a minority. Pena-Mora was unable to perform at 40% of the required level, and you are saying that he has high standards? How ignorant you are. 

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Anonymous posted on

Chairs were involved in the process. How about Shree Nayar (chair of Computer Science) who managed the process for Computer Science?

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Anonymous posted on

AN, you are incorrect.  Shree Nayar did not manage the process for Computer Science; he had nothing to do with the process.  

Please refrain from making statements which you do not know to be true (and which are in fact untrue).

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Anonymous posted on

You are dead wrong. The process was done independent of the chairs, and the person responsible in each department was not the chair. Moreover, very few of the 10% who did not vote against Pena-Mora, had confidence in him. Most of the 10% were undecided. 

You must also remember that it was the Dean who brought up the racist issue by reaching out to the hispanic community. He is hiding his incompetence behind them. 

Recall also, that Pena-Mora failed to get tenure at MIT. That he hired his wife and nephew at Columbia until he was told that this was nepotism (he had someone explain the word to him). He has also tried to coerce untenured faculty to take his side, and of course, he has charmed some of the students. 

I am not saying that Pena-Mora is without merit. Had he chosen to concentrate on fund raising, and keeping students and alumni happy, he would have been a great dean. However, when he started micro-managing good departments, made promises that he could not keep and have affected the lives of junior faculty that cannot do their research because lack of promised space, then you start seeing how incompetent Pena-Mora is. 

Pena-Mora also compromised the school finances by agreeing to pay more than his fair share for a part of the new building. 

It is no wonder the moral of the school is low. 

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Anonymous posted on

Gullible? Ballot fixing? Chairs involved? You got it all wrong and either you are a liar or you are the gullible one. Either way, it must be said to be you.

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Anonymous posted on

Disclaimer: I have never ever known Gahil the previous Dean nor have I even SEEN the guy.  I am a recent grad student in eng.

But let me say this: I think it's always good to open your eyes and don't accept everything as face value. From what I see, the reasons you list Gahil as "an awesome dean" stems 95% from the fact that he was accessible to students.  Anyone else remember back in high school, the "cool teacher" that all the popular kids loved and got along with was the teacher who didn't give out too much homework, showed lots of movies in class, was super funny, cracked jokes ALL the time, basically acted like a really really cool older uncle.  But then the AP Teacher who gave out a ton of homework, who made you do LOTS of work, and never cracked a smile but pushed us to our limits - she was always the hated one and had the reputation of "Mrs. Grinch" around the school.

I'm not saying that's the case now, but I don't want to see my fellow classmates grade someone of administrative power based on their personality, attitude, charisma, and ability to cater to the youthful college students' needs for fun.

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Anonymous posted on

Ironically, that's the entire reason to be all the more critical of Pena-Mora, not Zvi. Pena-Mora is liked by students for all of the reasons you mentioned (charisma, accessibility), while he is disliked by professors for all the reasons that actually matter.

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Anonymous posted on

 I just don't see how Pena-mora would want to leave this job. It is more
than what he should deserve. The outcome would have been so much better
for him if he could just  step down when things turned smelly in the beginning.
This happened at many places for smart administrators.

ESC and Alumni wanted (or were invited) to get into this mess. The ESC and Alumni should respond if they believe in the racism claim by the dean and local politicians. They
have not issued any answers up to now.

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Anonymous posted on

Interesting how everything is blamed on the Dean, who has been doing such a great job!  The claims of racism have been made by the community not by him (See all comments in all articles published by Spectator). If I were him, however, I would definitely have join the community and dennounce it as well since everything that have been discussed to date does not even acknowledge his accomplishments. Through the statement of the "anonymous professors" as well as your comment and the many discussions, the prejudice is evident.  If he, as a minority, achieve something great, it is not acknowledged but if something goes wrong he, again as a minority, is to be blamed inmmediately! 

As far as this job the best he deserves, I wouldn't wish this Faculty to even my worst enemies.  How sad and unbecoming of Columbia faculty!

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Anonymous posted on

 Can some one please report about the May 9 Faculty Meeting? Quite an embarrassment to the Dean. Don't throw all the blame to the Dominican communities unless the Dean has been lying.

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Anonymous posted on

Columbia faculty meetings and agendas (unlike several peer institutions') are closed to media. 

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Anonymous posted on

1. If he had done such a great job, he wouldn't be in this predicament.

2. For the nth time: This has never been a racial issue. Claiming such a thing is actually detrimental for minorities, since it will make people have second thoughts on placing them in high positions. It introduces the idea that they can't be accountable, because they will resort to racism if something goes wrong. So please, stop such a claim!

3. Those "anonymous professors" are the ones who bring prestige to the School on an a daily basis with a high commitment to excellence, as can be seen by the peer reviewed research grants they get through their own effort, as well as their peer reviewed papers and patents.

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Anonymous posted on

The faculty holds Deans at high standards, but there has never been a no-confidence vote until now, and this because the faculty cannot work with someone they don't trust, and who now is cowardly accusing the faculty of racism to cover his incompetence.

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Anonymous posted on

1. I have never heard any remarks regarding racism at CU from the Dean. 2. Why would he step down when the entire University, including SEAS Board of Visitors, the Trustees, Alumni, current students, and the President support him? More experts approve of his job than the hand full of profs who see his administration as an inconvenience. 

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CU_Alum posted on

90% of the faculty is not a "handful of profs".  Their complaints about Feni are far more serious than some mere "inconvenience".  As far as I know, neither the trustees nor the SEAS board of visitors have publicly taken sides in this matter.  And to my knowledge Feni does not have a great deal of alumni support in his dispute with the faculty.

Feni will probably leave office over the summer, whether of his own volition or not.  Either way, his departure will be presented as a resignation rather than a dismissal.

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Anonymous posted on

I would like to come back to this comment in September, when Dean Peña-Mora will welcome the new class, still as their DEAN. 

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Anonymous posted on

The president no longer supports him. Read the comment by Deep Throat. 

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Anonymous posted on

In the yearly faculty meeting the President said that 1) the improvement of the school was due to the faculty, 2) that there is no basis for the charge of racism, 3) that it is unethical to involve untenured faculty in the battle, and that 4) a school cannot operate in the current state of discord. 

Recall that the President had all the reasons in the world to support Pena-Mora, because he appointed him (in spite of the fact that the committee voted against him) and because he wanted to avoid a third minority case to backfire. 

The fact that the President has clearly turned against Feni, indicates that Feni's days as Dean are over. Moreover, he will be a pariah if he stays. On the other hand, Feni's reputation will effectively make it impossible for him to find a job at a top university. He has committed political suicide by playing the racist card. 

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Anonymous posted on

Columbia is so much inferior compared to MIT. A person who has been denied tenure at MIT could become a Columbia Dean, holding appointments as named CHAIR PROFESSOR across THREE departments. Don't just blame on Lee Bollinger, but the tenured professors in these three departments were also accountable for his hiring.

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Anonymous posted on

wrong on several counts:
1. minority faculty not getting tenure at any engineering school means that he is very weak academically. Has he been decent academically MIT (or for this matter any school) would tenure him.
There are hardly any minorities in engineering and schools compete to hire them.
2. Once the president selected him as dean his tenure was almost automatic and he got curtesy appointemtn in two or three departments. No department will tell the president we won't hire him.
3. His endowed chair is one that comes with the dean. Every dean in SEAS had it. It does not reflect anything particular on the dean.

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Anonymous posted on

What do you recommend if none of the three departments wanted to house Pena-Mora? Is it fair to remove him as Dean and let one of the departments suffer? From the results, it was so obvious that he has no majority in any of the departments. 

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Anonymous posted on

Feni has tenure. If he steps down he can remain in the departments he is a member of. They can't and they won't fire him. The best is for Columbia to find for him some adminsitrative role that does not involve leadership.

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Anonymous posted on

 How can you be certain that he is tenured at Columbia? At this point, he will have four more years to apply for tenure or to apply for another job else where.

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Anonymous posted on

he came to Columbia with tenure
he was already tenured in Ilinois

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CU_Alum posted on

Feni is a full professor.  Full professors almost always have tenure.  That is especially true of those who were already full professors elsewhere before moving, and even more so of those who are hired as deans.  They typically receive tenure during the hiring process, before they arrive at Columbia.

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Anonymous posted on

Agree. Columbia is one of the rare elite schools that has many minority deans and faculty. MIT is way behind Columbia in terms of diversity and minority appointments.

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Anonymous posted on

Dean Pena-Mora is the best in his area of expertise who came to Columbia from the top Civil Engineering Department in the nation in his area of expertise in the top 5 Engineering School in the country.  University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign is among the best university in the nation, where Pena-Mora held not only tenure, but also one of the most prestigious endowed professorship at the university level. Again, another form of racism, questioning the credentials of a minority person. Credentials that I must say some of our professors in SEAS will die for.

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Anonymous posted on

If he is the best in his area, why didn't he get tenure at MIT?
He is very weak academically.
At Illinois he was Vice Provost for diversity not a regular faculty.

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Anonymous posted on

I encourage you to check your sources. At U of I he was a tenured faculty, and as a result of his great ideas and views, he also held administrative positions, such as VProvost, a very important position at any University, including CU.  

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CU_Alum posted on

 It's true that Feni is a minority member.  That does not mean the faculty overwhelmingly wants him out *because* he is a minority member.  I have not heard anyone cite even a single piece of evidence to support this claim.

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Anonymous posted on

Just look at the citation index. While Pena-Mora has many published articles, many have multiple authors, most are in second and third rated journals, and his overal impact as measured by the h-index and i-10 index are way too low. If someone in my department came up for tenure with his credentials I would deny him tenure, even if he was a minority.
To be more specific, Feni's h-index in Google Scholar (a generous index) is a paltry 17 and both his articles and the citations are in low quality journals. 

His most cited article has only 65 citations. The paper is about his experience in collaborative software engineering education, which is not really a scientific paper. The next paper, about conflict mitigation, has 59 citations and is in a third tier journal. So if you want evidence of why he was not tenured at MIT, and why he would have not obtained tenured at Columbia if he had gone through the ranks, here it is.  

You should contrast this to the impact that most tenured professors at SEAS have, at least in the best departments. In such departments is not uncommon for professors to have dozens of  articles in top journals with at least 100 citations. Some have over 10,000 citations in total.

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Anonymous posted on

This should be a good opportunity to show his "conflict mitigation" expertise...

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Anonymous posted on

 Deep Throat's understanding of the academic world is certainly correct, and more knowledgeable about the academic world of top rated research universities.

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Anonymous posted on

So What???
Columbia professors and student have won numerous best paper awards.
That's the first time such news is announced on Columbia Engineering web site.

While his academic record is not stellar, this is not the issue here.

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CU_Alum posted on

Several points:

1.  It's not necessarily true that Feni was denied tenure at MIT.  For now, though, I will assume that he was.

2.  When a professor is denied tenure at one school and then gets it at another, that does not mean the first school is better than the second.  It often means that, in the interim, the professor did important work and became more tenure-worthy than he had been the first time.

3.  There are many academics who were denied tenure the first time around but who went on to have truly distinguished careers -- including some who eventually ended up back at the school that had initially denied them tenure.

4.  Becoming a dean does not necessarily imply great academic stature.  Your question seems to presume that it does.  A professor who is worthy of tenure, who is a good administrator and who can raise lots of money is a good candidate to be dean whether or not he is a renowned researcher.

5.  M.I.T.'s engineering school really is stronger than Columbia's.  There is no shame in admitting this.  Being weaker than the #1 school in a given field is not a disgrace.

6.  The particular named professorship that Feni holds is reserved for the dean of SEAS.  You act as if Columbia gave him two distinct honors -- the deanship and the professorship -- when they are actually one and the same.

7.  The chairs of Feni's departments had little if anything to do with his hiring as Dean.  What's more, he is probably only tenured in Civil Engineering.  Secondary and tertiary appointments usually do not involve separate grants of tenure.  Even if they did, tenure comes from the university and not from the departments.

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Anonymous posted on

Because MIT is a very racist school and does not promote minorities.

