SGA: Fighting For Rights
Written by Caroline Montgomery
This week’s SGA update brought to you, as always, by staffer Caroline Montgomery, heats up campus even as December marches on.
This week, SGA was heated (like our earth! 60 degrees in December!?). The the main agenda was for Associate Dean of Student Life, Alina Wong, to discuss Barnard’s involvement with CUE, the Office of Student Life, and student involvement, but the plan was sidetracked by the many students who arrived to have their voices be heard during the open floor segment.
After the BCSN protest earlier that day, people were excited to continue to fight for justice. The two main groups present at the SGA meeting were No Red Tape as well as a group critiquing NRT’s stance on the Israel and Palestine issue. Last week, NRT came to SGA to ask for the council’s support on their petition, outlining a list of demand’s for the Columbia administration. SGA has not decided whether or not to support the petition, but it has spurred a lot of controversy. Some students feel that, if SGA does choose to endorse NRT’s petition, that SGA is implicitly aligning themselves with NRT and the organization’s geopolitical agenda. For various reasons several students feel that this would be damaging and alienating to certain groups on campus. On the other hand, several students feel that sexual assault and a safer campus is ultimately a unifying issue and goal and SGA’s support of NRT’s petition does not necessarily mean aligning the council with NRT’s geopolitical agenda. As one member of another organization pointed out, SGA is supports policy not campus organizations.
Next, we heard from Dean Wong about the changes made to Barnard’s involvement with CUE, as well as members and supporters of CUE. Before questions were asked (although not a lot of questions were ultimately answered), Dean Wong presented some facts about the program. CUE (Columbia Urban Experience) is pre-orientation experience that “empowers incoming first-years to explore what it means to effectively engage in one’s community through direct service in the city of New York.” CUE is a student run group that about 12 Barnard students participate in each year. Barnard has disallowed students from engaging in this program due to financial issues and philosophical reasons. CUE costs Barnard about $5,000 as well as the cost of housing students before NSOP officially starts. According to Dean Wong, this cost was simply not in the budget for this year. Many members of the community are upset about Barnard students’ inability to participate in CUE for two reasons, one, they feel that it disallows Barnard students to engage in their civic duties, and two, it creates yet another divide between Barnard and Columbia students. There was some question about the Barnard administration’s timeline and and haste with the decision, as well as the transparency with reasons why Barnard’s has pulled out of CUE. After being caught off-guard by several several questions, Dean Wong concluded that this conversation was far from over and that she looks forward to continuing speaking with students.
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