usenate Archive



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USenate has a special affection(?) for the Smoking Policy.

Joe Milholland, Governmental Bwogger Extraordinaire, attended the USenate plenary this week. An unexpectedly wide range of topics came up, making for some interesting takeaways. But, of course, how can one have a USenate plenary without mentioning the Smoking Policy?

The University Senate had a plenary on Friday, and several smaller topics came up. Here they are, followed by two policy updates:

  • After a moment of silence for the Columbia students killed and injured in the Global Brigades trip to Honduras, PrezBo said that the university’s response was “just outstanding.” PrezBo singled out Samuel Seward, Robert Gristo, and Kavita Sharma, who flew to Honduras as quickly as possible once they heard the news.
  • Columbia College Senator Ramis Wadood said the Student Affairs Committee will release the student quality of life report in a week to a week and a half. He also said that SAC has voted to support a plaque that indicates Columbia is built on land once lived on by the Lenape people.
  • The university’s faculty have been taking a quality of life survey of their own, and, according to Sharyn O’Halloran, 33% of faculty completed it. O’Halloran will provide highlights from the surrey’s data on April 1 and will have more detailed info on April 29. O’Halloran also said that a quality of life survey for research officers is being rolled out this semester.
  • A proposal to give non-tenured faculty “longer notice periods for any decisions not to renew their appointments” was presented and discussed. The proposal passed unanimously, although one senator worried this might lead the university to hire more part-time faculty.

Smoking Policy

  • The Smoking Policy – a perennial University Senate topic – reared its head once more from the deepest, darkest depths of Columbia policy discussion. Specifically, Research Officer Senator Daniel Savin asked for an update, saying, “Walking around campus, it really doesn’t seem as if there’s been any change in the amount of smoking or the location of smoking.”
  • “This is my favorite topic,” said O’Halloran in response. “I will simply say I too have noticed those issues. We have an implementation committee. They will be coming back to us next year with an assessment of whether this has worked or not.” She thanked Savin for his input.

The Institute for Ideas and Imagination

  • A resolution to establish an Institute for Ideas and Imagination passed unanimously. The institute, located at the Global Center in Reid Hall, Paris, would house 14 fellows from humanities-related fields – 7 from Columbia’s faculty and 7 from around the world (not necessarily university faculty).
  • “Broadly speaking, the idea is this: America has probably the best universities in the world,” said Senator Mark Mawozar. “Nevertheless, they’ve benefited in various ways from a period of world history – about 50 or 60 years – when America has been the unchallenged hegemon. And that can lead to a certain kind of intellectual inertia, in which you assume, within your field, or your discipline, or your subject, that you know exactly what’s knowledge and how it should be defined and what’s mainstream and what’s not. And the world’s changing now, pretty fast.”



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img November 21, 20151:08 pmimg 2 Comments

Maybe one day we'll stop investing in fossil fuels!

Maybe one day we’ll stop investing in fossil fuels!

PrezBo’s Defense of Affirmative Action and Discussion of Columbia’s Racial Policy

At the beginning of Friday’s University Senate plenary, PrezBo gave a long speech about racism and the university’s role therein. His speech was historical in nature, starting with the Supreme Court decision Brown vs. The Board of Education, which struck down segregated public schooling as unconstitutional. After that decision, PrezBo said, “basically” every college in the US embraced affirmative action policies, as well as corporations and the government.

However, PrezBo went on, in the late 1980’s these ideas began to be attacked under the Reagan administration, and a challenge to the University of Texas’s Law School’s affirmative action policies succeeded in the Supreme Court. Later, Proposition 209 to California’s constitution got rid of affirmative action, and, according to PrezBo, the University of California is now 2.5% African-American (it was higher before Prop 209, he said).

Find out more about USenate discourse after the jump



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img October 23, 20155:27 pmimg 1 Comments

Today, Columbia. Tomorrow, the world.

Today, Columbia. Tomorrow, the world.

On this fine October afternoon, Bwogger Joe Milholland treks across campus to a spicy USenate meeting, in which everything from low income students to transgender rights were discussed.

