Moody-Adams at an ethics panel

Dean Moody-Adams’ resignation was surprising and controversial. We’ve done our best to provide context and historical background over the past few days, but all the information can be overwhelming. We’ve pared Moodygate down to the bare essentials, in a neat question and answer format to help you digest it all. But be warned! It doesn’t end here. A serious rift in the notoriously secretive administrative structure of Columbia has been laid bare and we’ll be doing our best to understand the story from all sides in the coming weeks.

What even happened?!

Bwog recieved an e-mail from an alumnus reproducing MM-A’s letter of resignation. The message was confirmed to be making the rounds of alumni networks, and to have been passed down from people higher up in the ranks. PrezBo released a statement the next day saying that MiMoo’s resignation should be effective immediately (instead of June 2012 as she proposed) and that an interim dean would be found by the start of the academic year. By the end of the day, both CCSC and Dean of Student Affairs Kevin Schollenberger had issued statements confirming her resignation, but left the reasons behind the move mysterious.

What did the e-mail say?

MiMoo said that “plans to reform the administrative structure in Arts and Sciences” motivated her resignation. These changes would significantly diminsh the power of the Dean of the College in matters of policy, budgeting and fund-raising. She therefore resigned “because I cannot in good conscience carry out a role that I believe to be detrimental to the welfare of the College.”

What did the allegations mean?

Arts and Sciences was created in 1991, and acts as an umbrella encompassing CC, SEAS, SIPA, GS, GSAS, Arts and Continuing Ed. The schools no longer have individual faculties, and lost a significant degree of fiscal independence. The key phrase here is the “Harvardization of Columbia,” a bureaucratic restructuring to streamline the different branches of the university. This increase of efficiency has come at the price of each schools’ individual autonomy, and MiMoo claimed that the plans of Arts and Sciences’ going forward would harm Columbia College. Right now it is still unclear what sort of damages we’re talking about, but it almost certainly will come down to money. Who gets it, where it goes, and who has the final say.

Where was MiMoo coming from?

She’d only been here two years and was largely seen as neutral by students and faculty. She was the first dean to have an Arts and Sciences title, “Vice President for Undergraduate Education.” Alumni viewed this as a significant concession to Arts and Sciences, and an indication that she would go along with their centralizing agenda. Despite her weak presence, Moody-Adams was a strong supporter of the values of the Core Curriculum, and was clearly prepared to stick up for them when push came to shove.

So what’s the deal with Arts & Sciences and are they evil?

They’re definitely not evil. All large organizations require a certain amount of bureaucracy and administration to keep them running smoothly, and the needs of a large research university have changed over the years. However, the same organizations also require transparency and efficient communication. Many people associated with Columbia College have felt for a long time that this is being compromised. We unraveled some of the complex hierarchy, which clearly demonstrates how much power is consolidated in the hands of two people: Nick Dirks, Executive VP of Arts and Sciences, and Robert Kasdin, Senior VP of Columbia University. Both work very closely with Bollinger, influencing the University’s direction in ways traditionally more associated with the role of Provost. Together they have responsibility for the entire Arts and Sciences Faculty (which includes every professor you’ve ever had), Facilities, Finance, and Administrative Services. MiMoo, as College Dean, reported directly to Dirks.

Should we blame PrezBo?

This would be too much of a simplification. PrezBo’s daily dealings as University President have little to do with the details of the College (read more about the President’s Office here). However, his vision of Columbia’s future, which focuses on expansion both locally with Manhattanville, and globally with the University’s global centers, may come at the expense of some of the traditional values that the College—the original cornerstone of Columbia university—has stood for. Some see the loss of individuality of the college as a sacrifice for the larger aims of the University.

What is going to happen next?

Now that convocation was conveniently canceled due to Irene, Columbia has nine days before the start of the academic year to find an interim dean. It’s more likely that an old hand will be appointed, someone well-versed in the responsibilities of a senior administrator. This could be a former dean, or another professor who’s held senior positions. Alternatively, a new Dean who can hold the position for the long-term will be selected. This would have to be a young, tenured professor with a pristine track record of allegiance to the College.

What does this mean in the long term?

We’re not really sure. There are a lot of people who have strong feelings about the issues raised by Moody-Adams resignation. The issue of transparency is a delicate one, and it’s essential that everyone involved understands the relevant context as well as the facts. However, the whole affair is worrying evidence of deepening cracks between the College and the university, that are frustratingly all-too familiar. The short life-span of a leader recognized as relatively complacent suggests that instead of approaching a resolution, these are only becoming more serious.

Ethical concerns via Cornell