The Board of Trustees
The University Senate
Columbia University is a private, nonsectarian institution of higher education, and its official corporate name is The Trustees of Columbia University in the City of New York. The University Charter, the legal document under which the University operates, was enacted in 1810 by the New York State Legislature and subsequently amended on various occasions. The charter defines the powers and responsibilities of the Trustees and determines the manner in which they are chosen.
The Trustees oversee a University of more than 20,000 students and 16,000 faculty, officers and support staff (including approximately 7,600 full-time and part-time faculty).
The administration of Columbia University is made up of several components. The University’s governance is directed by the 24-member Board of Trustees, including the President, and by the University Senate. Trustees’ powers and duties include the direction of academic policy and the appointment of the President and faculty. They also determine the University’s budget, supervise the endowment, act as custodians of the University’s properties, and otherwise direct and control the management of the University.
The President is the chief executive officer of the University and oversees all major appointments at the University, such as Provost, Executive Vice Presidents, Secretary, General Counsel, deans, and directors of institutes. The President nominates candidates for these positions, while the official appointments are made by the Trustees. The President presides over the University Senate, is the chair of every faculty and administrative board established by the Trustees, and serves as a channel of communication between the faculties and the Trustees. The President administers discipline in accordance with University Statutes, plays a variety of public roles on behalf of the University, and confers honorary degrees and the University Medal for Excellence on candidates recommended by the University community.
The University Senate, whose members are drawn from all constituencies of the University, meets monthly during the fall and spring semesters. Subject to the reserve powers of the Trustees and the limitations specified in the University Statutes, the Senate considers matters that are of University-wide concern, affect more than one Faculty or school, or pertain to affiliation agreements with other institutions.
In particular, the Senate is charged with reviewing the educational policies, physical development, budget, and external relations of the University. It oversees the academic freedom of the faculty and the welfare of students. Its approval is required to establish or change the conditions for granting most degrees and certificates. It makes recommendations on policies concerning the award of honorary degrees and other prizes and honors, and assists the Trustees in selecting their recipients.
Senate actions become final on passage unless Trustee concurrence is required. If the Trustees do not concur with a Senate action, they return it to the Senate with an explanation of their decision.
The Senate has 106 voting members, including 23 students, about 45 tenured and 15 nontenured faculty, 9 senior administrators (including the President and the Provost), representatives of the alumni and members of the research, administrative, and library staffs. All members of the Columbia community are welcome at the Senate’s monthly plenary meetings. Most Senate business is conducted by the Executive Committee (including the President and Provost) and 13 committees. Non-senators are eligible to serve on most committees.
As the chief academic officer of the University, the Provost is responsible for developing, implementing, and periodically evaluating the University’s academic programs and activities, and for authorizing appointments for officers of instruction and research.
The Provost also coordinates with the Senior Executive Vice President and the Executive Vice President for Finance to oversee the budget and financial planning of the Faculties and administrative boards. A number of University offices and departments report to the Provost, including: Academic Affairs, University Libraries, University Chaplain, Equal Opportunity and Affirmative Action, and Academic Planning.
The Senior Executive Vice President (SEVP) oversees operating departments, financial management, and innovation enterprises at Columbia University. The SEVP also works closely with the Provost and with schools and academic departments on a range of matters. In addition to overseeing the ongoing operations of the University, the SEVP sponsors a number of University-wide initiatives that have been undertaken to improve operations and services. The SEVP reports directly to the President.
Administrative divisions that report to the SEVP include: Student Services, Facilities Management, Finance, Human Resources, Administrative Information Services, and Institutional Real Estate.