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Anonymous posted on

Seriously, STOP with this spurious claim. There's no evidence to support it, and all it does is make it far less likely that Columbia will hire minority deans in the future, for fear that they won't be able to replace them if necessary without people screaming "racism! racism!".

There's no inherent difference between a minority dean and a white dean, but you're doing a good job of CREATING a difference, if white deans can be dismissed with no political blowback and minority deans cannot.

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Anonymous posted on

What about the Board of Visitors [Many of the most influential alumns, many of whom are donors]?  Are they also superfluous visitors?  They held a vote of confidence on the Dean.  They even added the caveat that if the faculty presented a vote of no confidence on the Dean, they'd asked the administration to have the Dean stay in his job and ignore the faculty.

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CU_Alum posted on

What is your basis for this claim? I've seen no evidence that the Board of Visitors has done anything of the sort.  I just did a Google search and found nothing.

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Anonymous posted on

 Professors please enlighten us!!  This is a known fact in the school

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Anonymous posted on

The affairs of the BOV are private and only available to the President, thus, you will not find this info online. Don't worry, you will get to see the doc soon enough. 

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CU_Alum posted on

If the vote was "private and only available to the President", why should we believe what you tell us about it?

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Anonymous posted on

 IS THIS TRUE??  WOW!!!

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CU_Alum posted on

I don't think it's true.  AN seems so determined to support Feni that he will make up claims like this and present them as fact.

I can imagine a Board of Visitors doing what AN describes, but only in extreme situations.  The Colleges Board of Visitors may have done something like this in 1995 when President Rupp and Provost Cole tried to fire Dean Quigley, but Rupp and Cole were basically the only ones who wanted him out.  The faculty, students and alumni were all on Quigley's side, which made it easier for the Visitors to oppose Low Library.

If what AN says is true, then the SEAS Board of Visitors is actively opposing a large majority of the faculty.  I find it very hard to believe they would do such a thing.

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Anonymous posted on

Believe it, because it is true. 

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CU_Alum posted on

 Merely saying this is not evidence that it is true.  Neither is saying it again.

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Anonymous posted on

Let's look Sincerely at the faults of Pena Mora that faculty finds UNACCEPTABLE:

1. Space Issue. 
    Columbia, as a whole, is constrained by space. That has been true for ages, and will continue to be this way for a while. 
    I guess the Pena Mora's outrageous fault is failing to meet the promise of more space to professors who well know about the space problem, having been here at Columbia forever!

2. Short-changing academic excellence for money
    If you ever work in academia, you should know that this is AMERICA. Every research grant you write, every research proposal you submit, and every research topic you decide to pursue have to be about HOW much money your research can bring to the school and to society, in terms of its impact. This is true for physics, economics, and especially engineering because it is an applied SCIENCE. Go anywhere in the US, visit any university, and you will see the same. The faculty at Columbia should also know this well. All Pena Mora did was to bring in faculty whose research can bring in money, which is directly correlated to academic impact (may be not excellence in the subjective views of other faculty). This is the U.S. academia, and this is how it works period. Pena Mora is simply doing what he should be doing as a dean. I find this also as an insult to new Columbia engineering faculty, few of whose research I know personally are excellent.

3. Being a control freak (as Van C Mow loudly declares)
    Sorry, Mow, but every institution has a hierarchy. If Pena Mora is to be a leader and make reform, he needs to people to cooperate. That means some have to be a followers. Mow also has been at Columbia for a long while, and I can see why he hates all the changes.

4. Admitting more students.
    Guess what, every school in the university is increasing student population every year and at dramatic pace. Just turn around and look at other schoools. Columbia College, for example, has been adding 200 new students over the past 3 years for each graduating class. This is why space issue is systemic. When you have more students from every school crowding into the same old buildings, many of which are shared academic spaces for students, naturally classes overflow, libraries get overwhelmed. Let's not pin this all on Pena Mora. With respect to selectivity and quality, like some one else has said, GRE score has increased. Acceptance rates have dropped incredibly. SEAS undergraduate this year gained 12% increase in applicants while the entire undergraduate application rate dropped. Pena Mora is doing a great job in recruiting the best, new students. I don't see why Professors have to vent their anger against the Dean over the decline of student quality. This is also an insult to present SEAS students. 

5. Just Can't Stand HIM: As an anonymous professor stated, this might be the biggest problem of it all. These professors, who spoke up, made it clear that no matter what administrative or governance change are made, they will not accept Pena Mora as dean. They just cannot stand him. Why? Who knows. This is why many people get the suspicion that prejudice is involved here. Logically, if you eliminate all the concerns and problems concerning a dean, and the professors still hate him, then this hate can no longer be based on his deanship, rather directed against him personally by definition. 

So here is the question, why is the faculty so uncompromising on the removal of Pena Mora, admitting that they want him to go even if the stated problems are solved. They just don't have "trust him." Why? Who knows. 

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CU_Alum posted on

Nobody blames Feni for the amount of space at SEAS.  What they do blame him for is promising professors more space than is actually available for them.  The issue isn't so much about space as it is about Feni repeatedly making promises he cannot keep.

I don't have enough time to respond to the rest of your comment, but it seems similarly off the mark.

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Anonymous posted on

 Prof.,

"What they do blame him for is promising professors more space than is actually available for them." Really??  All of this fuss is about a PROMISE!!  Please grow up!

It is called institutional bias and racism, please call it like it is.

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CU_Alum posted on

It's becoming harder and harder to take you seriously.  When a new professor comes to Columbia because the dean promised her a certain amount of space, and then finds that the promise has been broken, it's a big deal.  The same is true when the dean makes a similar promise to a current professor in order to persuade him not to leave.  People make major life decisions based on a dean's promises. 

Breaking such promises can seriously disrupt professors' lives and careers.  It can lead to mass defections, harm recruiting and decimate morale. Yet you treat it as if it's a trivial matter.  What sort of things are important, in your opinion, if this isn't?

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Anonymous posted on

Still not adequate enough to mandate a removal. 

Please explain your dire opposition to Pena Mora, as an alum who probably interacted with him very little.

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CU_Alum posted on

It actually is more than adequate to justify removing the Dean, since it is an ongoing problem and not an isolated incident.  But there are other reasons why the faculty are so eager to see him removed.  He micromanages.  He alienates top professors, making them more likely to leave.  He compromised the quality of the M.S. programs in order to bring in more tuition.  The list goes on.

I'm not saying he's all bad.  Nobody is.  He does a lot of his job well.  But he also does a lot poorly, and he has proven either unable or unwilling to improve his performance.  In just about any job -- including a deanship -- that's a compelling reason to fire someone.  There's no reason to treat Feni any differently.

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Anonymous posted on

You seem very passionate about this issue. I wonder how much more do you really know than all the other one-time commentators. 

Alienating top professors is not a cause for removing administrator, period. If this is true, then top professors can remove whichever administrator they please. All they have to do is to collude, remove a strong administrator, and put in a puppet dean/president that serves only their interest.

He has not compromised the quality of the M.S. programs, beyond the norm of what Columbia has to offer. Space has always been a problem. Student qualtiies have actually improved dramatically. Greater access to research, study abroad, and industry exposures has taken off during Pena Mora's tenure. May I also remind you that the BULK of the program quality has to do with Professors, how they teach, mentor, interact, and take care of their students. If there has been a decline in program quality, it has to do more with Professors than the dean, because their impact on the students far outstrips what a dean can possibly do. 

"He micromanages." How, please give specific examples that warrant removal. 

Finally, you did admit that he did a lot of good for the school, but you don't detail them as much as you find his minor faults. A biased presentation at best.

If a problem is ongoing and irreparable, then the administration would have removed him. You don't need to make the case. There is a HUGE reason why Bollinger and Coatsworth haven't. They are not idiots either. Also, the faculties really care less about the ISSUES than their hatred for Feni. Point and case, they just want to see him go. 

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Anonymous posted on

I agree. Being a strong leader does not mean pleasing someone. If that were the case, i would be nervous.

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CU_Alum posted on

Feni has not alienated just a few "top professors".  He has alienated over 90% of the 100+ tenured members of the faculty.  You're right that a few top people should not be able to depose a dean.  But when the overwhelming majority of a faculty wants him out, that is a very different situation.

Remember that being dean of a school is not like being a high-level administrator in a business.  Most of what the professors do -- in terms of research and publication -- is done independently and not is not subject to the dean's control.  The dean is the faculty's leader, but he is not their boss.  Being a boss may not strictly require the goodwill of the employees, but being a dean does.

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Anonymous posted on

 The real problem is that Feni tries to micromanage things about which he knows very little...hence botching the job!

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Anonymous posted on

How convenient, no time to respond. Well, the Trustees, BOV, President and students do not have time to pay attention to racist profs, which is why no one is listening to the. 

I assume the rest of the faculty does not have time either to present a clear and tangible argument against the dean, since their argument is simply oblivious and baseless. 

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CU_Alum posted on

The faculty have explained their concerns to the provost and president in great detail.  That you haven't seen the detailed reports does not mean they don't exist.

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Anonymous posted on

Well, no point for the Dean to stay any longer with such a broad lost-of-confidence vote from the tenured faculty. If he really cares of SEAS he  should promptly resign. Many among the senior tenured faculty could be potential deans....let's give them credit about the thoughtfulness of their judgement.

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Anonymous posted on

I completely agree!!!

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Kim Dubling posted on

The VOTES should be made public. Imagine this scenario. I am a professor. I disapprove of Pena Mora. I will vote against him, for whatever reason. But At the same time, I will smile at Pena Mora when I see him and pretend that I know him as a GREAT dean, because he won't know my vote.

Secret ballot only exacerbates the issue because,

1. We don't know the individual grievances of the professors who disapprove of Pena Mora, because they are anonymous. So how can we address their concerns?
2. Professors, who might not really have a genuine grievance, can still vote against Pena Mora while playing a double face and pretends that he is fine with Pena Mora in the mean time- perhaps (s)he still wants to please Pena Mora. This is not fair for Pena Mora. If you don't like a person, make it clear. Don't undercut him in secret, while sucking up to him and smiling at him in person. This is bad character, especially given the magnitude of this mess we are in. 
3. The secret ballot can be manipulated, distorted, just like online comments. People can be quite nasty and irrational when they know they can hide behind a safe curtain of anonymity. Professors are still human, so they are susceptible to the same type of flaws that affect us. Transparency is the best mode. This is why Congressmen and U.S. voters have their voting history public. 
4. Since tenured faculty participated in this vote, secrecy is not a result of their fear of being removed or penalized. This just won't happen. There is a reason they have tenure, and those without tenure did not vote. Administrators have far fewer power than we might envision them having. There is very little possibility that the Dean would start playing favorites and unnecessarily retaliate against those faculty (90%) who vote against him. The reality is that he won't and can't.

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Anonymous posted on

Another clueless student.
Deans have a lot of power.
If he stays he can retaliate in many ways.
90% is not exactly secret. You can assume that almost every faculty member voted for no confidence.
As for the other 10% half of them abstained.

How many of the comment writers gave their real name?..
The vote was done with extreme caution. Faculty voted in double envelope so nobody knows their vote. It was not possible to pressure anyone to vote one way or another.

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Anonymous posted on

 Not according to Goldfarb " “Columbia has a flat
hierarchy. Faculty are all equal, most of the faculty don’t report to
the dean...”

New SEAS vice dean to assist Peña-Mora amid tension

By Yasmin Gagne
Columbia Daily Spectator
Published December 12, 2011

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Anonymous posted on

Just because they don't report to him doesn't mean he doesn't have the power to make their lives difficult.

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CU_Alum posted on

A private university is not a democracy.  Students and the public are not entitled to this sort of information, just as they are not entitled to decide how the university should respond.  But the faculty and administration already have it.

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Anonymous posted on

Dude, reading your comments, you seem to act very entitled and fanatical in your criticism of Feni and demand for his removal. And you say we shouldn't judge?

LAUGH. Literally, a quarter of the comments are yours, and they are all about "kick Feni out!"

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CU_Alum posted on

I never said people shouldn't judge.  I just disagreed with their judgments.  So the fact that I have a judgment of my own does not make me a hypocrite.

