Feedback: Getting it Right Without Unmentioned Aspects

Columbia Daily Spectator, Volume CII, Number 72, 15 February 1978

I hope that any of your readers among the faculty members of the Physics Department have learned to accept the text of an article in Spectator as a zeroth approximation of the content of an interview. If not, I must expect some sharp questions from that faculty, who are portrayed in a recent article on proposals for reorganization of the Engineering School as being scheduled for wholesale inclusion in our faculty. We propose something much more modest, and I hope more realistic. If the Trustees accept our proposal, we will invite a few members of the Physics Department to accept nonbudgeted membership in a department of Applied Physics and Nuclear Engineering, while maintaining their present budgeted membership in the Physics Department. We do hope that by including these few individuals in our departmental faculty we will strengthen our coordination with the Physics Department and increase the likelihood of complementary development of our two faculties.

Unmentioned in the article is the plan to extend to several faculty members in the Graduate School of Business similar invitations to accept unbudgeted membership in the proposed Industrial Engineering and Operations Research Department. The objectives for this proposal are similar to those noted above.

The article is also incorrect in its statement that "There are currently no Engineering School courses offered in Applied Physics at the Engineering School." This misunderstanding probably arose as an incorrect inference from the fact that there are no courses in the Engineering School with the formal designator "Applied Physics." In fact we have in the School of Engineering and Applied Science a wide range of courses across the spectrum implied by our official name, including courses on applied physics. In developing courses of this kind we are anxious to avoid unnecessary overlap with courses presented in the Physics Department, and we want our students in Applied Physics to take full advantage of the strengths and interests of the Physics faculty.

Approximately one-third of the. courses taken by nearly eighteen hundred engineering students at Columbia are taught by faculty members whose primary activities lie outside the Engineering School. Many fewer students outside of the Engineering School take courses from our faculty, but we hope in time to increase this number. Columbia would be greatly weakened as a university if each of its divisions stood in isolation from all others. The Engineering School is perhaps the best example of a division that draws upon all of the intellectual resources of the University, and we hope to keep it that way.

In offering some corrections of the article on our reorganization printed in your issue of 30 January, 1978, I do not mean to be unduly critical. The article was assembled for the Monday edition on the basis of a telephone call I received from the reporter at my home on the preceding Sunday, and under such pressures the reporter did rather well. This was a complex story, and she got most of it right.

Peter Likins
Dean, School of Engineering

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