#university senate
High Hopes, Low Expectations

Cold, callous Low

Yesterday, PrezBo announced that Low will get a bit more crowded come autumn—a fresh face will fill the newly-created role of Executive Vice President for Student Affairs and report directly to the president.

University Senators Akshay Shah, SEAS ’14, and Matthew Chou, CC ’14, note that the creation of this position is essentially a direct consequence of the sexual assault controversy, which showed the clear need for someone in Columbia’s central administration to become the “primary place of contact for issues relating to sexual assault.”

Joseph Ienuso, EVP for Facilities and Operations, has been picking up the slack, but hasn’t had any student affairs experience in the past. And remember when it took so long to find a time for the town hall? Terry Martinez and deans of student affairs from other schools in the umbrella were left without a central administrator to coordinate the event. Hopefully this new position will centralize the process rather than bog CU down with more slow, unresponsive bureaucracy, and hopefully student voices will be included in conversations regarding the search. To the University Senators, however, it’s already “a big win”—as Akshay noted, we’ll have someone “with the direct ear of the president.”

Peer institutions and the current bureaucracy.

SAC Co-Chairs Announced
Acosta

Acosta

The Student Affairs Committee of the University Senate just announced its two new co-chairs for the 2014-2015 academic year—a law student (and CC alum) and a B-School student. Matthew Chou, CC ’14, and Akshay Shah, SEAS ’14, have served for the past year as co-chairs. You can read the press release and the platform they ran on below.

Fun stuff below the jump!

The People Have Spoken: Elections Results

democrat_vs_republican_on_white[1]

the debates earlier this week, kinda

After a fierce few days of campaigning, riveting debates, and more Facebook notifications than you’d like, student government elections results are in, courtesy of the Columbia Elections Board.

Here’s the link to the full elections results with percentages of the vote included. We’ve pasted the winners below.

Most notably, TAP won most of the CCSC E-Board, Wadood and Ross will enter the University Senate, and the LCUI and sandwich ambassador ballot initiatives passed.

Voter turnout increased 25% from last year, and the candidate turnout increased by 35%. However, the ESC’s voter turnout percentages were much lower than last year, presumably because the E-Board went uncontested. For all you haters out there, elections results may be contested for the next 24 hours.

CCSC

CCSC Executive Board President & VP Policy

  • Peter Bailinson and Sejal Singh (TAP)

CCSC Executive Board VP Finance

  • Michael Li (Insight)

CCSC Executive Board VP Communications

  • Abby Porter (TAP)

CCSC Executive Board VP Campus Life

  • Andrew Ren (TAP)

CCSC University Senator

  • Ramis Wadood

CCSC Academic Affairs Representative

  • Grayson Warrick

More CCSC, ESC, and GSSC below the jump.

CC USenate Position: Who’s The Fiercest Of Them All?

We’re not usually in the business of endorsements, but, then again, this year the CC University Senator position has already taken us on on a roller coaster of emotions. To scientifically choose who we would endorse for the seat, we photoshopped the candidates’ faces onto Roaree in the wild. Sadly, some just couldn’t measure up to what our school needs. For the CC USenate position, we endorse:

rawr!

Ramis Wadood, CCSC 2016 President for the past two years, and current Senate Staffer.

From the debates and our meeting with him, we can see that Ramis has the experience working in the University Senate and with its members to actually effect change. His work as a Senate staffer would allow him to be practical about what can be accomplished in the Senate—as his opponents have run on platforms for initiatives that are already being pursued or aren’t practical at the moment—yet “innovative,” as we see in his platform below.

Frankly, it’s disheartening to see candidates argue that the QOL survey doesn’t do much, when it has already helped drive the creation of gender-neutral bathrooms in Lerner and other buildings. Sure, surveys are worthless if you stare at them, but they both find problems and provide the statistics to back up student initiatives that Low administrators hold so dear to their heart. We like that Ramis was a key part of this QOL Survey, and know he is capable of helping out again next year in the creation of the second survey. Ramis considers the survey to be a strong tool for student advocacy, and we agree. The cold façade of Low can’t ignore public data, and can be won over, as we have seen, when facts and stories are spotlighted.

We support Ramis’ platform, which we outline below (see our elections guide for a more detailed platform):

  • CPS inadequacies
    • Finding a safe and central location for after-hours services, with disability access
    • Clinician training; increasing support for LGBTQ and minority students
    • Interim measures, like more accessible locations and raising awareness
  • Financial aid for international students
  • Cross-registration

As we’ve shown above, Ramis would also wear the Roaree suit best, and that’s what we want in our University Senator.

