Oct

8

Why Are We Excluded from CAFA?

Written by

Provost Coatsworth

Provost Coatsworth

CAFA, the Committee on Admissions and Financial Aid that governs CC/SEAS, has been made anew. It used to be under the Dean, but now it’s under the Provost. It used to have student reps, but now instead has professional school reps. There should be student reps on CAFA. Please make that happen, “student leaders.”

Not long ago, Coatsworth announced “the [re-]formation” (Bwog’s addition) of the Committee on Admissions and Financial Aid.

According to its charter, CAFA

offers guidance on how diversity—of personal experience, of academic interest, of non‐ academic achievement, of place of origin, of family background, of secondary school—should be considered in evaluation of applicants for their potential to contribute to and benefit from the undergraduate experience at Columbia [and] advises on financial aid policies that enable the achievement of admissions goals, and assesses the effectiveness of these policies in meeting educational objectives.

Why “re-formation”? Because CAFA existed before, and included student representatives. Not this time.

In 1992, CAFA Students were instrumental in killing a cost-cutting plan that would have ruined financial aid. Said CCSC ’92: “We are convinced that such policies would return us to the days when classism—and institutional racism—dictated the College’s policies on admission and financial aid.”

So why are there no student representatives in CAFA, despite history? Because of history, says Coatsworth. From Spec:

Coatsworth, though, said that “it isn’t normal for a provostial committee to have student representatives […] I think it’s likely that we will not [add student members], because the main purpose of the committee is to have faculty advice for our long-term strategy”

And what does our own Deantini say? The three Columbia College senators met him and asked. Here’s what Eduardo Santana, CC ’13, told Bwog. Note the bolded language:

[W]hen the NROTC case came up last year, and we tried to get student representation, [Valentini said], “Yeah, of course, there should be a student on this board.” We go to him for CAFA, and he said, “No.” […] This is really important, it’s just for the faculty.”

That Coatsworth and Deantini are employing the same language to exclude students suggests that they’ve talked about it, and have better reasons that they’re sharing. Non-transparent ones. Add in that PrezBo dodged the same question at his fireside chat, it’s clear that there should probably  be student representatives on this committee.

Also of interest is this: according to the 1978 Stated Rules (there’s probably a more recent draft, though nobody we spoke to knows where), we have the right to representation. Read & learn:

The Committee on Admissions and Financial Aid to consist of the Dean, the Associate Dean, the Dean of Students, the Director of Admissions, the Associate Director of Admissions, and the Direc­tor of Financial Aid, all ex officiis, six members of the Faculty, elected by it for terms of three years each, two members retiring annually, and three students appointed by the Dean. The Committee shall elect its own chairman.

So: what does it means that the Dean has been replaced by the Provost, and that student representatives by professional school representatives? There are questions that need to be asked, that ought to be asked by student representatives.

N.B. CAFA, which will decide what factors Admissions will select by, could matter a lot next year, depending on the Fisher decision.

Coatsworth’s full announcement:
Dear Colleagues:
I am pleased to announce the formation of the provost’s Committee on Admissions and Financial Aid (CAFA). The purpose of the committee is to provide faculty insight and advice on admissions and financial aid policies and procedures in the College and the School of Engineering and Applied Sciences. The  Committee will not participate in individual admissions or financial aid decisions. It will not make recommendations regarding the admission of individual applicants nor consider the financial aid awards of individual students.

The Committee will provide advice on admissions criteria, such as curriculum and testing requirements, and evaluate these criteria in relation to student academic performance at Columbia. CAFA will offer guidance on how diversity—of personal experience, of academic interest, of non-academic achievement, of place of origin, of family background, of secondary school—should be considered in the evaluation of an applicant’s potential to contribute to and benefit from the undergraduate experience at Columbia. The Committee will also advise on programs used to assemble the undergraduate student body, including the use of early decision, the offering of a combined plan and transfer programs, and the provision of visiting student opportunities. It can recommend recruitment initiatives to develop an applicant pool and yield efforts to produce an entering class that reflects the established academic and non-academic criteria for admission. Finally, the Committee will advise on financial aid policies that enable the achievement of admissions goals, and assess the effectiveness of these policies in meeting educational objectives.

I am grateful to the following colleagues for their willingness to serve on this new committee:

Patricia Culligan (SEAS)
Julio Fernandez (Biology)
Guillermo Gallego (SEAS)
Michael Gerrard (Law)
Farah Griffin (English and Comparative Literature)
John Huber (Political Science)
Soulaymane Kachani (SEAS)
Philip Kim (SEAS and Physics)
Bruce Kogut (Business)
Frances Negron-Muntaner (English/CSER)
Samuel Roberts (History)
Sincerely,
John H. Coatsworth
Provost
Image via columbia.edu

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23 Comments

  1. Anonymous  

    who are those people singing on low steps right now?

  2. Anonymous  

    you can ask deantini and sam roberts this question personally at schapiro's faculty in residence event tomorrow (schapiro PH apartment - 6:00pm-7:30pm)

    there is also free dinner

  3. Twitch  

    It's a Jewish drinking holiday called Simhat Torah.

  4. Twitch  

    Also, eff the administration.

  5. Anonymous  

    what can be done about this?

  6. Op

    Provost Coatsworth is the Dick Cheney of Columbia University i.e. the king maker and final authority on the all the crucial matters. Needless to say Prez is nothin but just his puppet.

