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Oct

17

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Dark wings, dark words.

Each week, rain or shine, healthy or sick, snow or drought, ESC Bureau Chief Finn Klauber reports on Engineer Student Council’s activities. For the first time in multiple weeks, ESC actually had an open discussion section—and, boy, was it a doozy. 

As most people at Columbia are aware, Lerner Hall experienced a number of protests last Tuesday night due to the speech of the infamous Tommy Robinson, co-founder and previous leader of the English Defence League. While Columbia reiterated its policies that peaceful protest is entirely within the realm of acceptable behaviour, the administration also accosted protesters physically disrupting the event, collecting UNIs and serving the offending students with notices of rules violations. In the wake of the protest and drama surrounding Robinson’s speech, ESC internally wrote, voted upon, and approved their own official statement regarding the various incidents. However, as VP Policy Zoha Qamar recalled before opening this week’s discussion topic, VP Student Life Ben Barton—among others—privately told VP Qamar that he had issues with the statement. As a result, VP Qamar scrapped the entire official statement until after ESC could discuss the various incidents as a general body.

Both VP Barton and 2019 Representative Asher Goldfinger described how the discarded ESC statement lacked any significance or meaning. Specifically, Goldfinger claimed that the “main part of the statement is something that was in our constitution,” and that any ESC statement “should be something new and meaningful.” Barton, on a slightly different note, criticized the discarded statement on grounds that “it’s totally fine to take stances on an issue.” Barton advocated that “all future statements from ESC should be more divisive,” and that such statements “shouldn’t be non-partisan.” In response, VP Qamar attempted to address how these issues were actually raised in the process of writing and approving the original drafted statement—namely, that “you should publicly disagree if you want to disagree.” VP Barton answered that “maybe people didn’t want to themselves to seem to disagree with the language” of the statement, essentially claiming that nobody would stand out alone and disagree with the apparently milquetoast statement for fear of being identified as supporting or condemning the statement’s diction.

What does the class of 2019 say?

Oct

10

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I might come back and add a SEAS logo somewhere in the picture.

As every week, Bureau Chief (and Internal Editor) Finn Klauber reports on the activities and goings-on of the Engineering Student Council. Not much has changed since last week, so get ready for Update Mania 2: ESC Boogaloo.

Just as in last week’s ESC meeting, the discussion section of last night’s ESC session was deemed “off the record”—though it may have had something to do with President Aida Lu’s meeting with the Committee on Instruction. Regardless, this week’s post will, once again, take the form of updates.

President Aida Lu

President Lu attended a meeting with Deans Kachani and Kromm, CUIT, and various graduate school reps regarding “Third Level Domains for Pan University Reps.” In essence, instituting a “third level domain” will allow recognized student groups to request and maintain a website, supported and run by CUIT. This issue rose to prominence because “[there was] no one clear path for any new student group requesting a website from Columbia,” according to President Lu. ESC will apparently take advantage of this, so as to not spend student activities fees  on website maintenance.

President Lu also discussed the new student group adjudication process, a new panel which will oversee student group violations under the Student Conduct and Community Standards. This was originally an “admin driven process,” but will be implemented in the same manner as the Greek Judicial Board. That means the board will not review internal violations of group constitutions. As for ESC’s representative, the council elected VP Policy Zoha Qamar to sit on the new board.

Read about Task Forces, AXO, and Orgo Night here

Oct

3

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Ooooh mysterious conspiracies and secrets.

Every Tuesday Bwog brings you a recap of the previous night’s Engineering Student Council (ECS) meeting. Bureau Chief Finn Klauber recounts this week’s ESC meeting which covered a range of topics, from increasing student-faculty interaction to the scheduling of midterms.  

Seeing how Engineering Student Council blocked off an entire discussion section for a ~private~ discussion—which is the third occasion in the past three weeks where ESC discussed a topic privately—this week’s recap of ESC will be in the form of extended updates.

