Annual Report


It is difficult to begin this year’s Annual Report without acknowledging the profound loss we feel at the death of Robert Belknap. Aside from our appreciation of Bob as our former director, he was a treasured colleague and friend. Bob served last year as our part-time historian and for the short time he was in that job he made significant progress — collaborating with Summer Hart on moving our archive into the digital age. We miss him and still find ourselves thinking: “Oh, I’ll have to ask Bob Belknap about this…”

All of us in the office work together so that the administration of the Seminars follows the same cordial rules as the seminars themselves. Our website and archive projects are moving along. The loss of Bob Belknap added a degree of urgency to the preservation of our intellectual history. Pamela Guardia was promoted to Program Coordinator. Her advancement reflects the evolution of her position and the need to maintain the University Seminars as central to all our programs.

Even as the office works to maintain a high level of transparency and continuity among seminars, the seminars themselves provide a constant novelty. In 2013-2014,90 seminars were active including three of the first five, which began meeting in 1945. Five new seminars held meetings: Defense and Security; Visual Perception; Beyond France; Logic, Probability and Games; and Human-Animal Studies. Population Biology ran its course, but some former members are now part of a new seminar, Integrative Study of Animal Behavior. Indigenous Studies is scheduled to begin this fall. Visual Perception is discontinued; the Seminar’s chair has an appointment at another University. New Media is discontinued since the death of chair, Frank Moretti. The seminars on Studies in Political and Social Thought, Sexuality, Gender, Health & Human Rights, and Theory and History of Media will return after self-imposed hiatuses.

All active seminars continue to meet and discuss issues important to their members. These varied topics are not properly studied in any one academic department or school.  Scholars from Columbia and neighboring universities and colleges meet on an equal plane to work with their peers on mutually agreed subjects.

As Director, Bob Pollack comes into contact with chairs, rapporteurs and seminar members, all of whom occasionally require answers to small or large questions. These answers often come not from the office, nor from the director, but from the chairs and members of the seminars themselves.

Our central office and the quality of the seminars have again benefitted from the attention, kindness, and creative competence of our colleagues in Faculty House and University Events Management. We are particularly grateful to David Martin, Leslie Robinson, Emerald Currie, Leonard Zinnanti and, of course, Scott Wright and Joe Ricciutti.

In addition to the seminars, our office is responsible for the Leonard Hastings Schoff Memorial Lectures, the Annual Dinner and Tannenbaum Lecture, and the subvention of scholarly books and articles emerging from seminars.  In all these matters we are assisted by our Advisory Board, chaired by Robert Remez, and made up of academicians who are knowledgeable about the University Seminars. George Andreopoulos and Alan Stewart joined the Board.

We are very proud to present here the illustrious roster of our upcoming Schoff Lecturers:

Fall 2014                 Professor Annette Insdorf, Columbia University

Fall 2015                 Professor Robert Remez, Barnard College

Fall 2016                 Professor Robert O’Meally, Columbia University