By my count, roughly 1/7 of the comments on this article are mine.  I agree that 1/7 is a lot.  But I suspect that most of the comments defending Feni -- far more than 1/7 of the total -- were written by one person using different user names.  Those comments contain similar unsubstantiated claims, use similar logic, are written in similar styles, and were often posted within moments of one another.  It seems somebody wants to make it appear Feni has more supporters than he really does.

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Anonymous posted on

 Quote from CU ALUM: Students and the public are not entitled to this sort of information,
just as they are not entitled to decide how the university should
respond.

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CU_Alum posted on

Right.  The information is private.  Students and the public have no right to see it, just as they have no right to see personnel information for anyone else who works at the university. 

And the decision is the university's.  Students and the public are not entitled to make the decision, and they don't get a vote. 

That doesn't mean we can't all form our own opinions.  It just means we have no authority to decide what happens.  Given that we don't have the information the decision-makers need to have, that is how it should be.

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Anonymous posted on

Then Kim Dubling is entitled to make known his opinion calling for an open ballot

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CU_Alum posted on

Of course he (she?) is.  But that doesn't make the opinion sound.  There are reasons why ballots are secret, and they apply just as strongly here as they do in other contexts.

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Anonymous posted on

 To CU_Alum,
Will you respect then the administration's decision so far to keep Pena Mora?

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Anonymous posted on

The most important piece of information is public -- namely that the faculty has made it totally clear (via their vote of no-confidence, etc) that the Dean must go.There's no way the administration can keep him given the strength and degree of opposition he has in the faculty. The exact nature of their complaints is less important.

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Anonymous posted on

 You obviously do not respect the administration's decision so far. And you don't give a crap about the actual complaints. You just want to see Pena Mora go. Your prejudiced individual

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CU_Alum posted on

What nonsense.  That someone wants Feni out does not mean he's motivated by prejudice.  Insisting that all of Feni's critics are prejudiced, though, does seem motivated by prejudice -- albeit of a different kind.

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Anonymous posted on

Top making general hypothetical assumptions "does not mean," "not always"

Just read the original comment, look at the person's premises for removing the dean, which is to remove the dean because faculty hates irregardless of what he actually did wrong, this is prejduice. maybe the person is not prejudiced, but he is endorsing acts of prejudice.

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Anonymous posted on

The Dean seems incapable of working with the faculty. That has nothing to do with prejudice. And CU_Alum is right -- that those who seem prejudice where there is none are in fact guilty of a form of prejudice themselves.

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CU_Alum posted on

Please look up the meaning of "prejudice".  It means judging somebody based upon who he is rather than what he's done, without giving him a chance to prove himself.  The faculty opposes Feni because of what he's done, not because of who he is.  They're judging him, but they're not PRE-judging him. They complained to the provost about his actual performance and not about mere assumptions.

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Anonymous posted on

 False. They already made clear that their judgment of him will not change even if he amends his mistakes and addresses the problems they've summarized. That is why their uncompromising opposition to the Dean is Prejudice.

Here is a simple analogy:

I did something outrageously wrong. My parents are pissed off, and want to disown me as a result, or so they claim. I promise to correct my mistake and am in the process of correcting those mistakes. My parents still tell me that, "son, no matter what you do to fix your mistake, we will still disown you."

This is what is going on. Since the faculty are not related to pena mora, it is very likely that they are prejudiced against him.

We can't prove that they are prejudiced, but in the same way, you cannot prove that they are not prejudiced.

The best conclusion from the given situation is that they are driven by some form of subconscious or conscious prejudice.

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CU_Alum posted on

That analogy fails because a parent's relationship to a child is different from a faculty's relationship to a dean.  Here's a better one: Your girlfriend fights with you often, severely criticizes your friends and dislikes many of the things that are most important to you.  Eventually you've had it with her and decide to break off the relationship.  She tries to talk you out of it, but you say it's too late to fix the problems.  Are you saying that because you're prejudiced, or because you gave her a chance and she just wasn't the right person for you?

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Anonymous posted on

 Your analogy is completely off the mark. We are talking about a professional realationship here. If it were personal relationships, then a person has every right to remove another person from his life. In a professional relationship, dislike for another does not apply. You might not like your boss because he is just jerk and uncompromising to you. You might not like your boss also because he fails to give you what you want (perhaps space, perhaps he broke off a previous promise to you, perhaps he micromanages you), but that is no ground for firing your boss. The reality of life is that you just have to live with it. The fact of matter is that Pena Mora has not done indisputable wrong that warrants his removal as Dean. That is also why we are debating this.

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Anonymous posted on

Wrong. I personally have no opinion about him.

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Anonymous posted on

 Then why are you endorsing Dean's removal ignoring the specific complaints (the problems which are supposed to be the roots of all these controversy and conflicts)?

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Anonymous posted on

The faculty knows him and has to work with him. So they're in the best position to make that judgement about how well he's doing. If he can't work with them, then there's no reason for him to be here. He'll only harm the school. It's as simple as that. 

In addition, you don't seem to realize that there's no way they would take a decision like this (to call for his removal) lightly. It's absurd to start accusing people of prejudice just because Feni is a minority. You, yourself, are doing what you seem to abhor.

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Anonymous posted on

 Prejudice does not have to be limited to racism. It can be any bias, irrational, against another person. This is what the faculty have shown.. BASELESS disapproval of the Dean. And that is why you want to disregard the baseless complaints, and jump right to the conclusion: that the Faculty simply don't want Feni, so he must go.

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Anonymous posted on

After this 90% no confidence votes, it is the first time to hear that Columbia administrators would prefer him to stay. Go and get an open statement from them. Columbia administrators are highly respected people and they are not those who run the Banana Republic. So please do not speak for them.

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CU_Alum posted on

Do you mean "respect" in the sense of "agree with" or of "acknowledge its authority"?

I can't fault the administration for trying to solve the problem without replacing Feni.  But it hasn't worked.  So yes, I respect the decision thus far in both senses of the word.  But if the administration lets him remain in office much longer, I will only respect it in the latter sense.

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Anonymous posted on

I mean acknowledge and accept the decision. Does not matter if u agree.  And please do not speculate why the administration has not removed Feni. Perhaps, they think Feni is actually doing a good job and there is no basis for removing him.

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CU_Alum posted on

"...please do not speculate why the administration has not removed Feni."

Please offer a similar response to the comments that speculate -- insist, actually -- that Feni's critics are merely prejudiced.

"Perhaps, they think Feni is actually doing a good job and there is no basis for removing him."

Conceivably they think he is doing a good job, but it is not conceivable that they see "no basis" for removing him.  When more than 90% of the senior faculty openly rebel against a dean, that by itself is basis for removal.  It has to be weighed against reasons for keeping Feni in office, and the latter reasons might somehow outweigh the former, but I doubt it.  Even if they do, to insist that there is "no basis" to remove Feni is to willfully ignore the facts.

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Anonymous posted on

It is conceivable that Feni is doing a bad job. It is also conceivable that he is doing a good job. The administration has not removed him, for many reasons. That is why we should not speculate what administration thinks. On the other hand, I can still support Feni and believe that he is doing a good job, because that is my opinion. You made your opinion sound like it is administration's opinion or the truth of the situation, and that is why people have problem with you.

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Anonymous posted on

 And here is the proof of you trying to represent administration's stance: I can't fault the administration for trying to solve the problem without replacing Feni.  But it hasn't worked

Why would you assume that the Administration's reason for not removing him is because they are trying to solve the problem in the most passive manner possible and imply that the administration admits that Feni's is at fault? Perhaps, they have already made their decision, that not to remove Feni is right thing to do. I am simply offering an alternate angle to your speculation. Now i can see that you acknowledge the problem with speculation, that it can be biased.

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Anonymous posted on

 Agreed. People can draw conclusions, but you speak like every word is a fact.

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Kim Dubling posted on

Everything is in context. If one professor upsets the dean, he has the power to do a lot to that one professor. Given 90% professors, the story is different. In that case, the Dean has no power. You should be more analytical than this to discuss a situation as severe as this.

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Anonymous posted on

but now it is clear -- it is essentially all of the professors
so it really doesn't matter

when in an election or a vote one side get 58% it is a landslide
here it is (about) 90%
it is overwhleming
it is essentially unanimous

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Kim Dubling posted on

Then why not release the names? To stand up for one's vote? Why play hide and seek, if they all truly disapprove of Pena Mora? 

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Anonymous posted on

I am sure Dean's 5% supporters are known to the Dean. The Dean can instead release the names of his supporters. It is easier to put down the names of the 5% instead of 90% of the faculty here.

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Kim Dubling posted on

That would be acceptable. Release the 10% that either support him or remain neutral. 

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Anonymous posted on

Actually, not acceptable.  How do we know that in fact the vote is 90% negative.  Why should we trust them?  I want each to own their vote.  As an alumni, that is so proud of where the Dean has taken us, their names is truly important to me. 

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Anonymous posted on

What about the Board of Visitors [Many of the most influential alumns, many of whom are donors]?  Are they also superfluous visitors?  They held a vote of confidence on the Dean.  They even added the caveat that if the faculty presented a vote of no confidence on the Dean, they'd asked the administration to have the Dean stay in his job and ignore the faculty.

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CU_Alum posted on

Where is your evidence that this happened?  Even if it did, the Board of Visitors has no actual authority over matters like this.

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Anonymous posted on

Where is your evidence that they have no actual authority?  This is the issue, all community members, past or present, have authority and if not are a very important voice.  Alumni (important ones for that matter), current students, community and Columbia Administrators support the Dean.  Furthermore, although you claim they have no authority, they have heard the faculty complaints in detail along with others and they still voted against the faculty.  Doesn't that say something about the faculty and most likely their unfounded claims?  
Let's recognize this for what it is, a) a group of racist faculty who can not stand the excellent leadership of a person of color and b) a group of professors afraid for their jobs, (most of the senior faculty would not stand a chance of being hired under Dean Pena-Mora's leadership and his high standards of excellence.  Remember, most of the Senior Faculty must have gottent their jobs when Columbia was ranked in the 30's and 40's).  Oh, and by the way, how many more people are we planning to discount ("no actual authority")?  So far the students, community, now the BoV....Who's next?

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CU_Alum posted on

Look at any organizational chart for any part of Columbia, or for the entire university.  It will show you who has authority over whom.  And Boards of Visitors do not appear anywhere on those charts.  The boards are mostly there to raise funds and offer informal advice to the deans.  Since the individual members usually are not academics, their advice seldom deals with faculty concerns.

And though I asked for evidence that the SEAS board voted against the faculty, you merely insist that it happened, offer no evidence at all, and expect me to be impressed.  If it actually happened, then it might "say something" about the situation.  But I don't believe it did.

Where is your evidence that any of the faculty's concerns are racially motivated?  You make the accusation repeatedly, yet you don't offer even the slightest bit of proof.  That Feni is a minority member is not enough; you have to show that these things are happening *because* he is a minority member.  Without facts to back it up, all you have is an assumption.

And as I've explained in response to another, very similar comment, the faculty who voted no confidence in Feni *all* have tenure.  They can only be fired for serious misconduct, gross neglect or their duties or the complete elimination of their programs.  None of them has any reason at all to be "afraid for their jobs" as you claim.  That means none of what's happening can be explained the way you want to explain it.

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Anonymous posted on

Since the faculty "argument" or rather claims are baseless and oblivious, the BOV, Trustees, students, and President are left to believe that such claims are based on racist views. The faculty could easily dismiss such view by presenting clear and tangible evidence against the Dean. But they are yet to do that. They are simply hiding behind a "we dont trust him" child-like attitude. 

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CU_Alum posted on

They *have* presented their evidence against the Dean.  They just haven't presented it publicly.  Such matters are not *supposed* to be public.  They are handled internally, and presented to the offices of the provost and/or the president.  You seem to think that if it hasn't appeared in the news then it hasn't happened.  That's not how the world works.

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Anonymous posted on

Then neither those who support nor those who object to the dean really have a founded ground for his removal/tenure. Let the administration decide then.

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Anonymous posted on

Chairs not controlling the voting process?  Really?  What do you call Shree Nayar (CHAIR OF COMPUTER SCIENCE) managing the voting process for the Computer Science Department? 