President Aida Lu

  • President Lu met with Dean Brovman, Associate Dean for Undergraduate Student Affairs and Global Programs within SEAS, and discussed a variety of ways to increase student-faculty interaction within SEAS. The brunt of the conversation concerned a proposal for “faculty chats,” which would occur twice or three times a semester. The chats would take the form of question-and-answer periods with a panel of two to three faculty, followed by a reception.
  • The SEAS Dean’s Travel Fund, which funds student groups’ travel to engineering-specific conferences and competitions, increased to $17,000 due to matching contributions from the Dean’s Office and ESC.
  • ESC is hoping to facilitate student interest in SEAS Study Abroad, “which [Dean] Brovman likes to call ‘STAB,'” by reiterating that, as President Lu put it, “study abroad for SEAS students is possible.”

Click here to see other updates

Sep

26

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Bureau Chief Finn Klauber covered this week’s ESC meeting which focused on the SEAS drop deadline, F@CU, JCCC, and more. If you weren’t able to make the meeting or view the livestream, here’s what you missed: 

The SEAS Drop Deadline

The brunt of ESC’s (on the record) discussion concerned the late date of the SEAS drop deadline. The deadline, currently set for November 16th, occurs much later in the semester than CC’s deadline, leading President Aida Lu to present a conversation regarding the advantages and disadvantages of the late date. After 2019 Vice President Asher Goldfinger asked the council if anybody knew the origins of this date choice, 2019 Representative Montana St. Pierre responded with the information which his advisor related to him. That is, he spoke about how the grading policies in SEAS are different than CC’s, specifically in relation to the ease with which CC students can “take a ‘W’ or an official withdrawal after the drop deadline,” as well as the limitations on which SEAS classes can be taken pass/fail. He later added that the SEAS drop deadline occurs in the same week which marks the end of being able to “get a partial refund” after dropping a class. 2019 Representative Walker Magrath then claimed that “it’s almost impossible to pass/fail because of the accreditation for your major.”

More on ESC after the jump

Sep

24

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Literally us praying for our tests tomorrow.

Look, we know you think you don’t need any absolution for the various things you got up to this weekend. Whether you were drinking champagne at a frat party or blazing in Brooklyn, there are definitely things you need to get off your chest. Sorta like going to confession.

We were going to put in some nice Bible selections to emphasize just how much you need to come to Lerner 510 at 9:00 PM tonight, but that isn’t really necessary at this point. You know you need to absolve your sins in a sweet release of gossip, discussion, and Trader Joe’s snacks. Bwog can only help those who help themselves.

Sep

19

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Mudd is honestly soul sucking, maybe you should renovate the hallways, too.

Every Tuesday, Bwog presents a recap of the Engineering Student Council (ESC) meeting from the day before. ESC Bureau Chief Finn Klauber recounts this week’s meeting, wherein ESC debates the ways in which it can preserve its institutional memory for future council members. Click below to read about other updates in ESC.

In the wake of the Engineering Student Council retreat this past weekend, the entirety of the substantive discussion yesterday evening concerned an informal proposal to streamline internal documentation of ESC action. This discussion was just the latest in a thread of discourse winding back to the concerns of former VP Policy Sidney Perkins regarding institutional memory. To recap, student councils at Columbia rotate almost entirely each year, with new members filling empty spots—and these newly filled positions usually have a year’s worth of action, planning, and deliberation which are almost entirely forgotten. President Aida Lu recalled, for example, how she didn’t remember everything she accomplished and learned as a freshman class representative while writing her end-of-semester report.

The reinstitution of this end-of-semester report is just half of the informal proposal presented by 2019 VP Asher Goldfinger and Technology Representative Andres Aguayo. The semesterly report is fairly self explanatory, as each member of ESC ought to summarize their experiences and connections, what worked and what failed over the year, into an easy-to-read document to be passed on to their successor. President Lu recounted how this report used to be filed each year, implying that, recently, the practice ceased. Various members offered suggestions regarding these reports, such as 2018 Representative Cristal Abud who said that “having a template for the transition document with key points of contact, how they helped…would be better.”

