Representative Democracy, We Got That
Written by Bwog Staff
Hey 2014, in the next few weeks you will be introduced to a dizzying array of organizations, acronyms, slang, and food carts. Bwog knows it can be difficult to keep track, so here to ease your bureaucracy-induced agita is Bwog’s CCSC correspondent to untangle the web that is Columbia’s undergraduate student government.
[email protected] – Funding at Columbia University
The purpose of [email protected], according to itself, “is to facilitate, support, and enrich student development in the form of student activities of campus.” But if that doesn’t tell you much, you’re not alone. Essentially, [email protected] is responsible for distributing the Student Activities Fee. [email protected] is composed of the incoming and outgoing Presidents and Treasurers of each undergraduate Student Council, for a total of 16 members. These titans of student activity funding meet during reading week at the end of each spring semester to hear out the proposals of the governing boards (ABC, CI, CSGB, IGC, and SGB) and make their decisions. [email protected] has an uncharacteristically (for Columbia) straightforward website, and they explicitly tell us why they made the decisions they did.
The money allocated by [email protected] trickles down through the governing boards to fund everything from Bacchanal, to the Varsity Show, to the CSC Lunar Gala. And those are just a few events, [email protected] funds also provide for the day-to-day needs of hundreds of student organizations.
[email protected] can also make special allocations to groups other than the governing boards. For instance, in the past [email protected] has allocated money to WKCR, the radio station housed in Lerner.
The Governing Boards
ABC – Activities Board at Columbia
One of the governing boards that gets its cash money straight from [email protected], ABC has a few functions, but its most important is to fund student groups using money allocated by [email protected] Nearly 160 organizations with a wide range of goals and functions fall under the purview of ABC. Each of those groups falls into one of these categories: pre-professional, academic, competition, cultural, special interest, performance, publication, media, performing arts and large scale events.
Groups that fall outside of those categories are funded by other governing boards.
ABC also serves as liaison between organizations under its umbrella and the Office of Student Development and Activites and enforces guidelines through a Judiciary Committee.
CI – Community Impact
Community Impact is Columbia’s largest student service organization – over 900 members! CI is a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization that has been around for nearly three decades. CI has partnerships with more than 100 community organizations and agencies who do service work in the Harlem, Washington Heights, and Morningside Heights communities, including service organizations, social service offices, religious institutions, and schools.
CSGB – Club Sports Governing Board
IGC – InterGreek Council
IGC is the self-governing student organization that provides guidelines and support to its member organizations within each of the three Greek councils at Columbia, the Interfraternity Council, Panhellenic Council, and Multicultural Greek Council.
SGB – Student Governing Board
SGB serves the needs of student organizations whose concerns are religious, spiritual, political, ideological, activist, humanitarian or identity-conscious in nature.
The Senate and The Councils
The Senate is Columbia’s überlegislature, and a testament to the fact that we were the first University with a formal bureaucracy. The unwieldy body represents “faculty, students, and other constituencies.” The plenary meetings of the Senate take place roughly once per month throughout the academic year.
Hyperbole aside, here are the cold hard facts: The Senate has 107 voting seats, with 62 reserved for faculty, 24 for students, 6 for officers of research, 2 each for administrative staff, librarians, and alumni, and 9 for senior administrators including the president, who chairs monthly plenaries.
Action on the Senate floor may not seem as immediate as that in meetings of your Student Council (or Government Association, hey Barnard!), but these heirs of Webster and Calhoun get to weigh in on some of the Columbia community’s most pressing issues: the much-discussed-outside-Butler smoking ban, the possibly-travel-expenses-increasing calendar and study days debacle, and “rules governing political demonstrations.”
CCSC – Columbia College Student Council
The Columbia College Student Council is elected by students of Columbia College to serve as their primary representative, advocate, and liaison to the Columbia University community, including its administration, faculty, alumni and students, as well as to the public. The CCSC is charged with gathering and expressing student opinion, actively representing student views, appropriately addressing student concerns, ensuring that college students are fully apprised of all information of impact to their undergraduate experience, responsibly and equitably distributing student activity fees, and working with other student groups to program college wide events designed to foster cohesiveness within the entire undergraduate population
ESC – Engineering Student Council
The Engineering Student Council is elected by SEAS students. Unlike the other student councils, however, the ESC Executive Board is elected by ESC members rather than by the entire student body. ESC represents the interests of SEAS students and acts as the primary liaison between those students and the administration. ESC also runs CUAssassins, “the best way to legally carry a pretend gun on campus.”
GSSC – General Studies Student Council
GSSC represents the undergraduate population of the School of General Studies and acts as a liaison between the student body and the General Studies administration, the larger university community and other individuals and organizations.
SGA – Student Government Association
All Barnard students are members of the Student Government Association by contributing their student activities fees, which fund over 80 SGA recognized clubs and student programming. The SGA Representative Council, elected each spring by the student body is the primary liaison between students and the administration.
The SGA advises on policy issues, coordinates Tri-partite committees of faculty, administrators and students and co-sponsors student programming. As both a funding and governing board the SGA works in collaboration with student groups to enhance campus life, affect change, instill a sense of Barnard pride and promote community.