Deep in thought

Deep in thought

PrezBo began the last University Senate plenary of the year with a collection of remarks on current events.

On the passing of Bill Campbell

“There was no more dedicated alumn of Columbia than Bill,” said PrezBo about the long-time Columbia trustee who died recently. “He really knew how to make organizations work,” said PrezBo. “When it came to making things happen and protecting me and the institution, there was just nobody better.”

PrezBo attended a memorial service for Campbell on Monday in Palo Alto (Campbell was involved in Silicon Valley), and he asked for a moment of silence at the plenary.

On Manhattanville

“On May 2nd, I’ll send out a statement saying that on May 2nd 1896, Morningside Heights campus was dedicated, and we are now beginning the process of dedicating the new campus in Manhattanville, and this will go on all through next year, as we begin to move into the buildings,” said PrezBo about his Manhattanville plants.

The Mind, Brain, and Behavior Institute, the Lenfest Center for the Arts, and the forum building “will all be completed in the next year and a half,” according to PrezBo.

On the Henry Moore sculpture

“This was a mistake,” said PrezBo about the sculpture. “I mean a mistake in the way the institution has functioned. It’s nobody’s fault except mine. My responsibility is everything, especially those things that don’t go right.”

“I would describe this as a classic kind of bureaucratic mistake,” PrezBo went on. He blamed the lack of a “sufficient collective thought process.”

“We put this on pause […] we’ll figure out the right result,” PrezBo concluded. “I promise not to put up the Henry Moore sculpture during the summer.”

On divestment and freedom of speech

“We’ve had a number of debates about divestment. We’ll continue to have those. We have a process, we have committee. It’s been established for almost two decades,” said PrezBo about divestment. Although he did not make an explicit reference to CDCJ’s protest in his office, he emphasized the importance of the ACSRI’s process in divestment decisions.

“Full protection of freedom of speech on campus is my commitment, our commitment. That means allowing people to speak who have views that we strongly disagree with,” said PrezBo about free speech (again, not specifically referencing the sit-in in his office).

On affirmative action and the Supreme Court

Columbia has submitted an amicus brief for Fisher II. Columbia is arguing that “it should be held constitutional for a university to be able to consider race and ethnicity in the admissions process for the purpose of achieving educational benefits.”

Rules of Conduct and press passes

Logan Wright, co-chair of the Rules of Conduct Committee, talked about the proposed guidelines for the Rules of Conduct.

“The mechanism we have come up with is creating a presumption under the rules that people who are issued official press passers are not to be found in violation of the rules. Essentially what this means is that we are going to have a student organization at the beginning of every year issue press passes, and then the holders of the pass are entitled to the assumption that they are not to be in violation of the rules when they are acting in their role as press,” said Wright.

“What this pass allows press to do is to be trespassing in an area for the purpose of recording a protest.”

ACSRI on fossil fuel divestment

ACSRI Chair Jeff Gordon talked about ACSRI’s work this academic year. He did not specifically mention CDCJ’s sit-in in Low.

ASCRI has created a proposal submission guide, which asks groups calling for divestment to tell them why “engagement isn’t a superior way to proceed.”

Gordon praised the transparency of ASCRI and emphasized the need for due process when Columbia makes investment decisions.

On the subject of the CDCJ proposal, he said that ASCRI decided against the proposal because historically, when divesting from companies that did business in Sudan or South Africa, Columbia divested from companies that had a small amount of business in those places in order to put stigma on them. For fossil fuel firms, Gordon said, divestment would not change their behavior, and divestment would not distinguish between different practices among fossil fuel firms.

For prison divestment, however, Gordon said, “the business model was wholly inconsistent with the value of the university […] It’s hard to take that position with fossil fuel firms. In that, we use fossil fuels.” ASCRI suggested other ways Columbia could tackle fossil fuels.

However, Gordon suggested that fossil fuel companies that are working to extract fossil fuels from oil sands “reflect denial by deed of climate change science” – an act that would go against Columbia’s scientific goals.

Gordon indicated that ASCRI is working on a way to get community feedback through an online form on this issue.

Gordon also talked about two other proposals ASCRI: the Earth Institute’s proposal to divest from coal and one from Columbia University Apartheid Divest (CUAD says they want Columbia to divest from companies that are “complicit in Israeli practices that are illegal under international law.” Gordon simply said that CUAD “focuses on other things”). ASCRI has asked these groups to revise their proposals in accordance with their guidelines.

A GSAS student asked if the oil sands guidelines would apply to an fossil fuel company exploring new reserves. Gordon responded that, while he saw the student’s argument, it could be argued that fracking has less of a cost.


  • Today is PrezBo’s 70th birthday! It’s also my 21st birthday!

  • Columbia College Senator Marc Heinrich presented what the Student Affairs Committee (SAC) has done this school year: publishing and presenting the 2nd Quality of Life report, improving Dogdge Gym, working on making the day before Thanksgiving an academic holiday, working to fill the vacancy for the Muslim Religious Life Advisor, expanding CPS staff, expressing student priorities for space left on Modernism Campus, creating SAC sub-committees on physical/mental disabilities and financial insecurity, revising the Interschool Governing Board, creating the Commission on Diversity, drafting sustainability principles, working with the Columbia alumni association, and working on family policy.

  • Executive Committee Chair gave some of the results from the faculty quality of life survey. Both tenured faculty and non-tenure track faculty have a higher satisfaction than junior tenure track faculty. Female faculty have a lower satisfaction than male faculty, and minority faculty have a lower satisfaction than non-minority faculty.

He cares about you(senate) via Daniel Acker/Bloomberg