Read more about the ESC meeting here

Sep

12

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Artistic representation of ESC meetings

Most of last night’s Engineering Student Council meeting consisted of discussions regarding resolutions, goals, and plans initiated at the end of last year or during the Summer. Of particular interest were informal resolutions on logistical changes and Fall elections. And, of course, ESC Bureau Chief Finn Klauber was back on hand to cover everything that went down.

Logistical Changes

If you try to keep up with each meeting of ESC using their livestream, you may have noticed that no live recording of the Council appeared last night. This was no oversight. According to President Aida Lu, the idea of the weekly livestream was “to increase accessibility of our discussion in ESC and general body meetings.”

However, as ESC meetings are already open, meeting notes are (allegedly) posted online each week, and few people actually utilize the livestream, the Executive Board has decided to suspend use of a livestream on a trial run basis. President Lu specifically claims that a lack of lively and diverse discussion in recent meetings could be attributed to the use of the livestream as “[it] might be making us more aware of the words we’re saying in meeting.” Of course, continuing ESC meetings after taking away a major avenue of transparency, regardless of the reasoning, may seem somewhat archaic—especially in comparison to CCSC. The presence of a livestream has not prevented previous statements of a controversial nature from being made by various council members, making it hard to understand exactly which parts of ESC’s discussions a livestream is consistently repressing.

And what’s going on with fall elections?

May

2

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Butler 209 will be hosting at least one thing this finals season.

A team of five sophomores from Columbia College and the School of Engineering and Applied Science is currently on course to endow the entrances to Butler 209 with bidirectional movement sensors to collect data for Seatz, a new Columbia Libraries seat-tracking app. An older app, CU Density, utilized WiFi data via campus routers to estimate the available space in various well-traveled areas, but has been plagued over the past years with spotty technical support, glitches, and UI issues.

Seatz, which instead utilizes data assembled from Raspberry Pi units and small processors installed at various doorways, will incorporate machine learning programs to analyze incoming data and estimate the capacity of each Library room. The largest challenge in such an endeavor, Project Leads Deniz Ulcay (SEAS ’19) and Lora Beltcheva (CC ’19) recounted in an interview this afternoon, involves the number of students who leave their materials in a room immediately after placing their belongings at an open space. While the bidirectional motion sensors will accurately record the number of students who have entered and exited the room, this statistic alone may not accurately imply how full the room is.

Ulcay’s team believes they “can statistically work around this,” given Butler Library’s Administration partnership with Ulcay in this project so far. In conjunction with the data analysis from the motion sensors, Butler Library’s VP for Digital Programs and Technology Services Robert Cartolano and Interim Librarian for Collections and Services Barbara Rockenbach have offered to collect real-time data on occupancy during Seatz’ beta testing period. “The libraries are trying to do a lot of stuff to destress students,” they explained, and “they’ve been quite supportive so far.”

We asked for a banana picture for size reference

Apr

25

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And they’re like, it’s better than yours.

This week’s ESC meeting focused on getting others involved in the Mental Health Task Force and collaborating with CCSC in the future. Oh, and we’re all hoping for JJ’s milkshakes.

Note (April 26, 2017): In a previous version of this article, specific references were made to the efforts of CC University Senator Sean Ryan under the influence of his participation in the Mental Health Task Force to transform the Schapiro Gym, a space open to all Columbia students, into a semi-privatized space for one specific community at Columbia, efforts crassly referenced in the irreverent tags of the article. While some of these tags were almost immediately removed by Bwog staff as they could possibly be seen as hostile towards said community—and I want to clarify that in no way were such criticisms intentionally meant in a hostile manner against any private person—I want to explain the purely political criticism of said University Senator’s endeavours to privatize this space.

