– 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.