The Faculty Affairs Committee presented a series of suggestions at Friday’s University Senate plenary to support discourse among faculty about how they are affected by President Donald Trump’s administration.
Since Trump’s election, which stunned many across campus, professors—especially those who teach about issues directly targeted by Trump’s policies, including social justice, immigration, and first amendment values—have grappled with how and whether to address the actions of the administration within the classroom.
In a letter written by committee co-chairs Robert Pollack and Letty Moss-Salentijn, FAC called for a website, more open discourse, and physical space for conversations to aid faculty who may be affected by the Trump administration.
The letter, which was sent by the co-chairs to University President Lee Bollinger last month, was endorsed with unanimous votes from the committee. Pollack and Moss-Salentijn wrote the letter in response to Bollinger’s email denouncing Trump’s executive order banning immigration from majority-Muslim countries.
“We know no one at Columbia who is not upset, chronically and deeply, since the election,” the letter reads.
In the letter, the committee recommends the creation of a Columbia-sponsored website with links providing information about faculty freedoms and acknowledging that the Trump presidency has resulted in a “malaise that sits like a fog over Columbia these days.”
The letter calls for avenues through which faculty can express concerns about the Trump presidency “without fear of any negative consequences.”
“Faculty are human beings, and as such, may feel intimidated,” Pollack said at the plenary. “There’s no point or place for the expression of that anxiety.”
A final recommendation of the letter was the repurposing of physical space for “quiet, difficult conversations” about how faculty may be affected by Trump. The letter called for opening public spaces such as Low Rotunda, Faculty Room, Roone Arledge Auditorium, and Blue Java Coffee Bar when they are not in use and stocking them with tables and chairs for these discussions.
The committee also suggested that lounges in residence halls be made accessible to professors so they could engage in conversations with students. Without faculty advising, Columbia College and School of General Studies students are not currently guaranteed regular interaction with faculty outside of the classroom.
Recalling his experience as a student in the 1950s, Pollack said that faculty could visit students in residence hall lounges and hold conversations with them there, but that the rule was reversed when Columbia was made coed.
“I’m asking why that might be reconsidered again in light of the availability of those spaces… and in the general notion that a professor who’s a really good teacher learns from students as well as teachers,” Pollack said. “Why not have more places to that end?”
The Student Affairs Committee as well as the FAC has highlighted lack of space as an issue. At the next plenary, SAC will present a series of recommendations about specific places on campus that could be renovated for students’ recreational use.