Columbia’s physical and economic growth dominated discussion at the final University Senate meeting Thursday in Schermerhorn, where about 40 senators received reports on the progress of Manhattanville plans and the University’s endowment.
President Bollinger opened the meeting with an update on the Manhattanville expansion, reporting that plans are in the final stages of approval, awaiting only a City Council vote which should take place by mid-January. Bollinger also discussed the controversial issue of eminent domain and the accommodation of residents that live in the Manhattanville neighborhood. "The city is very accommodating as far these people and their lives," he said.
University finances were also major focus of the meeting. The University's Budget Office’s recent quarterly update showed a 19.7 percent return on investment of endowment funds. That rate of return ranks Columbia in the 88th percentile among peer institutions, said Richard Bulliet, a faculty Senator.
The investment discussion led to a report from the Advisory Committee on Socially Responsible Investing. The group advises the University trustees on ethical and social issues they may be confronted with when investing. So far, they have advised divesting from companies with involvement in Sudan. They have also looked in to Chevron's operations in Ecuador, and have asked the trustees to avoid investing in companies involved in the tobacco business.
The Committee takes suggestions from different groups and organizations, both on campus and in the community. So far, 97% of recommendations have been adopted by the trustees, according to Geoffrey Heal, a member of the committee.
Also on the agenda was a discussion on the Sexual Violence Prevention and Response Program, including an update from the Presidential Advisory Committee on Sexual Assault. The new committee will be launching a campaign in January to promote awareness and decrease the stigma of using sexual assault victim resources on campus.
In addition, the Senate passed a resolution creating a new Institute for Religion, Culture, and Public Life.