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Presidents and VPs and Reps, oh my!  Last night in Carman Lounge, speeches were spoken, questions posed and time limits were observed…is this democracy at work at Columbia?

khWhen iColumbia Class Representative Sean Udell suggested an epic carnival on campus this coming spring (with both caramel and buttered popcorn!), he inadvertently described the entire Freshman CC debate. Indeed, it was a five ring circus, with the candidates acting as clowns and acrobats, a googly-eyed crowd and CCSC Elections Board member Andrew Ness as ringleader.   Let the games begin!

If anything can be said of the debate in general, all of the parties agreed on essentially every policy initiative, from improved computer labs and laundry rooms to expanded hours for JJ’s and better communication with the student body. However, several parties distinguished themselves by choosing not to discuss their platform in their opening address.  RealColumia, instead of going into details about their “Four Pillars of Reality,” spent their entire three-minute segment complementing each other on their hardworking attitude (in Vesal Yazdi’s case, “a zest for life”).

Columbia’s 711 Open 24/7, on the other hand, built their entire campaign around suggestion boxes.  “I’m not going to do this or do that,” said Ankit “Taj” Gupta, who, instead of discussing his plans for a luau in Uris Pool (that was Class Action) or quoting Spectator articles on satellite gyms (iColumbia), told students how unqualified he was (he also loses his Carman room key multiple times a day) and hopes that his brutal honesty is enough to carry him to victory. Presumably assured of victory, none of 711’s candidates for representative bothered to show up to witness the spectacle.

During the question and answer section, the parties continued to agree with each other, promising transcripts and video of meetings online, facebook messages, weekly emails, etc. The final question, however, cast a shadow on the previous hour of “debate” when the parties were confronted with the expansion into Manhattanville.   All the parties with the exception of RealColumbia, who took neither side, supported Columbia, with Fight for Your Right Party going so far as to say that “human advancement” was necessary even though the school would displace 5,000 people from their homes.

Sure, boiling down an extremely complex issue into 30 seconds of soundbyte is no easy feat. But isn’t that what campaign strategists are for?

Just in case you still want to vote, elections will take place this Thursday from 9AM to 7PM.  Students can vote on Low Plaza or click on a link to be sent in an email.


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  1. Noah Baron  

    With regards to your comment on the Manhattanville expansion:

    Class Action has not chosen a side on the issue, nor did it on the debate. The Manhattanville issue is a complex and controversial topic with a history dating back to the 1960s. Besides the history of the issue, there are a number of different viewpoints (various students groups, Columbia itself, the Community Board, and the city) which further complicate it. While we are aware of the recent developments (such as Bollinger's promise not long ago to provide $20 million in housing to displaced residents) and some of the issue's history (it was one of the precipitating causes of the 1968 protests), we also recognize that, as freshmen, we are not yet quite as informed as we would like to be before we take a definite stance on an issue which will affect the lives of over 5000 people and the legacy of one of the world's most prestigious universities.

    • fyi  

      Regarding your statement about its history, the proposed Manhattanville expansion had nothing to do with the 1968 protests.

      • Noah Baron  

        While this is true, I still believe that it would be helpful to know about past attempts and how they were handled so that we can learn from whatever mistakes were made.

        • Re Noah  

          Past attempts at What? That fact that you bring up 1968 tells me you've conflated a morass of unrelated issues. You should be discussing Emily Lloyd, the compromise for The School, and other Columbia projects in the last ten years (The Audobon biotech project is far more relevant to Manhattanville, but 99% of students spouting opinions about it probably have no idea of how that went down. But they know the gym was "racist"!)

          You will probably never be well informed enough to have a stance on this issue, without possibly dereliction of duty as a class council. Because this isn't an issue you should be spending a lot of time on.

          Class Councils really don't have a place on taking policy stances on Manhattanville, because it's not their job. It's the equivalent of the town alderman taking stances on the Troop Withdrawals - it's an important issue, but you don't have much standing.

          Where you do have a voice is the University Senate. Then again CC elected a senator who's best qualifications was tenacity in running twice, campaign pictures of looking studious, and endearing videos. I'm not sure most people who run, or vote, for the USenate understand what it is.

          So talk about Columbia's USenate delegation. And what you plan on doing to work with them on this issue.

  2. this is all good

    but what about Matt Schoenfeld?

  3. speeling  

    Don't you mean "complimenting", bwog? New bwog writer needed.

  4. fight for your right  


    yeahhhh you missed out on another asshole comment #6.. they spelt Columbia as Columia somewhere... wicKEdddd

  5. Eric Rosenberg  

    In defense of our Fight for Your Right Party, the gentleman who said that comment concerning Manhattanville was not actually a candidate from our party. He was just speaking on behalf of Rep. Shree Asware who was unable to attend the debate for personal reasons. Our official party position is that although we are not opposed to the Manhattanville expansion, we would just like to see constructive discussion about the topic. Our worst fear would be if discussion gets out of hand and leads to the disruption of academic activities at Columbia. We also support educating the Columbia student body and the community about this tough issue so everyone can make a decision for themselves.

    By the way, Fight for Your Right is the only party that supports Columbia students and Barnard College students registering at the same time for classes. That is, when we registered for fall semester, Barnard students were allowed to register for our own classes before us, that's just not legit! We would make sure Columbia students are never given second choice on their own classes again.

  6. Anonymous  

    That was hardly a debate. It was more of a contest to see who could make the most clever promises while insuring the crowd it was actually possible. The candidates paraded in with their suits, then blundered through half the questions with indefinite answers. Almost reminds me of the real politicians. Taj was the exception to making promises, but a suggestion box and visits to his room is hardly professional regardless of the intentions. That "debate" wasn't a complete waste of time; at least now I know who the candidates are, and which ones at least look like they know what they're doing.

  7. random famous guy  

    This debate is all well and good, but in all seriousness, how many students actually care about their student council? Since they all agree on virtually every issue, does it matter who wins?

    Promises, promises, promises...but no results.

  8. Eric Rosenberg  

    to what about #14,

    don't worry, we know how to party (especially Lalit). we will plan sick class events but the major push in our platform, in terms of making a change to the status quo, is going to be centered around policy.

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