PrezBo On Rules Administrator In University Life Rather Than Provost’s Office

“Within the administration, this was a completely obvious decision,” said PrezBo at this Friday’s University Senate Plenary about the controversial movement of the Rules Administrator form the Provost’s Office to the Office of University Life, which Suzanne Goldberg heads. Goldberg will serve as the rules administrator. PrezBo in his comments, which were prompted by a question from Graduate Senator for the Humanities Andrea Crow, said that both Goldberg and Provost John Coatsworth supported the change.

“It makes complete sense to take something like the rules administrator, which is overseeing the ways in which the rules are functional, and have it with somebody who’s looking all the time at students and their concerns and their issues,” said PrezBo, as he argued for this change.

Read more after the jump!



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But how will they protect Bwoggers??

But how will they protect Bwoggers??

Observer of the student bureaucracy Joe Milholland brings us word from the most recent meeting of the University Senate.

On Tuesday afternoon, 63 university senators approved changes to the rules of conduct, with one abstention and no opposing votes. The new rules of conduct, among other things, put all rules violations in a single internal process heard by a board consisting of students, faculty, and administrators. Christopher Riano, co-chair of the committee that wrote the changes, said at the senate plenary that the changes brought Columbia in “parity” with peer institutions on this issue.

Riano emphasized that he believed that the changes, while not perfect, were an improvement, and he indicated the rules could go under further revision. Prezbo asked him about how the rules treat media, and Riano responded that the rules have few provisions specifically for the media “because it’s very hard to identify press and non-press.” Columbia College senator Marc Heinrich suggested that future revisions of the rules could provide a media carveout. The rules revisions will go through the Board of Trustees before they are voted on.

Katherine Conway, a member of the Commission on the Status of Women, also gave a presentation on the commission’s recent work and findings at the plenary, specifically on the Arts and Sciences. “Basically, humanities and social sciences are at or near – and by that I mean within 10% of – parity in everything except for the tenure faculty body,” Conway said. The tenured faculty, however, have been the same or gone down lately for the humanities and social sciences. “Natural sciences has a different story where they have the lowest representation of women on the tenured faculty, but they have gone on an uptick recently in part through tenuring of the untenured track. But they are much further from parity currently in the untenured and have a particularly pronounced dip in the percent of untenured faculty.”

Conway also noted that more women come into the tenured faculty through internal rather than external hire, except for in social sciences. “It’s going to take natural sciences on the order of 80 years to come to parity if we maintain this trend. Social sciences is more like fifty years, and humanities is on track to be at parity in ten years. That’s assuming the plateau they’ve been in for the last few years doesn’t continue.”

The Commission recommended that Columbia collect more data, such as on the work life of women at Columbia and their quality of life. They also recommended in their report “a continued focus on diversity in hiring” as well as a greater focus of retaining women in Columbia’s academic pipeline.


  • Co-Chair of the Student Affairs Committee Zila Acosta announced the accomplishments of the President’s Advisory Committee on Sexual Assault (PACSA): they clarified “their mission and purpose,” improved their internal organization, created a “robust” system to solicit feedback
  • A Columbia admins said that the administration will “came to some reasonable conclusions that we will work on next year” about anonymous comments on course evaluations and title IX investigations.

Accurate depiction of campus journalism via Shutterstock



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img April 08, 201512:56 pmimg 0 Comments

Columbia_University_-_Low_Memorial_Library-DYesterday, the University Senate’s Student Affairs Committee elected this year’s Chair and Vice-Chairs–Marc Heinrich (CC ’16) will serve as Chair of the committee, and Emily Moore (SEAS Graduate School) and Ramis Wadood (CC ’16) will serve as Vice-Chairs. You can read the full press release below:

Student Affairs Committee Elects Leadership for 2015-2016 Academic Year

NEW YORK, April 7, 2013 [sic]–The Student Affairs Committee (SAC) of the Columbia University Senate elected Marc Heinrich (CC ’16) to serve as Chair in the next academic year and Emily Moore (SEAS Graduate School) and Ramis Wadood (CC ’16) as Vice-Chairs. As the three senators on the SAC Executive Committee, Marc, Emily, and Ramis will set SAC’s agenda, lead the student senator caucus, and serve as three of the 13 members of the Senate Executive Committee.

