Posts Tagged ‘Robert Pollack’

Professor Reflections (taken from Spectrum)

by Robert Pollack

Robert Pollack, current Director of University Seminars, and a former Dean of Columbia College, reflects on the introduction of coeducation during his time as Dean and looks to the future of the College.

Springtime thirty years ago changed my life.  I was a member of the College Faculty Committee on instruction, and a relatively new professor in the Department of Biological Sciences. I had come back to Columbia to run a lab and to teach in the Core.

I was turned away from teaching in CC, and offered instead the chance to create a course on science for non-scientists, with a grant to me from the University President, Michael Ira Sovern. The course was fun, the grant was nice to get, and I thought that was the whole story.

Then, the Faculty of Columbia College voted to admit women to the College.

The mechanical and emotional responses are well described in the long essays in this week’s Spectator. I will add here that for me, the vote led to another conversation with the President, followed by my appointment as the Dean, replacing Arnold Collery.

In these days we read about Deans being replaced all too often—in those days a new Dean of the College was a rare event. As Dean, I was given the task of making coeducation work. I used whatever arguments I could think of.

Sometimes I would have to be a bit more clever than is right: For instance, there was no immediate move by Facilities to renovate the dorms, so I made an appeal to the administration on the grounds of the delicacy of girls, and that did work, to the benefit of all students who would thereafter find cleaner facilities, a better health service, and an altogether less gross set of common rooms in the dorms.

I think my greatest personal accomplishment was shepherding the merger of the Barnard Honey Bears with the Columbia Lions, to generate the Athletic Office that ran men’s and women’s athletics here. NCAA rules required parity, and it was great fun to get the various women’s teams going. I think it was the case then and it remains the case now, that the availability of coaches and teammates as part of one’s life on campus is a poorly appreciated gift of intercollegiate athletics.

Yesterday’s Spectator has an article by the Dean of GSAS making the case that the Core Curriculum of the College cannot be used as the reason why College Alumni gifts should go to College needs. I respectfully disagree— until the Arts and Sciences Faculty has a transparent and workable structure to fund and manage the College’s core into the future, alumni cannot be expected to act as if it were so. I believe VP Dirks intends to reach that golden mean, and I hope I will be able to join many colleagues in helping him.


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