Opinion | Staff Editorials

A new chapter for the board of trustees

  • MR. CO-CHAIRMAN | Jonathan Schiller (center) will serve as co-chair of Columbia’s board of trustees with William Campbell.

As last semester drew to a close, Columbia quietly announced that Jonathan Schiller, CC ’69 and Law ’73, would be the successor to Bill Campbell. Campbell, as chair of the board of trustees, is ostensibly the most powerful person at Columbia. There is no doubt that Schiller, an influential alumnus with internationally renowned litigation experience, is qualified to lead the board. However, Schiller’s appointment as co-chair prompted no email to students and was virtually unreported, except for a blurb buried in Columbia’s website, which reappeared in the January 2014 edition of the Columbia College Alumni Newsletter. Evidently, it was decided that Schiller’s appointment was of great interest to alumni, but largely irrelevant to students.

To be sure, this is not a censure of Schiller, nor is it a request for an audit of his credentials—Columbia has given him much fanfare in the past, presenting him with a John Jay Award in 2006 and holding the Alexander Hamilton Award Dinner in his honor in 2012. In contrast, the announcement of his promotion to co-chair seems like a hushed changing of the guard.

We sincerely hope that his quiet appointment is not indicative of the way administrators will be communicating with the student body going forward. But we have high hopes for Schiller, who University President Lee Bollinger claims is “deeply dedicated to Columbia.” Moreover, Schiller has only recently sent three of his own children through the University’s gates, and while this may not grant him real empathy for our causes, we cannot help but hope he will listen more keenly.

When Campbell retires, Schiller will be leading the board of trustees through a pivotal period. With the coming completion of the Manhattanville campus, Columbia will need to make decisions about space reallocation. Schiller will play no small part in the planning and implementation of the global centers and Columbia’s other global initiatives.

It is because of this crucial chapter that we need greater transparency and communication. Schiller’s decisions will undoubtedly impact the day-to-day lives of Columbia students, faculty, and neighbors. Our request for transparency on this matter is not unreasonable. We do not expect Schiller to hold office hours—that is not his job. However, we would like to hear more from him, and for him to listen. By presenting the issues up for debate to members of the Columbia community, and asking to hear from them, Schiller can gain our trust—and more importantly, our cooperation. Proposals, when vetted by our community, can only become more sound. We hope that, when the time comes to plan a new global center, allocate space, or find a new dean, Schiller will look for input beyond the highest echelons in Low.

Hopefully, our worries resulting from this quiet announcement are unfounded and Schiller will strive to be more open and engaging with the Columbia community than his position requires on paper.

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To respond to this staff editorial, or to submit an op-ed, contact opinion@columbiaspectator.com.


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Anonymous posted on

So.... Will there be more strip teases by a male physics professor, or will there be less? Will professors continue to be allowed to hit on graduate students, or will they not? Will the entire Columbia football team continue to exhibit Rhodes Scholar materials, or will they hang on tight to their 0-10 record? Will campus security still look the other way when hate-based assaults happen 10 yards away from them, or will they step up to participate in the assaults? Will Columbia take on more cheating Kazakh applicants, or will we all be kept guessing?

Anonymous posted on

I've missed you so much over break.

protestfolk posted on

One reason Federal Reserve Bank of New York Board Chairman Lee Bollinger might not have been eager to publicize too much the fact that a Goldman Sachs' legal representative, Jonathan Schiller, was being named as Columbia University's new board of trustees chairperson, is that the Federal Reserve Bank of New York was recently sued by a former employee who claims she was fired because of what she discovered about Goldman Sachs' inadequate conflict-of-interest barriers, in violation of federal regulatory laws. As an Oct. 10, 2013 ProPublica article by Jake Bernstein, titled “NY Fed Fired Examiner Who Took On Goldman” noted:

“In the spring of 2012, a senior examiner with the Federal Reserve Bank of New York determined that Goldman Sachs had a problem.

“Under a Fed mandate, the investment banking behemoth was expected to have a company-wide policy to address conflicts of interest in how its phalanxes of dealmakers handled clients. Although Goldman had a patchwork of policies, the examiner concluded that they fell short of the Fed’s requirements.

“That finding by the examiner, Carmen Segarra, potentially had serious implications for Goldman, which was already under fire for advising clients on both sides of several multibillion-dollar deals and allegedly putting the bank’s own interests above those of its customers. It could have led to closer scrutiny of Goldman by regulators or changes to its business practices.

“Before she could formalize her findings, Segarra said, the senior New York Fed official who oversees Goldman pressured her to change them. When she refused, Segarra said she was called to a meeting where her bosses told her they no longer trusted her judgment. Her phone was confiscated, and security officers marched her out of the Fed’s fortress-like building in lower Manhattan, just 7 months after being hired.

“`They wanted me to falsify my findings,’ Segarra said in a recent interview, `and when I wouldn’t, they fired me.’

“Today, Segarra filed a wrongful termination lawsuit against the New York Fed in federal court in Manhattan seeking reinstatement and damages. The case provides a detailed look at a key aspect of the post-2008 financial reforms: The work of Fed bank examiners sent to scrutinize the nation’s `Too Big to Fail’ institutions….”
(See following link for photo of examiner and complete article: