SGB Town Hall: No to SDS, Yes to Individuals

Written by

Big changes are afoot following tonight’s SGB Town Hall meeting. Here are some bulletpoints because we know your eyes are sore from all the end-of-semester “re”-reading you’ve been doing lately. 

  • SDS was denied recognition. Again. (Last year, you’ll recall the group failed to turn up for their recognition meeting with the SGB board.) They’ve unofficially been on campus since Spring 2007, but are not officially sponsored. 
  • Other groups denied recognition include: Alliance of Students Against Poverty, Edmund Burke Society, ICARE, Weave a Dream
  • Among the newly recognized were: Columbia Right to Life, Columbia University Dance Marathon, Delta GDP, GlobeMed, Interfaith Collective, Students for International Indigenous Rights

  • SGB also plans to try a new initiative where groups of individuals (not official student groups) can receive funding for events and causes. The groups of individuals receive no more than $200 per event, and the group must include you and at least fourteen of your friends.
  • Finally, SGB is going green, thanks to new initiatives like reducing bottled water and trying to cut back on paper usage.

Tags: , , ,


  1. Interesting

    that while a number of groups - including one or two that were recognized today, and that have been in the past - could very clearly be seen as "overlapping" with the missions of pre-existing organizations, SDS is the one that has been consistently denied recognition by SGB. While I agree that their constitution (charter? self-description? whatever it is that's submitted to SGB) is waaaay too generic-sounding, they occupy a pretty unique position on the campus, esp since students against imperialism(?) doesn't seem to do much/anything, and nothing local, and ccaw doesn't really exist. Can't help but think that SDS's clearly pro-Palestinian stance has hindered their chances at recognition...perhaps I'm wrong. I'd like to be.

    • Zionists!  

      Release your chokehold on SGB!

    • Herodotus  

      Yes, it must be a Jewish...err...Zionist conspiracy!1!!

      Maybe SDS was just denied recognition because it is either:
      a) Full of lunatics
      b) Full of idiots
      c) Full of conspiracy theorists
      d) Full of ingrates and nihilists who attack the very institutions that give them their freedoms
      e) Full of ... oh screw it, you know as well as I do how demented everyone in SDS is. No one takes them seriously because you know - you just know - that every single one of them will end up an utterly worthless and crazy old man or woman who does nothing but walks around all day and hands out Socialist fliers. I mean, I walk past some of them on occasion and I always see this deranged, furious look on their faces. They are UNHINGED. And, honestly, its ridiculous that some bright, hard-working students are rejected from here because the admissions office has to fill its quota of basket cases. And by the way, SDSers, almost everyone here agrees with me. You aren't relevant, and you don't matter. So take your Socialist Revolution and stick it up your asses.

      • My boy Thucydides  

        Oh, and sorry for the shitty grammar. It's late.

        SDS - FUCK YOU.

      • wow such hate  

        you obviously haven't met anyone in columbia SDS, because none of them fit your description.
        good job judging people you haven't met. you must feel really great about yourself for anonymously belittling people based on their beliefs ! ;-)

      • SDSer  

        I have never been more amused in my whole life. Thank you so much for describing me so accurately:) I am angry all the time! 4 years here will do that to you. And even though I have an over 4.0 GPA, that's probably just because all my professors are aging leftist basket cases like I myself will be in 50 years, as you divined so perfectly. (Honestly, as a senior, I was a bit worried about my future--I'm glad at least one of us knows what will happen.)

    • I don't understand  

      how SGB decides this. SDS is one of the most active groups on campus right now,unlike the nonexistent groups they would be 'overlapping.' Has activism been so institutionalized that being SGB recognized gives a group an exclusive "right" to an issue written in their mission statement, say labor, or anti-war, regardless of whether they are working on it or not?

