#transparency
SAC and Columbia Democrats Seek Community-Sourced Reform of Sexual Assault Policy

Dems Logo

Bwog sent Features Editor Alexander Pines to get the scoop on recent Dems and USenate activism on campus. Here’s his report.

Following up on their October 9th petition to increase transparency in Columbia’s reporting of sexual assault and other gender-based misconduct, the Columbia Democrats, in association with several other student groups as part of the Coalition Against Sexual Violence, are planning to release a statement detailing a comprehensive list of suggested reforms addressing Columbia’s sexual assault policy after a meeting with Students Active For Ending Rape (SAFER) in the coming week.

For now, Dems President Sejal Singh, CC ’15, is “very happy” to see President Bollinger’s response to the statement published by the University Senate’s Student Affairs Committee (SAC) Sunday night. “This is a major step towards transparency and accountability. I’m very happy to see President Bollinger understands the urgency of student concerns and is implementing several of our proposed reforms. I think this demonstrates that united student voices can change their communities for the better and that the administration is willing to work with us on tangible reforms. There is more to be done and we’ll be working with the administration over the coming months on the next steps, but this letter demonstrates commitment to finding a solution at the highest level of the University — and that united student voices can make a difference in their communities.” She also wished to express her gratitude toward the Title IX team, the class councils, members of the University Senate, and all of the survivors who reached out to share their stories.

What the Dems have been up to, and issues with the Rape Crisis Center.

On Wellness, Semantics, Transparency, and Other Buzzwords
Not well

Not well

Bwog Editor Alexandra Svokos is tired of hearing the word “wellness.”

This past Sunday, the Student Wellness Project hosted their second Wellness Summit from 1-4 pm in the Diana. I left this summit far more stressed than I had been before I walked in. I was agitated following the discussions, having been pounded with a reminder of the faults in this school and campus. Ultimately, I concluded that it hadn’t been a productive use of my time, and I sincerely wondered how useful it was for SWP.

I’m gonna level with you here: I’ve been wary of SWP since its conception in fall 2011, following the suicide of Tina Bu, CC’13. Perhaps to their credit, much of my distrust has consistently come from semantics and presentation. In December 2011, The Eye published a two-part piece on “How We’re Doing.” The first part was by Wilfred Chan, explaining the need for SWP as well as increased administrative aid for student wellness; the second was by Sarah Ngu, a close friend of Bu. Ngu made it clear that Bu was surrounded by an incredibly supportive group consisting of family, friends, therapists, RAs, and so on. But unfortunately depression is a hard disease to predict and control.

After reading this package, I was confused. The pairing seemed wrong: one arguing we need more support on campus, one delicately explaining that there was substantial support, but tragedies still happen. One arguing the external, that this school is a stressful place with high expectations, one delicately explaining the internal, an experience with a mental disease. Having lost a friend to suicide 18 months earlier, I understood Chan’s shock and motivation to implement a change on your community. Once you go through a tragedy like this, you never ever ever want to experience it again–and never ever ever want anyone else to have to experience it.

More Wellness (Betterness?) After the Jump

The Search Begins: Dean of Student Affairs
Deantini and Boyce go a-huntin'

Deantini and Boyce go a-huntin’

A few minutes ago, you should have gotten this email about the transparent and student-driven search for a new Dean of Student Affairs from Deantini and Dean Boyce:

Dear Undergraduate Students:

We are writing to announce the launch of a national search for the new Dean of Student Affairs and to ask for your thoughts as we begin the search process. Student Affairs supports you, the undergraduate students of Columbia College and The Fu Foundation School of Engineering and Applied Science, through academic and co-curricular advising, student engagement, residential programs and other areas that enhance your experience outside of the classroom. This position plays an important role in your lives at Columbia, so we are committed to identifying the best candidate.

Columbia College and The Fu Foundation School of Engineering and Applied Science have retained an executive search firm, Storbeck/Pimentel & Associates, to assist us with the process. This firm, which specializes in higher education executive recruitment, will work closely with us—and with student leaders—to identify, evaluate and present candidates for the position.

We value your experiences and encourage you to offer your perspectives to us at CC-SEAS-SAdean@columbia.edu . We expect to complete the search and announce the appointment of a new Dean of Student Affairs by the end of the academic year.

