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Giuliani, Columbia Are in Talks On Urban Leadership Program Ex-Mayor's
Hotly Contested Files Could End Up at Ivy League School

By JULIA LEVY

Confidantes and colleagues of Rudolph Giuliani are in high-level discussions with Columbia University about creating a new program on municipal government and giving the Ivy League school copies of the former mayor's hotly contested archives. The Giuliani Program in Urban Leadership would offer full scholarships
to undergraduate and graduate students from around the world who are interested in city government.

It would have at least two endowed chairs — one dedicated to a professor who will lead the program and mentor the students, and one for a professor who would oversee the students' theses and other academic projects.

"This should be very exciting for kids throughout the country — to be in New York, which is the capital of the world, and to be exposed to this kind of dramatic program," said Saul Cohen, president of the Rudolph W. Giuliani Center for Urban Affairs, a private organization run by Mr. Giuliani's friends.

The university's library would also house microfiche and digital copies of the Giuliani administration's archives — which have been under fire since boxes of documents were spirited to a warehouse in Queens in the final hours of Mr. Giuliani's term instead of going directly to the city's Department of Records and Information Services.

Mr. Giuliani probably won't be a professor at Columbia, according to Mr. Cohen. But he'll host any urban affairs conferences the program runs.

"[Columbia] would be delighted to see him play a role because he has unparalleled experience," Mr. Cohen said. "But the day-to-day program and teaching will be left with the academics."

The Giuliani center started raising money for the new program in December with a cocktail party at the former mayor's apartment. Donors have handed over about $400,000, according to Mr. Cohen.

He said the program would cost about $25 million, but the center would probably have to raise between $5 million and $10 million to convince the university to approve the Giuliani program.

The Giuliani center is also putting together a board of major business, political, and academic figures, and Mr. Cohen said he hopes that by the end of June they will be "moving forward with the program."

A spokeswoman for Columbia, Eileen Murphy, said the university has been involved in "some preliminary discussions" with Mr. Giuliani's representatives about forming an institute and housing the mayor's archives. "It is too early to speculate" about theprogram's specifics, she said.

"Columbia has expressed a lot of interest," Mr. Cohen said, adding that the Giuliani center thinks Columbia is a perfect place for the new program.

Since Mr. Giuliani's term ended in December 2001, a group of his allies has been trying to put together a program like the one currently being talked about with Columbia. In the course of its inquiries, the center has
approached New York University, Fordham, the New School, Baruch, and Columbia.

"Columbia would be the best choice," Mr. Cohen said. "It's a major world university. They, certainly, of all the schools, have the most international reputation."

Because of its worldwide cachet, Columbia would be able to attract international as well as American students interested in city governments, he said. He added that Columbia has "tremendous library resources" that use advanced computer systems — which would benefit the Giuliani archives.

Mike Wallace, director of the Gotham Center for New York City History, who has been one of the leading critics of the way Mr. Giuliani has treated his administration's archives, says the papers are "tainted by having
been taken out of city control."

Moreover, he said he doesn't understand why Columbia would be interested in keeping copies of the Giuliani archives, since they'll be digitized and nonexclusive. But he said he wasn't surprised Mr. Giuliani would choose a private institution over a public one.

"These guys are privateers," he said. "Giuliani was at loggerheads with City University for most of his term."

Janet Linde, the representative of the Archivist Roundtable of Metropolitan New York, an organization of more than 350 professional archivists, said it seems like working out deals with Columbia and duplicating records for their private collection might be delaying the archives' return to the department of records.

"If Columbia wants to acquire a collection like that, it's up to them," she said. "But I think it's unfortunate if doing this has impeded or delayed public access to the records."

The Giuliani center says it is spending about $3 million — money the city government doesn't have — to set a new standard for archiving city records by organizing the documents and making them more accessible to New Yorkers.

 

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Defending the archives contract: Saul Cohen, President, Rudy Giuliani Center for Urban Affairs