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CCSC Receives A Visit from On High

 – Columbia University


The Sunday CCSC meeting effectively consisted of one item, and one item only: questioning Senior Executive Vice President Robert Kasdin, Kasdin, who has been described to Bwog by council members as “the man holding the purse strings” and “the damage control guy,” has been PrezBo’s right-hand man going back to Michigan. In the presence of such power, CCSC acquitted themselves well, asking tough questions, and pressuring Kasdin in numerous areas. Whether Kasdin actually answered their questions, or even cared about answering them, was another matter.

CCSC president George Krebs first asked Kasdin to talk about state of the university’s finances, with Kasdin assuring the councils that “”We’re relatively well-off compared to others. We’re in pretty good shape overall, and we’re making sure that the next few years’ spending matches our priorities.” As for any specifics on what “pretty good” meant, Kasdin did not provide any.

The council then moved on to the two pre-agreed-upon discussion topics: a university web portal and student group space. Director of Technology Ali Raza and CC VP for Communications Ian Solsky asked about the progress and feasibility of a University web portal, which would include an improved Courseworks and other useful features for students.  Kasdin begged off answering the question: “”I get that this website stuff is important to you, but I’m not really in a position to do anything about it, as it is not my area.” He also said that reports on the cost of such a portal were conflicting.

VP for Policy Adil Ahmed then talked about the space crunch for student groups on campus, noting that the ongoing construction on the Nexus, Faculty House, the 6th floor of Lerner, and the construction of additional e-classrooms (which are difficult to reserve for student groups) has hit at the same time that more student groups have needed more space. He also complained that graduate students are allowed to use student space, while the Business School and other schools prevent undergrads from using their premises. Kasdin this time obscured the blame, saying that the problem was the variety of space policies at different schools, and “Dean [of Student Affairs Kevin] Shollenberger has no way to intervene in the law school.” Who did have that power (PrezBo? Kasdin? A dinosaur in front of Hamdel?) went unexplained; Kasdin instead suggested that the problem would be fixed once new buildings went up, even though Ahmed had already explained that the rising number of student groups was the bigger problem.

Asked what facilities would be available for undergraduates in Manhattanville, he finally gave a concrete answer – “We do not anticipate moving dorms up to Manhattanville, and we believe the center for gravity for undergraduates will still be here” – but then Kasdin turned the tables on the council: saying that “you would not believe how isolating Low Library can be at times,” he asked the seniors to tell him “one good thing and one bad thing” about Columbia (he wanted to hear good things so “this doesn’t sound like a gripe-fest”).

A variety of “good things” were offered (New York City, the accessibility of teachers, etc.), turning the meeting temporarily into a Days on Campus mock-up. As for the “bad things,” three main candidates split the votes: advising, the War on Fun and its damage to the sense of community (one CC ’09 rep said that “the amount of complications and the inconsistent and untransparent decisions has really hampered my time here”), and Career Services. Student Services Rep Aaron Edmonds complained that “I’m not interested in finance; I’m interested in media and film, and I feel like CCE is not concerned with me.” Kasdin did counter that, as far as he knew, Career Services has done a fine job. Then again, the Senior Executive Vice President did not know what CCE stood for.

Krebs asked undergraduate council members if they had any questions. CC ’11 rep Sean Udell complained about the standard of both housing and dining in comparison to peer institutions. Kasdin replied that “I don’t know any particular reason that our dining should be at a different level than other schools. There’s a certain amount of student griping inherent in any school dining service, but, you know, if there’s an above-average level of that, you should push us on that.” In other words, if you feel that this is an important question, you should question us!

As for housing, Kasdin explained that “about 20-30 years ago, Columbia had a period of sustained financial difficulty, and fell far behind in the quality of undergraduate housing. We’ve been playing catchup ever since.” Translation: housing sucked then, and we’ve sucked at making it not suck.

Finally, CC ’10 president A.J. Pascua asked what Kasdin’s thoughts were on having Class Day speakers who were not Columbia alumni, to which he responded, “I really don’t know. I don’t want to kibitz on other people’s responsibilities, but I also don’t really have any thoughts on it.” By this point, Bwog was not surprised. Apparently, Low really is that isolating.


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  • hmmm says:

    @hmmm So when will we know who the Class Day speaker is? I’m too lazy to do a Google search to find the announcements from years past.

    1. Class Day says:

      @Class Day speaker is being confirmed as we speak, it should be announced within the next week. As soon as we get a final confirmation from Dean Quigley.

      That said, Robert Kasdin has nothing to do with AJ’s question, since the class day speaker process is handled solely by undergraduates and the undergraduate administration (student affairs, alumni, Quigley). As for his question it’s not an original one by any means and there are, for better or worse, a number of reasonably well thought out responses.

  • Anonymous says:

    @Anonymous this guy sounds like a complete dick

  • lol says:

    @lol lol what was the point of having him? looks like he’s worse than Scott McClellan in answering questions.

  • bwog says:

    @bwog just wanted to thank you for covering this event… i was there and i think you guys did a great job of summing up what happened

    1. which was says:

      @which was what happened was nothing. Bwog could have saved us time by leaving th epage blank.

  • honestly says:

    @honestly columbia beauracracy is the worst i have ever had to deal with. i will be glad to graduate…

  • Robert Kasdin says:

    @Robert Kasdin is such a scumbag. And this ‘website stuff’ is his domain, since all of Student Services and CUIT rolls up to him.