Shree Nayar, instead of going after the dean and orchestrating/managing the vote-of-no-confidence, please focus on the CS department. It is such a great department, although stagnant since you joined as Chair [as guided by its less than stellar ranking]. If you were to dedicate 10% of the time that you have put into making the dean's life a living hell, you would have more to speak of for your legacy. Instead, your legacy is one of disruption and sabotage of the school's upward trajectory.

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Anonymous posted on

I repeat the reply I made to AN above, who made a similarly incorrect claim about the voting process. Shree Nayar did not manage the voting process for Computer Science; he had nothing to do with the process.  Please refrain from making statements which you do not know to be true (and which are in fact untrue).And for the record, anyone who knows the slightest thing about him knows that Shree Nayar is a brilliant and accomplished scientist (who has been an absolutely stellar leader of the CS department).  To "Vote Irregularity":  unless you have written hundreds of scientific papers, received the highest honors that can be bestowed in your research field, and have been elected to the National Academy of Engineering and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, I suggest that you refrain from commenting on Shree Nayar's legacy.

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Anonymous posted on

I think he meant the legacy of Shree making Columbia's Computer Science dept a great one and not just through his own academic and scientific accomplishments.  A man of many academic and scientific accomplishments ONLY suggests that he is brilliant like you said and is an authoritative figure in the computer science field.  That in no way implies he has the comp sci dept's best interests in mind over his own ambitions nor does it imply he has what it takes to increase CUCS's ranking.

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Anonymous posted on

Right. No one is doubting the accomplishments of SEAS faculty. However, what the BOV, Trustees, students, and President see is a group of individuals whose claims regarding the dean are baseless. THUS, excellent scientists such as Mr. Shree Nayar, more than anyone, should know something about logic and using evidence to present and argument. He nor his colleagues have any substantial evidence, which is why the BOV, Trustees, students, and President have not sided with them. And since there is no base for their "argument," we are left to believe that their claims are based on racist views of the Dean. 

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Anonymous posted on

And neither you nor your counterparts on this comment thread have any substantial evidence of your claims or racism, which is why we don't believe you.

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Anonymous posted on

Mr. Shree Nayar, thank you for citing your resume. Your kid must be proud. 

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Anonymous posted on


Thanks to Shree and other Chairs who courageously stood up years ago. They prevented irreversible damage to their departments, protecting among others their junior faculty members. 
Shame on those who kept repeating "We can only hope that the Dean is a quick learner".

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Anonymous posted on

Provost Coatsworth, thanks for showing us how institutional racism works, truly, thanks for the lesson!  While other Deans at Columbia have been given a vote of no confidence (some currently seating Deans), none of their laundry was washed in public. No stories in the NYT, even better, not one in the Spectator. 

The Columbia administration immediately squashed the subversive faculty, resolving the issues internally.  In Dean Pena-Mora's case they allowed it to fester, allowed the faculty to make them public and now they are playing dead.  OH MY!  What a double standard!  

President Bollinger, what is going on?  I had such high expectations of you!!!

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Anonymous posted on

Feni, get out of this body :)

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Anonymous posted on

Some professors are just pissed off that their jobs are on the line.  This guy might be an a-hole but he clearly sees the incoming competition from China, his own India, and some other countries where their cities might not be as developed as ours, but their youth are equally, if not WAY MORE ambitious, hard working and hungry. And it is exactly for that reason (growing up in a bad living condition) that so many chinese and indians strive to learn the ropes of engineering - they want out and they're extremely hungry.

And the increasing competition are not in the areas of environmental engineering, chemical engineering (not as much) or mech-e.  no offense guys but reality is reality. I'm in the environmental engineering program myself but in terms of human advancement, the areas such as computer engineering/science and some parts of physics are what we're facing competition from and also happen to be the area that make the most money, not just for its degree holders.

Obama just put in an order for another couple billion dollars worth of artificial intelligence research to increase the presence of robots in the battlefield, lessening the need for human lives on the front line.  Pfizer just put in a billion dollar order for biomedical engineering research.  This is where the money is.  This is where the competition is.  And, sadly, just how airline pilots and attendants raged, protested, and fought hard when their executives cut benefits, salaries, funding, and even jobs in their departments because they were no longer needed, here too, we must do the same at columbia.
 
our profs are just much louder employees.  when goldman sachs regularly cut their junior level employees off the payroll (so they forfeit their bonuses which are then shared by the after the layoff), nobody complained.

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Anonymous posted on

I'm sorry that this discussion now involves a bunch of clueless idiots making all sorts of unsubstantiated and ridiculous claims (MIT and others are racist or this or that is acceptable or unacceptable) and demands (the vote should be open, or in the past - fire the faculty).They have no idea how universities operates and the importance of the faculty. If they are Columbia students, they should not have been admitted.

SEAS like any school has many constituencies. But it is first and foremost its faculty. Some of them have been here 20, 30 years. Like in other parts of Columbia they are decent people mostly focused on their research and teaching. Some like Shree Nayar are superstars and contribute disproportionally to the research standing of Columbia and SEAS. A no confience vote in a dean is a very serious matter. I believe none of the faculty took it lightly.

No dean can function with a significant number of faculty voting no confidence in him/her. The recent solution of Executive Vice Dean is unsustainable. If the level of no confidence is near 90% (note that this is a report by one professor) then any decent dean would step down.

Like CU_Alum I assume/hope that a face saving solution is found in a matter of weeks..

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Anonymous posted on

You sound very rude. I am sorry that students are not in the inner circle of academia and departments that you claim to work in; I am sorry that they are so incompetent that they are forming the best conclusion possible given the meager information. What do you know about the situation at hand? Nothing. You are in no better position to speak of this than alumni and students. Actually, they have much greater say in this issue because they are affiliated and engaged with Columbia, for which they care about very much. Your words exemplify the very type of faculty who thinks he is the brightest, the most respected, and the most authoritative in the room. You think you can walk on water. You demand actions to be taken in the way you want without reservation. You condemn students as idiots, instead boasting that the faculty is most important in an academic institution as if they can take whatever they want and spit out whatever they don't like. BTW, most students would never criticize their faculty, no matter what they do, because they believe the best in them. I hope that faculty does not just throw around the students as a pawn of their political attacks, liking them when they are of use and shunning them when they disagree. You show no hesitation attacking students and alumni, not deriving even the slightest guilt for your remarks and/or empathy for their good will (even if they might disagree with you). Deplorably, Dean Pena Mora has to deal with the types of attitude that you demonstrate...

Again as a non-SEAS faculty, you have no position to demand a solution with a deadline. Most of us who care about this institution would rather see the solution be worked out with care, with reasonable time and consideration. We do not demand action be taken in one way or another, at one time or at another. We simply hope for the best solution possible, while voicing our criticisms of specific aspects of the situation that we have some knowledge. Again we do not need to provide the most thorough analyses. All we need to do is to raise our concerns, so that those people in the inner circle can take our concerns into consideration and judge the merits of our constructive criticism with their in-depth perspective.  

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Anonymous posted on

Read my comment again and try to understand it.
I don't deplore anyone and I don't demand anything.

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Anonymous posted on

As a genius Professor, you should know something about the "tyranny of the majority." There is a reason this concept exists. What good-hearted people want is for Pena Mora not to suffer from the tyranny of the majority, should this circumstance be true. Again, professors have not presented any substantial complaints that warrant mandatory removal of a dean. In fact, they claim that their lack of confidence of Pena Mora cannot be fixed by addressing the problems they elucidate. Sounds like a tyranny of the majority.... 

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Anonymous posted on

The real question is why Pena Mora hasn't stepped down already. Does he really think he should remain Dean after the faculty has so explicitly expressed their overwhelming lack of confidence in him? That's a totally unrealistic expectation. All he's doing is further damaging the school and his own reputation. He seems to be clinging to his job, and that's really sad. It would have been much better if he had left earlier in a more dignified manner. 

And the mindless charges of racism from his supporters don't strike me as "good-hearted" to say the least.

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Anonymous posted on

The problem is specific to Pena Mora. He is the only one confident in himself. Despite the best education he had received in this country at M.I.T., his mentality remains very backward. He does not perceive the value of democracy and decision made by the majority. We have seen how the leaders in Iraq, Libya, Egypt, Syria, and other places acted recently. They tried to cling on to power until the last moment. This is exactly what Pena Mora has been doing.

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Anonymous posted on

What do you expect from the 'prodigy son' , as proclaimed by in the first paragraph of his Wikipedia page?

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Anonymous posted on

Do you think Americans have democracy?   American democracy is a joke! All rulers from the priviliged family. Bush, romney......  As technical slaves of this country, professore have no chance to involve the national politics and voice their opinions, only way to release their energy is to harass their reachable administrators from the minority....

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Anonymous posted on

That's an interesting twist in the debate... :-) But no, I don't really believe that's what he has in mind. It's mostly his confidence on the support he's got from the administration. On the other hand, democracy in academia works more like the original Greek democracy; just a few enlightened people decide.

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Anonymous posted on

You are so Naive and Misinformed, Statue of Liberty. There is no such democracy you describe of in any society. Everyone has to learn to obey their bosses in life. 

The coups in Iraq, Libya, Egypt, and Syria are political battles among different factions. The protestors you see are pawns of a larger power struggle, fool.

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Anonymous posted on

BTW, explain the democracy that the Occupy Wall Streeters, the average american protestors, the college campus students enjoy?

Exactly, they enjoy none.

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Anonymous posted on

Let's be clear, the only people humiliated here have been the faculty.  Why do you think they keep crying like babies?  Not one person believes in their claims.  Students, Alumni, BoV, Administration, Community have extended a vote of confident to Pena-Mora.  Who is the larger constituency?  WHY SHOULD WE SIDE WITH THE LOSERS?  If no one is listening, obviously they have a major problem: being caught in a racist act is terrible!!

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Anonymous posted on

Agree. Whether he is a good dean or a bad dean at this point doesn't matter anymore. Once your reputation has been publically huminiated, I don't know how you can stay in your job. You are only sinking your reputation and that of the school deeper and deeper by staying on. This is one of the major reasons why Columbia has not received any money from Bloomberg like Cornell and NYU, because of the disarray of the school and nonfocus, and the fact that everyone did not rally behind a single project.

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Anonymous posted on

No, the Dean's reputation has not been publicly humiliated. Conversely, the BOV, Trustees, President, student body see the profs as losers who are simply crying loudly for attention. If the profs were right, if their claims were logical, at all, do you think CU administrators would have let this problem escalate to where it has? If the profs were right, the administration would have fired Feni, and that's it. But their claim is baseless. 

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Anonymous posted on

The above comment does not charge racism. Please be precise and accurate in your accusations, or you lose credibility.

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CU_Alum posted on

I am not a professor.  I'm an alumnus.  That's why my user ID is "CU_Alum" and not "CU_Prof".  I don't know why you think I'm a professor.  I certainly never claimed to be one, just as I never claimed to be a genius.  But then you often presume facts with no supporting evidence.

Sadly, you are the one who does not understand the "tyranny of the majority".  That concept applies only in democracies, where a majority vote could trample minority rights. (Limits on the power of the majority, like those found in the U.S. Constitution, are a way to deal with this problem.)  Columbia is not a democracy.  The concept does not apply to university affairs.  And even if it did, it still wouldn't apply in this situation since Feni does not have a right to be the Dean.  He holds that position at the discretion of the president and the trustees, and he can be fired if he does his job poorly.  The president and trustees won't know if he's doing poorly unless they hear from constituencies like the faculty (and, yes, the students).  If students were almost all unhappy with the Dean, I'm sure you would not find anything wrong with them saying so and calling for his removal.  There is no reason why the faculty should be more limited.

The faculty say their grievances cannot be fixed, but that is not a reflection on them.  The grievances cannot be fixed because they are about Feni and not about structure or operations.  He micromanages.  He is authoritarian.  He can't be trusted to keep his promises.  If Feni were more flexible and could change his ways, these problems would have been fixed long ago.  But he isn't flexible, and nothing Columbia can do will change that.  Acknowledging this fact is not tyranny of the majority.  Neither is removing Feni from his position if his inflexibility is hurting the school -- as it quite plainly is.

