The School of International and Public Affairs is revamping its curriculum and carving a new niche within the University. SIPA Dean John Coatsworth recently sent an e-mail to SIPA students, faculty, and alumni outlining upcoming changes to the school's structure. "SIPA will maintain close ties to the Arts and Sciences, but will have the financial and academic independence to develop in new and exciting ways," he wrote. The notice summarized changes to SIPA's position within the University's bureaucratic structure, saying that the school is slated to become an "autonomous professional school within Arts and Sciences" on July 1, 2009. The designation itself is an aberration from the norm at Columbia. Most of Columbia's professional schools, such as business and law, are completely autonomous, while other graduate schools, such as the School of the Arts, are completely enveloped in the bureaucracy of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences—the aggregate of 29 departments and the faculties of the School of International and Public Affairs, General Studies, Columbia College, the School of the Arts, Continuing Education, and the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences. Until now, SIPA has been considered among the latter of those two categories. But in changes Coatsworth called beneficial to both the University and SIPA itself, the school will maintain an in-between status as an institution that can take advantage of A&S offerings—such as cross-enrollment and joint faculty hiring—while distancing itself from factors of the relationship that have inhibited progress, such as management of its budget by a separate administrative body. In an interview Tuesday evening, Coatsworth said that completely cutting the cord with A&S would be "of no benefit for SIPA ... because we would lose the benefits that our students gain from Arts and Sciences courses. It would also create more difficulties regarding joint appointments." Structurally, SIPA is distancing itself from the auspices of Low Library. Concretely, SIPA will balance its own budget, although it will still route some money to the Faculty of Arts and Sciences. The detached but not severed relationship, the e-mail said, will allow SIPA to develop its "own priorities" in faculty recruiting, enrollment caps, and program development. SIPA students and professors have long complained of their struggle with troubling bureaucratic hurdles associated the school's relationship with A&S. In an interview last spring, Adlai E. Stevenson Professor of Political Science and International and Public Affairs Robert Jervis, who previously managed the Arts and Sciences budget, said that SIPA subsidizes A&S with an average of $4 million a year. The outflow of resources from the subsidy has taken funding that SIPA could have used to increase its own scholarships and endowed professors, Jervis explained. Previously, A&S has taken in about 38% of SIPA's revenue. After July 1, tuition will go directly to SIPA, which will then route a steady tax to Low. Coatsworth said this stability will benefit A&S, since it will not lose money if SIPA fails to fill its enrollment target. The change will also prevent A&S from rerouting SIPA revenues that it deems unnecessary to the school. In addition, the financial relationship has threatened SIPA's autonomy in other decisions—including hiring—Jervis said. "We've had a situation where the vice president for Arts and Sciences' office tries to micromanage SIPA and its budget and what we could do—and that's just stupid," Jervis said. Former SIPA dean and current Provost of American University in Cairo Lisa Anderson has offered her own perspective on SIPA's relationship to A&S. "The status quo is probably not ideal, but no one wants to risk throwing out what is a quite remarkable baby simply in order to get rid of some bath water." As SIPA has increased faculty and offered more disciplines, the school has exploded with more and more concentrations of study. Some, Coatsworth said, were added without much thought about their fit within SIPA's academic architecture. A faculty review committee resolved to reduce the number of concentrations from 19 to fewer. The revamped concentrations will be in policy areas within which students will be able to choose disciplinary or regional specializations. Coatsworth added that SIPA will strengthen its own core curriculum. To help SIPA continue to mature academically and financially, Coatsworth said the school plans to move into a new space in Manhattanville specifically built for public affairs classes, leaving the much-maligned International Affairs Building. Coatsworth thanked University President Lee Bollinger for being receptive to the suggested changes and Nicholas Dirks, vice president for arts and sciences, "who saw the wisdom of moving in this direction—though he did not surrender a penny of revenue."
Columbia Spectator Staff