Coalition Against Sexual Violence Release Comprehensive List of Suggested Reforms to Sexual Assault Policy

it's a power colorIn a press release this evening, the Coalition Against Sexual Violence has released a list of comprehensive reforms they’d like to see made with respect to the sexual assault policy here at Columbia.

This comes after yesterday’s community forum in Lerner where participants were asked to make policy suggestions and proposal edits.

The proposals constitute “a living document that will continue to change with continued input from the community and as we continue to discover solutions to the concerns raised by survivors at Columbia” and call for better staffing of the Rape Crisis/Anti Violence Support Center, changes to Consent 101/Keeping Sex Sexy, a reorganized PACSA (Presidential Advisory Committee on Sexual Assault), and increased transparency about the process in general, as has been requested in the past. Several of the issues addressed in the proposal have also been highlighted in Anna Bahr’s series of investigative reporting for The Blue and White.

Full statement from the Coalition is after the jump.

SAC and Columbia Democrats Seek Community-Sourced Reform of Sexual Assault Policy

Dems Logo

Bwog sent Features Editor Alexander Pines to get the scoop on recent Dems and USenate activism on campus. Here’s his report.

Following up on their October 9th petition to increase transparency in Columbia’s reporting of sexual assault and other gender-based misconduct, the Columbia Democrats, in association with several other student groups as part of the Coalition Against Sexual Violence, are planning to release a statement detailing a comprehensive list of suggested reforms addressing Columbia’s sexual assault policy after a meeting with Students Active For Ending Rape (SAFER) in the coming week.

For now, Dems President Sejal Singh, CC ’15, is “very happy” to see President Bollinger’s response to the statement published by the University Senate’s Student Affairs Committee (SAC) Sunday night. “This is a major step towards transparency and accountability. I’m very happy to see President Bollinger understands the urgency of student concerns and is implementing several of our proposed reforms. I think this demonstrates that united student voices can change their communities for the better and that the administration is willing to work with us on tangible reforms. There is more to be done and we’ll be working with the administration over the coming months on the next steps, but this letter demonstrates commitment to finding a solution at the highest level of the University — and that united student voices can make a difference in their communities.” She also wished to express her gratitude toward the Title IX team, the class councils, members of the University Senate, and all of the survivors who reached out to share their stories.

What the Dems have been up to, and issues with the Rape Crisis Center.

Breaking: Recommendation for Public Course Evaluations Passed

This just in from Sarah Ngu, who followed the exhaustive debate at the Senate’s plenary session this afternoon. However, the decision to recommend that the university’s schools implement public course evaluations does not mean they are mandated to release the evaluations.

For the majority of the debate, which lasted an hour and a half, the general tide of opinion appeared to be decidedly against the proposal. Opposition was especially strong from representatives of humanities departments, while those from the econ department, and from the Law, Medical, and Public Health schools supported public evaluations. The four groups in support have all used some variety of public evaluation system for several years, and insisted that they had not encountered any of the hypothetical problems that drew out protracted discussion. (You can read Sarah’s in-depth account of arguments for and against public course evaluations here.)

The Faculty Caucus and the Faculty Affairs Committee stated their opposition to the measure, but finally, when a representative from Mailman insisted it was time to vote, a surprisingly significant majority approved the recommendation, perhaps out of exasperation.

The final vote, which saw the largest turnout of the year, was 44 votes for, 12 against, with no abstentions.

Senate Considering Public Course Evaluations

This afternoon, at 1:15 pm in Jerome Green Hall, the Student Affairs Committee (SAC) will bring a ground-breaking resolution to the Senate floor: public course evaluations. Well… ground-breaking for Columbia. Resident Know-It-Most Sarah Ngu brings us up to speed on what this means and why it could be a BFD.

Why don’t we already publicize online course evaluations?

We used to. Up until 1994, Columbia published a course catalog with course evaluations, but it seems to have “gone out of business” as they were sold to students. See photos of evaluations of past course guides. As it stands, the Business, Journalism, SIPA and Law Schools all have public course evaluations; Harvard, Yale and Princeton have had open course evaluations for several years now.

Isn’t CULPA enough?

CULPA draws polarizing views, but this issue is beyond course evaluations.

“It’s about effecting the beginning of a culture change, a culture of openness and transparency. It brings faculty and students closer. There’s mutual accountability,” Frouman says.