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Anonymous posted on

Then make ur title clearer. Don't call yourself "a Non-Seas faculty", which you did. And call other people outsiders, and pretend you are an insider in your previous comment. You also pretended to have a tone of a professor, saying "professors do not treat the vote of no confidence lightly." How do you know this unless you are a professor? And now it seems that you removed your previous comment, since it is nowhere to be found, You seem to be MANIPULATING EVIDENCE. This is what I am afraid of. Professors manipulating evidence and sentiment against Pena Mora. 

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CU_Alum posted on

I never called myself a non-SEAS faculty member.  That was someone else.  Presumably he/she really is a professor in another part of CU.  But all of my comments are posted under the name CU_Alum.  It's not hard to distinguish my comments from other people's.  That you presume the other commenter was also me is just more evidence that you leap to conclusions without factual support -- something that had already become quite clear.

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Anonymous posted on

Then  it is useless to argue with you. You assumed that my comment was pointed at you when it is not then. I was responding to the comment titled "a Non-Seas Faculty"

If you didn't make that comment, then why would you assume that my response was directed to you in the first place? 

Stop trying to damage control your comment: 
"I am not a professor.  I'm an alumnus.  That's why my user ID is "CU_Alum" and not "CU_Prof".  I don't know why you think I'm a professor.  I certainly never claimed to be one, just as I never claimed to be a genius.  But then you often presume facts with no supporting evidence.
Sadly, you are the one who does not understand the "tyranny of the majority".  That concept applies only in democracies, where a majority vote could trample minority rights. (Limits on the power of the majority, like those found in the U.S. Constitution, are a way to deal with this problem.)  Columbia is not a democracy.  The concept does not apply to university affairs.  And even if it did, it still wouldn't apply in this situation since Feni does not have a right to be the Dean.  He holds that position at the discretion of the president and the trustees, and he can be fired if he does his job poorly.  The president and trustees won't know if he's doing poorly unless they hear from constituencies like the faculty (and, yes, the students).  If students were almost all unhappy with the Dean, I'm sure you would not find anything wrong with them saying so and calling for his removal.  There is no reason why the faculty should be more limited.The faculty say their grievances cannot be fixed, but that is not a reflection on them.  The grievances cannot be fixed because they are about Feni and not about structure or operations.  He micromanages.  He is authoritarian.  He can't be trusted to keep his promises.  If Feni were more flexible and could change his ways, these problems would have been fixed long ago.  But he isn't flexible, and nothing Columbia can do will change that.  Acknowledging this fact is not tyranny of the majority.  Neither is removing Feni from his position if his inflexibility is hurting the school -- as it quite plainly is.

Like
Reply"

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Anonymous posted on

Now you reverted back your previous comment. You are so unethical. 

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CU_Alum posted on

Something is wrong with the Disqus system today.  It presented your comment that began "As a genius Professor...." as if it was in response to something I had written earlier.  Now it says the comment was in response to something the commenter called "a non-SEAS faculty" wrote. That's where the mixup came from. (I have seen it make other mistakes today as well.)
"A non-SEAS faculty" and I are two different people.  I did not write her comment, and she did not write mine.  I did not intend to make my comment seem like one she had written.  I was simply misled by a technical error.  That does not make me unethical.

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Anonymous posted on

Then I'm deeply sorry about that mix up too.

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CU_Alum posted on

 Thank you.  I appreciate your apology and I humbly accept it.

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Anonymous posted on

CU_Alum, I don't think you understand tyranny of the majority applied to this situation. What the previous commenter meant was that Pena Mora should not be removed simply because 90% of tenured faculty voted against him. Instead, a reasoned, comprehensive process should be undertaken to decide whether he should be removed. The previous commenter thinks that a tyranny of the majority will occur should the administration simply do what 90% of the tenured faculty wants. The commenter did not say that the faculty have no rights to voice their concerns. He only said that we should not base the final decision solely on 90% votes, which is your proposition. 

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CU_Alum posted on

I never said the administration should fire Feni solely (or even largely) based on the faculty vote.  In fact, I'm the one who pointed out that "a private university is not a democracy".  But the faculty's reasons for wanting him fired are quite valid, and I agree with them.  There are serious problems that call for Feni's removal.  That 90% of the faculty are upset about them matters, but the problems themselves are the main reason he has to go.

Whenever somebody in management seriously alienates most of his people, that is cause for concern.  His superiors need to either fix the problem, replace the manager, or accept a complete breakdown of the unit under his control.  Occasionally the problem lies not in the manager but rather in the other members of his unit, but there is no reason to think that is true here.  The problem is Feni, not the faculty.

A complete (or even partial) breakdown of SEAS is not an acceptable solution.  Feni has been given chances to correct the problems and has not been able to do so.  Replacing him is the only remaining option.  That is what Low Library has to do -- not because most faculty want it, but because it is the only way to solve the very real problems that have upset them.

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Anonymous posted on

Would you elucidate those very serious concerns? 

And if you are not practicing selective reasoning, then you should also acknowledge that the faculty have made it clear that no matter how the problems are addressed, Feni must go.  So their problem seems to be about the actual problems, but with Feni himself. This is not ground for removal. Just because you don't like a person, doesn't mean he should lose his job as a result.

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Anonymous posted on

*NOT to be about

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Anonymous posted on

The subset of the faculty complaints that have been made public are all very serious and make it clear that the problem is largely with Feni himself, whether it's dishonesty/trust issues, poor decision making, inability to work with faculty in a constructive manner, etc. So it's clear he must go -- you can't have a Dean who lacks the trust and respect of the faculty. 

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Anonymous posted on

He might be a cumbersome person for faculty to interact with. He might be hard to exist with, but he got incredible results and transformed the school in positive ways. And the results stand clearly to defend his deanship. 

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CU_Alum posted on

What "incredible results" has he achieved?  Yes, SEAS is doing well in the rankings.  He deserves some credit for that, but most of it belongs to his predecessors. (For instance, it helped that SEAS has seven first-rate, brand-new labs in the NWC building.  They opened after Feni became Dean, but the building was already under construction when he arrived.  He does not deserve credit for that.) 

He also deserves credit for some very fine fund-raising and for improving the experience of undergrads.  As I've said elsewhere, he does some parts of his job quite well.  I don't think anyone denies that.

But the results he has achieved also include an alienated faculty.  That is a *very* serious problem, and it is almost entirely of his own doing.  As word of the faculty's discontent spreads, the school's ability to recruit new professors will suffer greatly.  That is another of his achievements.  If he remains in office, these changes alone will reverse the school's recent momentum.

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Anonymous posted on

I am a professor in an NYC college. I would say that these kinds of politics on the departmental and the school level are fairly common. There have always been tension between administrators and faculty as well as among faculty. I personally do not know the extent of the bickering at Columbia, but I would say that in general, a professor takes into account tangible factors- such as the caliber of research, the reputation of people in the department, topics of research, money, benefits, location, and facility - when deciding whether to move to an university. Unless I am the departmental chair, I don't really care what the dean says or does, because academic politics occur at regular intervals in all institutions.

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Anonymous posted on

Right, so this shows how serious this problem with this Dean has become. It's an extraordinary event when 90% of the faculty formally votes and demands that a Dean be replaced.  This goes way beyond the usual tensions and politics you're talking about.

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Anonymous posted on

 I knew it will all come down to this, the Angry Black Male.

Had he been White, micromanaging would have been "attention to detail", authoritarian would have been "true leadership and assertiveness" and he can be trusted to keep his promises would have been " a reassessment of priorities from his part, or standing still against excess".  Get  the picture!

Your argument is truly biased!!!

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CU_Alum posted on

You have a lot of nerve making an accusation like that against someone you don't know.  Feni's issues have nothing to do with his race.  What's actually biased is insisting that Feni's critics must be racist and that, due to his own ethnicity, he can't possibly deserve the criticism.

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Anonymous posted on

 Columbia is an academic institution and place of business, not a marriage or place to entertain a personal relation between you and your boss.  I believe it is not sensible on your part to ask to overturn the Dean just because the faculty disagrees over how the business should be ran, particularly given the progress SEAS have achieved since the Dean joined our school.  Like in other places of business, I would expect that faculty all sit at the table and reach a compromise and consensus as to how to move forward, particularly given the impressive positive trajectory the school has undertaken in the last three years and that you all have benefited.  Asking for the removal of the Dean makes all of you look childish, and “old guard ivory tower people”, which I am sure is not your intent.

I would not ask that you or the faculty do anything that you wouldn’t expect from your students.  As role models to them, my expectation is that you teach with your actions collaboration, civility and respect.  Do you allow your students to not collaborate with each other in class because they disagree over their project or because they do not like each other or trust each other, or do you work with them in reaching a compromise so they learn to work together?  As the mother of a Columbia student I am concerned by what could be perceived as an entitlement behavior that suggest that you do not have to listen to anyone but yourself.  I can’t seem to understand, if your rationale is right as you believe, how come the faculty voices have been ignored by so many and many of us disagree with your perspective.  Absent the specifics, it is too hard for me to agree with your position. 

I am not asking from the faculty to like or trust the Dean, just that you work with him and provide him, our students, who love him and those of us parents who stand behind him a fair chance. Given that all of us have Columbia School of Engineering’s best Interest at heart, It couldn’t be so difficult to work together, as I usually tell my children.

Out of curiosity, you have a very strong perspective about the Dean, are you going by your personal interactions with him? or Is this second hand knowledge?  If the latter, please meet with him, I can attest that he is none of the things you claim he is.  You will love this guy and his management style!

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CU_Alum posted on

Nobody denies that Feni works well with students and parents.  He works well with alumni, too.  I've come away from my own meetings with him very impressed.  Those are aspects of his job that he does quite well.

But part of being a leader is working well with the people you're supposed to lead.  That's even more true in academia than in business, since a Dean has less authority over professors than corporate managers normally do over their personnel.  Feni has failed miserably in this regard.

The faculty isn't upset because they "disagree" over how to run the school.  If you think that's all there is to it then you should read some of the other articles on this subject.

The school's trajectory is the same one it has been on for over 15 years.  Feni deserves some credit for it, but not all that much.  Most of it belongs to his predecessors.

I'm curious why, as a parent, you think you know more about Feni's "management style" than I do as an alum.  He doesn't "manage" either of us, and he doesn't manage your child.  He manages the faculty and staff.  At least where the faculty is concerned, the evidence makes it very clear he has done quite poorly.

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Anonymous posted on

i have to laugh at those who are claiming "institutional racism!" as it is abundantly clear that they have never stepped foot in a mudd classroom in their entire lives...  90% no confidence from faculty is really a bad scene.  it didn't work out... what a shame...

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Anonymous posted on

I agree, the undergraduate student body is diverse because it is selected by the Office of Admissions.  On the other hand, why don’t you report to us the number of African American and Latino Graduate students (women for that matter as well) you have at SEAS.  GRADUATE STUDENTS ARE CHOSEN BY PROFESSORS, I bet I can count all of them with one or two hands for the whole 120+ faculty of Senior Professors at the School.  How many do you have in your group, please report?  I bet none!

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Anonymous posted on

Feni could save himself by pulling in a massive donation or working with Bloomberg and getting some city financing for the new campus and take all the credit for that. The medical school, law school, and business school have seen massive donors, SEAS needs to work on this.

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Anonymous posted on

What is the official definition of minority? Is Feni a real minority in US, because he was not born here??
Moody-Adam, the real minority did not cry for racism (she has all my respects), but the majority of Dominican Republic cried for racism. Please grow up

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Anonymous posted on

So you are saying that not standing up for discrimination, that remaining quiet is an honorable thing to do? Perhaps, for the bully, it would be an ideal situation, to practice prejudice against helpless, silent victims. 

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Anonymous posted on

 Actually, Feny is given that he has Puerto Rican ancestry.

As another minority, I find your dismissiveness of the issue insulting and your implications that what makes Moody-Adams a true hero is the fact that she tolerated the abuse that most likely came her way silently. 

If this is what you believe, you definitely should then disagree with the faculty, they should also learn from her.

