#faculty
ESC: New E-Board Member, Old Issues Discussed, and CCSC Remade

The first ever ESC meeting

Sean Zimmermann reports from the first ESC meeting of the semester.

The council began the evening by holding elections for VP Communications. The election was well-contested, especially considering it was held mid-year. The winner, Jim Huang, spoke about his experience on ABC and how his experience developing websites could help in council outreach. He beat Lauren Hsu and current SGA liaison Tanya Shah.

ESC President Levick recently spoke with Dean Pena-Mora, and explained that the Dean is working with the faculty to resolve the issues reported last semester. In the fall, he created the position of Executive Vice-Dean, held by Donald Goldfarb, to act as a intermediary between the faculty and the Dean’s office. Additionally, Pena-Mora told President Levick that the Dean’s office hired an outside consultant to help assess the situation with the faculty, and that they are discussing his recommendations. The Dean came under fire last semester from faculty for failing to address a number of faculty concerns, including addressing overcrowding in classes.

CCSC will no longer be holding mandatory regular meetings, according to CCSC Liaison Rebecca Frauzem. The meetings will be optional for CCSC members, and the council will be holding more town halls instead. President Levick assured council members that CCSC still exists; the idea is that meetings will be more like “office hours” for students.

Intrepid miners via Wikimedia Commons 

Professors With(out) Benefits

Our dear university, hit hard by the recession, has been searching for ways to cut expenses.

With assistance from consulting firm McKinsey, they’ve been weighing their options, some of which so upset Michele Moody-Adams that (have you heard?) she resigned as Dean of the Columbia College. While these recommendations have not been made public—and perhaps shall never see the light of day—the University has enacted other policies aimed at saving money, including cutting back on payments for professors’ health insurance and their children’s college tuition.

Back in April,  the Task Force on Fringe Benefits (advised by McKinsey, which compared Columbia’s benefits program to those of 16 other universities) released a 38-page report. The report recommended sharply curtailing so-called “fringe benefits” for “Officers of the University” (which mostly means faculty, researchers, and librarians).

These are the specific recommendations the report made:

  • Only pay 80% (instead of 100%) of tuition costs for professors’ children who attend Columbia, and 40% (instead of 50%) of tuition cost for professors’ children who attend other schools. This one is self-explanatory, but extremely costly: professors would have to pay over $40,000 more for their kids to attend Columbia for four years! …Which is less than a “normal” parent pays for one year. But still.
  • Only allow faculty and staff members who are enrolled in a degree program to take one Columbia course (instead of 15 course credits) per semester for free.
  • Replace the generous POS 90 and POS 100 health insurance plans with a High-Deductible Health Plan and Health Savings Account. In English: In exchange for a monthly fee, the POS 90 and POS 100 plans cover 90% or 100% of all your health expenses once you’ve spent around $200 (known as the deductible) on health expenses each year. It’s a pretty sweet deal, so sweet that these plans are actually considered “Cadillac plans” and subject to high taxes under Obamacare. The HDHP, on the other hand, has lower monthly fees but a much higher deductible. The idea is that you put the money you would have spent on the monthly payments into a tax-free “health savings account,” instead of paying high monthly fees and relying on the University to pay for most of your medical expenses.
  • Stop giving contributions to retired professors and instead encourage them to open retirement accounts when they’re young. The University is basically taking the same strategy they took with health insurance: transition from a system in which the University makes payments to employees to one in which the University only provides accounts for professors to fill with a portion of their annual salary. (more…)
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