“One of the problems with closed systems is that students don’t feel their opinion matters and have no idea where this is going to. Opening it will make students take it more seriously, response rates will go up—these things benefit faculty as well,” Sara Snedeker, BC ’12, co-chair of the course evaluations subcommittee.

“This is also a great opportunity for the University to examine the evaluation process in general and make sure that we’re asking the questions we need to be asking,” Ryan Turner, SEAS Grad ’12, co-chair of the same committee.

So… what’s this Senate thing?

Formed after the riots of the ‘60s, the Senate is a representative body of the entire university, including faculty, administrators and students. Bringing this resolution to the floor forces it on to the Senate’s discussion agenda. The actual voting will most likely occur on April 27th (the entire Senate convenes monthly). If the resolution does pass, it doesn’t make publicizing evaluations compulsory for all schools, but it encourages schools to do so with the expectation that they will implement it with consideration of each school’s needs. The Senate is comprised of around 60% faculty, so their resolutions will hold weight with the rest of the faculty.

Find out what the resolution contains, and more, after the jump.

Hot Air Over Hot Air
Smoking pinocchio

Oral fixation

A sparse handful of senators and spectators filled the giant Jerome L. Greene lecture hall to debate the merits of the newly proposed campus-wide smoking ban. A vote on the ban might take place at this Friday’s full Senate meeting. Bwog dutifully sent our Tobacco Bureau Chief to bring you unfiltered coverage.

With participants and interested listeners only sprinkled throughout the sizable room, the hearing was left largely without a sense of real purpose. This air of illegitimacy was highlighted by attendees’ needs to periodically anounce their own statuses as smokers—yes, no, only-when-drunk—throughout the meeting. There were only a few main topics presented, which were speckled with a handful of opinions and clarifications. An approximate synopsis:

The Students for a Sensible Drug Policy representative spoke at length about how the university needs to frame the discussion in terms that reflect the medical implications of tobacco as a drug. The speaker was careful to say that tobacco use should not be glorified, but suggested that the debate too often creates a false dichotomy between smokers and non-smokers, when in reality if we are to examine this from a public health angle, it’s only the health of the community with which we should be ultimately concerned (Spotted: Jeremy Bentham smiling over in his glass case). To operate in a framework that pits the two sides against each other is unnecessarily adversarial. Additionally, SSDP reminded those present that there are certain health costs associated with a drug ban, and there needs to be adequate health resources available to habitual drugs users who are dramatically affected.

A GS student then argued that a campus-wide ban would result in a concentration of smokers around the few entrances/exits to campus, and that this would in fact affect more pedestrians with a higher concentration of smoke. In effect, we would just push the smokers from in front of Butler to in front of the gates.

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Final ROTC Resolution Released

The Senate has released its final resolution regarding military engagement, building off of last week’s draft resolution. It’s going to be presented to the University Senate at tomorrow’s plenary meeting–Bwog is waiting for word on whether or not it will be voted on.

The preambulatory clauses are phrased and ordered slightly differently, but the operative clauses are exactly the same. Those are below.

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED

That Columbia University welcomes the opportunity to explore further mutually beneficial relationships with the Armed Forces of the United States, including participation in the programs of the Reserve Officers Training Corps; and

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED

That Columbia University reaffirms University Statutes III § 35 (Powers of the Faculties Excepting Arts and Sciences and Health Sciences), XXIX § 293 (Powers of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences), and XXXIII § 333 (Powers of the Faculty of Health Sciences), that questions of academic credit, faculty appointments, academic governance, and space allocation shall remain the sole and exclusive domain of the Provost, of the faculties of the affected schools, and of their several deans, as shall not contravene the Charter of Columbia College (enacted 1787, amended 1810), the University Statutes, or any resolution of the Trustees or of the University Senate; and

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED

That any further relationships with the Armed Forces of the United States, beginning with relationships that may arise as a result of this resolution, shall be subject to periodic review by the appropriate committees of the University Senate …

You can read the full text here.

University Senate Creates ROTC Task Force

That was fast! The Student Affairs Committee of the University Senate has just announced that it will form a task force on ROTC starting in the spring semester in light of yesterday’s DADT repeal.

Next semester, the task force will hold open hearings on Columbia’s military engagement and conduct a survey on ROTC. The Senate states that their top priority is that “the student voice is heard. Thus, this will be a student-driven, not a faculty-dominated, process.”

Full press release after the jump.

