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Using the Collection
Note: some material may be restricted or offsite
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At a Glance
The collection consists of the records of the Presidential Commission in preparation of their final 1979 report also known as the Marcus Report (Steven Marcus, Chair). It also includes materials related to the Priorities Planning Conferences (1974-1975).
Using the Collection
Rare Book and Manuscript Library
Restrictions on Access
You will need to make an appointment in advance to use this collection material in the Rare Book and Manuscript Library reading room. You can schedule an appointment once you've submitted your request through your Special Collections Research Account.
This collection is located off-site. You will need to request this material at least three business days in advance to use the collection in the Rare Book and Manuscript Library reading room.
All administrative records of the University are restricted for 25 years from the date of creation.
The RBML cannot provide access to original time-based media material which has not been first been reformatted for preservation. Researchers are welcome to examine archival time-based media items and decide whether they wish to place an order for Audio/Video reformatting. If copyright and/or condition restrictions apply, it may not be possible to digitize a requested item. Please note that A/V reformatting is handled by an outside vendor and typically takes 6-8 weeks.
Terms Governing Use and Reproduction
Single photocopies may be made for research purposes. The RBML maintains ownership of the physical material only. Copyright remains with the creator and his/her heirs. The responsibility to secure copyright permission rests with the patron.
Identification of specific item; Date (if known); Presidential Commission on Academic Priorities in the Arts and Sciences records; Box and Folder numbers; University Archives, Rare Book & Manuscript Library, Columbia University Libraries.
For additional records, please consult Central Files (Office of the President records) (UA#0001) and the Office of the Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs records (UA#0083). The Historical subject files (UA#0002) also contain materials related to the Presidential Commission in Box 1, folder 2 and Box 64, folder 3, and for the Planning Conferences in Box 61, folder 14.
No additions are expected.
About the Finding Aid / Processing Information
Columbia University Libraries, Rare Book and Manuscript Library
Collection-level record describing unprocessed material made public in summer 2018 as part of the Hidden Collections initiative. This collection was processed by Joanna Rios, June 2023.
2023-06-21 Finding aid published (JR)
2023-07-31 Added Dean's Planning Group records (JR)
History / Biographical Note
Priorities Planning Conferences
In 1974, a special conference to discuss the University's priorities for the next five years was held in late November, first of its kind, at Arden House. President William J. McGill asked for longer-range priorities in the context of making budget projections and he wanted to discuss how to align the university's major financial and academic goals. The conference came at the end of the university's five year plan of financial austerity set by President McGill in 1970. Attended by administrators, deans and members of senate committees, agenda items included tuition, financial aid, faculty salaries, space planning and construction, and the content and direction of the university's academic program.
The following year, in 1975, the recently-formed Office of Academic Planning was tasked with coordinating proposals for the university's next five years of academic programs. Among the major issues were the restructuring of undergraduate education, coeducation in Columbia College, the university's relationship with Barnard, and changes in the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences. The office was headed by Vice President for Academic Planning James Young. At the 1975 Priorities Planning conference, attendees discussed the reorganization of the university's academic structure, changes in the budgeting process, new means of generating revenue, and the university's financial prospects. Each conference participant received a two-inch thick workbook prepared for the gathering, including reports from each school and financial data. Topics included undergraduate enrollment; use of faculty (unified Barnard-Columbia faculty); growth potential in continuing education; income and expense projections; tuition and financial aid; development, research funding and state aid; student-related issues such as student advising and counseling and placement and career-planning services and Columbia's educational future.
Although there was some preliminary planning, there was no conference in 1976.
Dean's Planning Group
The Dean's Planning Group was an outgrowth of tbe second Planning Conference, also known as Arden House II (1975). Created by Vice President for Academic Planning James Young, the group met in weekly sessions under the chairmanship of the Dean of the School of Business Dean Boris Yavitz to devise new systems for improved allocation of resources reflecting individual school needs. The group proposed an alternative to Columbia's budgeting system: incentive budgeting. This new framework would allow each school to pursue its own fundraising and budgeting, without worrying about its finding getting reduced by the central administration. The report was released in January 1978 and was the result of a year and a half long investigation of the university budget system. The incentive-based approach encouraged deans to attain surpluses for their divisions by permitting the individual schools to keep any income generated beyond budgeted expenses. Previously, income generated throughout the university had been funneled into a central pool, which was then apportioned by Low Library administrators to the various divisions. An "incentive" or "responsibility centered" budget system was considered an overhaul to Columbia's budgetary process.
Presidential Commission on Priorities for the Arts and Sciences
In 1978, President McGill named a 16-member Commission on Academic Priorities in the Arts and Sciences. Chaired by Steven Marcus, George Delacorte professor in the humanities, the commission was asked to "coordinate the views of the Arts and Sciences faculty to establish educational directions, guidelines and priorities on the basis of which administrative decisions may be taken." The president's charge to the commission was "to recommend an appropriate configuration of faculty, including shifts in present deployment and changes in present instructional loads, to serve the programs and student populations projected by the faculties and schools for the 1980s; to comment on the projections of the schools in regard to their student body sizes, on the staff and facilities needed to serve them, and on the feasibility and compatibility of the instructional and research goals proposed by the several schools in relation to the resources prospectively available." McGill asked the commission "to recommend a tighter, more coherent, more resourceful structure of disciplinary specialization within, and interdisciplinary instruction among, arts and sciences departments" and to "indicate an order of priorities among the activities recommended for inclusion in the future of graduate and undergraduate liberal education at Columbia." The president also requested "recommendations as to priorities among the different needs cited by departments and schools for library and information services, for physical facilities, and for development staff or fund-raising support."
In a nearly two-year-long review, the commission evaluated and prepared recommendations regarding facilities, faculty, students, research, curriculum, student aid, housing and the quality of life. The 264-page report from December 1979 called for a continued commitment to a program of "selective excellence," in which Columbia should "do only what it can do superlatively." The commission recommends that Columbia: intensify its search for new scholarly talent, seeking not only vigorous established figures, but also those younger scholars most likely to acquire world renown in a decade or two; continue to improve its physical facilities and surroundings to enhance the quality of both student and faculty life; exploit the advantages of its new York location by intensifying its relationships with other institutions such as seminaries, music schools and museums. President McGill announced that with the budget "in balance at last," the university "projected substantial increases in faculty salaries, a large number of new appointments, major space improvements, an upgrading of our computer services and a larger library budget." In october 1980, during his installation as University President, Michael I. Sovern, quoting from the Marcus Commission report, stated that Columbia must be "the equal of any in any discipline we choose to pursue, any field we decide to develop, any intellectual activity we judge worth of systematic cultivation."