CCSC Interviews: Renew C.U.
Written by Bwog Staff
In this part in the series of interviews of the competing tickets for the upcoming CCSC elections on Tuesday, Bwog joins Isaac Lara, Melissa Ann Im, Alex Powell, and Anum Akram of Renew C.U., which is running for the executive board.
How would you evaluate the job done by the current student council? Especially the current executive board?
Melissa (VP of Communications): “Institutional memory” – that’s what they call me on the ticket because I have served on student council for three years, and am the only member who’s been on the elected student council. So in terms of how I would evaluate how the executive board is working, I think they work really well together, specifically policy-wise. Strategically, they have been very well thought out in terms of who they’re involving – identifying the stakeholders and not just thinking about anecdotes but thinking about statistics and showing them the numbers behind what these students are saying. The administration is impressed, but I don’t think that they’re really acting on it. So they see this great work, and they’re like, “Oh that’s great work.” But we’re still at the conversations.
Isaac (President): I think what is necessary is more energy and more enthusiasm, especially more passion injected into student council. Even though the current CCSC has done a lot of good work, I think it’s time to inject some new faces and perspectives back into student council. This way we can take a different approach to tackling some of the issues that the current CCSC is wrestling with.
Melissa: I think it’s about understanding the longevity of the issues and being in communication with the past board. If elected, we would definitely work hand in hand with the past board, and even boards previous to that. We hope to reach out and continue conversations with alumni. They were actually willing to meet with us to discuss how we can tackle the issues of advising even though we’d only be serving for a year.
Anum (VP of Policy): The problem is that you have to go to multiple advisors for different things. We do think that there’s a way to have one advisor, and to have a more wholesome approach. 15 minutes here and 10 minutes at the career center are not enough to get an approach like that. I think that administration is taking a step towards that by moving the advising offices to Lerner, but there needs to be more.
In light of the struggles over the academic calendar, gender-neutral housing and other issues, what sort of relationship do you envision for your exec board with the Columbia administration?
Melissa: The chairman of the education committee is staunchly opposed to any changes to the academic calendar. Any effort to discuss it has been stalled. What’s difficult in our relationship with the administration is that as student government, I believe that student council has the most access to the administration. And because we have that close relationship, we have to be very careful about what we say, how we act, and how we approach them. I think we need to make sure that we’re knocking on the Senate door saying, “Hey, remember when you said that you’d talk about this on April 30th? Well we’re here right now. We want to talk about it. We want to do be on the agenda of the Senate meeting for their first meeting in September.”
Isaac: We want to avoid what happened last year with the syllabi. Last year there was an effort in the Senate to try and require professors to post their syllabi two week before classes begin. When the senate on that issue stalled, it basically dropped from the campus atmosphere. And you didn’t hear about it anymore. We want to make sure that the first day we get back, we continue and revive the debate on the academic calendar.
What campus life events do you plan on holding next year?
Isaac: April (who isn’t here) wanted to do an inter faith forum between different faiths. It was supposed to be a religious event that she wanted to coordinate for all faith-based organizations on campus. She wanted to host it at Low Library. She was introducing so many new ideas.
Alex (VP of Finance): The 40s on 40 event is a great idea. We want an event like that to come back. It’s always a touchy subject for administration. 40s on 40 established a tradition, and traditions at CU seem to be few and far between. PrezBo once said that “Columbia’s rated one of the worst party schools, and I intend to keep it that way.” That’s not necessarily the attitude that student body wants to hear. When I came to Columbia, I was incredibly proud. There needs to be fun – outlets towards relieving stress. We need to foster these traditions, and the brotherhood and sisterhood of sharing a common experience.
Isaac: The most important job for campus life events is to make CCSC events appeal to all students – even the ones who don’t care about student council. It’s about making CCSC look cool again. Bring the sexy back.
Melissa: We have this idea of holding a lawn day when the green flags go up, and everyone is just on the lawns enjoying being Columbia students. You can definitely have fun days without administration. I’m hoping that Special Project will help out with this.
Besides issues that are already being discussed by this year’s council – smoking ban, gender-neutral housing, etc. – what would be your board’s top new policy priority?
Isaac: I know that we picked three that we really want to work on this year: 1) the academic calendar, 2) centralizing the advising system and 3) streamlining the judiciary process. I’ve also been working with Professor Zar, the head the speaking program at Barnard. This program teaches students about how to argue about issues eloquently; how to research issues. Right now it’s only available at Barnard. We’d really like to see this program brought into CC.
Anum: Peer advising is something that a lot of student groups picked up. It hasn’t entirely worked so far, which is weird. We want to have the advising be part of CSA.
Melissa: We picked advising because it’s a key moment in advising, strategically. We have a new dean, Dean Rinere, and we need to go to her. That’s why I think that right now and next year is a great time to revise advising.
Alex: We will be satisfied when every student and every administrator reports 100% satisfaction. We’re not in the business of bullshit.
What experiences do each of your ticket members bring to the CCSC executive board? (Alex and April were answered for by their co-campaigners.)
April is the campus-wide expert without actually having been on student council. She’s President of CSA, and she knows the system. There isn’t anyone in Lerner who she doesn’t hug and chill with.
Alex was a hard find. We turned down more than 10 people for Alex. We thought that we’d make a lot of enemies. However, student groups are going to kill you if the finance person doesn’t know their shit. We involved them in the conversation, so that “enemy” thing didn’t actually happen. We have a lot of people involved in our campaign. We all come from completely different social groups.
Isaac: Sol is a student organization for Latinos. I was also chair of Latino heritage month. I’m also a senior fellow at the Roosevelt Institute and a rep on ABC.
Alex: I’m on the varsity light weight rowing team and the executive board of Sigma Phi Epsilon, the frat. And I’m in the exec board of the Inter-frat Council, which is under the IGC. I’m also an active member in Columbia’s Finance Group. My role in the frat is chaplain; I’m in charge of maintaining rituals and standards for the frat.
Melissa: I’ve been on CCSC for three years now serving different positions; two years as class rep, and currently I’m the Pre-Professional. So I have class experience and at-large experience. I’ve worked for CCE. So we have April in UEM, me in CCE and Anum in Public Safety. I’m also involved with the Ivy Council, where I serve as the VP for Communications.
Anum: I’ve been an RA, and next year will be my third year as one. I also serve on the facilities advisory board, which is a group of RAs that goes to facilities to talk about problems that students are having. We should definitely reach out to RAs. I’m an ABC representative, and I am the chairman of ABC’s policy. I’m co-chairing Global Health, which is a committee of AMSA.
If you had to steal student government funds, what would you spend them on?
Isaac: Is this a Jim Downie question?
Melissa: We could all go on Spring Break together.
Isaac: What if we made the lawn a giant sandbox? Or on one lawn a slip and slide, and the other, a sandbox.
Alex: Except instead of water it would be first class beer. Belgian White Ale. Hypothetically of course.
Anum: A giant slide going down Low and a big giant pool.
Isaac: We could buy Campo. Or put a Columbia logo on it.
Melissa: We could buy a Columbia plane so that we can send students home for Christmas.
Anum: Pay for better advisors.
Alex: I’d start a trust fund and just live off the interest. We could have a retreat to Amsterdam, with everyone else. Or buy myself a new lottery number.