BREAKING: Dean Peña-Mora Resigns

Written by

Donald Goldfarb, new Interim Dean of SEAS

Minutes ago, PrezBo and Coatsworth sent out the following email to the SEAS community, announcing Dean Peña-Mora’s sudden resignation. Could it have something to do with the faculty’s letters of no confidence last year (and this year)? Last fall, the Times reported that 80% of tenured faculty supported his replacement in a strongly worded letter. Faculty were dissatisfied with his handling of Columbia’s notorious lack of space, charging that he “repeatedly disavowed both written and oral agreements with individual departments.” Faculty also complained that he spent too much time fundraising off-campus.

The May issue of The Blue & White carried an interview with the former dean about those very issues. He had this simile to share with a B&W staffer: “The departments are like states, and states have their interests. But the federal government has to do what’s best for the country as a whole. I need to make decisions that are best for SEAS as a whole.”

“The faculty sometimes interpret my words to mean more than what I say,” Peña-Mora told The Blue & White. “I like to speak enthusiastically, but some take it very literally.”

“It is true,” Coatsworth told the Times, “that there are a number of cases in which Feniosky made a commitment and then found with further study that he couldn’t meet the commitment. Mostly they had to do with space.”

This is oddly reminiscent of last summer’s Moodygate. We’re calling it Peñamonium. Here’s the email that was sent to students:

July 3, 2012

Dear members of the SEAS community,

We write to say that Professor Feniosky Peña-Mora has submitted his resignation as Dean of the Fu Foundation School of Engineering and Applied Science. We thank Professor Peña-Mora for his service as Dean and look forward to his future academic contributions as a faculty member in the fields of civil engineering and engineering mechanics, earth and environmental engineering, and computer science.

We are fortunate that Professor Donald Goldfarb will serve as Interim Dean while a search is conducted for a new dean. A faculty member of the School of Engineering and Applied Science since 1982 and currently executive vice dean, Professor Goldfarb has served once before as acting dean of SEAS and is therefore well positioned to lead the school effectively through this transition. With his experienced leadership, we are committed as a university to maintaining the forward progress of the School of Engineering and Applied Science in the months and years ahead.

Over the next several weeks, we will be discussing with the faculty and SEAS community how best to chart the future course for the School.


Lee C. Bollinger

John H. Coatsworth

Update, 2:09 pm: KevSho sent along his thoughts, mentioning “many of the student-centered initiatives started by Feniosky Peña-Mora.”

Dear School of Engineering and Applied Science Students,

As many of you have seen by now, President Bollinger and Provost Coatsworth announced today that Feniosky Peña-Mora, who has served as Dean of The Fu Foundation School of Engineering and Applied Science for the last three years, has submitted his resignation. Professor Donald Goldfarb, executive vice dean, has been appointed as interim dean.

We look forward to working with him, the senior leadership of SEAS, and the University to make this transition period as smooth as possible. As we continue our work in enhancing student life here at Columbia, we are committed to carrying on with many of the student-centered initiatives started by Feniosky Peña-Mora.

We look forward to welcoming you all for the 2012–2013 academic year.


Kevin Shollenberger

Dean of Student Affairs

Columbia College | Columbia Engineering

Associate Vice President for Undergraduate Student Life

Arts and Sciences

Update, 2:37 pm: SEAS released an official statement via their website. Pretty standard, exceedingly neutral, quote from Interim Dean Goldfarb: “We have an extremely strong school, superb faculty, and excellent students—in short, an incredible community of scholars—and I am looking forward to working with them all in my new role as interim dean.”

Update, 7/4 2 pm: The inevitable New York Times article about this features a statement from Peña-Mora himself. He doesn’t sound happy.

In his own statement, Dr. Peña-Mora said that under his watch, the engineering school had greatly increased its number of student applicants, doubled the size of its annual fund and risen in the national rankings of engineering graduate programs. “Differences of opinion are inevitable at times of change, and criticism of a leader bringing about the change can be expected, particularly, I suppose, when the person is an outsider both institutionally and in other ways,” he wrote.

“When certain senior faculty then saw fit to press their own interests through personal attacks on me, I was disappointed,” he added. He went on to say that his critics “did not, in my view, serve Columbia well, and, in the end, the discourse offered no model to our students of how faculty in a diverse and thriving academic environment should conduct themselves.”

Update, 7/5: ESC has released a statement; it’s much of the same. Check it out:

Dear Columbia Engineering Students,

As many of you may have already heard, Dean Feniosky Peña-Mora submitted his resignation as Dean of Columbia Engineering. We, the Engineering Student Council, would like to thank the Dean for his impact on students and service to our school for the past three years. Many of the goals we were able to accomplish on behalf of the students would not have been possible without his support and guidance.

As we look to the upcoming school year, we hope to develop a fruitful partnership with interim Dean Donald Goldfarb. We welcome Dean Goldfarb and look forward to working with him on developing the next steps for our school.

