The latest minority, women, and local hiring statistics from Columbia show that the University is meeting its goals—but only if a large portion of the work is excluded.
Executive Vice President of Facilities Joe Ienuso told Spectator on Friday that as of June 2013, about two-thirds of the firms contracted for the expansion are minority-, women-, or locally owned, and about half the workforce on the project is minority, women, or local.
Those exceeded the percentages Columbia promised in the Community Benefits Agreement that it signed with West Harlemites in 2009: 40 percent of contracts and 35 percent of the workforce.
However, like past data released by the University, the latest numbers don’t include what the University calls “specialty construction projects.” Specialty construction includes the construction of the slurry wall around the new campus, which is now complete, and the installation of a curtain wall on the Jerome L. Greene Science Center—the next big task for construction workers.
“The actual fabrication of all of the elements and the installation of the curtain wall is truly a specialty business—it’s actually a global business,” Ienuso said, adding that there weren’t any minority-, women-, or locally-owned firms qualified to build the wall. “We want to be very practical about that.”
Ienuso said that while the specialty construction was “a large portion of the dollars we spent,” he didn’t have an estimate for what percentage was specialty.
“Whatever it is, it’s going to be a much smaller proportion with the passing of time” after the curtain wall is completed, he said.
Critics of the expansion have said calling some construction “specialty” is a way for Columbia to avoid meeting its promises. Community Board 9 unanimously voted to call for a state audit of Columbia’s responsibilities last semester.
But Ienuso said the administration was committed to doing its best.
“We believe it’s the right thing to do,” he said of hiring minority-, women-, and locally-owned firms. “That doesn’t mean it’s easy.”
Meanwhile, Columbia is working with the Empire State Development Corporation, which is auditing the MWL percentages, Ienuso said. The administration provides the state with a set of reports on a quarterly basis.