The student councils and a newly-expanded list student groups met last night in the SGO to continue their discussions of the NROTC referendum. Despite the now-public nature of their plans, the meetings remained closed to the press with notes being sent to campus media organizations.
The meetings are still focused on the process behind the referendum, rather than the debate itself. Most importantly, the vote will no longer be a referendum, but a “survey,” a less formal version with the same procedures. Among other effects, Bwog notes that the vote can now go forward without waiting for the results of the “referenda committee” that was presented at both the CCSC and ESC board meetings this past week.
As for scheduling before the vote, there are currently plans for “information sessions” about the history of NROTC and Columbia, and two town halls, one at Columbia and one at Barnard, with panel discussions followed by an open floor.
However, other details about the exact date(s) of the survey and number of answers remain unresolved. More, including GS’s absence and EAAH’s rebuffed attempt to enter, after the jump.
UPDATE (1:20 AM): The media notes themselves are now posted after the jump.
No GS representatives attended the meeting (though there were representatives from Barnard), but other student officials say GS was invited, and will remain part of the process. The councils have committed to remaining neutral until the survey is conducted.
Finally, a small dispute broke out last night when Everyone Allied Against Homophobia tried to attend the meeting. According to EAAH co-president Ira Stup, his co-president Ryan Kasdin attempted to attend the meeting. Because the group had not been invited, he was asked to leave by several representatives in the room. The presidents distributed a statement to each representative at the end of the meeting, calling it “completely unacceptable that the self-selected student groups organizing tonight’s meeting arbitrarily picked one out of the seven campus LGBT groups as the representative voice of a crucial constituency in this critically important discussion…LGBT voices at Columbia cannot be represented by a single campus group.” EAAH demanded that “all further meetings and conversations surrounding ROTC on our campus be completely and utterly transparent.”
Student Body NROTC Survey Planning Meeting
September 17, 2008
Emily Kenison – Barnard Senator
Monica Quaintance – CC Senator
Rajat Roy – ESC Senator
Rishika Samant – CC Senator
George Krebs – CCSC President
Adil Ahmed – CCSC VP Policy
Peter Valerias – ESC President
Prishantha Dunstan – ESC VP Policy
Sarah Besnoff – SGA President
Activities Board at Columbia (ABC)
Asian American Alliance (AAA)
Black Students Organization (BSO)
Columbia Political Union (CPU)
Columbia Queer Alliance (CQA)
Columbia University College Republicans (CUCR)
Student Governing Board (SGB)
Student Organization of Latinos (SOL)
United Students of Color Caucus (USCC)
The purpose of this meeting was to bring all the attendees to the same page with regard to the recent discussion of NROTC (Naval Reserve Officer Training Corps) and Columbia University. The attendees were selected to provide a group that represents as much of campus as possible while maintaining a small meeting size to facilitate planning. The end goal was to provide for a survey mechanism to gauge undergraduate sentiment on NROTC/CU but also to provide for education on the topic, its history and its implications for the Columbia community.
Personal opinions on NROTC and Columbia were not discussed at the meeting; the focus was on how to best educate campus and how to lay the framework for a greater discussion in which all undergraduates and undergraduate student groups can participate.
It is important to distinguish that the discussion focused on NROTC, not parallel programs through the Air Force (for which a program exists at Manhattan College) or the Army (for which a program exists at Fordham University).
Referendum vs. Survey:
Contrary to what had elsewhere been suggested, the discussion centered around the possibility of providing for a survey of the undergraduate student body, not a binding referendum. There is currently no provision for a universal referendum in either the rules of the Senate or the Councils. A survey is therefore useful to provide a general sense of student opinion without the difficulty of creating a procedure for a binding referendum.
The University Senators for the undergraduate schools cannot be bound by the results of a survey, though they stated that they will pledge to represent the results of the survey in the Senate, which would then make recommendations to the Trustees of the University, the body which would be ultimately responsible for making policy on NROTC.
There was consensus on the need to have informational programming prior to the eventual survey date. Discussion focused on how to best program and how to ensure that as broad a spectrum of opinions were presented in the campus-wide discussion as possible. It was decided that the University Senators would provide an unbiased history of NROTC and Columbia in “information sessions.” These would be followed by a pair of “town halls,” one on the Columbia campus and one on the Barnard campus, which would feature a panel debate/discussion followed by a general open floor for the audience.
The Councils have pledged not to make policy statements on NROTC until a survey is conducted.
Specific questions as to (1) the wording of any potential survey question, (2) the timing and format of the information sessions and town halls, (3) the date of the survey and (4) the use of the survey results were tabled for the next discussion.