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Sahiba Chawdhary for Spectator

Thursday’s University Senate plenary included updates on the Rules of Conduct review process and President’s Advisory Committee on Sexual Assault.

Thursday's University Senate plenary included updates on the Rules of Conduct review process and President's Advisory Committee on Sexual Assault, as well as a resolution that passed unanimously on administrative conflict of interest in research.

Rules of Conduct  

Rules Committee Chair Chris Riano, GS '07, gave the senate an update on what students had said during the three town halls held in October and November.

Riano said that the committee will likely vote on whether it would review the rules at its upcoming Dec. 1 meeting, but such a decision still rests with the 15-person group.

University President Lee Bollinger also remarked on the campus-wide discussion over freedom of speech.

"The way we should approach this is to embrace freedom of speech and press, but it's really the freedom of speech, as defined by the First Amendment," Bollinger said. "We want to be very protective of speech."

Bollinger noted that the First Amendment does not apply to Columbia as it is a private institution.

"It's a matter of choice on our part how free we want to be in our freedom of speech," he said. "And consistent with the history of Columbia, consistent with our values, consistent with where other great universities are in this country, that we want to voluntarily embrace the same scope of freedom of speech as is protected by the First Amendment."

At the three town halls, students expressed "a strong desire for the community to decide to undergo a review and rewriting of the proposals for the rules of academic and university conduct, a desire for the rules to be clear and more specific, a desire for student involvement in the drafting," Riano said.

He summarized the concerns and questions raised by town hall attendees, which included the applicability of the external adjudication process versus Dean's Discipline, legal representation, and unclear language in the current rules.

President's Advisory Committee on Sexual Assault

The President's Advisory Committee on Sexual Assault has been working in subcommittees to address a timeline for the annual report that it is mandated to produce after a review of PACSA last year, Senate Executive Committee Chair Sharyn O'Halloran said.

University Senate Student Affairs Committee co-chair Zila Acosta, CC '11, Law '15, who is on PACSA's annual report subcommittee, said that the report will be submitted to Bollinger in the spring. At least part of the report will be available to senate members, she said.

University Senator Marc Heinrich, CC '16, a member of PACSA's forms and communication subcommittees, said that the group will be sending out forms this spring for the community to provide feedback on the University's efforts to address sexual assault.

Heinrich said that anything that will be included in the annual report that Acosta mentioned "will probably have to be collected in a form via feedback provided to PACSA by March 1."

$9 million paid in ICAP settlement

Howard Worman, chair of the Committee on External Relations and Research Policy, acknowledged the University's $9 million settlement it paid in October to resolve a federal lawsuit regarding false grant applications for the International Center for AIDS Care and Treatment Programs.

Resolution on Institutional Conflict of Interest in Research

The senate unanimously passed a resolution establishing a new policy to define institutional financial conflicts of interest in research. The resolution comes after the senate adopted an individual conflict of interest policy in 2009, and applies to people who may have conflicting states in involved institutions.

Though the resolution was not highly debated, University Senator Hyunwoo Paco Kang, P&S '15, raised a question about why a $25,000 threshold was chosen for defining a significant financial interest.

Naomi Schrag, associate vice president for research compliance, said this figure was chosen because it was on the "low end of the spectrum, but still felt that some adjustment was appropriate given the less direct involvement in the research."

Ebola Design Challenge

Public health professor Ian Lipkin said that final presentations for the University's Ebola Design Challenge will be held on Dec. 4.

The eight University-funded projects, which include a bleach foam spray and an electronics decontamination chamber, are currently being reviewed and tested by outside bodies.

Yasemin Akçagüner contributed reporting.

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