This transformation under the University Senator was first raised in an aside at a previous ESC meeting, and was determined with minimal democratic participation of the student body in making such an impactful choice—especially given the earlier commendable decision to turn unused space in Lerner into a new semi-privatized area for this specific community. In the opinion of this specific journalist in the role of a political correspondent, the manner in which the transformation of the Schapiro Gym was determined has infringed upon the values which our Student Councils hold dear; that a democratic consensus ought to be attained, whether in the discussion of an elected and representative body or in legitimately gathered data, before instituting such wide-reaching policy and space changes. No announcement has been made to the student body of this plan, as far as I am aware, beyond the confines of my ESC coverage—despite the massive impact on all students who use this space already and the potential impact on student choice of dorms in Housing Selection. It may be that this change in status of the space is necessary and proper. However, the process of restricting access should impose a reasonable burden of proof upon those seeking limitations upon what is now a decidedly public area.

This criticism is launched against the University Senator not out of personal hatred or bias, but out of anxious concern from a Columbia College constituent and journalist who covers the efforts of the Mental Health Task Force and has found severe fault in such endeavours as led by the University Senator—endeavours the University Senator publicly defended on the most-watched conservative news show in America. This issue was brought to mind given the discussion in ESC of a desire to expand the Mental Health Task Force beyond undergraduate students in Columbia College and, specifically, those students primarily active in Columbia College Student Council and student government. As a journalist in a privately funded, staffed, and maintained news organization, who is intimately familiar with the mechanisms of student government, I desired to express the full magnitude of these concerns, which, while aimed at the University Senator, are intended to be based in a purely political context. Furthermore, Bwog may travel in satire, but it is never our intent to engage in satire which is either unnecessarily or undeservedly critical.

Budget and Policy Reconciliation

VP for Policy Zoha Qamar reported her meeting with CCSC’s Nicole Allicock regarding future collaboration between councils. As there are now multiple positions between the two councils with the same goals (i.e. diversity reps, Student Services, etc.) there will be closer interactions between CCSC and ESC. Starting next semester, there will be at least one joint CCSC-ESC policy-wide meeting, so as to further this collaboration.

In terms of budgetary reconciliations, VP for Student Life Ben Barton explained how there is a lot of intertwining debt among the different school councils, with councils having accrued a certain level of debt so as to hinder interactions and planning between them. Therefore, there will be a giant meeting with the VPs for Student Life from across the three Columbia schools, their counterpart in Barnard’s SGA, and the council advisors. The goal is to “have everything fresh with no debt.”

More on ESC

Apr

21

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Peter and Jerry, deep into their stressing and illuminating conversation.

In another foray into theatre, Internal Editor Finn Klauber attended the performance of three one-act plays written by playwright Edward Albee. Through the absurdity and confusion, he managed to pick up on some essential thematic substance at the core of performance. 

At no point in the CU Players production of “Both Houses, a Plague” did I ever lose a deep seated sense of bewilderment. The play, an adaptation of three one-act performances penned by American playwright Edward Albee, consistently seemed to mock the dramatic structures integral to theatrical performance, juxtaposing the absurdity of plotlessness with dialectics on meaning and purpose. Though the three acts were connected theatrically by Director William Sydney (CC ’19), whether through the manipulation of theatrical space or unstated thematic links, the pure absurdity of the performance in some parts muddled the deeper meaning—if such meaning even exists.

It’s simple to recount and summarize the plot elements present in the three acts, despite this. In the first act, “The Sandbox,” Mommy, played by Ariana Busby (BC ’18), and Daddy, played by Rowan Hepps Keeney (CC ’20), set down the doddering and seemingly senile Grandma, Mommy’s mother played by Lily Whiteman (CC ’19), in an onstage sandbox. A shirtless Young Man, Spencer Tilghman (CC ’20), performs vaguely wing-like calisthenics while standing rooted in place above her, and a Musician, Olivia Loomis (BC ’19), plays a cello softly. The brunt of the act seems to concern Mommy and Daddy grappling with some unstated but critical decision, while Grandma addresses the audience and flirts with the Young Man. After a night has passed, Mommy and Daddy are spiritually rejuvenated, and they leave the decrepit Grandma in the sandbox. In opposition to the Young Man’s prior confusion over his name and purpose in this performance—a meta conflation of the dramatic performance with the reality of the play—he now leans down, realizing he is the Angel of Death, and takes Grandma away.

