2011 TC Pressroom
Teachers College, Columbia University
Teachers College Columbia University

TC Media Center from the Office of External Affairs

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Town Meeting Updates Community

In a town meeting on February 9, President Levine, Dean Karen Zumwalt, and Paul Mayer, a Project Manager from Towers Perrin, a management consulting firm, which recently completed an evaluation of the college's administrative and support services, spoke to and fielded questions from approximately 75-100 staff members and students.

President Levine welcomed the audience by saying, "This meeting is intended as an update and as an opportunity for us to talk together. So, I want to hear from you and get a sense of what you think is important." Levine then went on to speak about a wide range of initiatives that are taking place on campus, from recruiting 21 new faculty members to issues involving rebuilding the physical plant. He noted that:

·The College is "actively" searching for 20 new faculty members, which will make up one-fifth of the entire faculty;
·The Task Force on Diversity and Community's 31 recommendations are now being discussed by every constituency in the College and called for a "consensus" on achieving the goals of the task force;
·The College seeks to recruit a new director of the Institute for Urban and Minority Education (IUME), which has been "a powerhouse" under its current director, Erwin Flaxman in affecting urban policy. Levine looks forward to IUME's focus on the "quality of schools for urban and minority children and the achievement gap between blacks and whites;"
·The Target of Opportunity Program, which was set up 12 years ago and has attracted only one faculty member since then, has had the assistance of Emeritus Professor, Edmund Gordon, "to recruit the most talented faculty in America who happen to be people of color;"
·The Capital Campaign, which was officially announced in November of last year with a goal of $140 million, is now at $77 million, and is committed to funding financial aid, the physical plant, and academic programming;
·The College has the opportunity, through the generosity of a $6.5 million gift, to create a strategy for "the library of the future" and "to begin to think about organizing and creating it;" ·The College has raised Campaign funding to rebuild classrooms and modernize facilities such as the Horace Mann Auditorium, Milbank Chapel, and the Grace Dodge Room;
·TC Ventures, the semi-autonomous entrepreneurial unit that was authorized by the faculty during the last academic year, is "a new clay slate as profound as the printing press" and is "capable of taking our academic programs far beyond 120th Street;"
·Since last summer the College has been working with the management consulting firm, Towers Perrin, to study the institution's administrative services to see how they can be enhanced and how "we all can get the services we want."

With the above as an introduction, the President introduced Paul Mayer, Towers Perrins' project manager at TC to provide an overview of the preliminary report prepared by the consulting firm, which he is sharing with other governance bodies of the College.

Mayer said, "There has been a long standing concern about issues of service at the College and how the administrative staff can adapt to support TC's core educational issues." He went on to explain that the report contains both recommendations to improve particular functions-whether in Facilities, Personnel Services, Enrollment Services or Career Services-and a second category that cuts across all functions.

According to Mayer, this "cross-cutting" speaks to "how the administrative infrastructure, people, and performance are managed." He added, "It speaks to TC's capacity to invest in its people and adapt to change over time." Finally, he said, "It's not about cost reductions but how better to use resources and it's really about improving the quality of service and making life better for faculty, students and staff."

 Dean Zumwalt then proffered an invitation to everyone in the audience to attend the 80-100 "job talks" or symposia presented by prospective faculty. Zumwalt said, "You have an opportunity to meet the prospective faculty and so take advantage of this unique situation." Halfway through the more than hour-long meeting, the audience began its question and answer period.

Betsy Currier, the department associate in the Department of Arts and Humanities asked about the long demise of the College Policy Council, which she felt was "a forum for common issues."

President Levine responded by saying that he had a conversation about improving communication across governance bodies earlier in the day with the heads of those bodies. The consensus was to build in a mechanism whereby these bodies would be able to talk to each other on a regular basis. He admitted, however, "we need to continue this conversation."

Paul Molloy, who is legally blind and deaf and is both a staff member and student asked how he could get more involved in the "legislative community" of the College. He was advised to get more active in the Professional Staff Assembly and get more involved in his academic department, Health and Behavior Studies.

 Emily Fortis, a secretary in the Purchasing Office wondered whether technology on campus was "becoming a barrier" and that she was fearful that there is "a communication gap on campus because people don't talk to each other." Levine concurred and said, "We have to make TC more human, more family-like. In the longer run I am hopeful that an Assistant to the President for Diversity and Community will build commonalties on campus."

Karen Iverson, a student in the Science Education Program who asked a similar question about getting involved in her academic department and was advised to speak with the Chair, Charles Harrington, of the Department of Mathematics, Science and Technology and to work with Student Government.

Doctoral student Dana Burde, who is a student in the Department of International and Transcultural Studies asked the President for a breakdown of the Capital Campaign priorities and how those decisions were made.

Levine discussed the Financial Priorities Committee, which consisted of representative members of the College constituency, including a large number of students. He explained, with the assistance of Laurie LaMothe, the Executive Director of Development, that "Scholarships," which is a major priority and earmarked for $28.5 million, was decided on because "we can't afford to lose good students." Another student wondered why so few students showed up at the event.

While President Levine explained that graduate student life is "essentially divisive," that two-thirds of TC students are part-time and that the physical plant is inhospitable to community, he admitted that "it is our job to give you reasons to come."

 Dean Zumwalt added that she believed that the administration ought to be doing a better job in clarifying the meaning of town hall meetings and how they are going to make a difference in the lives of TC's community. In closing the meeting, President Levine urged the audience not to wait for official settings to communicate with the College administration. "If there is an issue on your mind," he added, "let us know."

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