If you have any questions, comments, or concerns, please feel free to email us

Engineering Student Council

Goldberg via SEAS

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  1. Anonymous

    I'm going to miss that fucker

  2. Anonymous

    We'll miss ya buddy, fellow brownie.

  3. This isn't

    a surprise.

  4. Anonymous

    and thus the "search for a new dean" never ends

    • Anonymous  

      As Al glanced at his copy of the "Search Committee Times," he noticed the date in the upper right hand corner: March 15, 2083. He remembered March 15... why did he remember it?

      OH YEAH! Al jumped for joy. It was Committee Day - the 71st anniversary of the formation of the venerable "Committee to search for a new Dean," and a national holiday. A mere 52 years ago, on Al's third birthday, the committee had staged a coup d' etat and siezed the island of Manhattan for its own glorious purposes.

      Newly unburdened with responsibility, Al decided it would be a good day to make the required annual pilgrimage to Alma Mater. The next question was what offering to bring...

  5. Anonymous

    His was the right move. A likeable fellow, he just lost the respect of the faculty.

  6. so

    just to reconfirm everyone's suspicions, Dean Awn is the only administrator of quality at this institution.

  7. Anonymous

    Baloney. There are lots of quality admins.

      • Anonymous

        Heavy, how do I make sandvich?

        All you have to do is take a cup of flour
        Add it to the mix
        Now just take a little something sweet, not sour
        A bit of salt, just a pinch

        Making these treats is such a cinch
        Add a teaspoon of BALONEY
        Add a little MOAR and you count to FOAR
        And you never get your FILL-AAAAA

        So moist and delicious!
        I'm coming for you!
        Sandvich, sandvich, SANDVIIIIICH!!

        • Carl Weathers  

          "Whoa, whoa, whoa. There’s still plenty of meat on that bone. Now you take this home, throw it in a pot, add some broth, a potato. Baby, you’ve got a stew going."

      • Anonymous

        Hey original retard,

        Bologna is a meat. The word is short for bologna sausage, a type of sausage made of finely ground meat that has been cooked and smoked. Baloney is nonsense. It is an early 20th-century American coinage derived from bologna. It may also be influenced by blarney, which in one of its definitions means nonsense or deceptive talk.

  8. penamonium

    well done Bwog.

  9. Anonymous

    this is all politics. makes me wonder if its just because he was hispanic.

  10. hmm

    Interesting..something like this happened about a year ago..hmmm.

  11. Anonymous

    Bwog posted this before my copy of the email hit my inbox.

    Must be those faster than light neutrinos again.

  12. Anonymous

    pity. one of the nicest people to see around campus.

  13. CS major  

    CS masters' students suck so much. Like it is clear to even me, a lowly undergrad, that Columbia is just taking in really low-caliber students in an effort to make money

    So if that is Pena-Mora's fault, then yeah, he should have left sooner. Maybe he's nice in person, but lowering the academic caliber of any program in order to make money doesn't strike me as the right thing to do

  14. Ethnic Studies Concentrator

    Pena-Mora: perceived as incompetent by a supermajority of the faculty -- or another innocent victim of the WHITE DEVIL???

    Definitely the White Devil.

  15. cc student  

    Wouldn't it be hilarious if the majority of the above comments were made by Engineering faculty?

  16. Anonymous

    Now we can get some of that Bloomberg money. They were holding off until a change and consistency in administration.

  17. Alum

    "This is oddly reminiscent of last summer’s Moodygate."

    No it isn't. The faculty hadn't risen up against Moody. There were no calls for her to resign or be replaced. She resigned voluntarily to protest detrimental changes which she believed (rightly or wrongly) were going to be forced upon the College. She was then dismissed for insubordination because she took her concerns to the Board of Visitors in a way that was less than diplomatic.

    Even so, she quit over matters of principle. Feni quit because he was in over his head. The two situations aren't very similar at all.

  18. Anonymous

    Justice is partially done

  19. Anonymous

    Not too many latins in the SEAS faculty are there?

  20. oiwkwtamtijap


  21. naming

    pokemon dean goldeen -- gotta catch em all

  22. Anonymous

    Incompetence has no color.

  23. Dean

    Dean Stay GOLDen Ponyboy.

  24. It seems like

    Bollinger wanted to see Lessa Mora.

  25. mabwd

    Well in an instant, our two minority deans are out. If anybody notices, it was the "majority" that opposed them. Does this mean minorities have no chance in this microcosm of the world that is Morningside Heights? PrezBo's university is in shambles now and I do not know if I can donate as much as I planned to anymore. This is becoming a school I don't like. The dean that will now replace. I just don't. But yes, this university is not a university, it is a caucasuniversity. Do we want that? There are arguments for and against (are there?) and I am, yes, I am against. Maybe if his name was Mr. Fenimore, they wouldn't have a problem. I hate some things about this school. Truly hate. Among only whites I like here are Athletics. The other depts are all conspiracy-tinged. YES. I SAID. I SAID IT.

    • Anonymous

      Are you sure that you ever donated a cent?

