Today, the University Senate held its usual monthly plenary meeting—but anything “usual” about it ended there. The meeting was held in Jerome 104, a larger space to accommodate the many guests, which included extra-stern Public Safety officers. In what was pretty much expected based on past ROTC business, the Senate passed an amended ROTC resolution, effectively opening the door to dialogues with the military about a potential ROTC branch. Conor Skelding gives a blow-by-blow of the parliamentary bickering.
Anticipation and tension in the crowd was palpable at the meeting’s outset. Public Safety ushered Senators and media in through one door, and relegated people not “on the list” to a long line at the main entrance. PrezBo began the meeting by tabling the fringe benefits update until the April 29th meeting—to the dissatisfaction of a few professors—and kept the rest of his opening remarks brief. Manhattanville, he said, is going great, especially the fundraising, and there are “major new gifts” are in the works. With that, he allowed another board member to carry on.
The meeting proper began with an overview of the Task Force’s process, then of “what the ROTC is and is not,” and finally a section-by-section analysis—a near defense, really—of the resolution to be presented. After this followed a point-by-point presentation on why Senate was the right body to deal with the ROTC and what the Task Force had done well. A faculty member and student each spoke for and against.
It went con-pro, and Bwog was reminded of Julius Caesar. You always wanna speak last! Very soft time limits of five minutes were set. A BSchool Senator notably went far beyond his time limit, and a professor cat-called, “He’s gone over five minutes! Me me me me me!”
PrezBo then opened the floor to Senators to debate back and forth. After two statements in favor, the professor who cat-called earlier identified herself as a philosophy professor, and made two motions: first, to amend the resolution to fix what she believed to be “openly biased” language; second, to table debate until April 29th.
The Senate floor subsequently devolved into open bickering: PrezBo and the philosophy professor were talking over one another, third parties were getting in the way, and there seemed to be no order. One senator yelled out, “We’re voting to do what we’re doing!”
Finally, one speaker gave an opinion on the first amendment, and then a Senator called the question. It was voted down. The same one-two votes were dealt to the second motion to table the debate—and this all took half an hour. One wonders how much Congress is like this…
PrezBo called for speakers again, and one zealous Senator shouted out a motion to call into question the ROTC resolution itself. His motion barely failed. Now when PrezBo spoke, and everybody quieted down. He called for speakers, and then another amendment was proposed that would strike out the first paragraph which reads:
That Columbia University consider whether it is in their interest to change their current relationship with ROTC. That Columbia is open to investigating whether there may be mutually beneficially relationships with the Armed Forces of the United States, which may include a relationship with the Reserve Officer Training Corps.
This passed without a vote as a friendly amendment. Another senator then motioned to strike out everything except for the original second operative clause which reads:
Be it resolved that Columbia University welcomes the opportunity to explore further mutually beneficial relationships with the Armed Forces of the United States, including participation in the programs of the Reserve Officer Training Corps.
A senator irately added, “I just want to have the discussion we’re here for. I’m voting to call the question [on the amendments].” It was voted on and passed, and that is how the Senate reached its final resolution.
PrezBo tiredly commented, “We’re done with the amendments. We’re done with the amendments, right?”
Right. Mr. Bo reopened Senate debate, and people started back and forth yet again. A Law professor pointed out that DADT has not yet been actually taken out of practice, and PrezBo assured him that no ROTC will come to Columbia until it is. Indeed, he added, “I think it helps with the elimination of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell that we are involved in this.” Sociology Professor Herbert Gans spoke, decrying militarization and imperialism—he mentioned that military officers said we wouldn’t be getting involved in Libya.
PrezBo then got antsy and stressed, “We’re coming to a time where we are risking losing a quorum as people leave.” He called on several more speakers and encouraged them to be “succinct.” After these speakers, PrezBo ruled by fiat. “I would like to see a vote. Is there a desire for a vote?”
One senator shouted, “Yes!” and another bellowed, “SECONDED!” A third senator tried to interject, “Can I just ask—” But this was quickly quieted by the crowd with a collective, “No!” Who can blame them? They were getting a little cranky.
The motion to call the question passed, the the resolution itself passed 51-17-1.
Almost as an afterthought, another resolution was passed without debate to rename the School of Continuing Education the School of Professional and Cross-Disciplinary Studies.
Then the senators ran out.