Friday, November 16, 2007

CU Up-date: Clarifying Talks with Hunger Striking Students

Subject: RE: [G-1]: [CB9M Chairman's Blog] CU Meets Some Striker Demands / Chairman's Message
Date: Fri, 16 Nov 2007 15:10:18 -0500
From: "LaVerna Fountain"
To: "Maxine Griffith" , "J Reyes-Montblanc"
CC: "LaVerna Fountain"


Here is the accurate information regarding the negotiations. As you know, we continue to meet with the students thus as soon as feasible, I will update this information.

Here is our statement about the inaccurate NY Sun article:

““The New York Sun story erroneously reports that, after faculty approval, the strike could cost the University $50 million in spending to pay for a restructuring of the College’s core curriculum that would add faculty for enhancement to the Major Cultures component of the core and other initiatives.

Apparently based on an earlier inaccurate story in the Spectator, The Sun’s story mistakenly confuses $50 million of endowment funds that could be raised in the current capital campaign for undergraduate education (a $865 million goal) with new “spending” resulting from conversations between administrators and the striking students. But faculty committees on undergraduate education have already been planning such enhancements to the Core as part of the effort to add greater global perspective to the curriculum. In all events, any potential “spending” here is a small fraction of this hypothetical $50 million and is not the direct result of the student strike. It also has not even been decided whether such Core enhancements, if actually approved, would be funded through endowment income or other sources.

The Sun has informed us they intend to run some kind of correction of this inaccurate story, but for reasons known only to them have decided to wait to publish this in their next edition on Monday. We look forward to seeing it.”

.................................................... # # #

The letter delivered to the striking students follows:

November 12, 2007

The University is already taking initiatives and conducting reviews in many of the areas you raise for discussion. We will include concerned students in these processes, along with other students already involved. We will also invite them to meet with standing faculty committees whose current deliberations bear directly on some of the matters at issue.

Academic Matters

In the first instance it needs to be recognized that the faculty are in charge of the academic curriculum through the standing departmental and interdepartmental committees. Administrators convene many of these meetings, we are confident the faculty will wish to hear from all concerned students, and we will arrange for them to do so.

(i) CSER — IRAAS and related issues
As a result of regular meetings this fall between Claudio Lomnitz, Director of the Center for the Study of Ethnicity and Race (CSER) and Nicholas Dirks , Vice President for Arts and Sciences, and as part of ongoing meetings with concerned students about the future of Ethnic Studies that began in the spring of 2007, the following new investments have been made. First, a search committee for senior positions in Ethnic Studies has been authorized to recruit up to three senior faculty from its current interdepartmental search. Second, the recruitment of a scholar in Native American Studies has been authorized. Third, one senior hire in the field of African American studies is currently being conducted by IRAAS. Fourth, incremental resources have been committed both for programs directly conducted by CSER and for the development of a collaborative programmatic relationship between CSER and two other units: the Institute for Research in African American Studies (IRAAS), and the Institute for Research on Women and Gender (IRWAG).

Finally, we have committed to a review of CSER by the Academic Review Committee. This review will include in its mandate relationships between CSER, IRAAS, and IRWAG. Although student participation is a routine part of these academic reviews, we will ensure that student voices will play an especially important role in this review given the particular history of CSER as the outgrowth of student interests, concerns, and activism.

Major investments over the last three years, totaling now over $20 million, have been directed specifically to increasing the diversity of the faculty in the Arts and Sciences, and many of the faculty hired through this initiative have already begun to work closely with CSER, IRAAS, IRWAG, as well as with other units on campus that contribute broadly to the work and concerns of these units (including new programs in the Institute for Social and Economic Research and Policy (ISERP), and the re-opening and strengthening of the Institute for African Studies).

(ii) Core Curriculum

President Bollinger convened a major Task Force on Undergraduate Education in the autumn of 2006. The Task Force is made up of senior faculty and administrators along with student leaders, and has undertaken an extensive review of the entire undergraduate curriculum and experience. Four working committees have been established, on the structure of the curriculum, on the issues around teaching and learning in Columbia classrooms, on the challenges of globalization for the undergraduate experience, and on science. As part of this review, the Core curriculum is being re-examined, in particular the kinds of requirements it entails in relationship to majors and electives, the demands it makes on instruction, the relationship it has to a changing world, and the demands this world makes on what students should learn and encounter during their undergraduate years.

There is already widespread agreement that the Major Cultures component of the Core needs to be strengthened, bringing it into parity in terms of classroom size and curricular importance with other parts of the Core. At the same time, the Major Cultures section of the Core is also currently under review as part of the work of the Committee on the Core. Though students already sit on some of these committees, further arrangements will be made to enable concerned students to address these committees and contribute to their deliberations. Two of your representatives are invited to the next meeting of the Committee of the Core tomorrow morning at 10:00 AM.

Administrative Matters

Last month, Dean Nair informed student leaders that Leadership Consulting Associates has been engaged to assist the Office of Multicultural Affairs and the Division of Student Affairs to conduct a review of the OMA and its services. This consulting firm was involved with recent reviews of both the Center for Career Education and the Center for Student Advising. These reviews have resulted in the development of action plans to enhance student services, hire and train new staff, and establish the need for additional space.

The OMA review process will incorporate a wide range of student voices, including yours, along with those of alumni and staff. It will also include data already collected from multiple student surveys, program assessments, and strategic planning done by the staff of OMA. The review will result in an action plan for the further development of the office.

In the light of your concerns, this review will be extended to incorporate consideration of the need for, and possible function of, a Multi-Cultural Affairs officer at a higher level.

Expansion plans for the Inter-Cultural Resource Center and Inter-Cultural House continue to move forward, as students involved in the planning are aware.

The annual orientation program for new faculty will incorporate more extensive discussion of diversity issues.

The Office of Public Safety will take responsibility for disseminating information about hate crimes in our community. There is already a protocol for reporting such incidents to the Office of Public Safety, which then reports them to the undergraduate Student Affairs Deans.

We hope you will agree that the points made above are consistent with the views and aspirations of the concerned students you represent, that they can serve to bring these discussions to a speedy conclusion, and that our students can return to their residence halls and classes.

# # #

La-Verna J. Fountain
Assistant Vice President for Public Affairs
Office of Executive Vice President
Communications and Public Affairs
402 Low Library, MC 4321
535 West 116th Street
New York , NY 10027
phone: (212)854-6595 fax: (212) 678-4817

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