GSSC Hears From Candidates
Written by Zoe Sottile
It’s election season, and intrepid young GS bureau chief Zoe Sottile is bringing you the latest and greatest from GSSC’s candidates debate last night.
First of all, GSSC both had pizza and saved me a seat for the debates. Y’all, GSSC is truly the best. Each candidate had two minute to present their platform and then five minutes to respond to questions from the full and lively audience or the livestream.
We first heard from the three candidates for VP Communications, Karl Sully Guerrier GS ’20, Sitara Herur-Halbert GS ’19, and Biao Huan Foo GS ’20. Nicole Rogers, the current VP Comms, asked what the candidates’ plans were to actually engage students over the school year and if they had any previous website or coding experience. None of the candidates had any tech experience, which may present a problem for the Communications committee going forward. Guerrier focused in his responses on reaching out to students who feel “out of the loop”, suggesting that he set up tables in the lounge to reach out to students. In one of the spicier moments of the debate, Herur-Halbert, the current GSSC Social Media Representative, called Guerrier out for not reading her platform and made her own suggestions for having club events displayed on the TV in the GS lounge, as well as making display boards in the lounge and Lewisohn. She also proposed expanding the tech team that supports Communications as well as starting two weekly video series called Weekly Skim and Dear PrezBo. Foo discussed the possibility of a design competition for online visuals to get students more involved. When questioned about past difficulties in recruiting students to provide tech support for GSSC, Foo suggested that recruitment go beyond GS and include students from other schools.
VP Campus Life
Next, Sondra Woodruff and Cedric made their statements for the position of VP Campus Life. Sondra started at GS in fall of 2016, and spoke about how many students choose GS for its integration within a larger university but then find that integration lacking in practice. To this she offered a one-word solution: “Presence.” There was a lot of applause. She’s worked on the GSSC Mid-Semester Success series before, which gives her some prior experience into the inner workings of GSSC. She focused on accessibility in her responses, mentioning that she has been unable to attend some GSSC events due to cost and also pointing out that students with families often also have a hard time attending events.
Cedric, meanwhile, is a film studies major who just started at GS this spring. He’s spent most of the last decade of his life working for nonprofits and volunteering. His true passion is coordinating and managing programs, and he thinks that passion will aid him as VP Campus Life. He admitted that as a new student, he isn’t quite as familiar with the current programming provided by GSSC and Campus Life specifically. However, he discussed his prior experience working at a not-for-profit theater and compared the tangible improvement he made there to the tangible improvements he would make for student programming as VP Campus Life. He mentioned that he’s been to several GS events where he “got a plate of food, ate by myself, then left. That’s not a good feeling.” He highlighted the importance of not just holding events, but holding events that promote and create community.
GS University Senator
Jonathan Criswell and Nicole Rodgers – the current GS VP Comms – are this year’s candidates for GS University Senator. GS only has one seat on the University Senate, which puts some extra pressure on these candidates to represent all of their school. Jonathan spoke first about his diverse life experiences as an openly gay former ballet dancer who joined the Marine Corps at the age of 24. He emphasized his prior experience working on GSSC committees and also that his main priority would be ensuring financial security for GS students. He attributed his previous success as Students with Disabilities Representative to “making issues more salient, starting a discourse, giving a voice and agency to the people it affects”, techniques he would continue to use as University Senator.
Nicole Rogers, meanwhile, discussed her wealth of experience with GSSC. She’s the current VP of Communications and was first-year class president last year. She’s also the indigenous representative for the activities board. She mentioned that Columbia has a surplus of wealth, privilege, and opportunities, but many of them have been accessible to her and other members of marginalized groups. She wants to work with the Lerner Space Commission to change its accessible hours – currently, Butler is the only building that is available 24/7 to all students. She also wants to create a better calendar system – last semester, she created a database of clubs on campus that was so successful the university has adopted it and is now trying to get all departments to use it for their events. She said that one of the most important parts of her role as senator would be getting all students involved so as to best represent them: “It’s a multimedia approach, and constantly making yourself available to students.”
Senior Class President
Last but not least, the candidates for senior class president next year each made their case. Daniel Young GS ’19 organized his platform into three goals: help seniors have fun; help students do things they haven’t had the chance to do in their previous years in GS; and help students complete their degrees on time. When asked about what makes him unique among the senior class, he described his many on-campus involvements ranging from archery, sailing, the club sports governing board, Greek life, and the marching band.
Miguel Lopez GS ’19, a rising senior from the Dominican Republic in the GS-JTS dual degree program, says that his main commitment is making sure everyone feels included in GS. “I’m really dedicated to love and fantasies,” he declared towards the end of his opening statement. He said that what makes him unique is his dedication towards service: he’s very focused on listening to the needs and concerns of those he represents.
Jake Law GS ’19, meanwhile, previously completed a bachelor’s in music at UC Berkeley, so he’s already been a college senior before. He emphasized the importance of holding really fun events for seniors; he’s attended GSSC meetings throughout the year, so he feels confident he can work closely with the council to make that happen. And, cherry on top, it’s his personal goal to meet every GS senior – he plans to hold regular office hours to make that happen. His special quality is his dedication: he’s not joking about meeting every senior.
Finally, Steven Ballew GS ’19 spoke about his extensive experience working with the GS community previously. He’s been an NSOP orientation leader and crew chief and also worked with the GS Alumni Association. He thinks the best resources for current seniors are recent alumni, and wants to help connect alumni to the community. He remarked, “There’s nothing that I bring that I’m just so special that I outstrip everyone in the class” – but admitted that he has lots of relevant organizational experience and also, unlike many other rising seniors, is running for the position.
That’s all! Get to the polls, everyone, and tune in next week for more GSSC notes.
Image via The Blue Diamond Gallery.