      Ironic: SGB was initially formed BECAUSE of University shutdowns on the old SDS, yet now they do the same thing themselves

      • how often

        do you propose the SGB should assess every group and expel those not "doing their job"? Your idea is nice in theory, but in practice would lead to a more authoritarian bureaucracy and less student autonomy. Also, a 2/3 majority isn't an insurmountable barrier in a non-partisan voting just ensures that the existing groups have some consensus about sharing their resources, etc. Also, I doubt every rep at an already 2-hour town hall would have liked to take the time to read the constitutions and full applications of every applying group—this work is delegated for a reason.

  2. bwog  

    This post made it seem like the SGB decided everything, when in reality, SGB group votes made every decision.

  3. yes but  

    SGB preliminarily "decides" everything. it takes a 2/3 majority of groups to vote yes to overturn an SGB "suggested" no and a 2/3 majority of groups to vote no to overturn an SGB "suggested" yes. In other words, SGB decides everything. Looking at the breakdown above, I see not one group listed as recognized that was a suggested no by SGB, and likewise there is no group that didn't get recognized that SGB suggested for recognition. Please feel free to (politely) correct me if I am wrong, because I very well may be.

    Also, I am not a member of SDS, nor am I a socialist, and I believe that SDS deserves recognition. They have a constituency that is not being served properly on campus at this time, and would be better served if SDS were recognized and given funding.

  4. a good idea  

    the "individual" initiative is excellent. a lot of people who wanted to put on activist events last year without the tiresome intergroup combat couldn't get money/space/etc. hopefully this will help students put on the events they want without always having to work through bureaucratically constrained groups.

  5. Oy vey

    Oh, they didn't recognize SDS again! What a shocker. (Herodotus - I you're describing more a group like Ron Paulites or the ISO than SDS.)

    Once again, the Student Governing Board lives up to its name: its job is regulating the student body, not advocating on its behalf. We should take up the banner of university reform where Columbia students in the 70s left off: the formation of student unions (like they have in Canada and much of Europe). I'm not terribly interested in having junior bureaucrats and petty, ambitious political interns controlling our student funds, especially when they let the administration walk all over them (and by extension, us).

  6. haha  

    why are we talking about sds? the reason they probably got rejected is because they arent even a player in campus politics. they have nopolitical perspective, no record of doing anything on campus, and no membership worthy of consideration. there are a few 'activist' groups on campus who lack the historical name, but actually have some current substance.

  7. ...

    If the decision about SDS was based on opinions about the content of their political philosophy, then SGB should be ashamed of it.

    Even if you think SDS has bad ideas, you should agree that funding of student groups shouldn't be based on the content of their ideas. That's bad precedent.

    Oh, Herodotus, I think the way you write that posts demonstrates that you fit descriptions A-E. Maybe you're not going to be a socialist nutjob but you seem like some brand of crazy.

  8. another sdser  

    as an sdser, not only am i disappointed in sgb's decision to not recognize us, considering the level of activity sds has maintained since its return to columbia; but i'm also surprised at the general misunderstanding of who we are and what we're working for as an organization.

    first off, i can think of only one "socialist" currently involved in sds. our group is happily composed of a healthy variety of opinion within the progressive left, anywhere from left liberals to quite radical folks. we cooperate with groups across the spectrum: sds has cosponsored events with the dems and at the same time maintained a cordial relationship with the international socialist organization. we are anything but doctrinaire, and we don't spend our time handing out leaflets.

    i have yet to meet all the conspiracy theorists that apparently fill our meetings, except for a few of us who remain convinced that pinkberry is made of weird animals (brought to our attention by bwog). i also don't remember meeting a lunatic or an idiot in sds.

    now, i doubt that the commenters have actually met any of us unhinged sdsers, and i'm pretty sure that you've never actually taken the time to speak to a radical and find out what we really believe. really, you can just look at the name. we're students... for a democratic society. that's what brings us together. while this may mean different things to different people, we don't sit around sticking "The Socialist Revolution" up our asses. Although anyone who enjoys that stuff is perfectly welcome to attend our meetings and see how it works out. and no, we're not anti-semitic crazies. some of us are very passionate on the palestine question, but maybe you'd like to know that we have very outspoken israel supporters among us. and yes, it might be easier to simply dismiss us as america-hating commies, but we still have very pro-military members who nevertheless see a need for reform in u.s. and global institutions. so much for jew-hating freedom-hating... haters.