    • Anonymous

      you wont be able to donate anything since, by the sound of it, you're a veritable retard. Twenty years from now, I will be sure to unzip my fly and piss on your face as you lay covered in garbage on the streets, begging for change.

    • SEAS '15

      I just don't understand... you just said the only whites you liked here are athletes. What if I said the only blacks I liked are the ones on the debate team? Is that okay to say? Please stop preaching to stop racism if you are going to make racist comments.

      The two deans had very transparent resignations (or the causation was very clear). There was ample reason for both, and neither of those reasons had anything to do with race. You cannot just scream "racism" whenever something doesn't work out the way you would like. That is not how the real world works, not just the "microcosm" of Morningside Heights (really?).

      Also, your argument is horribly structured. I can't even tell what point you're trying to make, really. So just stop spewing stupid shit. Please, for the sake of us all.

    • Anonymous

      yea, YOU SAID IT! with terrible grammar, but YOU SAID IT!

  26. mabwd

    Well in an instant, our two minority deans are out. If anybody notices, it was the "majority" that opposed them. Does this mean minorities have no chance in this microcosm of the world that is Morningside Heights? PrezBo's university is in shambles now and I do not know if I can donate as much as I planned to anymore. This is becoming a school I don't like. The dean that will now replace. I just don't. But yes, this university is not a university, it is a caucasuniversity. Do we want that? There are arguments for and against (are there?) and I am, yes, I am against. Maybe if his name was Mr. Fenimore, they wouldn't have a problem. I hate some things about this school. Truly hate. Among only conspiracy-free whites movements I like here are Athletics. The other depts are conspiracy-tinged. JK, in part. But in part. YES. I SAID. I SAID IT.

  27. Anonymous

    The black and Hispanic deans were replaced by an Italian Catholic and a Jew. They are actually much smaller minorities in the US than blacks or Hispanics. And, anyway, aren't we supposed to choose the best qualified person for the job without regard to skin color?

  28. Anonymous

    This is good for the school and Columbia. The faculty did not agree with his view of to raise money and exposure of the school was to increase grad students and junior faculty. They felt this was hurting the quality of the school, increasing class size, and decreasing resources. They faculty feel it can be done by an elite faculty, and elite student body, and research and grants. The joke is Feni was asleep at the wheel when the biggest prize of them all was up for grabs the Bloomberg money, and he submitted his proposal at the 11th hour when Stanford and Cornell were working on theirs for a year already with massive fundraising. Cornell has already raise over half a billion dollars from their agressive engineering campaigns. While Columbia is taking every grad student that applies, other schools are linking with companies and donors and taking in millions.

    • Anonymous  

      If Bloomberg intended the money for Columbia, he would have simply given Columbia Engineering a grant. Bloomberg wanted to bring another top-tier research university to New York and that was the purpose of the competition. The chips were stacked against Columbia to begin with. It was an "International competition to build an innovative science graduate school in New York City." Basically saying they wanted something new.

      • Anonymous

        He really wanted Stanford and Silicon Valley to move here. The competition was a guise to get Stanford. You are correct. Every other school is already in New York, so Cornell was the furthest (even though their entire health sciences are already in New York too.)

  29. Anonymous

    Feni should have been fired when Columbia lost out on the 100 million New York City engineering prize. He would have taken it much more seriously. He has yet to bring in a major donor, while every other division has. Heads rolled at Stanfird when they lost out to Cornell. Some were even caing for the president to resign.

  30. Anonymous  

    Who cares?

  31. Anonymous

    CC is the best!

  32. Anonymous


  33. Anonymous

    What I want to know is whether Peña-Mora is a casualty of Presbo's constant war for McKinsification of Columbia like Dean Moody-Adams or whether he's on team Presbo and had to take the fall for overreaching.

  34. Anonymous

    Engineering Student Council (ESC) is switching side. It does not look good. ESC has never addressed racism issue that the Dean and his Dominican community have been accusing.

    At this time, the most reasonable thing to do is for ESC to resign with the Dean whom they sided. Let a new ESC be elected who will work with the interim Dean.

    • Anonymous

      How did that statement in any indicate any position or "side" ESC is on? To me it seems that ESC thanked Pena Mora for his time as Dean, much like Prezbo and the Provost, and proceeded to welcome the interim Dean.

      Just because ESC supported Pena Mora doesn't mean it's against Goldfarb. I think there is something with your logic. You must not be a SEAS student.

      • Anonymous

        Where is the principle of ESC? ESC supports any one who came into power? Then there was no need to express any support for Penamora.

        If you were on Penamora side, you should now resign in protest. You did not do it but switched to Goldfarb because you just wanted to stay with the title.

        You are yet to understand or to learn what it meant by expressing support when the dean lost the trust from the professors.

      • Anonymous

        here it's. the spectator said:

        In the months since professors' calls for Peña-Mora's resignation became public, the dean also received significant support from students, with the Engineering Student Council issuing two statements of support. Peña-Mora was generally popular among students for his charisma, visibility on campus, and support of student activities.

  35. Anonymous

    What did Pena mean by personal attacks? Please explain

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