News | Student Life

Business Library emerges as possible site of future student space

Executive Vice President and Dean of the Faculty of the Arts and Sciences David Madigan signaled an interest in allocating space in Uris Hall to students while discussing space on campus at Columbia College Student Council’s general body meeting on Sunday.

Student groups have vied for the establishment of student space in Uris, competing with academic departments within the Faculty of Arts and Sciences that have been promised the building once the Columbia Business School moves to the Manhattanville campus in 2021. While Uris’s 122,000 square feet would represent a 15 percent increase in Arts and Sciences’ total space, students have also sought a share, citing the need for community safe spaces, child care resources, and social lounges.

Madigan acknowledged the growing need for student space on campus and said he believes that the most prominent opportunity for student space inside Uris is the large rotunda currently occupied by the Watson Library of Business and Economics.

“I totally understand that student space is inadequate. This building [Lerner Hall] doesn’t meet the needs that we have, so how can we manage the needs of students in that space? I don’t know what the best way is,” Madigan said. “One could certainly imagine very interesting student uses of that space [Watson]. Obviously the needs have changed—we no longer need spaces for big stacks of books, and the libraries are morphing into more student- and scholar-oriented spaces.”

No plans have been finalized for how Uris’s space will be allocated, but a committee of students, administrators, and faculty will be working to articulate a vision that Madigan said could include student space.

But Madigan also sees the sheer number of Arts and Sciences faculty offices as a major spatial challenge, given that they are only in use for several hours a week.

“We're going to have to bring faculty along with this, because it's kind of sacrosanct that as a faculty member you get an office. You walk around my department, the statistics department, at 2:00 in the afternoon on a Tuesday, and maybe a third of the offices are actually used. People are teaching, they're at conferences, they work from home, they're working from home. It's kind of nuts to have these rigidly allocated offices,” Madigan said.

Later in the meeting, Madigan addressed faculty diversity within Arts and Sciences in response to a question from Class of 2017 Vice President Brennon Mendez.

Madigan told CCSC that the University’s Office of the General Counsel has been pushing back against the release of recent faculty diversity data, despite similar data being released in the fall of 2014.

“General Counsel is uneasy about this, for reasons that are a little bit unclear to me. I'm hoping that we will get permission just to post those on the web,” Madigan said. “I have a hard time imagining why we can't just make these data available, so I'm hoping that will happen.”

According to Madigan, the data available to him is broken down by male and female genders, as well as white, Asian, and “underrepresented minorities.” Though more specific data is likely available, Madigan believes that General Counsel may be even more opposed to releasing it.

“If by having it at a fairly coarse level we can actually release it, at least it's a positive step. To make it even more fine-grade would make it less likely that we can release it,” Madigan said.

Madigan also commented on the University’s response to students affected by the election of Donald Trump on Tuesday.

On Wednesday, Madigan emailed all Arts and Sciences faculty, asking them to be flexible and accommodating to students who requested extensions or absences, a step which he told CCSC he later learned had not been taken since 9/11. Many faculty chose to postpone assignments or tests that had been scheduled for the days immediately after the election.

“The message [sent to faculty] was very neutral in tone,” Madigan said. “But in very many ways, I would have been more comfortable sending out something stronger.”

larson.holt@columbiaspectator.com | @lshlarson

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