Gone hunting via Shutterstock

WTF, Columbia: Building Community?
don't have time for this shit

Oh no, not again

Last month, we had our first “WTF, Columbia” post, detailing intricate complaints about the school.  This time around, Bwog Editor Alexandra Svokos (#transparency) divulges on an interesting experience.  If you have a story you’d like to share about Columbia pushing you around, email tips@bwog.com or use our anonymous form.  Anonymity guaranteed.

I love this school.  I wouldn’t be dedicating all my time to clubs, classes, and–of course–Bwog if that wasn’t true.  Like a beloved brother who always leaves the toilet seat open, though, Columbia has room for improvement.  Last week, I was invited to a focus group to “better assess Columbia’s campus culture.”  Participants were nominated by advisors and were highly active students in various sections of the school.  About 35 were invited and split into four groups based on our organization association.

Deans Martinez and Shollenberger explained that this initiative was started by Student Affairs in reaction to student outcry about the culture of high stress that permeates campus.  Community Development reached out to a faculty member at Teachers College, a national leader in consulting with institutions about their social culture.  The people working on the project are TC students in their last semester (at least those I spoke with).  According to Martinez they are all working toward becoming consultants; this is easy experience learning to work with clients–so, yes, we’re being used as their guinea pigs.  The TC leaders I talked to said this initiative should continue on for “years,” with new people taking it up after they graduate.

Inside the group after the jump

Barnard Tuition, Or: Bwog Is Never Having Kids
these shoes are 300 fucking dollars

Sticker shock!

This morning, AHinks sent out an email to students explaining a 2.9% overall increase in tuition and fees, the smallest increase since 2000.  The email provides specific breakdown of full tuition, in keeping with an effort for more transparency.  Those lucky high school seniors who just got accepted can look forward to a total cost for tuition, fees, room, and board of $59,000.

The rise in tuition this year is seemingly organic and was approved using national economic data including the CPI, median family income measures, and home price indices.  There were no significant changes in policy, such as last year’s repeal of part-time tuition fees.

A portion of these increases comes from a hike in housing prices.  Multiple occupancy rooms will be $8,450, up from $8,240 (~2.5% increase); single rooms are $9,800 from $9,480 (~3.4%); and those magnificent studio single apartments will be $14,500, up from $12,000 (~20%!).  By Bwog’s math, single rooms are $1,090-$1,225/month (depending if you count winter break/May as a full month) for a bed, a desk, and several cubic square feet of free space–that is, if you can even get a room.  Here’s to hoping prices will go down once you get a roommate forced on you!

Full email after jump

Moving Your Stuff, “Transparently”

The effect this will have on your life if you already use forwarding

In an e-mail sent out earlier this afternoon, CUIT’s LionMail team informs you that they have their grubby hands on your data and they’re doing some fancy new-fangled shuffling—but don’t worry, they’ll be gentle:

Dear Undergraduate Student,

We hope you are excited about your upcoming move to LionMail @ Columbia.

On July 31 you will be start to use [sic] your new LionMail account. Beginning July 13 your existing CubMail messages and folders will be migrated to LionMail. This process will be transparent and will not affect your use of CubMail or any other email clients.

Before the process of moving your data begins, please review some brief information: <http://cuit.columbia.edu/lionmail-pre-transition-steps>

If you have any questions or concerns about the transition, or any other information, please contact the LionMail help team at askcuit@columbia.edu.

Sincerely,

The LionMail team

Semi-Transparent Square via Wikimedia Commons

Bwoglines: Supply and Demand Edition

You fancy, huh?

Supply: of honey is not what it seems! (Food Safety News)

Demand: for water could lead to international tension in the coming years. (NYT)

Supply: of transplant organs in China will drop as the government discontinues the practice of taking them from inmates on death row. (BBC)

Demand: transparency in the administration. (Spec)

Chartz via Wikimedia Commons

USenate Drafting Resolution for Public Course Evaluations

While calls for public course evaluations have been swirling around since at least January, members of the University Senate’s Student Affairs Committee are looking to finalize a resolution to present to the floor, according to Spec. A subcommittee will release a report assessing the current systems already in place at Columbia and other schools. Among the Ivies, Harvard’s open evaluations are often cited as one of the first of such measures and generally seen as a success.