    i also wonder where you got the idea that we're all basket cases. while i may disagree strongly with the republicans or the conservative forum, events such as the NROTC panel - where sdsers and military personnel managed to be perfectly civil and friendly to each other, and even decided to get together after the panel to continue a conversation - proved, calling each other crazy is hardly a way to engage in a debate.

    sds is diverse, and while we do mostly find ourselves farther on the left many people, we're certainly not just sitting around having deranged, furious looks on our faces. you probably walked by the wrong crowd. at any demonstration, sdsers tend to be the folks holding clever signs with puns and drawings of raccoons (our chapter's unofficial mascot), singing songs and actually talking to people about the issues.

    finally, this talk of sdsers not being bright hardworking students... we've made a commitment to try and improve our university and stand up against injustice. but we've also made a commitment to take a million classes per semester, work off-campus jobs, commute, and study ourselves to death through it all. we faced the same competition to get into columbia and barnard as did any one else, and the fed's cartoon of columbia sodomizing a student applies equally to us as it does to anyone else.

    sds, like other activiss on campus, is trying to break down the difficulties of intergroup cooperation. we were hoping for sgb recongition to help us out.

    however, we'll be around whether recognized or not. anyone is welcome to come to our meetings and see what we're about. just please, if you're going to accuse *other* people of being conspiracy theorist basket cases, maybe randomly telling us to fuck off and frantically making outlandish claims about us being some freedom-hating, anti-semitic, socialist cult-thing trying to bring down america with our nihilist revolution won't help your credibility.

  9. hahaha  

    sgb sucks at life

  10. hmm

    What was SGB's rational for recommending SDS not receive recognition?

  11. SDS Far-Right  

    Speaking as a member of the SDS far-right, I can assure that there's not a single one of us who "hates America" or any of that nonsense. While we do have our share of anarchists, we also have social democrats, socialists, and plain old lefties.

    I can tell you for a fact that we don't just sit around in our meetings hating on America. When the issue of ROTC came up, we didn't just jump into action -- we had a discussion about it and came to a decision by consensus, and each person's reasons for supporting the decision were different.

    I'd encourage everyone who thinks that SDS is just a bunch of loonies to come to one our meetings and talk to us. We're really not all that different from non-SDSers: we study our asses off during midterms and finals, we party, we forget things, remember things, dance, hang out, spend endless hours in Butler...the list goes on.

    The first time that SGB denied our application, we failed to show because (1) the person whom they notified was sent an e-mail only earlier in the day; (2) the point-person had no internet access at the time, and furthermore had not reason to expect an e-mail from them.

    In addition, the format of our constitution should be largely irrelevant to whether or not our group is recognized. The requirement is that we have one, not that it fit some undefined, arbitrary standard.

    Lastly, I'd just like to say that SDS has been one of the most active groups on this campus since it has been founded. While other groups have certainly been able to put on more events than we have, that is largely due to the fact that they have been able to book spaces and have access to money. The same cannot be said for SDS for yet another year, thanks to the SGB

    • I just remembered  

      that the SGB sent out mission statements of groups applying in their email. Here was SDSs:

      "The purpose of SDS is to serve as an collaborative and dynamic project that engages with its surrounding campus, community and society in an attempt to influence it in a manner that its members perceive as beneficial. This includes, but is not limited to, the attempt to eliminate sexism, classism, homophobia, racism, and other forms of bigotry; the struggle against unjust wars and violence; and the promotion of a fairer and more equitable economic and political system."

      Sorry but for SDS members and people on this thread to start makign calls on SGB's ideology because the Vice-Chairman is Jewish, or accuse them of being undemocratic even though there was a vote on the group, is just silly.

      As the Chairman said at the event, the SGB was giving a recommendation on approving the constitutions of the groups presenting. I don't think it's unreasonable that they thought this mission statement was vague, nor do I think it's unreasonable that they saw overlap in these issues with other groups, considering we already have groups doing homophobia, racism, sexism, etc.