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Anonymous posted on

I wonder why it bothers you so much when someone feels discriminated against? 

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Anonymous posted on

 The question should be, why do you feel not bothered?

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Anonymous posted on

You should also make the same request to the administrators, pena mora, and board of visitors too. You can't just ask for anonymous one-sided story. It is not balanced journalism. 

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rick131 posted on

Agree. Spec should be talking to everyone and getting real information from Prezbo on down.

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ColumbiaSpectator posted on

We've already been in contact with administrators and several members of the board of visitors, and we've been trying to get an interview with Dean Peña-Mora. If anyone has any information, please let me know! Look for a follow-up article in the next few days. —Casey

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Anonymous posted on

To CU_Alum:  Thank you for your patient, eloquent, logical and sensible responses.  I completely agree with everything you said.  In some cases I was surprised an alumnus knows so well how things work, in stark contrast to some of the other commenters here, while in other cases I was surprised that you had to state something so logically obvious, and yet people still argued with you.  In any case, I appreciate that you took the time to respond.   I am going to try to respond to some of the comments as well. 

Many of the comments here are quite contradictory, even when coming from the same person.  The faculty and university are criticized for making this whole issue public.  They are also criticized (by the same person) for hiding it.  There was even criticism that the vote was through secret ballot, because somehow this is supposed to make it easier to corrupt and influence the votes (?!)   When someone asked for concrete grievances against the dean, I listed a few that I know of (there are many others, some of which are listed in other articles and comments).  In response, I was criticized for ignoring his achievements -- I am not ignoring, I was just responding to the question.  I think CU_Alum did a great job pointing out the parts of the job that the dean did extremely well, and what credit he should (or shouldn't) get for the school going up in the rankings.  I think it's wise for the faculty to behave respectfully, and not go to the press with all their issues, protecting the interests of everyone -- students, faculty, alumni, etc.  The goal is not to humiliate the dean, the goal is to get good leadership, and prevent any damage to the school.  So the issues were communicated responsibly -- first to the dean, then to the administration.  I trust the administration will do the only reasonable thing at this point, and find a way to remove the dean, hopefully in a face saving way for him. I don't see any reason for the faculty to go public and fight him through revealing everything to the press. 

Regarding the request to sit with the dean and talk to him and work it out:  sure, that's a great idea.  This is what the faculty started with.  Three years later, when it still didn't work, they were fed up and admitted the reality -- that this is not solvable without removal of the dean.  To answer the argument that the faculty refuse to work with him even if he fixes the issues: the faculty gave him a long time to do so.  If today he suddenly promised to fix everything, the faculty wouldn't believe him.  Because he says one thing and does another.  Even he *himself* basically said in the interview to bwog that he shouldn't be taken literally  -- from 
http://bwog.com/2012/04/28/dea...  : "I like to speak enthusiastically, but some take it very literally.”  So if faculty sit to talk to him, and he says some wonderful enthusiastic things, but then goes on to do something completely different -- that won't work.  Trust is completely broken.  In any case, this is hypothetical, since he's not promising to fix anything, and doesn't seem to be willing to listen.   Do his supporters think that three years is not enough time to try to sit and work something out?  There is simply no trust, to such a degree, that working relations are not possible  (this is in addition and in response  to very concrete complaints, that I am too tired of listing again).  

Regarding the prejudice accusation:  I think it is offensive that it was made by those local politicians to begin with, but what is even more offensive, is that Feni did not stand up to defend his faculty against this.  Does he think the faculty is racist?  (is 90% of the faculty racist??)  If he thinks so, why does he want to keep working with them?  If he doesn't think so, why doesn't he stand up for the faculty -- who he is managing ? 

Regarding the vote:  If these numbers are accurate -- 90% no confidence, 5% supporters, 5% abstain, this is amazing, in my opinion.  The fact that 95% voted is huge (how often is there a 95% turn out to vote about anything?).  The fact that 90% voted no confidence is, as far as I know, unprecedented.  The fact that he has many supporters among students and BoV can be explained by the fact that they do not work too closely with him, and the things he says sound great -- it's only when people start working with him more closely that they realize he is impossible to work with. 

To the NYU professor, who said that unless you're the chair you shouldn't care too much about the dean, and don't have much interaction.  I completely agree.  But in Feni's case, due to his micromanagement and mistrust of his faculty, this is simply not the case.  Junior faculty had quite a few occasions to interact with the dean, due to rules he pushed down suddenly and seemingly without much thought.  Examples that I personally was faced with as a *junior* faculty include: exact year when my PhD students have to be TAs (they cannot do more, no less, nor postpone their TAing to later even if they have some fellowship); a new very specific format for the CV that is a pain to prepare and non-standard; exact number of exactly how many people the department is allowed to interview in the semester; cutting down on the number of TAs assigned to courses that faculty teach, so that we have to change the way they teach / grade / etc, as there are really not enough TAs allocated for the enrollment; he even planned (though I think did not end up doing it) to go personally over all the pictures for the "excellentia" coffee table book to  choose the best picture for every professor (the photographer told me she won't be choosing the best picture, as the dean himself will).  These are all examples not of the most horrible things ever, but are given here to respond to the comment that non-chair faculty are shielded from the dean -- even junior faculty are not, in this case.  Now, if it is true that the dean tried to recruit junior (untenured) faculty to help his case / write letters on his behalf, then that is truly horrible, as I am sure every professor will understand.  

There are a bunch of other 'truly horrible' accusations that I do not want to repeat as they did not happen to me personally, and I respect the fact that the senior faculty is trying to take things seriously and not drag everything to the press.    I appreciate the fact that the dean has supporters in the community and among students, indeed he has been very nice to the undergrads, but I don't understand why some people assume that they know all the information, and just assume that almost all the faculty here are simply prejudiced. The only basis they seem to have to this accusation is the fact that the dean is a minority.  Surely you understand that this does not mean that his minority status must be the reason he is being criticized?  (and surely you understand that any 90% of the SEAS faculty include quite a few minorities among them -- who also voted no confidence). 

At this point, morally and practically, the right and only thing to do, is find a way to replace the dean. I trust the administration to do that, and I sympathize with them, as this is quite a difficult task (I bet he is not reasonable or cooperative in his negotiations).  I assume (and hope) that he can find an administrative job that he will be great at, which will not involve managing faculty. 

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Anonymous posted on

Thank you for your kind response. I am happy that a brave faculty like you took the time to clarify the situation from your position. 

I am a student, and thus do not understand all the nuances involved in the current situation. But I do care a lot about the school, as I am a member of this community. 

I have a question that I hope you may answer in part. Do you think that removal  of Dean Pena Mora will be a boon to the school, or a damage, considering how he had done much to improve the undergraduate student experience, fundraising, and alumni relations. I have heard that he rejuvenated the spirit of the school community. Would this and other progresses that he made be hurt or even reversed should he be removed? Also, do you think that the faculty is behaving this way for their own interest or for the collective interest of the school, since you may already know that there are many constituents in addition to the professors whom the Dean affects?

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Anonymous posted on

I think that the whole thing with the dean is not great for the school, of course.  His removal will be the culmination of this, and in the short term it's not good as it is bad for morale of students, may cause strong reactions from community members, it will be public and as such not good for the public reputation of the school and the university, the fact that he's a minority and the fact that two other minority administrators at Columbia left in the last year, all this is not good in the very short term.  But I think it will be good for the school in the slightly longer term (and great for the school in the very long term).  If the dean is not removed, it will be much worse and may reverse the wonderful trajectory of the school.  

Hopefully, whoever is the new dean would talk to all constituents, including students, and will be good to them as well (based on comments above, Zvi Galil was great to the students too, so we can only hope).  I am hopeful, perhaps naively, that some solution can be found where Feni will save face, and the local politicians, alumni, etc are not too upset.  It is less clear to me what to do about them (for students, it seems pretty clear what to do -- make sure the replacement dean works hard to have the students as a high priority). 

Regarding the faculty, I really think they mean well and are responsible. My personal experience is mostly limited to my own department, but I see that the senior faculty is extremely serious and cares deeply about the students as well as the junior faculty. In any case it's hard to separate their own interest or collective interest of the school -- in many cases this is one and the same.   At the end of the day, if the school itself is not functioning well, students and alumni are not happy, or the school spirit, reputation, budget etc are damaged, that directly interferes with the faculty's interests as well (their ability to attract top students, their prestige, and things like space, grants, support from administration, etc etc are all impacted).   So it's in the best interest of the faculty for the school to succeed.  
I also want to believe that the dean has the school's best interest in mind, but he just goes about it in a completely wrong way. 

The truth is we have very (very!) high quality faculty, which work well together and are often real stars in their academic fields, and we have top quality students who are really quite amazing.   So I am optimistic for the future of the school and its trajectory, in all but the very immediate future, until the dust settles on the whole dean issue. My optimism assumes that the dean will be removed -- I am quite pessimistic if he remains as dean (but I cannot imagine this happening, given where the situation is now).  

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Anonymous posted on

I can't agree with some of your points, in particular about the quality of Columbia senior faculty. What I've seen at Columbia Engineering is that there are too many senior faculty who are practically inactive in terms of research. They still did some research activities, but cannot create any research funding. That's the reason why some good graduate students leave for other schools.

But the problem is that those senior faculty members are still taking a lot of resources in terms of TA, funding, and spaces. They tend to refuse any CHANGE that forces them to give up their resources. I've often heard that junior faculty members are complaining about that.

There is no way for me to know whether Dean did well or not, but I think Columbia Engineering needs a change, in particular, senior faculty members who are not active in research.

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CU_Alum posted on

This problem exists at every research university.  I don't know whether it is more pronounced at SEAS than elsewhere.  Either way, though, it doesn't have the consequences you seem to think it has.

Allocation of TAs is based upon teaching, not research.  A large undergraduate class requires more TAs than a small graduate class, whether the professor is a first-rate researcher or not. 

Your complaint about funding also makes little sense, since funding generally refers to research.  A professor who does little worthwhile research won't bring in much outside funding, and he won't get much funding from the school.

Concerns about space make more sense.  If a professor has lab space but under-utilizes it, that's a problem.  But the problem shouldn't have become worse (or at least not much worse) in the three years since Feni arrived.

As far as making "a change" regarding "senior faculty members who are not active in research", remember that these profs all have tenure.  They can be fired for gross dereliction of duties, but if they still teach and do some research then they're probably safe.  That's true even if their research falls below SEAS's standards.  But as I said earlier, the same thing happens at peer universities.  Addressing this problem would involve changing the nature of tenure itself.  That's more than any one Dean -- or even any one university -- can accomplish, especially in a short time.

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CU_Alum posted on

Thanks, rsk.  I deeply appreciate your comments -- both about me and, more importantly, about the situation.

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Anonymous posted on

If the faculty had the best interest of the School, University and students at hands, they would have taken a different route to solve this problem. Rather than attempting to work closely with the new deanship and reach consensus, early on they decided to simply block the dean and any attempt to take SEAS to higher levels of excellence. Why not work with him? Why does it have to be black or white? Why does it have to be the faculty way or no way? Who gave profs the idea that it was their way or no way? The deanship has simply abolished a top-bottom "system" that seemed to favor those that it wished to favor, and instead instituted a more just and balanced system. By doing so, profs have felt their power has been taken away. Well, isn't that how dictatorial leaders in the Middle East must feel like after the Arab Spring? Profs have to stop thinking about themselves and their exclusive powers and pay keen attention, rather, to the growth of the School. 

The BOV, Trustees, many professors, alumni and students, and the president trust and support the dean. If the profs had a logical, base-founded argument, they would have been heard already. But they have not been heard for a reason, because they are dead wrong and do not want to admit it. 