The proposal has picked up momentum in recent months after Deantini and Prezbo endorsed the measure. Many others have expressed their support despite the initial resistance from some faculty members. Still, some issues remain to be worked out. As GSAS student Cristina Camille Perez Jimenez points out in Spec, TA evaluations should hold special consideration as they are “weighted as part of our ongoing pedagogical training.”

Currently, student-run CULPA remains the most popular option for evaluations, though samples a limited number of students. If passed, the new system would incorporate more quantitative data besides student testimonies. Some members of the USenate hope to make some of the evaluation data available by the end of the academic year.

Bwoglines: Lack of Transparency Edition

The Man just doesn't want you to find out the truth

Turns out Bank of America’s $5 monthly debit fee was actually an attempt to be more transparent, but consumer outrage killed the surcharge before it reached fruition. (Atlantic)

The Murdochs, no strangers to lying to the public, could be in more trouble as new legal documents suggest that News Corp paid off victims once they realized their position was “perilous.” (Reuters)

After numerous visits from Jordanian Royalty, PrezBo returns the favor, visiting the Queen of Jordan to discuss “[Columbia University Middle East Research Center]‘s strategy and programmes for the upcoming year and their accomplishments to date.” (Petra)

China is funding “Confucius Institutes” at various universities across the country, including Columbia. The catch: if you want the money, you have to avoid touchy topics like Taiwan, Tibet, and the like. (Businessweek)

More controversy over the Manhattanville expansion plans as the $150 million given to the West Harlemt Local Development Fund has not been properly distributed and lacks transparency, coming under fire from local politicians. (Spec, DNAinfo)

Not the world’s most transparent document 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…)
Valentini Undergoes Ritual Town Hall Initiation

To further his ongoing efforts to reach out to students and increase transparency in the wake of Moodygateinterim Dean Valentini held a town hall last night. Deantini held the court in the oaken glory of Havemeyer 309, where he’s given countless lectures and even once had one burst out in song. Seasoned Town Haller Conor Skelding sat in.

Taking a stand.

Over the course of the night, Dean Valentini accomplished the following four things:

  • Explained the mystical decision-making process of the dean and affirming his commitment to a clear system
  •  Refused to speak for Moody-Adams, or really anybody else, or to approximate people’s opinions.
  • Emphasized his commitment to listening to us, and
  • Demonstrated his capacity for being a nice guy by sharing anecdotes, and chatting with speakers about where they’re from.

A few minutes after the intended start of 8 pm, Sam Roth, Editor of the Spectator, opened with a little blurb to the effect that the town hall was intended to address student concerns in a “time of upheaval.” Havemeyer 309 was sparsely filled, with maybe 40% of the lower level occupied and nobody in the wings. So, from approximately 8 to 9 pm, Deantini addressed Sam and CCSC prez Aki Terasaki’s concerns.

The pair started off with general questions, like why Deantini got the job (“because the president asked me to do it”), and whether he thought he could do it (“Yes”).

Roth then touched on interrelations between governing bodies, which Valentini turned into the motif of the entire event. For the duration of the evening, JJV would expound on exactly who makes each decision, and how. Valentini pointed to a strange segmentation in our school: the College has everything it needs to run under its aegis, except teachers, who are under the Faculty of Arts and Sciences. (more…)

Dean Valentini on Transparency, Moodygate, and Optimism

Last week, Bwog sat down with newly-minted Dean Valentini (soon to be Deantini). The Dean has been in touch with Bwog and Spec since his appointment, but in earlier interviews was unable to answer burning questions (he too needed some orientation). What was Dean Moody-Adams so livid about? Given that her resignation letter focused on the the changing role of the dean, how would Valentini address these concerns? What sort of dialogue would begin about those changes? Most importantly, would students be privy to such dialogue?

Many of these questions still could not be answered.

Valentini spoke candidly and enthusiastically about his engagement with the Arts & Sciences multi-college administrative super-structure. He remains optimistic about what he sees as the Dean’s increasing, rather than diminishing, responsibilities. Given the growing angst about what many perceive as a dilution of the College’s integrity and individual identity, some may greet this optimism with skepticism. The push for simultaneous centralization and expansion of the university may put considerable strain on the financial and intellectual health of the College. Worries persist that giving the college deans more university-level administrative responsibilities could preclude them from looking inwards and focusing on their constituencies.