SAC comprises the 25-elected student senators and observers within the Columbia University Senate. As a committee of the University Senate, SAC is the only body that comprehensively represents 36,000 students across all 20 constituent and affiliated schools of Columbia University. With its broad mandate and unique position, SAC takes an active role in university governance.

“We are honored to have been elected to lead SAC next year. It’s been a pleasure to work with SAC this year and we have consistently been impressed by the work from each senator on our committee. We plan to continue to improve SAC and ensure it serves as an effective advocate for students across the University and look forward to addressing a wide range of initiatives in the coming year,” said Marc, Emily, and Ramis in a statement.



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img March 30, 201511:55 pmimg 5 Comments

Tonight, the Columbia University Senate’s Student Affairs Committee (SAC) voted to support Columbia’s divestment from private prisons. Various groups on campus, particularly Columbia Prison Divest, have already urged President Bollinger to divest from private prisons before tonight’s vote. The SAC consists of 25 elected student senators and represents Columbia’s 20 schools and affiliates. Their press release, which can be found below, calls for President Bollinger to recognize student support for divestment, direct the divestment of shares, and announce the divestment decision.



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img November 21, 201412:02 pmimg 3 Comments

PrezBo's thoughts of freedom of speech at Columbia

PrezBo’s thoughts of freedom of speech at Columbia

It’s a big year for Columbia; holding all the town halls and working on changes for many different ways in which the school operates. Joe Milholland, our trusted Columbia Administration reporter, gives us the talking points from Thursday’s USenate Plenary.

“I know there’s a debate about freedom of speech on the campus,” said PrezBo at Thursday’s USenate Plenary as he gave his opening remarks. While admitting that “the first amendment does not apply to Columbia – it’s a private institution,” he also said he wants to “embrace” freedom of speech “as defined by the first amendment” on campus. Prezbo wants rules that are “consistent with the history of Columbia, consistent with our values, consistent with where other great universities are at this point.”

Prezbo said that sexual assault on campus is “a set of issues we want to attend to in all their dimensions.” Law School student senator Zila Acosta said that PACSA will give a report to the senate in Spring. “One of the things we’re looking at is what type of info the senate would like to see from PACSA,” she said. Columbia College Usenator Marc Heinrich is on the Forum Subcommittee, which focuses on how PACSA “is going to be communicating with the community” to make sure voices from the community are heard, and the Communication Subcommittee, which focuses on communicating to the community what PACSA is doing.

Other Updates:

  • Christopher Riano, co-chair of the rules of conduct committee, said that he has heard from the three town halls so far, “a strong desire for the committee to decide to undergo a review and rewriting of” the rules of university conduct. “The committee will most likely decide at our next meeting on a vote on whether we will engage in writing proposals for the rules of university conduct; however, I can never promise that because I am only one of 15 members,” Riano said.
  • Epidemiology professor Ian Lipkin from the School of Public Health gave a talk about Ebola and Columbia. He wants to continue research in west Africa on infectious diseases, and he mentioned that, in his time doing research at Columbia, Columbia’s been involved in 10 infectious diseases. It takes three days for the Ebola virus to become detectable. There is no cure, only supportive treatment to prevent live and kidney failure. Columbia has held a design contest to combat Ebola. Eight of the submissions received an initial fund of $150 and were given more money later.
  • Howard Worman, Chair of the Committee on External Relations, told the senate that, in real dollars, funding has been flat from ’09-’13. This is about a 10% drop in funding when accounting for inflation. The university is lobbying the federal government for more funding money. In some departments, much of the money comes from funding. He also mentioned that “the committee seemed a little bit burned out on smoking policy.”