As global politics continue to diversify in a post-Cold War era, the flow of distinct ideas, ideologies, and cultures connect the world more than ever. But in an anarchic international political arena, what explains this global connection? Robert Keohane explains global connections most effectively. While Koehane’s institutionalist theory successfully describes international institutions as an independent variable, offers a concrete causal logic explanation, and presents a counterfactual analysis, Martha Finnemore’s norms theory ignores important aspects of international norms as an independent variable, and consequently fails to offer a satisfactory connection between the independent variable and the theory’s outcome. 
Keohane sees international institutions as “devices” to help accomplish the objectives of its members in a world dominated by sovereign states. His theory of International Institutions argues that the participation of global states in international institutions, organizations, and groups, such as the G-20, leads to mutually beneficial cooperation agreements between members. This is the case because membership facilitates reciprocity between actors, reduces costs in terms of state-to-state negotiations, promotes diplomatic transparency, and increases predictability between state-actors. Moreover, international institutions institutionalize procedures, rules, and structures that help “shape actors’ expectations,” which in turn lead to effective cooperation agreements. From this theory’s perspective, an agreement among the G-20 is the result of the effective interaction between member-states of an international group—in this case the Group of Twenty—and their perspective of an agreement that mutually benefits all members.
In contrast, Finnemore extends beyond the idea that in an anarchic world cooperation agreements between international actors are primarily lead by states’ economic and political interests. Finnemore proposes that international actors also act upon international norms. According to the norms theory, as normative understandings about social, economic, and historical perspectives shift, new international norms are created, which in turn lead international actors to define patterns of behavior and reach agreements based on established norms. Moreover, Finnemore explains that international norms become “increasingly institutionalized in formal international institutions,” which then lead members to reach cooperation agreements based on, or respecting established norms. From this perspective, an agreement among the G-20 is the result of the willingness or desire by international actors to respect and follow established international norms related to the agreement.

While both theories attempt to explain cooperation agreements between international actors in an anarchic global political system, Keohane’s institutionalist theory is most convincing. Its causal logic satisfies the outcome more effectively, and its counterfactual analysis reveals how the outcome would change if the causal logic were to change.

While Keohane describes the function of international institutions as an independent variable and the numerous advantages international actors enjoy due to membership, Finnemore’s theory lacks a satisfactory definition of international norms. She describes the process through which norms originate—shift in perspective, social revolution—yet she fails to describe what originally motivates this process. An effective theory should have a satisfactory explanation/definition of its independent variable to successfully explain an outcome. Since Finnemore does not effectively describe international norms, the reader is left wondering how exactly the independent variable leads to the outcome. This theory’s causal logic does not explain how a shift in perspective might lead to a new norm, how do we measure a shift, and how norms are spread and institutionalized, hence followed by international actors. It is crucial to understand these inquiries in order to explain how international norms might influence cooperation agreements between global actors. Keohane’s theory effectively describes the independent variable, explaining what aspects1 of international institutions lead to cooperation agreements among members, and most importantly, why those aspects lead to the outcome.

On the other hand, an effective theory implements a counterfactual analysis to describe the best scenario to apply it. Keohane’s theory explains that international institutions “whose members share social values and have similar political systems,” are more effective than those who do not share “deep common interests.” This counterfactual analysis is important because analysts are able to apply the theory based on the type of institutions that best fit the independent variable, and consequently can employ a more effective analysis of the causal logic. Finnemore’s theory does not explain under which scenarios the theory should be applied, or how the outcome would be affected if some elements in the casual logic were altered.  
  In an anarchic global political platform, international actors reach each other because cooperation agreements under international institutions, organizations, or groups that share similar interests are more likely and effective than bilateral agreements between two sovereign states.
 
  

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Anonymous posted on

Based on what are you saying these things?  Any evidence? 

" If the faculty had the best interest of the School, University and students at hands, they would have taken a different route to solve this problem. Rather than attempting to work closely with the new deanship and reach consensus, early on they decided to simply block the dean and any attempt to take SEAS to higher levels of excellence. " 

Based on what do you say this? 

"Why not work with him? "

I specifically addressed that, see third paragraph in my comment above. 

"The deanship has simply abolished a top-bottom "system" that seemed to favor those that it wished to favor, and instead instituted a more just and balanced system. By doing so, profs have felt their power has been taken away."

What are you talking about, and based on what do you say this?? 

"The BOV, Trustees, many professors, alumni and students, and the president trust and support the dean." 

Based on what do you say this? 
We have evidence that many students support him, e.g. they came out with a statement of support, etc.  There is no evidence for the rest, and in particular, there's CLEAR evidence that professors do NOT support him.  How many professors do you have in mind when you say 'many'?  There are approximately 120 professors in SEAS, including Feni.  How many of them do you think support him? if by "many professors" you mean some number > 2, then I am sure you're right.  He probably has 5, 10, at most 15 SEAS professors including himself supporting him, and 90  (or more?) who do not (I do not know the exact results of the voting, but a rough calculation based on the numbers in the article, and trying to be generous in the estimation, would suggest this). 

"If the profs had a logical, base-founded argument, they would have been heard already. But they have not been heard for a reason, because they are dead wrong and do not want to admit it." 

Can you give examples of arguments that are dead wrong?  Based on what do you say this? 

And did you think that maybe they "haven't been heard" because, having the best interest of the school in mind, they did NOT go public and try to gain power, but instead tried to " work closely with the new deanship and reach consensus" (which for some reason you claim they should have but didn't).  Maybe that's what they tried till now, and only now, as a last resort, when trying in all possible ways to work with the dean and failing, they realized it's not possible. 
In any case now their voice IS being heard.  Some people are closing their ears and loudly chanting non-sensical accusations in a desperate attempt to not hear, but it's hard to avoid -- it's loud and clear.  

You have a certain story in your mind, complete with what happened, what the faculty tried and didn't try to do, and even what they were feeling -- please explain what is the basis for this story?   do you have any evidence?  what or who gave you this impression?  

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Anonymous posted on

"Regarding the prejudice accusation:  I think it is offensive that it was made by those local politicians to begin with, but what is even more offensive, is that Feni did not stand up to defend his faculty against this"  
I do not understand your reasoning, after reading your letter, why does Pena-Mora have to defend the faculty?  How can he tell what is in the faculty's hearts or their personal motives?  This is like the Groom asking his mother in law to confirm that her daughter loves him.  Why not ask the bride herself?   The interesting question for me is Why hasn't the faculty spoken up and denounce it themselves?  This is more telling to me!

Many of us believe this is prejudice for the following reasons:

Language Use - Dean is micromanager, authoritarian, not keep his promise, culture clash...  This is the new covert forms of prejudice (this is done to females as well).  The language is quite telling.  When you provide the example of the Dean selecting the pictures for the Exelentia Book as micromanagement, I happen to see it as impressive and a total proof of how much he cares about the school, get it?

Inability to Compromise - The Dean as you acknowledge has done great by the school, particularly the faculty, senior faculty for that matter that has benefited tremendously from the recognition received by the many Chaired professorships they received in his tenure, but still they can not work with him because there is "a lack of trust" and "cultural clash" that is prevalent.  

Devaluing of his Achievements and Academic Record -  The continuous pattern of devaluing his record (not getting tenured at MIT, which is quite telling since in 2007, MIT came out in public admitting that they discriminated against minorities.  They had come cleaned in 2003 about the same pattern against females.  Please google it.), not being a good academician.  Failure to recognize his accomplishments for the school. 

Deceptive Information - Over and over the faculty has said or implied that they have many minorities in their senior faculty.  Reality is, they know better, Asians (Indians and Chinese) are not underrepresented minorities, particularly in engineering.  Thus, their continue interest in deceiving people is not only appalling but quite telling.

Graduate Student Minority Underrepresentation - Faculty chooses their graduate students.  At SEAS the number of underrepresented minorities is quite inexistent (same as females), considerably lower than their national representation.  How many of your students are minorities? Your peers? Your admirable senior faculty?  I am going only by what I have seen, but you have the data, please provide it for us.

Minority Faculty Underrepresentation - I believe that only four (4) faculty members in SEAS are truly underrepresented minorities:  Dean Pena-Mora and Professor Blanchet (recently tenured) (Senior Faculty), Professors Ortiz and Terrell (junior faculty).  Three of them arrived after 2009, Pena-Mora, Ortiz and Terrell.  If  you want to expand it and include the other latin american an spaniard professors I believe the number will increase to 9 out of a total of 190+ faculty.  Furthermore and more telling, only two (2) of them are blacks (Pena-Mora and Terrell).

University Acknowledgement of Discrimination Patterns - President Bollinger just launched an initiative to provide $30 million dollars to increase faculty and student underrepresentation.  If this was not an issue in Columbia, why is this measure necessary?  Why the need to "incentivize" faculty and Deans of hiring minorities.  This is not an issue, you all proclaim.  The leadership actions show the opposite.

University Double Standard - Other Deans before have received votes of no confidence from their faculty, but none of it ever made the public.  Why the double standard?  This double standard is from both, administration (I do not know what happened to Bollinger, he lost his way, remember Gratz and Grutter vs. Bollinger) and faculty and is again quite loud.  Where are they now?  How come they haven't denounced the politicians either?  Could it be that they are not sure as well?

Previous History - Since you brought it up, let's not forget Michelle Moody_Adams and Claude Steel, the only two other prominent black administrators, left in less than 2 years.  Pena-Mora has been there for less than three and you acknowledge that for the three years he has had problems.  Which means, that from the outset you had problems with him.  Without any prior engagements with the Dean, how can things turn sour so quick.  I bet that to be hired, he must have come with glowing recommendations from other places.  What could have changed in his life?  Is he bipolar, that went crazy in Columbia?

Professor RSK, these are only some of the things that quickly come to mind as to why the actions of the faculty are perceived as prejudiced.  Their actions are louder than their words, or whining in this case because none of them have come public to denounce it.  Not even your "supposed minority faculty".

Back to you,  What evidence do you have that your senior faculty is not prejudiced?  The fact that they say so? Please dig deeper and report back to us. ALL YOUR ACTIONS ARE LOUDER THAN YOUR WORDS.

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Anonymous posted on

I see, so according to your logic, engineering schools across the country must all be racist because of the over-representation of Asians relative to whites. The explanation, of course, is to look at number of qualified applicants, not just actual numbers of faculty and graduate students of a given group. You seem to miss this very obvious point. But apparently we're not dealing with logic and evidence here, but a type of prejudice that interprets everything through a racial prism. The faculty clearly feels that Feni's a micromanager, authoritarian, and doesn't keep his promises, and as a result is impossible to work with. And yet you see this as racially coded language. How else might those traits be described so as to not offend your sensibilities? 

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Anonymous posted on

When a white person does a bad job or is fired, no one says a word. When a minority or a woman gets fired or does a bad job, suddenly everyone is calling it racist.

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Anonymous posted on

No. That is entirely false.

Let's give a simple example for you. When Dean Austin Quigley (white male) was removed from the post of Dean of Columbia College, there was a huge uproar by students and alumni. He were thereafter reinstated. 

"When a white person does a bad job or is fired, no one says a word. When a minority or a woman gets fired or does a bad job, suddenly everyone is calling it racist." - Your Comment

It seems to me the new weapon for racist people to use is that phrase or variations of it. Somehow, whenever someone points out an example of racism, the act of racism is ignored and instead we attack the minority for speaking up or as they said back in the good ole days "being Uppity."

The fact is that no one here has said anything that would warrant the removal of the Dean. Verbal promises of space, over-powering the Faculty, etc. these are common complaints that all workers have of their employers. It shows that the Dean has the spine to say no to Faculty, who quite frankly almost always get their way. This situation is an excellent example of it. The Faculty are basically saying that they don't care about what the students, alumni, or Board of Visitors feel; it is all about the Faculty. Faculty want. Faculty get.

It is truly shameful.

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Anonymous posted on

In my eyes there was one thing that warranted the removal of the dean just by itself:
reneging on written or oral promises, This leads to a total loss of trust.

The arguments about students and alumni feelings is overblown and has no basis. Nobody polled them and it is not clear how many of them really support him. I bet most don't care. What is clear is that an overwhelming part of th faculty can't work with him.

Has anybdy noticed two interesting facts:
1. There was a rally in the support of FPM with very few people showing up.
2. The was a Web petition not to let him go. 19 peole signed it, all but one or two with hispanic names.

If the Board of Vistors supports the dean, it has not come out and expressed it in any way.

I believe that many of the supporting comments come from few people, some not related to Columbia, perhaps even hired professionals. If you read the comments by rsk and CU-Alum they are  balanced, but  convincing. The supporters refuse to listen.

