Exiting Provost John Coastworth highlighted multiple academic and administrative policy changes including the official Consensual Romantic and Sexual Relationship Policy between faculty and graduate students, along with updates on union negotiations in his final annual newsletter to faculty and staff on Tuesday afternoon.
Coatsworth’s remarks come after his decision to step down from his position in June after his eight-year tenure as University Provost, in which he was in charge with setting a direction for academic plans and policies, supervising departments, and setting tuition and budgets for the upcoming fiscal year. He was also responsible for deciding tenure recommendations; authorizing academic appointments, leaves, and salaries; and reviewing faculty grievances. Ira Katznelson, Ruggles professor of political science and history, CC ‘66, will take on the role while a new search is conducted.
According to the new relationship policy, no faculty member can initiate or engage in a romantic or sexual relationship with any graduate student who attends the school, department, or program where the professor is in any way involved, or with any student with whom the professor shares an advisory role. Furthermore, no faculty member may become an advisor with a student with whom they were previously romantically or sexually involved.
The policy also notes that any graduate student who acts in an oversight role for another graduate student cannot engage in any romantic or sexual relationship with their subordinates.
Approval of the policy came after months of confusion from the Committee on Faculty Affairs, Academic Freedom and Tenure, as well as the Committee on Student Affairs in the University Senate, which claimed they were unaware of the status of the policy from the Office of the General Council—non-senate administrators who provides legal counsel to the University.
The email also highlighted progress on union negotiations between the University and the Graduate Workers of Columbia-UAW. The decision to unionize came in November after years of Columbia refusing to recognize the graduate student union.
Some of the most recent conversations in bargaining sessions have revolved around union involvement when a sexual harassment claim is made by a union member and concerns presented with the University’s health care plan.
An updated version of the faculty background check policy was also announced in the email. It will require that all prospective full-time professors and staff undergo a background check after they receive their conditional offer of employment. If anything is found, applicants will have the opportunity to dispute the findings.
Coatsworth also emphasized the 63 candidates recommended for tenure by the Tenure Review Advisory Committee, as well as ongoing efforts to promote faculty diversity and enhance classroom spaces throughout the University.