Beautiful campus view via Shutterstock



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img November 09, 20142:19 pmimg 1 Comments

"What a beautiful day for a town hall"

“What a beautiful day for a town hall”

The University Senate will host the second town hall reviewing the Rules of University Conduct tomorrow on Monday, November 10 in Jerome Greene Hall 103 (Law school). Anyone with a CUID is welcome to attend. A transcript from the first town hall in October can be found here.

An email from university senator Jared Odessky explains what’s at stake in these meetings:

For the first time in decades, the rules governing free speech and protest on campus are under review by the University Senate. The Rules of University Conduct, first introduced after the 1968 protests and made permanent in the 1970s, are designed to protect the rights of free expression while at the same time ensuring the continued functioning of the University and the protection of the rights of those who may be affected by such demonstrations. All members of the University community are subject to these Rules, including students, faculty, and organizations — and punishments for students can range from a disciplinary warning, to suspension, and even expulsion.

At the last Town Hall, students who spoke raised concerns about the potential elimination of the external, independent disciplinary process for free speech activity violations; the lack of funding for legal representation for students going through the process; and unclear rules of evidence in the adjudication process. Some students also expressed concerns about the range of sanctions for protest violations — currently, students found responsible under the external process face a minimum punishment of suspension.

Check out an overview of the committee, what could change, and the town hall itself here.

Low Library via Shutterstock




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img October 27, 201411:08 amimg 0 Comments

We're frustrated & CCSC knows it

We’re frustrated & CCSC knows it

Things might have gotten a little heated at last night’s CCSC meeting, and the devout Sunday night spectator Joe Milholland is here as always to keep you in the loop. 

In 1999, when VP of Campus Services Scott Wright was touring Columbia, as he looked at Lerner, the new student center, he commented to his tour guide, “I don’t know why you put a spiral staircase for the construction workers because you sure as hell wouldn’t do it for a restaurant.”

As he related this story to the Columbia College Student Council Sunday night, he was also able to announce that a new staircase is coming to Ferris, probably not over winter break, but likely over Spring Break or over summer. Wright, however, is “not exactly sure what they’re going to do” to put in a better staircase.

Wright took several other questions from CCSC. Class of 2015 VP Jackson Tse asked about environmental stewardships. Wright talked about some initiatives students and admins are working on. For example, admins are looking at what’s being recycled in Carman and EC – the two locations, according to Wright, are a “good place to start, at least in terms of bottles” – and 70% of the trash in Carman is recyclable. Wright also talked about his enthusiasm for Green Mondays. “When you eat a steak, you’re eating something like someone’s five year supply of water,” Wright said. He also said meatless Mondays for all of NYC would be equivalent to 98 million trees a year.

Frustrations about mail, promising new meal times, and more CCSC magic after this nifty jump



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img October 25, 20144:06 pmimg 0 Comments

More official by the month

More official by the month

Bureaucracy buff Joe Milholland ventured to the University Senate plenary on Friday, coming back with word on the University’s evolving sexual assault policy, Ebola, and Manhattanville.

At the Friday, October 24 USenate Plenary, Suzanne Goldberg, the Special Advisor to the President for Sexual Assault Policy, talked about the sexual assault policy and took questions from the audience.

Goldberg emphasized the policy was focused on prevention and communicating resources as well as response. She noted that there are several confidential resources for survivors, such as Sexual Violence Response, the Office of the University Chaplain, and Health Services. She also said that Columbia has several staff members and peer advocates on CPS, whereas most schools only have one trained person to deal with sexual assault.

As for non-confidential resources, Goldberg stated that survivors do not have to engage in the investigation process even if they get accommodations from the Office of Gender-based Misconduct. The investigators at SVR are all new and are “deeply trained,” according to Goldberg, who has sat in on some training sessions. Of the non-confidential processes, Goldberg said, “non-confidential does not mean non-private,” and “The University will never comment on an individual student’s case, even if the student is public about their experience of sexual violence”

But did anyone actually read this thing?



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img October 15, 20146:53 pmimg 14 Comments

rules of conductColumbia’s Rules of Conduct, which govern protests and demonstrations on campus, are currently under review by the University Senate. Protest proponent Julia Goodman explores the potential impact of impending changes. Those interested in updates to the Rules of Conduct should attend the town hall this Friday from 4 to 6 pm in 309 Havemeyer. All those with a CUID are welcome.