  • wow says:

    @wow this kasdin fellow seems wildly incompetent. He actually knows nothing about students on campusor even how the columbia bureaucracy “works”.

  • hmm says:

    @hmm i might insult him but i am afraid he will find me and cut off my feet.

  • snow day says:

    @snow day YESSSSSSSSSSSS

  • asdf says:

    @asdf hey bwog – could you make your site do the thing where when you click ‘back’, it takes you to the same point on the page, not just back to the top of the page? you know what i mean? so you don’t have to scroll all the way down to where you were. thanks. it would mean a lot.

    p.s. i guess i shouldn’t be surprised by how much of an asshole kasdin is, but man… what an asshole.

  • Alum08 says:

    @Alum08 Student Services doesn’t roll up to Kasdin. He doesn’t have any final say on finances, that’s up to (in this case) Schollenberger.
    CUIT rolls up to Candy Fleming.

    What frustrates me about CCSC’s questions is that they didn’t do their homework on what they SHOULD be asking Kasdin. What should have happened is that Krebs should have asked Kasdin what topics the council should have concentrated on – many of these questions should have been directed at Dean Schollenberger, who would have been able to give a better answer.

    And COURSEWORKS?? For Chrissake, talk to the damn Senate!

    Oh, and CCE? Try actually TALKING to the people there…you’d be surprised on how much help they can actually give you…

    I love this college. I really do. But when you read these comments about “bureaucracy” and “red tape” and you don’t do a damn thing about it, THAT pisses me off.

    1. ... says:

      @... Student Services is Scott Wright.

      Kevin Shollenberger is Student Affairs

    2. Um... says:

      @Um... As another poster already said, VP Candy Flemming “rolls up” to Jeff Scott, who “rolls up” to Kasdin, especially where budget for projects are concerned. Also, CourseWorks is a BWOG misquote. As someone at the meeting, what was mentioned was an integration of CourseWorks into the portal, not revamping CourseWorks itself. I think CCSC did do its homework for some of these issues.

  • Alum08 says:

    @Alum08 PS: The B-School and Law School have LOTS of donor money (in rank, it’s B-School, CC, Law, a few others, then SEAS, then the rest). They can do whatever they want with their buildings (sadly). In a perfect world, each school at Columbia would have their own student space, and some are better off than others (SIPA, Journalism, Social Work are a few examples). But other school don’t really have space AT ALL, so until Manhattanville (and the Nexus) solves that problem, Lerner’s going to be crowded.

    It’s simple as that…even if it takes 20ish years.

    1. RBR says:

      @RBR Candy rolls up to Jeff Scott who rolls up to Kasdin so yes, CUIT is under him albeit is a little removed.

      Schollenberger wouldn’t be able to give many more answers either, so don’t kid yourself.

      Courseworks vs Sakai is a Senate matter but there isn’t money for the transition

      CCE is a cause which will take a lot more work but no one wants to put in that kind of effort.

  • hmm says:

    @hmm nothing is ever simple, and what you call simplicity I call bullshit.

  • Student Services says:

    @Student Services includes Housing, Dining, etc. Scott Wright is in charge of Housing/Dining etc. He reports to Jeff Scott, who reports to Kasdin. Ultimately, most non-academic roads lead up to Kasdin. Alum 08 should probably not bitch about other people’s ignorance of bureaucracy when clearly he doesn’t have his facts straight

  • i was at the meeting says:

    @i was at the meeting and i have to say, I thought a lot of the questions did not fall under Kasdin’s domain at all.

    i was not surprised to hear so many bitchy responses along the lines of “not my territory.”

    1. ah the old two step... says:

      @ah the old two step... I love this paradox. Columbia administrators ask for feedback since they’re so admittedly isolated. Then they dismiss student complaints by saying that they, the administrators, know more about what the students really want or need than the students do.

      As for housing, you should have done more HW, CCSC. Just prior to PrezBo and Kasdin’s arrival, PrezRupp decided to have Furnald and River completely gutted and rebuilt. That’s why they’re so nice on the inside. It cost a lot of money. But Rupp found the money and got it done. Why haven’t similar projects been undertaken since? It’s been mostly cosmetic work in places like Wien, turning them into just-livable dorms, instead of first rate housing.

      Third, I want to find out more about Manhattanville. How much of a setback is the current financial crisis on expansion plans? Has the timeline been significantly set back for the first wave? Among hte big moves of the first wave was supposed to be the B-School and the School of the Arts leaving Uris and Dodge for Manhattanville. Are they still leaving; has that plan been delayed?

      Does the school plan on creating more seminar rooms for undergraduate classes in those buildings? Does the creation of more class space for the Arts and Sciences on campus mean that the University will expand the college in size again? In the last 10 years, CC has grown by 300 students, and General Studies by about as many (both schools draw on the same exact teaching resources.) SEAS has grown in the same period by over 200 undergrads as well. Get ready for another boost soon, I think.

      You should have pushed him on what “center of gravity for undergraduates” means. Will there be new facilities for student use built down here with the departure of the other schools?

  • Anonymous says:

    @Anonymous If the finances are “pretty good” and Columbia is “relatively well-off compared to others” why is the administration now seeking federal funds for the Manhattanville expansion? Just because they can? Why not leave them for those other institutions that are not so well-off?

    1. Alum says:

      @Alum The bailout is aimed at helping the economy, not helping struggling institutions. If government money was going to go into the expansion anyway, spending it now rather than later would be an effective way to create jobs and stimulate research.

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