Peter and Jerry are up next

Apr

18

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ESC plans to take steps so that incidents like this won’t ever happen again.

Large portions of this meeting consisted of discussion regarding expectations and crowdsourced guidelines for ESC member behaviour. However, the brunt of the discourse last night was in reference to the Physics TA incident which occurred a couple of weeks ago.

Sensitivity Training and the Physics TA Incident

About one and a half weeks ago, we reported that a Physics TA and GSAS graduate student from Russia had torn down an inclusive, pro-LGBT sticker and replaced it with a notice referencing the Biblical annihilation of Sodom and Gomorrah. Addressing this issue, both in terms of how this incident was reflected in the experiences of council members and what ESC could do in the long term to prevent such controversies from occuring in the future, though newly-elected President Aida Lu recounted how, in her meeting with Deans Kachani (Senior Vice Dean, Columbia Engineering) and Morrison (Vice Dean of Undergraduate Programs), Dean Kachani mentioned that some departments have printed and installed these stickers en masse.

2019 Representative Walker Magrath opened the discussion by explaining that he was a student of this physics TA, apologising in advance if comments seemed emotional charged. Notably, Representative Magrath’s stance was decidely hostile towards the Physics administration for the “absolutely unfathomable” decision to allow a graduate student with such a bio on the Physics website to TA an undergraduate class. The bio in question (which is still live) commends “Orthodox Christianity, the only true faith.” To an applause of snaps, Magrath proclaimed that it is imperative that ESC “strongly condemn these actions,” which “affect so many people in such a personal way.”

More on ESC

Apr

11

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This week’s ESC meeting was a little uneventful. The current council members shared event updates and touched upon the lack of funding from other student groups. The final moments of the meeting touched upon some successful initiatives during this past year. 

Yesterday evening, Engineering Student Council met for one final melancholic meeting with the current council’s members. However, this wasn’t too sad given the election of many current members to new roles within the upcoming ESC council. As such, this short meeting focused on a few updates, while the council members then transitioned from a group hug into explaining any transition information to the council members-elect.

Final Events Updates
The Residence Hall Leadership Organization (RHLO) is hosting its annual send-off on Butler Lawns, Thursday April 10th, between 5:00 and 8:00 PM. They’re going to have inflatables, a pseudo-dunk tank (which will be “less dangerous”), and other activities. Similarly, April 30th is SEAS the Day, which “will be huge.” There will be a waffle truck, Shake Shack, giveaways for flip flops, tank tops, and SEAS shirts, drinks, food, a “beach-ish theme,” and (hopefully) good weather.

More on ESC

Apr

4

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Lerner spaces have been proposed to accommodate student groups.

The discussion on GS swipe access continued at this week’s ESC meeting. ESC has proposed to reconfigure several unused spaces that can be utilized by student groups on campus. 

The penultimate meeting of Engineering Student Council was punctuated by intermittent reminders of the upcoming transition in council members. The main topic of discussion at this relatively short meeting (internal transition discussion and picture-taking consumed the last 10 to 15 minutes of sessions) consisted of continued discussion regarding the reconstituted General Studies Swipe Access resolution.

General Studies Swipe Access Resolution: Part Deux
After Vice President for Policy Sidney Perkins recused himself as parliamentarian for the moderated caucus discussing this resolution—as Perkins is the primary sponsor of the resolution—two representatives from General Studies Student Council spoke in support of passing the resolution. The two representatives essentially contextualized the Swipe Access Resolution in reference to nearly 15 years of GS advocacy for more equitable swipe access, especially as the last few years have engendered a unique campus atmosphere for this issue. They explained how GS students do no automatically receive access to certain CPS offices, certain group events (which GS students subsidize in their tuition), study groups with friends, and memorial services for peer students held in residential dorms. At a larger level, they continued, GS students are “feeling otherized [sic]” in a manner which is “destructive to community.” They emphasized how ESC has focused this year on increasing student wellness, one aspect of which is increasing student space, claiming that opening up more spaces to GS students will work within the space available at Columbia to combat the lack thereof. Finally, the GS representatives referred to prior commuter student and GS polling data to point out how GS students utilize residential amenities at a lower rate than commuter students, who can obtain swipe access, thus proving that opening up these spaces to GS students will not negatively affect CC/SEAS student life.