On Columbia’s webpage on university regulations, under the policies on religious holidays and hazing, lies the little-understood section known as the Rules of Conduct. Introduced after the 1968 protests, the Rules are currently under review by the University Senate Committee on Rules of University Conduct. Any potential changes must be finalized by the end of next semester in order to be approved by the Trustees in June, before the retirement of Rules Administrator and Vice Provost for Academic Administration Dr. Stephen Rittenberg. The last updates to the Rules of Conduct were made in the 80’s, so it’s not a stretch to say that any changes will likely remain in effect for years, if not decades. In an email sent Monday, Sejal Singh and Jared Odessky, the two undergraduate students on the Rules Committee, said, “This is perhaps the single most important structural change happening at Columbia in our four years here.”

According to Singh and Odessky, “The Committee has identified the hearing process as one key area for review.” Members of the Rules Committee are generally not allowed to comment on the proceedings, so we can only speculate on possible changes they are considering. However, President Bollinger believes the external judicial process is an “odd” remnant of a time long past when “people didn’t like administrators.” If those sentiments are shared by administrators and faculty on the Rules Committee, the Committee may be planning to eliminate the external process altogether.

Currently, only serious violations, those for which the lightest possible punishment is suspension, can go through the external judicial process. For simple violations, the only option is Dean’s Discipline. This process was exemplified in the 1993 case of Benjamin Jealous (who would go on to become president of the NAACP). He and several other students were accused of violating the Rules of Conduct after protesting the demolition of the site of Malcolm X’s assassination, which Columbia had acquired a few years previously. As Jealous and other students wrote in an op-ed in the February 2nd, 1993 issue of the Spectator, they were faced with the impossible choice between Dean’s Discipline and the external process, in which “the University does not assist you in locating or retaining an adviser, and hires outside criminal or corporate attorneys to construct and prosecute their case against you,” a practice that is unusual within the Ivy League and at other universities.

Yet Jealous chose the external process, because the prospect of being tried under Dean’s Discipline was infinitely more “scary and confusing.” Dean’s Discipline not only denies respondents the option of a lawyer or any outside council, but also eliminates the opportunity to present evidence or call witnesses. And unlike the external process, which is judged by an outside attorney, Dean’s Discipline relies on the decisions of Columbia administrators, who may often have conflicts of interest in such cases.

More on the significance of potential changes after the jump



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img October 14, 20141:39 pmimg 0 Comments

More people might go if it was held here instead

More people might go if it was here instead

On Friday, October 17 in Havemeyer 309, there will be a town hall about the USenate’s review of the University Rules of Conduct, which govern the rules around free speech at campus. Pre-registration is not required and anyone with a CUID can attend.

Overview of the Rules

After the ’68 protests, the University came up with new rules regulating protests and free speech at Columbia. These rules have stayed mostly the same since their inception with only minor changes in the first few years after they were instituted. The rules, which can be viewed here, cover a rather broad set of actions that could be considered violations. For example, in 1992, students who were blocking only one entrance of Hamilton and leaving the rest open received one-year suspensions. Prezbo himself has said, “There have always been things that have struck me as odd about the rules.”
The current rules administrator, Dr. Stephen Rittenberg, is stepping down, prompting the University Senate to look over the rules in a subcommittee. University Senator Jared Odessky considers the review of the Rules of Conduct to be the “most important structural change” that he has seen in his four years at Columbia.

The Committee

The Committee on the Rules of University Conduct, whose deliberations are private, is made up of a wide range of senators from the students, faculty, and administration. Columbia College University Senator Jared Odessky and CCSC VP of Policy Sejal Singh are the undergraduate representatives on the committee.
The committee will only give recommendations to the senate as a whole. The committee will decide either to change the rules or keep them as they are. If they decide against changing the rules, the Senate as a whole could still vote to change them, but they almost certainly would not. If they decide to change the rules, they will recommend certain changes to the whole senate, which would likely approve them, although it could potentially make some changes. Once the senate has approved them, the Board of Trustees will vote on the changes.

