Category: Campus News

A few hours ago, President Bollinger sent an email about how the university is handling President Trump’s recent immigration executive order. The full text of his email is below:

Dear fellow members of the Columbia community:

Over the past two weeks, we have been working with several other academic institutions (sixteen, including all Ivy League universities) on an amicus brief that was filed today in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of New York challenging the Executive Order regarding immigrants from seven designated countries and refugees.  Among other things, the brief asserts that “safety and security concerns can be addressed in a manner that is consistent with the values America has always stood for, including the free flow of ideas and people across borders and the welcoming of immigrants to our universities.”  There will be more to say in the days ahead.  

Sincerely,

Lee C. Bollinger

Last Wednesday, President Bollinger held one of his semesterly Fireside Chats, during which he invites Columbia students to his home and answers any questions they may have. This fireside chat seemed especially heavy with recent events like the student deaths on campus and the now-defunct presidential executive order banning immigrants from seven predominantly Muslim countries. Students also raised questions about Columbia’s Graduate Student Union, the potential to pay tuition based on number of credit hours taken, the lack of space on Columbia’s campus, and the possibility of divesting from fossil fuels.

While President Bollinger answered every question asked of him respectfully and calmly (in some cases cracking jokes and in others, deferring to more specialized administrators), some of his answers didn’t seem to hold any weight. For example, in light of the recent student deaths on campus, he started the chat by saying that he valued mental health and encouraged students to use the resources available to them. Later, when a student asked about the potential to pay per credit hour (to lighten the financial burden for seniors who need a few more credits to complete their degree), President Bollinger responded that it’s the student’s choice to decide the number of credits to take a semester. This response seemed to ignore the fact that a lot of work and stress comes with an heavy course load, and the student might choose a lighter load because it’s what they can handle. He also shifted the conversation to one about Columbia’s financial aid, effectively dismissing the credit hours idea.

When an Iranian GS student shared her hopes to see her son in Iran after 16 years apart, only for them to be dashed after the president’s executive order, President Bollinger wasn’t able to say what would happen to the student’s student visa after her final year at Columbia. “I wanted to make the United States my home, and I have doubt about that happening now,” she said tearfully. Instead, he focused on the now and said that Columbia was offering lawyers pro bono to anyone who needed legal help.

He also outlined the reasons behind the university contesting the recent Graduate Student Union vote, citing past legal cases involving student unions and “a number of behaviors by the union that were inappropriate [that] could have affected the outcome of the election.”

As for campus space, President Bollinger said that the administration wants to keep spaces inclusive and is “looking for venues to have more space where students can get together and support each other.” He also hinted at making John Jay open for more hours, even after JJ’s Place reopens.

Lastly, President Bollinger answered questions about the endowment and fossil fuels. “In general,” he said, “the policies of all universities in the modern era have been that we’re not going to use the endowment as a means of implementing our social choices. . . Research, expanding knowledge, conveying knowledge to the next generation: that’s what we do and we’re trying to get money to support that. That’s the general view, and I think that’s the right policy.” As a counterexample to this statement, he brought up apartheid in South Africa, but said that using the endowment for social change was otherwise “pretty rare.” He said that the policy was being looked over by a committee of students, faculty, and trustees and that we’d see “decisions in the next three to six months.”

In an email sent out yesterday, Provost Linda Bell welcomed Jennifer Green as the new Dean of the Barnard Library and Academic Information Services. You can read the full email below.

 

Dear Barnard Community,

I am delighted to announce that Jennifer Green will be joining Barnard as Dean of the Barnard Library and Academic Information Services (BLAIS), beginning on Monday, March 6th. Jen comes to the College after eleven years as a data librarian at the University of Michigan Libraries, where she was the Head of Science, Engineering, and the Clark Library for Maps, Government Information and Data, as well as the Director of Research Data Services. At Michigan, she spearheaded the creation of numerous services and spaces, including a library-wide research data service and institutional data repository, and the conception and implementation of the Clark Library, Michigan’s first new library in nearly two decades.

Prior to the University of Michigan, Jen served as Public Services Librarian at Grinnell College, where she brought her skill and ingenuity to several digital initiatives. She earned her M.L.I.S. from the University of Texas, Austin in 1995 and her B.A. in Art History from Trinity University, San Antonio in 1991.

Working closely with me, Jen will oversee the relocation of the Barnard library to our new teaching and learning center in Fall 2018. She will also build on the College’s relationships with faculty, students, alumnae, and colleagues at the Columbia University Libraries to promote innovation across disciplines. Jen will be working at the forefront of advancements in the acquisition, dissemination, and preservation of knowledge, and her technological experience and creativity will nourish both new and existing library resources.

I want to take this opportunity to express my sincere thanks to Alexis Seeley, who served as Interim Director of BLAIS during this transition. Alexis did an extraordinary job managing the library and IMATS, and I am proud to announce her promotion to a new position, Associate Dean of BLAIS and the Digital Commons, beginning March 6th. In this role, Alexis will build on her excellent work as Interim Director, during which she coordinated a multi-stage plan for relocation and deepened the quality of the library’s contributions to campus. Before serving as Interim Director, Alexis used her extensive knowledge of educational technology to transform and expand Barnard’s media services during her years as Associate Dean for Teaching Research and Technology and Manager of Instructional Media.