Did this resolution pass?

Apr

1

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“Who do you know here?”

It’s a Friday night, you’re texting your group chat about what your plans are for the night, and you’ve hit an impasse. Sure, you can go out to the bars, hitting 1020 and Mel’s towards the end of the night, but what will you do to pregame. There might be some parties in your dorm (most likely Carman) but those are a little blasé at this point. The beer pong and flip cup is definitively minor league, and you trust their jungle juice about as a far as you can throw it. Then suddenly it hits you. Just go to a frat party! Free alcohol? Check. Open flirting and a chance to score? Check. Absolutely zero responsibility for breaking things or messing up the place? Check.

The attempt to brush aside and minimize the presence of fraternity men on this campus is absolutely atrocious. When you want to “get turnt” on a weekend night, who is there for you with an open house and heart? We are. We slave away during the day, cleaning the place and mopping up, always trying to provide the best location for Columbia to have a good time. We spend hundreds of dollars for each party, gathering and organizing various types of alcohol, which is to be freely distributed to anyone thirsty during the event. We literally open up our homes to a wild throng of GDIs, out of the kindness of our hearts.

The rest of this op-ed below

Mar

31

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The performance kinda matches this art style in retrospect.

Although he doesn’t often review theatrical performances, Editor Finn Klauber felt it his responsibility to release a measured review of a recent performance of Seneca’s Troades, which will have two final showings tomorrow afternoon and evening. 

Syncretizing the performance of a Classical tragedy with artistic elements reminiscent of modernity is no small challenge. As key imagery from the Classical world appears strange, at best, or unplaceable and alien, at worst, director Yujhán Claros of the Barnard Columbia Ancient Drama Group would struggle to construct any performance drawn from Greek or Latin drama. These issues are compounded doubly given the source material for Claros’ tragedy—that is, Seneca’s Troades, or Trojan Women in English, offers little concrete textual support for stage direction or characterization. Whether Seneca’s Trojan Women was even written with explicit performance in mind remains an unanswered question. Entering the Minor Latham Playhouse, my mind fluttered with the artistic possibilities which the Trojan Women presented, hoping Claros’ vision would offer new methods of envisioning the characters whom appear in Columbia’s Core and have been transformed into cultural archetypes.

Seneca’s Trojan Women deserves a word of caution for any viewers unfamiliar with the tale of the victorious Greeks and downtrodden Trojans between the Iliad and Odyssey of Homer and the Aeneid of Vergil. Following the brutal sacking of Troy utilizing the infamous Trojan Horse, all that remains of the city are burning buildings and dejected women and children. The heroes of old—Achilles, Hector, Priam, and Ajax—are all dead or, in the case of Ulysses, Pyrrhus, and Agamemnon, disgraced with the brutal rape of “the pillar of Asia.” The remnants of the once great people are a crowd of mourning women and children, deprived of their husbands, fathers, and birthright. This is especially apparent in the case of Hector’s remaining family, as Hecuba, Priam’s wife, and Andromache, Hector’s wife, must see to a depressed throng of Trojan women as they await their division among the Greeks for enslavement, which is often sexual in nature. This final enslavement is slow and painful, though, as the Greeks are marooned in the Troad until the winds pick up again—a familiar issue for the Greeks, and one which Agamemnon will especially suffer for. This situation intensifies once the ghost of Achilles (supposedly) appears, demanding the sacrifice of Polyxena, a surviving daughter of Priam and Hecuba, and Astyanax, the young child of Hector and Andromache. If you expect the Greek “heroes” to do anything except viciously murder a defenseless boy and girl, to nominally appease the shades of Achilles and dissolve the bonds holding the Greek fleet at bay, then this is the wrong drama for you.

More on this play below

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