The Graduate Student Center Subcommittee of the Committee on Campus Planning and Physical Development Sez:

The University Senate has unanimously recommended that PrezBo and The Trustees (playing at Music Hall of Williamsburg next week) consider creating an interim Graduate Student Center. And that incredibly sillily-named committee has ideas!

They argued that Columbia’s peer institutions have space dedicated to its graduate students and that such a space would increase a sense of community among grad students. Other reasons cited include a common space for grad students on the Morningside and Medical Center campuses, as well as new funds to build the center, and space to build it in.

The committee has suggested six possible locations for the Student Center: 538 W. 114th St, space within Earl Hall, former Psych library (Schermerhorn), former Chem library (Chandler), former Bio. Sciences library (Fairchild), former Physics library (Pupin).

On the ashes of Columbia’s natural sciences resources, a place for your TAs to talk about Kant and ask each other on dates to 1020 may blossom.

Here’s the full recommendation from the University Senate:
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Final Exams Resolution Passes Senate Unanimously

There has been a lot of discussion over the issue of the academic calendar and exams on December 23rd. Today the Senate passed a resolution aimed at resolving some of the problems by allowing students to reschedule December 23rd exams. Dane Cook was Bwog’s man in the room.

This is what the University Senate looks like when PrezBo is there.

The Columbia University Senate convened this afternoon in the august World Room of the Journalism School for the last plenary session of the year. The session began by noting the absence of Provost Steele and President Bollinger (who has been called away “on business” to Washington D.C.), but Senate Chair Sharyn O’Halloran offered reassurance of the administration’s commitment to cooperation and involvement with the Senate and that their attendance will be encouraged in the future.

Among the range of topics addressed during the session, several stand out for their potential implications for students:

• Graduating seniors who have not yet landed permanent employment should take solace in the fact that the Alumni Relations Committee intends to focus its efforts on the development of career services for alumni. Currently, little to no such services exist, and the committee expressed the need to broaden resources and enhance communication.

• The budget review was resoundingly positive. Have no fear; the endowment is in good hands.

• The Information and Communications Technology Committee reported its findings from a recent survey regarding the effectiveness of technology throughout Columbia. Though still sorting through approximately 4,000 survey responses, the committee is particularly interested in the use of eReaders and hopes to cut down the University’s paper consumption in the near future. Also, Committee Chair Julia Hirschberg expressed support for a new system to replace Courseworks and noted the much-needed improvement of Columbia’s webmail interface, which she described as “awful.” CubMail, awful? You don’t say!

The issue of the day, however, was the resolution regarding finals scheduling. The resolution proposes a petitioning process for students who cannot stick around until December 23rd to attend a final exam. The new process piggybacks off of the procedure already in place for students to reschedule if they have more than two exams on one day. The resolution states as follows:

“No student at Columbia University shall be required to take a final examination on December 23rd of any year or later if such exam administration would present undue hardship.”

Chair Elect of the Student Affairs Committee Tao Tan (CC ’07, CBS ’11) was certainly pleased with the result. “This is a win for students,” he said.

But figure out your final schedule early: to reschedule an exam, you must submit a petition by December 1st, which must then be approved by the faculty member involved and your dean. Although this process may prove inconvenient, don’t fret over approval; the resolution states, “…there will be a strong presumption that the rescheduling request will be granted.”

Although more academic calendaring issues still loom on the horizon, it seems students have won this round.

The resolution can be viewed here (PDF).

USenate: Undergrads vs. Grads?

In a recent email sent out to SEAS students, the University Senate Elections Commission asked them to “reconsider how SEAS students are elected to the Senate.” This move was prompted by graduate engineering students voicing concerns that they felt underrepresented. Indeed, the survey asks only one question: Should the SEAS student body be separated into undergraduate and graduate voting groups that would each elect one student to the University Senate?

Rajat Roy, SEAS ’10 and 3-year University Senator, sent an email out tonight expressing his opposition to this proposed change. He argues that by mandating one graduate and one undergraduate Senator, SEAS would be divided and its representation in the University as a whole would be made weaker.

The original email and Rajat’s response can be found after the jump.

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Bwoglines: Meddlesome Bureaucrats

House IIThe USenate committee confidentiality proposal will be debated this Friday.  PrezBo will weigh in.

The city hates your metal gates.  Except those like the ones over dorm windows.

Xavier Sala-i-Martin does not have a tailor in the US.  Nor can you buy his jackets.

Surprise! Cab drivers don’t care about bicyclists.

More evidence in the Yale murder case.