    An insider

    • bjw2119

      That's a stupid idea. The last provost, Claude Steele, had to fight for a year to even be allowed to see the budget. If you contrast that with Provost Cole's term, when he went to CCSC to warn them of the impending fiscal difficulties and the probable reduction in financial aid, it seems like another world. Having a fairly powerful provost is healthier than what we've had under Bollinger, where SEVP Kasdin uses his reach over "fiscal issues" to make decisions that dramatically impact the academic mission of the university to create new knowledge and teach students. Fiscal issues should be a means to an end (the University's academic mission), not an end unto themselves.

      That being said, it's unconscionable that Dean Valentini would surrender the College's right to make decisions about its students' financial aid and admissions to the Provost. If the rumors are true that that surrender on financial aid was the price he had to pay to stay Dean and gain his expanded access to the Trustees, EVP meetings, and role in the FAS "triumvirate," students, faculty, and alumni should have a right to know that.

      But regardless of all of the above, students deserve seats on CAFA. They held those seats for nearly three decades, and it was completely appropriate and necessary for decisions regarding admissions and financial aid to have both faculty and student input and votes. Nothing about that has changed.

      • bjw2119

        Also, bring back line breaks, please. If I'm going to rant I at least want to break it into manageable chunks...

      • Retired admin

        As in all things, there are trade-offs over whether the 'academic' side of the house or whether the 'administrative' side of the house has more power. The question is not whether the Provost or the Senior Executive Vice President is more powerful; the question is how they amass that power. Make no mistake, Jonathan Cole had his share of enemies too - mostly from the faculty whose powers he usurped in his twice-failed bids to become President. I don't know what Kasdin's interests are. I suspect to accumulate enough in money in current-use funds and gifts to build Manhattanville. Cole and Kasdin are more alike than different: both sought as their first priority to put Columbia on firmer financial footing. Before Cole was named Provost, there were some dodgy months in the 1970s and 1980s when central administration wasn't sure there was enough cash in the bank to make payroll. Cole did it by centralizing power within his office away from the faculty (remember, he went to CCSC to warn them of impending *cuts*) but had the credibility and cachet to speak as a member *of* the faculty (and indeed, its leader). Kasdin does it by centralizing power within his office away from the faculty, but unlike Cole, is not a member of the faculty, and so his power-behind-the-throne SOP is a direct reflection on his inability to engage with the faculty directly like Cole. So the point of this long rant is: if you're a student, neither Cole or Kasdin is your saviour. They both had remarkably similar goals and priorities, but just different ways of achieving them that was visible to students.

        • concerned citizen  

          then who is our friend? I feel like MM-A was our friend, but she's gone (because she vocally supported us). montas is our friend, but he's powerless.

          • bjw2119

            I'm not sure that MMA was our friend, given that most of the time she was here she seemed terrified that someone would do something controversial and get her in trouble. The best thing she ever did for CC was resigning in a way that alerted all of the Trustees and alumni to the fact that mad-shadiness that was going on with the struggle between CC vs. FAS and the rest of Low. As for the allies that DO exist, most of them are retired administrators or involved faculty who remember what it was like pre-Bollinger. The only real "pivotal actor" who could be an ally could be Prof. Popkin, who is attempting to rebuild some semblance of faculty cohesion and participation. Other than her, former Provost de Bary, former CC Interim Dean/Dean of Students Roger Lehecka, former Dean Pollack are all examples of former admins who are friendly to student input. They and some of their older colleagues on the faculty remain deeply engaged in these issues, but have less influence than they used to. Younger faculty like Prof. Christia Mercer care deeply about ISSUES like the Core, but weren't around or were involved with their research work and don't remember the PROCESSES that used to exist. Hell, to be fair, Coatsworth, MMA, and Steele weren't around when those processes used to exist, either. Ultimately, students need to realize that they have the historical and logical right to participate in decision-making regarding not only student services (gender-neutral housing, anyone?), but also issues of curriculum, financial aid, and other things that touch on "the deployment of academic resources" (i.e. budgetary matters). When students as a group can educate themselves on those issues and then demand a seat at the table, it will be difficult for Low to say no. But because the system is so complicated, Low's unwillingness to be transparent serves as a further deterrent to student participation, so only a few motivated students who are highly knowledgeable about the system agitate for change, and they are easily ignored.

    • WMH

      You should read the piece in Eye last spring about Low as a black box (I'd hyperlink but am typing this on my phone). It sheds a lot of light on the role of the provost in all this.

  7. Anonymous

    This is why, while some folks were celebrating how connected Valentini was with the students, I was still disturbed by the loss of Moody-Adams. She lost her job fighting for our college; why are CC students so comfortable with the person hand-selected by the administration to replace her? Because he comments on bwog and participates in silly videos?

  8. Anonymous

    I don't understand how more tyranny could ever surprise anyone here. As has been the trend in recent years, Columbia students have increasingly not only been willing to bend over for Columbia Czars but also have gained some pleasure from said forceful sodomizing (perhaps a consequence of Stockholm Syndrome). These masterminds will continue to magnify their power while the student body allows them. It is important to remind them that they work for us. We pay their salaries. Now, some dunderhead may argue that our "bottomless" endowment pays all these people — it doesn't. This administration is out of control and they need to go. As for this story, when the Supreme Court does the right thing and strikes down Bollinger's Soviet-style affirmative action crusade next summer, this admissions politburo will be obsolete.

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