      Then again, did you really expect these guys to be sore losers and start questioning the character of the people when they dont' like the decisions they make?

  12. Perspective  

    Having been to a few town halls and been a leader of an SGB activist group, I thought I'd weigh in, because I don't think these are fair characterizations of them.

    I actually really like their system. The SGB recommendation should carry weight because they have studied new groups in depth and can provide an informed opinion. The Edmund Burke guy was a good example - he was very charming and would have gotten voted in. But the SGB revealed that they found that all the group's members lived on the same floor of John Jay, so clearly they needed to do more work to establish themselves.

    Also, to call them 'petty bureaucrats' who want to rule students is also stupid, because they are all past/present members of groups they represent, and we voted them in the last town hall. They are essentially the Union that #9 is asking for.

    I also really like the system at Town Hall, even though it got heated. Where at Columbia do you see public accountability like that, where student government engages in dialog with their constituents and explains their decisions in a public forum?

    Also, a couple of my friends have tried to start ABC groups. ABC provided no support prior to recognition and were completely unhelpful. Their executive board made the full decision on recognition and provided no substantial explanation why their group was not recognized. At least here, the decision was made by a system of votes, albeit it worked like a presidential veto (2/3rds to overturn a recommendation). It is virtually impossible to get recognition if you're ABC, whereas at most town halls I've attended, a majority of groups get recognized.

    As for petty bureaucrats, I don't know about that. My group was always responded to the same day we contacted them, and they were generous with co-sponsorships (which were easily applied for).

    But the reason I felt compelled to comment is because I have always felt that they had my group's back, particularly in the face of administrative/council opposition. They offered to set up emergency meetings with Dean Shollenberger and presidents of the Councils so that we can program around Service Nation, despite Councils' opposition to any activism (we eventually decided not to).

    To say they are opposed to activism and let themselves get walked over by the administration doesnt really make sense because this coalition thing they passed seems geared to help activists, and I doubt administrators are keen on it.

    In a nutshell, they have always helped my group out when we asked, and they have always been pro-Group to my knowledge. So maybe there actually is hope for SDS if they actually tried to fix their mission statements. Though its natural they're upset, I don't think they're doing themselves any favors by making unintelligent, anti-SGB comments & calling them pro-Israel and what not.

    • rahel  

      I don't think any of these comments about SGB judging on ideology/content or having any pro-Israel bias are coming from SDSers. In my experience with other past groups they - Jim, Jacob and Arjun especially - have been nothing but helpful, even going out of their way to make things possible (the ServiceNation event we did with CCAW for example). SGB likes to talk of its content neutrality and 'loving all of its (recognised) groups equally' and I really think this is something they're both committed to and try very hard at.

      I do think their decision not to reccomend is not only disappointing but also puzzling and reveals an unfortunate disconnect with the realities of campus activism and who's doing what. This is not a new, proposed or hypothetical group looking to form but instead an already established and very active one, with as someone said above, 'direction, had a proven record, and a strong contingent of support'. What we are asking for is institutional support - in the form of money and the ability to book space. The way the university is structured means that SGB is the only source for this (and a good one, I can't reiterate this enough). It's nice to see the 'groups of individuals' stopgap measure but it's of course a far cry from the support that a recognised group recieves. The lack of recognition doesn't mean we'll stop programming but instead that we'll have to continue leaning on the support of other campus activist groups.

      It's also unfortunate that our 'mission' does not fit with SGB's conception of what an activist group should look like. As I said last night, POINT of SDS is to create a sustainable space for activism that is not delimited by a particular ideology, or requiring of ethnic/sexuality or other identity affiliation/allyship to join. A huge problem with the quote unquote campus left or student activism or whatever you want to call it is the lack of continuity and sustainability. This of course comes with the transient nature of being an undergrad/student activist - as issues change and people graduate, groups can, and do die out. Maybe the "attempt to eliminate sexism, classism, homophobia, racism, and other forms of bigotry; the struggle against unjust wars and violence; and the promotion of a fairer and more equitable economic and political system" is too much to ask or care about, but I think I can speak for everyone in my group in saying that we see these issues as inextricably interlinked and related, and ALL important to us.

