Here’s a recap of Friday’s USenate plenary session, in which they discuss sex, money, and death, the three things you “shouldn’t” bring up at a dinner party.

USenate discussed several big topics yesterday at its March plenary session, commemorating the late Dean of GS Peter Awn, and discussing the new undergraduate relationship policy, expense report system, and divestment process. President Lee Bollinger was not present, but rather, was represented by Provost John Coatsworth (leading one senator to inquire if perhaps the President’s report should simply be renamed the Provost’s report since Bollinger is a regular no-show). The provost spoke very quietly and far away from his microphone and mentioned that they’d figured out they didn’t need to send two letters to every faculty member about their salary for the next year, thus saving 17,000 sheets of paper a year.

The Senate’s Commission on the Status of Women also gave a report that now headlines the Senate’s web page, on gender disparities in academic medicine and an article that they produced and published in The Lancet. For anyone interested in reading, here’s the link!

Onto the other stuff that got discussed:


The new undergraduate-faculty relationship policy is online- after some senators asked if there had been a formal announcement, an email was promptly blasted out to everyone by James Piacentini of the Student Affairs Committee noting changes to the language and giving everyone a handy link to the full text of the policy. It says “don’t sleep with your students” but in three pages of legalese.

They’re also working on a graduate policy, but there need to be some meetings with General Counsel and such- it’s in the works, though, so if any grad students out there really want to get it on with your professors, your window could be closing.

Money (Pt. 1)

The IT committee reported back on meetings it had with administrators about the adoption of a new business and travel expense report filing system, and the prognosis is not good. The software, called Concur, is apparently quite shitty- Julia Hirschberg, the co-chair of the committee, noted it had taken her 45 minutes to expense two small receipts when she tried it recently, and followed that observation up with the memorable line, “now I’m a computer scientist… and I’m not stupid.”

Nachum Sicherman of the Business School also got in a pithy quote (“I’ve been here for over thirty years and I still don’t know who decides what in this university”) as he inquired which administrators were responsible for the adoption of the new system. No one really seemed to know, but everyone agreed that it was a problem- apparently the last time a new system got adopted they also botched it, at great expense.

Money (Pt. 2)

The Advisory Committee on Socially Responsible Investing’s chair, Merritt Fox, gave the committee’s annual report, and stated that as no divestment proposals had been received, they don’t anticipate that they’ll be spending time on new divestment proposals between now and the end of the academic year. Columbia is divested from the tobacco and private prison industries (though vaping companies are fine), and from certain companies linked to war crimes in Sudan, but not, for example, from fossil fuel interests (a fact which becomes stranger if you consider the first two criteria for considering divestment proposals, listed below).

The Committee’s website has certain guidelines for the submission of such proposals, but even the schedule and dates for their submission and consideration are, in their own words, “tentative” and “general.” The criteria used to judge the merits of a divestment proposal are also quite nebulous, allowing for different interpretations:

“1) There must be a broad consensus within the University community regarding the issue at hand;

2) The merits of the dispute must lie clearly on one side;

3) Divestment must be more viable and appropriate than ongoing communication and engagement with company management.”

Those so inclined could perhaps consider playing with Professor Fox’s anticipations of how the committee will be spending its time through the rest of the academic year.


There was a sweet and very moving slideshow of photos of the late Peter Awn, Dean of the School of General Studies, accompanied by a pair of speeches about his life and legacy, by his successor, Dean Lisa Rosen-Metsch, and by GS senator Johnathan Criswell. Dean Awn’s absence will clearly be felt by the community he impacted so deeply for a long time.

here’s where it all went down via Wikimedia Commons