So…what are the potential changes?



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img October 01, 201411:10 amimg 6 Comments

Feelin' optimistic

Feelin’ optimistic

The school year’s first University Senate meeting opened with a speech by Prezbo where he gave his perspective on the present and future of Columbia. He said that Columbia is in one of its “greatest eras.” He gave compliments to the new and some of the returning deans, praised the architectural changes around Columbia, and commented on the improvement of SEAS. While he cannot right now release financial data, he is confident that Columbia will retain the largest return on its endowment among universities with endowments over $1 billion and will remain in the top 5 of universities in terms of dollars coming in. He also stated that the university’s recent capital campaign was the 2nd most successful in US history.

On sexual assault, Prezbo stated that the there was a nationwide movement around the issue where every school needs to step up, and he believes Columbia has stepped up. He noted that he had discussions with students about sexual assault policy over the summer and wants to have more, but he had to institute a new policy before the beginning of the school year.

More updates after the jump…



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img May 12, 20144:08 pmimg 32 Comments

Click to enlarge.

Click to enlarge.

A statement sent out by Columbia cleared up some of the details of the USenate smoking ban talked about at the last meeting, stating that the smoking areas seen on the map will go into effect on July 1. Notably, one of the areas is in front of Butler, so studiers stepping outside for a breath of fresh air will still be greeted by a smoky slap in the face (20 feet, our ass).

They didn’t say anything about how they were going to enforce compliance, only noting that “all members of the Columbia community” were responsible for following the rule “voluntarily.”

Here’s the press release they sent out:

On May 3, 2013, the University Senate adopted a resolution to limit smoking to designated areas on the Morningside campus. The designated areas will go into effect July 1, 2014.

Smoking will be permitted at 14 locations on the Morningside campus that will be outlined via an online campus map and available in print at key locations like Lerner Hall, the Visitor’s Center, and Public Safety guard booths.

Task forces and other exciting things.



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img May 02, 20145:03 pmimg 0 Comments

There should probably be more than four

There should probably be more than four

The University Senate had its final plenary today at 1:15. Senate Savvy Maud Rozee was there to get the news. And the snacks.

PrezBo was running late because he had to attend a World Leader’s Forum event, so Executive committee chair Sharyn O’Halloran gave some opening remarks summarizing the events of the recent Town Hall on sexual assault.

When PrezBo arrived, he commented on the search for the new Executive Vice President of Student Affairs. He noted that for several years he had been thinking that Columbia was missing someone who could have a broad, comprehensive view of the issues students are dealing with at Columbia. The discussions about sexual assault prompted him to start the search, and he expects to appoint someone by the beginning of the next academic year.

PrezBo also said that there is still a lot of work to do on the sexual assault issue, and he will be sending out another update in the next week on the ongoing work.

A senate member asked about how the recent Supreme Court decision about affirmative action in Michigan could affect Columbia. PrezBo replied with a long and very interesting explanation of how different laws worked.

Report from the Rules Committee:

  • This committee was created to consider changes to the Rules of University Conduct, which are special, university-wide, disciplinary rules which apply to demonstrations, rallies, picketing and the circulation of petitions. The rules are designed to protect the rights of free expression as well as the proper functioning of the University.
  • After three meetings, the Committee has come to the decision that the rules need to be changed. They are decades-old, dense and difficult to understand, and perhaps not as fair and just as they could be. They are also outline procedures which are very different from those of peer institutions.
  • The next step for the Committee is to gather information, and start to engage in a public way with students and faculty. To that end, starting next semester, Town Halls will be held, and the Committee will meet with student and faculty leaders.
  • The Committee doesn’t have much more information about how the rules will be changed, and for what outcome. They only know they want to start a discussion.
  • Personally, I think this process will be of especially great importance to groups like No Red Tape, Barnard/Columbia Divest, and Students for Justice in Palestine.

Smokers must read

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