Public Representation


The University Seminars were formed and endowed to provide their chairs, members and associate members with venues for the enjoyment of private, confidential discussions of matters of serious interest and importance to those invited to attend. The University Seminars Office has operated for more than half a century under this rubric.

The office has only rarely found it necessary to set boundary conditions on seminars. But, because not observing certain boundaries would render a seminar inoperative under our charter and endowment, the Office and the Advisory Committee of the University Seminars have mapped out the following guidelines:

Our charter forbids honoraria; though we are always glad when departments, institutes, and other institutions pay the speaker for a separate, non-University Seminars’ talk while (s)he is in town.

Public Advocacy & Partisan Activity
The University Seminars are dedicated to the free expression of ideas. We encourage chairs, members, and associate members in their individual capacities to participate fully in the political process during campaigns by candidates for public office. However, all such political action must neither overtly nor implicitly involve Columbia University or the University Seminars. Columbia University is a tax-exempt organization under Section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code. As such, it is prohibited from participating or intervening in any political campaign on behalf of or in opposition to any candidate for public office. For more information, please see the Columbia University Policy on Partisan Activity.

Seminar Affiliation
Seminar chairs, members, and associate members may represent their affiliations freely in communications with other seminar members. In scholarly articles and books where a seminar discussion is relevant to the argument, such identification is also acceptable. However, Seminar affiliation may not be used to legitimize a position, e.g. “As ex-chair of the University Seminar on Antarctica, I declare global warming cool.”

Attribution of Faculty Status by Membership
The University Seminars take pride in their place in their members’ intellectual lives and are grateful for the acknowledgements that often appear in scholarly books and articles. At the same time, membership does not signify faculty status at Columbia University: from the University perspective, chair, member, and associate member titles are courtesy designations. For more information, please see the section on Visiting Scholars/Scientists and Seminar Associates in the Columbia University Faculty Handbook.