      I don't understand your idea of any one group covering or "doing homophobia, racism, sexism etc" - this seems like an approach that is both singularising and dangerous.

      Something we could have added was that we tend to like the slogan of 'a free university in a free society' - meaning that as student activists one of the most specific/effective avenues of change open to us is change within the university. That's why we're working on antiwar divestment, or the getting columbia to stop using sweatshops for its logoed apparel, for example.

      Similarly, I don't get SGB's assignation of what amounts some kind of activisty property rights to single groups. In areas where there are overlaps - is it a bad thing if more than one group approaches it, and from different perspectives? (Nevermind areas like labour which are currently unaddressed by any group at all. To take 'homophobia', surely this is why we have not only the CQA, but also EAAH, Gayava, Q, proud Colours and GendeRevolution, maybe others. Not to sound all marxisty - I'd note that I too am in no way a socialist -- division of labour might be great in production, but unfortunately social change doesn't work like that.

      • Ali  

        Just wanted to profess my wholehearted support for all of you lovely Sdsers and student activists!
        I agree with Rahel in that the greatest change comes out of collectivity- solidarity not just within groups but between them. What, then, is the harm of having many groups working to achieve similar aims, perhaps with differing channels or mediums of expression?
        There are far too many distinct projects to be undertaken to lament the overabundance of socially concerned students.
        Thanks, Rahel, for your support on Tuesday, and I look forward to working with you all!

        -Ali B

  13. ???  

    where are these constant references to sds supposedly having a problem with sgb being pro-Israel?

    what does it matter if the vp is Jewish?

    no one is making calls on anyone's ideology, except the early commenters who went on rants about how us sdsers are a bunch of crazies.

    this seems like a misguided and sad attempt at making sds seem anti-semitic...

    • SDSer  

      None of the SDSers so far have said that the reasoning behind the decision was simply because the VP is Jewish.

      I would furthermore like to add that SDS isn't "anti-Israel". Our members have a variety of positions on the Palestinian-Israeli conflict.

  14. go tell

    MSA, ISO, Lucha, and Students Against Imperialism that SGB is a Zionist organization.

    MSA has had SGB Chairs, Vice Chairs, Secretaries and Reps over the past 20 years. Hillel has had representatives in each position of the board at sometime or another as well.

  15. FAIL  

    Poster #3: The first poster accused SGB of having a pro-Israel bias. You immediately jumped from there to Protocols of the Elders of Zion. Get a grip! You off your meds today? There was no evidence of antisemitism in these posts, and your delerious fulminations say more about you than about everyone else here.

    I do think this was a colossal failure on behalf of SGB. There may have been some type of bias against SDS, or there may have been a tone-deafness to how progressive politics are arranged, or the procedures might have been awry. Anyhow, it was clear to all who attended the town hall that SDS had direction, had a proven record, and had a strong contingent of support--definitely stronger than many of the groups that WERE recommended.

    SGB: You failed--utterly. Please make the necessary changes so this type of misjudgment does not happen again.

    • well  

      I was there too, and I disagree with you. And if it was clear to everyone that they had direction, then the vote would have gone through.

      I posted the mission from the SGB email in comment #19. Perhaps I'm not as intelligent as you and don't appreciate the nuances of activism, but I do think that a mission statement worded like that leaves them no option but to recommend in the negative, even if the group has a good track record. This is really a failure of SDS who would probably have been recommended if they had a better written constitution.

  16. Olivia Rosane  

    As a member of SDS, I would just like to say for the record that while I am of course upset that we were not recognized, I do not think that this has to do with any political agenda on the part of SGB, and certainly not a zionist bias, but rather a failure of communication between SGB and SDS. I have worked with SGB as treasurer of CCAW and they have always been very supportive of student activism.

© 2006-2015 Blue and White Publishing Inc.