I know that Jen, along with Alexis, will lead the library into a new era of innovation and growth, and we will certainly benefit from their varied skills and collective years of experience. Of course, I would also like to thank the search committee, chaired by Peter Balsam, and the entire library staff. They were all instrumental in this successful transition.

Please join me in congratulating Alexis and welcoming Jen to Barnard.

My very best,
Provost Linda Bell

Recently, a group of Chinese students reported that their room name tags were ripped off during the time of the Chinese New Year. Some students found that their door tags with their names written in Chinese spelling were removed, and such incidents were reported in different residence halls, including East Campus, Furnald, Shapiro and Hartley. The Lion is currently investigating if this is an intentional action of discrimination towards Chinese community.

This has raised concern among Chinese students. A student living in East Campus reported that she lives in a suite where all members are students from China, and their name tags have been ripped off three times since the beginning of this semester.

A number of students affected by such incidents have reported them to Public Safety and Residential Life, who we have also contacted for comment. We’ll update this story as we get more information.

 

Update 2/18/17, 3:48pm: The Deans of CC, SEAS, and GS have responded to the incident. The full email is below:

Dear Undergraduate Students,

It is an unfortunate reality that neither Columbia nor any other university is able to exist untouched by incidents that contradict our institution’s most precious values. The removal of the name tags of Chinese students living in undergraduate residence halls earlier this semester is one of those times, and all of us feel the harm done. Even more troubling is that the vandalism occurred around the celebration of Chinese New Year.

We continue to monitor the ongoing investigation of this incident and to provide support for students directly affected. As always, the investigation will remain confidential while it is being conducted. What we can tell you at this point is that we will continue to apply our rules and act in a manner that aims to deter this type of offensive behavior in the future. If you have any information that could shed light on what happened or those responsible, we urge you to please share it with a staff member in Residential Life or Multicultural Affairs, or to reach out to Cristen Kromm, Dean of Undergraduate Student Life for Columbia College and Columbia Engineering, or to Tom Harford, Dean of Students for the School of General Studies.

It is perhaps commonplace for people to point out after incidents like this that the measure of an institution is found in its response; nonetheless, the observation feels particularly apt in this case, given the two videos produced by Columbia students in recent days, as well as the solidarity event held by the Global Ambassadors Program. These and other poignant expressions serve as a powerful rejection of targeting of any group on our campus, whether identifiable by race, ethnicity, religion, gender identity, or sexual orientation. We applaud those messages; they are a testament to the strong spirit of activism, courage, support, and inclusion that defines our student body.

The collective commitment across our community to learning, expanding knowledge, and public service depends on an equal commitment to welcoming students, faculty, and staff from across the nation and around the world. It is impossible for us to pursue our schools’ missions without the contributions of people with a diversity of backgrounds, perspectives, and experiences. We will continue to frequently reassert this point during a time when the importance of celebrating difference bears reminding. We want to thank all of those who already have made themselves heard.

Sincerely,

Peter J. Awn
Dean
School of General Studies

Mary C. Boyce
Dean of The Fu Foundation School of
Engineering and Applied Science

James J. Valentini
Dean of Columbia College and
Vice President for Undergraduate Education

In response to pressure from groups on campus, Columbia President Lee Bollinger issued a statement early this morning regarding President Trump’s recent executive order regarding immigration policy. The full statement is below:

Dear fellow members of the Columbia community:

With the executive order issued by President Trump barring admission to the United States of Syrian refugees and imposing a 90-day ban on all immigrant and nonimmigrant entry from seven Muslim-majority nations, the fear so many have had about federal policies being changed in ways that could affect our community has become disturbingly real.

The public controversy and legal debate over the President’s order is intense.  Among the many strong petitions and compelling statements that have been issued is one from the Association of American Universities (AAU), of which Columbia is a member.  We join with many peers in decrying this action as discriminatory, damaging to America’s leadership in higher education, and contrary to our nation’s core values and founding principles.

At a practical level, we are advising community members and visiting scholars from the designated countries to suspend plans for international travel.  At the moment, we do not know of any Columbia students, faculty, or staff from the seven designated countries who are currently abroad.  In the meantime, we urge anyone seeking further guidance to contact our International Students and Scholars Office (ISSO).

At a more fundamental level, this order undermines the nation’s continuing commitment to remain open to the exchange of people and ideas.  We must not underestimate the scale of its impact.  An estimated 17,000 international students in the U.S. are from the seven nations covered by the entry ban.  Scholars planning to travel to the United States for meetings and conferences at our colleges and universities will effectively be barred from attending.  If this order stands, there is the certainty of a profound impact on our University community, which is committed to welcoming students, faculty, and staff from around the world, as well as across the nation.

As I have said on many occasions, it is critically important that the University, as such, not take stands on ideological or political issues.  Yet it is also true that the University, as an institution in the society, must step forward to object when policies and state action conflict with its fundamental values, and especially when they bespeak purposes and a mentality that are at odds with our basic mission.  This is such a case.
   
It is important to remind ourselves that the United States has not, except in episodes of national shame, excluded individuals from elsewhere in the world because of their religious or political beliefs.  We have learned that generalized fears of threats to our security do not justify exceptions to our founding ideals.  There are many powerful and self-evident reasons not to abandon these core values, but among them is the fact that invidious discrimination often adds fuel to deeply harmful stereotypes and hostility affecting our own citizens. 

It is with regret that I have to send this communication. 

Sincerely,

Lee C. Bollinger