So far, Valentini has given no indication that this will be the case. He’s proved to be an incredibly dynamic presence in the dean’s office, meeting ‘n’ greeting non-stop. He’s reading Bwog! Everyone can recognize this as a positive change from the more behind-the-scenes presence of Michele Moody-Adams, but it is important to bear in mind that he’s only the interim dean. His main job is to allay the fears of all concerned parties—faculty, students, and alumni—and to breath new life into the position that MiMoo left winded. And engaging with students, making videos, and dealing with our immediate demands may well leave the larger administrative machinery to continue to turn unchecked.

The link between these issues is the now infamous McKinsey report, which we also discussed in depth with Executive Vice President of the Faculty of Arts & Sciences Nicholas Dirks (interview forthcoming!). Although it’s proved impossible to get anyone on record confirming this, the report, commissioned to make recommendations on realigning the somewhat balkanized schools under the umbrella of Arts & Sciences, contained a number of recommendations for Columbia College that MMA categorically rejected. Administrators have emphasized over and over that these are merely suggestions, and that no concrete proposals have been made, but Dean Valentini has not communicated with MiMoo and has not heard what she has to say on these recommendations and why she found them so repugnant.

Here are some selected extracts from the interview highlighting major issues. We’ve included the full, hour-long, transcript (transparency!), for those interested in reading it. It has been edited for clarity, and the opening discussion focuses more on Valentini’s questions for us.

On student engagement:

I want you to be engaged, I want to go talk to you, I want to go out and talk to you. We’re not just going to have scripted events, I’m just going to go over to Lerner some day when people know how to recognize me and just start talking to students. ‘How do you feel? ‘Whats going on? What do you think we should do?’

On his involvement with the College:

I’ve been involved enough in the College for a long time and I’ve talked to all of the staff people so that I know what we’ve got going and I think I know better today and certainly much better than Tuesday: What are the challenges? What are the problems? What’s the budget? What’s the staffing? What do we need to look out for? What do we have to do right away? I’m formulating a picture of that. I actually like this part. It’s hard because I don’t have enough time.

On preparing for the deanship by talking to Austin Quigley:

My conversation with him was focused on, ‘Okay, what do you think I can do Austin?’ Austin was Dean for 14 years and extremely successful. He’s a dean who faced crises, like being fired. And I’ve known Austin for a very long time. He was dean when he appointed me to the Committee on Instruction. He appointed me to other things and I’ve had a lot of conversations with him. I trust his judgement. He’s got experience, more experience than anybody. Yeah, I’ve had a lot of conversations with him. Talking to him, I felt more comfortable, not less comfortable.

On his confidence in taking over:

There are a lot of factors involved in this that are probably never going to come out. It’s not that they’re beyond students, they’re beyond me. But I know substantively what the McKinsey report contains, I have the report. I didn’t have it on Monday when I talked to Sammy [Roth, of The Spectator], but I was confident in taking this job before seeing the McKinsey report because I’m confident in my ability to keep ridiculous things from happening. I’ve always been able to do this. I have a good relationship with the President, and the Vice President. I’m not worried about this.

On possible changes to the College:

But is it [the Core] going to change in my lifetime or your lifetime, not a chance. Is there any question about full need financial aid or needs blind admission? Zero. The trustees who are the people who are ultimately responsible for this university are 100% fully and unequivocally and emphatically behind that. That’s not going to change.

Complete transcript after the jump

The Behemoth of Columbia University

Recent developments surrounding Moodygate have left all parties stunned and confused, but everyone can be certain of one thing: Columbia University is an organizationally complex machine, perhaps too much so. Investigations into the origins and circumstances of Moody-Adams’ resignation have revealed existing and historical rifts between deans, the Faculty of Arts and Sciences, and central administration. In order to better understand the current situation, there needs to be a clearer understanding of the internal structure of Columbia University.

Bwog has obtained an unofficial organizational chart (298K, PDF) from an alumni tipster that breaks down Columbia’s administration and hierarchical structure, from the Trustees and PrezBo all the way down to deans and their assistants. It’s quite a beast to look at, but it illustrates just how massive and intricate the University truly is. Our tipster notes that parts of the chart are outdated (it dates from early 2010), and due to the complex structure of the administration, perhaps oversimplified or drawn with fuzzy lines. It’s also incomplete, because certain areas of Alumni Affairs and Development are very difficult to figure out.

