Yesterday’s University Senate plenary was packed with action and acronyms. We sent Low Lover Maud Rozee to observe.
PrezBo missed the first half of the plenary because he was at an event congratulating donors on the success of the capital campaign. His absence stymied the “Questions for the President” part of the agenda, which is too bad because there would’ve been some interesting questions about Columbia’s investment in private prisons and fossil fuels. PrezBo apologized for his tardiness.
1. Report from the Advisory Committee of Socially Responsible Investing (ACSRI):
- ACSRI is a committee of neutral experts which advises the trustees of a university on what they should divest from, and how they should vote in various proxy votes which are brought up by the companies they are invested in.
- Currently, Columbia is in the process of divesting from companies which fuel conflict in Sudan, as well as tobacco companies.
- ACSRI tries to get input from students through collaboration with certain courses, as well as events like an upcoming panel discussion on fossil fuel divestment, which will be held on Monday, April 7th from 7:00-9:00 pm in Earl Hall. The panel is cosponsored by ACSRI and Barnard Columbia Divest for Climate Justice (BCD).
- Columbia College Senator Jared Odessky brought up the concern that there was no opportunity for BCD to have a conversation with ACSRI, or the panelists. The ACSRI representative responded that there would be 60 minutes of Q & A after the discussion.
- Odessky also asked whether ACSRI was on track to produce a report and recommendations on fossil fuel divestment by the end of the semester. The ACSRI representative responded that ACSRI was not, and did not have a deadline on their consideration of fossil fuels.
- Odessky raised the concern that there is no transparency in ACSRI’s process, and that members probably have agendas which are contrary to the interests of students. The representative said that ACSRI are only advisors, and that they are committed to transparency and discussion with students through town halls. Odessky reiterated that the conversation about the transparency of ACSRI’s process was not over.
2. Resolution to Fund and Institutionalize a University-Wide Student Quality-of-Life Survey and Proposal
- Student Affairs Committee Chairs Matthew Chou and Akshay Shah noted that the previous quality of life survey had provided data to drive decisions and allowed student voices to be heard.
- Many other senators who represent student bodies made statements in support of the resolution.
- After a lot of questions from faculty skeptical of the need for a survey every 2 years, or that there would be too much access to the data, the resolution passed.
- The Quality-of-Life Survey will be carried out at most every 2 years.
3. Resolution to Amend the Presidential Advisory Committee on Sexual Assault
- The membership of PACSA will be streamlined to 13, appointed for two-year terms, with co-chairs or chair designeated by the president. Membership will include at least three tenured faculty, one non-tenured faculty with relevant expertise and three students, one undergrad, one grad and one a member of the USenate Student Affairs Committee. Faculty and student members will be nominated by the USenate. A member of the Office of the General Council will be an ex officio member of PACSA. Membership will be public.
- PACSA will have a website which hosts its mission statement, mandate and an annual report to the president and the Senate, which will be released no later than 1 year from now.
- PrezBo assured questioners that gender balance will be considered when making up PACSA.
- PrezBo also promised that PACSA will have the adequate staffing so that it can make things happen.
- The resolution passed unanimously.
- PrezBo also stated that he is working on a letter to the community with updates on the response to the town hall and other concerns about sexual assault.
The plenary wrapped up with a presentation from Richard Witten, Special Advisor to the President, on entrepreneurship. His mission is to make Columbia’s reputation better among entrepreneurs, and to increase profitable research and entrepreneurship at Columbia. To that end, Columbia will open a We Work space on Varrick Street to help young alums advance their ventures.
Action-packed plenary via Shutterstock