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Anonymous posted on

Certainly the Prezbo has not come out with a rallying speech behind Feni. That says a lot.

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CU_Alum posted on

Austin was not fired because he was doing a poor job.  To the contrary, he was fired because he was very effective at defending the interests of the College against the efforts of the president and provost to gain more control over it.  Low Library fired him in order to make the College less independent.  Aside from the president and provost, Austin had few if any critics.  Faculty, students and alumni all agreed that he was doing a superb job.

Feni's situation is very different.  The faculty almost unanimously says he is doing his job badly.  There is thus a serious issue about his performance, which was not the case with Austin.

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Anonymous posted on

The dean has great support from the students???
The following concerns by the TA was published in Spectator in December 2011.
The support was so far from the few council members. We are not sure how you may extrapolate it to all the engineering students.

TA concerns
The faculty letter also said "the Dean's decision to change the entire
structure of the SEAS teaching assistant system because one department
had abused it" had caused "chaos for faculty, Ph.D. students, and all
those enrolled in our classes."

According to current TAs, Peña-Mora limited TAs to teaching for only
one year and created a SEAS-wide committee to appoint them. Previously,
TAs were appointed by departments.

Luc Berger, a first-year Ph.D. student in the department of civil
engineering and engineering mechanics and a current TA, said that he was
especially disheartened by Peña-Mora’s decision to limit the TA
positions to one year because he “likes to teach and interact with
students.” As a first-year TA, Berger said he was concerned he may be
out of a job next year.

“The timing is so bad,” he said. “People are leaving.”

Suparno Mukhopadhyay, a Ph.D. student in SEAS, also expressed concern over the new structure.

“It’s very difficult to concentrate on our work because we are
worried if we will be here or not next year,” he said. “It definitely is
a problem. One student left because this policy was coming into
effect.”

Mahesh Bailakanavar, a graduate student in the department of civil
engineering and engineering mechanics, said that while the changes to
the TA system were untimely, a lot of schools, such as Rensselaer
Polytechnic Institute, have these systems in place.

But he said he was still sympathetic to graduate students who have
difficulties funding their educations. "There is something wrong about
this situation," he said. "It's very, very difficult."

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Anonymous posted on

I think the idea to limit the time a graduate student spends TAing is a good one. This way,  PhD students can spend more time on e.g. research.

The issue with the Dean is that he decided to change the TA policy abruptly, without consulting with the faculty. He also neglected to implement a  transition period so that the faculty can implement this new policy without losing their students to other schools, or without having to decline scholarship funding -which is a lot of work to obtain. There are many other cases where the Dean alienated the faculty by imposing changes without consultation and without considerations of how students and faculty would be affected by the transition.

The Dean's ideas and proposals were similar to those of many other successful and respected Deans. What lost our Dean was the implementation of these proposals. What lost our Dean is his lack of interest and respect for the people he was managing.

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Anonymous posted on

I am not an engineer and I want to have a solution to the crisis. I saw Dean Pena-mora's expertise includes management and conflict resolution. He failed in the management of the professors, and he could not find any resolutions to the dean-professor conflict. Can't he use his construction skills to solve the existing disaster (he quoted Katrina and 9-11 in Wikipedia)? The SEAS disaster is getting worse and worse and is becoming a real Columbia disaster.

Wikipedia: Peña-Mora’s research encompasses information technology support for collaboration in preparedness, response, and recovery during disasters such as the 9-11terrorist attack and Hurricane Katrina. He also studies change management, conflict resolution, and processes integration for large-scale engineering systems.

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Anonymous posted on

I've been graduate students at Columbia and also other prestigious research-focused institution. Based on my experience, the changes Dean Pena-Mora have made (including TA thing) are quite close to what other institutions are already doing.

In addition, my impression on Columbia Engineering is too old and out-dated. Columbia has a long history and tradition, but because of that tradition, the administration and research support of Columbia Engineering remains retarded. I was seeing that Columbia Engineering has too many old faculty members who are not in active in terms of research any longer, but they still have privileges in taking resources for research. They are very RESISTANT on any change that takes over their privileges. That's the reason why Columbia Engineering cannot compete with other top engineering school.

I don't know well about who is right, Dean or senior faculty, but I can tell you Columbia Engineering will not compete with other top schools without a radical change.

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Anonymous posted on

Please be more specific about the department(s) that you mentioned, and better if you can tell who are the individuals. Please understand that private schools are different from state schools in securing research money, and thus the nature of research projects.

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Anonymous posted on

Dude, all senior professors are less productive than their junior counterparts. Every school has this problem. That is why some people have been calling to end tenure as a system. 

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Anonymous posted on

All these typos look fishy. The graduate students at Columbia do not make so many spelling mistakes. This post sounds like another desperate attempt to save the Dean's face.

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CU_Alum posted on

English is not the primary language for many engineering grad students.  A modest number of spelling and grammatical errors in an informal comment does not make me suspicious.

But I am suspicious about "Ryan Cbahn"'s substantive claims.  SEAS's steady rise in the rankings -- which has been going on for 20+ years and thus is largely not Feni's doing -- shows that it can indeed compete quite well.  The major limiting factor is space, not personnel. 

There are "many old faculty members who are not in active in terms of research" at peer schools, too.  SEAS has proportionately fewer because it has grown quite a bit in recent years and has done so primarily by hiring younger people.

Most importantly, "Ryan Cbahn" seems to think senior faculty can be fired just like corporate executives.  That's not true.  It's also a mistake made in several other comments -- comments which were signed differently but which likely were all written by the same person.

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Anonymous posted on

Columbia receives one of the largest amounts of grant and research money in the world.  Columbia  produces research at one of the highest levels in the world. Columbia is footnoted and referenced, and published as one of the top ten instituations in the world. Columbia has the most patents of any school in the world. Columbia makes the most money from patents than any other school in the world. Columbia has the most Nobel Prize winners of any university in the world. SEAS undergraduate school is ranked fourth in the nation, and its graduate schools are ranked 15 by USNWR. Obviously you are not informed. Yes, many of the mid west schools have gorgeous new glass facilities, but they cannot compete with Columbia.

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Anonymous posted on

FWIW, many of the patents are courtesy of the med center, not SEAS.

At the end of the day, this entire controversy is just like the one about faculty lobbying to retain 3-bedroom apartments after they retire, without any children at home. Columbia Faculty, across most all disciplines, are selfish and do not care one whit about the students, alumni, staff or the health of the institution. They are only out for themselves (much like hedge funders, but with better PR)

They believe that their tenure justifies their living on past glory, with little or no production in the near term. They are the largest part of the reason why Columbia will never be as highly rated as Harvard, Princeton, Yale or Stanford. If you polled Columbia students anonymously, you might be surprised to see how many have no confidence in the tenured faculty.

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Anonymous posted on

I forgot to mention, they are also too selfish to allow the publication of student feedback of professors...

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Anonymous posted on

I agreed that the tenure system is bad because it will help Pena-mora to stay on once he lost the deanship. The good thing is the system allowed 90% the faculty to vote him out.

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Anonymous posted on

You are totally wrong. THis dispute has nothing to do with entitlements by spoiled faculty. Columbia Engineering is rated higher than Harvard, Prniceton and Yale -- not Stanford. The argument on tenure is too complex to discuss here. All places have dead wood as a result. Columbia Engineering has a number of superstars. They don't live past glory. Almost all of them and perhaps all of them want to see Feni step down, simply because he is unfit for the job and the wrong academic leader for the school.

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Anonymous posted on

No one has more dead wood and "emeritis", retired, entitled professors than Harvard. Harvard has all these people who teach courses once a decade. Probably the same for Princeton and Yale. The majority of undergrads at Harvard and Yale never even see a full professor. Stanford is a newer school only 100 years old and runs like a corporation and does not allow as much dead weight. Professors have very little say there, they have a corporate board.

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CU_Alum posted on

You might want to check your facts before posting.  It's true that more full professors teach undergrads at Columbia than at the other Ivies (except for Dartmouth, where the graduate programs are quite small), but undergrads at the others do get full professors in quite a few of their classes.  Stanford is not structured differently from other top universities, and its board is not terribly different from Columbia's or those at other peer schools.

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Anonymous posted on

Boley is totally deadwood. But Pena-mora is still counting him as one of their NAE members in the US News ranking?

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CU_Alum posted on

Boley is a SEAS professor, and he is a member of the NAE.  These are facts, not figments of Feni's imagination.  I have no idea whether he is "deadwood", and that is a subjective call.  That he is a professor and an NAE member are objectively true.  Why shouldn't he be on the list?

Note that Boley is 87 or 88 years old, has spent many years teaching at SEAS, and was Dean of the engineering school at Northwestern for 13 years.  Before that he was a chaired professor at Cornell.  He is a very accomplished scholar. (See http://www.tandfonline.com/doi...  That you feel he isn't doing enough is no reason to omit him from SEAS's list of NAE members.

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Anonymous posted on

By reading the messages here, I got the impression that SEAS Dean is against aged professors. It would only be fair for him to spare aged people by not taking advantages of Boley.

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CU_Alum posted on

How is Feni "taking advantage"?  Boley is still on the faculty because he doesn't want to retire.  If he wanted to retire, Feni couldn't stop him.

Besides, nothing I have read here suggests that Feni has anything against older professors.  Some commenters (possibly just one using multiple user names) are hostile to the older faculty, but that does not suggest that Feni feels the same way.

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Anonymous posted on

Maybe, but in a poll of student happiness, Columbia was ranked first in the nation last year. And the only other ivy in the top ten was Brown.

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Anonymous posted on

And may I say that a lot of the faculty you suggested got degrees and help positions in Harvard, Princeton, Yale and/or Stanford. 

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achillesserpent posted on

You do realize you are wrong about the Nobel prize statement.

Harvard, uchicago, max Planck, Stanford and the uc system have more Nobel prize winners than Columbia.

What antidepressant are you taking? You might want to switch to ECT Therapy or GW therapy (jumping off the George Washington bridge )

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Anonymous posted on

The Fall of the Faculty : The Rise of the All-Administrative University and Why It Matters
Book Description

Until very recently, American universities were
led mainly by their faculties, which viewed intellectual production and
pedagogy as the core missions of higher education. Today, as Benjamin
Ginsberg warns in this eye-opening, controversial book,
"deanlets"--administrators and staffers often without serious academic
backgrounds or experience--are setting the educational agenda.
The
Fall of the Faculty examines the fallout of rampant administrative
blight that now plagues the nation's universities. In the past decade,
universities have added layers of administrators and staffers to their
payrolls every year even while laying off full-time faculty in
increasing numbers--ostensibly because of budget cuts. In a further
irony, many of the newly minted--and non-academic--administrators are
career managers who downplay the importance of teaching and research, as
evidenced by their tireless advocacy for a banal "life skills"
curriculum. Consequently, students are denied a more enriching
educational experience--one defined by intellectual rigor. Ginsberg also
reveals how the legitimate grievances of minority groups and liberal
activists, which were traditionally championed by faculty members, have,
in the hands of administrators, been reduced to chess pieces in a game
of power politics. By embracing initiatives such as affirmative action,
the administration gained favor with these groups and legitimized a
thinly cloaked gambit to bolster their power over the faculty.
As
troubling as this trend has become, there are ways to reverse it. The
Fall of the Faculty outlines how we can revamp the system so that real
educators can regain their voice in curriculum policy.

About the Author


Benjamin Ginsberg is the David Bernstein
Professor of Political Science, Director of the Center for the Study of
American Government, and Chair of the Government Program of Advanced
Academic Programs at Johns Hopkins University.

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Anonymous posted on

Is Feniosky Pena-mora running office as US Vice President?

Ydanis Rodriguez (@ydanis) on Twitter

TONIGHT! come Stand in support of Dean Pena-Mora tonight at 6:30pm at the Malcolm X and Dr. Betty Shabazz Center

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Anonymous posted on

As a student, I am amused. Why are you acting like a partisan voter? And why do you care? This should be solved by administration. You are politicizing this matter as much as the opponents that you accuse of defending Pena Mora. 

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