To help digest this information, we’ve taken this org chart and distilled it to only include personnel relevant to the resignation of Moody-Adams. We’ve also taken care to update positions so it more accurately represents the current administrators. For those we show having direct reports, all direct reports are shown—although for presentation purposes, some personnel may have been condensed into a single box. The original org chart more accurately portrays relative ranking amongst officials by preserving strict levels, but ours more clearly demonstrates connections between key personnel and direct report relationships. Look at ours below or view the .png file directly.

People that are bolded in our org chart represent those that have been in the news lately. The chart’s arrows are pointed in the direction of seniority, i.e. there is an arrow pointing from any given position to their superior. It’s clear that Nick Dirks and Robert Kasdin have enormous responsibilities.

And in case you were wondering, the relationship between Coatsworth and Dirks is accurate to the best of our knowledge. The Dean of the Faculty of Arts & Sciences (FAS) reports to the Provost, and the Dean of SIPA reports to the Dean of FAS; however, because Coatsworth is serving as Interim Provost while maintaining his position as the Dean of SIPA, Coatsworth currently has Dirks as a direct report while still reporting to him. A behemoth indeed.

Well-informed alumni sources have also conjectured about MiMoo’s replacement. Basically it could go one of two ways. Either a “caretaker,” a harmless, experienced professor with administrative experience—possibly a former dean— will fill the position until an appropriate long-term replacement is found, or else one of the younger, relatively unknown but tenured professors with strong links to the College will be chosen for the permanent deanship.

The Wizard of (H)Oz(ing)

With great power comes great responsibility. Or so we hear.

Meet Shai Chester. Before last Thursday, he was just like any other normal Columbia sophomore, probably filling his head with lofty dreams of Spring Break lasting forever and the what-ifs of being able to use Flex at Halal carts.

Until the fate of the world was placed into his hands.

Well, okay, not THE world. But your world—the housing lottery, that is. Shai was approached late last week while meandering around the main quad. Housing officials asked him to be one of two students  to participate in the random generation of the 2011 lottery numbers. According to Shai, the housing powers that be “mentioned they were trying to make housing more transparent” this year by involving students in the process. Their role included hearing a full explanation of the housing lottery, and being asked to generate the numbers on a computer program.

So with the push of a button, Shai completed his housing adventure. Just as yours began.

Photo via WikiMedia Commons.

ROTC Hearings to Begin Tomorrow

The USenate’s ROTC Task Force‘s first town hall style hearing  will be held tomorrow night, from 8 – 10 PM in 417 International Affairs Building (Altschul Auditorium)Sharyn O’Halloran, Chair of the Senate Executive Committee, will be making the opening remarks.

The point of the hearings is to “hear the community voice,” said Ron Mazor, Law ’12 and Student Co-Chair of the Task Force. He kindly explained to Bwog how the hearings themselves are going to work. A near-identical procedure was followed in 2005:

  • There will be a 2.5 minute time limit per comment.
  • A timer and several prompts will be projected on the back of the room to confine the conversation to the issue at hand.
  • The comments will be transcribed and published on the Task Force’s website. Individuals may request to have their comments redacted if they are not comfortable with making them public. Update: The Task Force have changed their mind, and decided against redacting records and transcripts from the hearings. They explained that since public media are allowed into the event “it is unrealistic to suggest that comments made during the public hearings will be insulated from public record.”
  • The Co-Chairs of the Task Force will moderate the discussion. They will not reply to comments, and neither will O’Halloran.

Over the weekend it was confirmed that Roosevelt Montás, Associate Dean of the Core Curriculum, will be the faculty co-chair of the Task Force. He is not a University senator (but he does have a great taste in music). The other three faculty members are Peter Awn, Dean of GS; Jim Applegate, Astronomy Professor and co-chair of the 2005 task force; and Julia Hirschberg, of CS. Of these four faculty members, only Applegate’s name appeared (in favor of return) on the rival statement/petitions issued on NROTC 2008.

In December, we compiled a comprehensive guide to the issue of ROTC and its history at Columbia, which might provide useful background for those interested in attending. We’ll also be covering each of the hearings.  (more…)