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Sean Zimmermann reports from last night’s ESC meeting.

Theresa Martinez, Dean of Community and Multicultural Affairs, spoke at last night’s Engineering Student Council meeting. She was hired last year to help foster a greater sense of Columbia University community.

Dean Martinez explained that she is currently working on the open housing policy, the CUEMS proposal, and an electronic payer card system. She described some of the bureaucratic parts of Columbia as “archaic,” explaining, “I don’t recall the last time I saw a quadruplecate form before I went to Columbia.”

Much of the discussion on student life focused on the role of student groups and how to connect with students. Freshman Representative Siddhant Bhatt proposed that the Dean could help foster community by playing music in the dining halls, and providing “advertising” for student groups between pieces. Bhatt claimed that this would be a “less invasive” way to alert students about events on campus than knocking on doors.

When asked about how to combat the habit of students usually branching off into small groups and failing to communicate with other groups, she explained that she finds it interesting that many student groups are duplicates of other groups. She explained that there is no venue for student groups to collaborate or communicate—one council member recalled that two similar on-campus organizations had planned similar events at the same time. Because of the lack of communication between groups, Martinez explained that is critical to try to understand why students feel a need to create overlapping groups.

Santosh Balachandar, VP Student Life, commented to the Dean that there appears to be a lack of a definite sense of Columbia community when compared to other schools—there is no clear “what it means to be Columbian” for alumni to hang on to when they leave.

Dean Martinez explained that one of the challenges Columbia faces is showing the Morningside community the good that Columbia does. She said there is no venue to hear from students about the good they do for the community, so it’s difficult for her to advocate for students. For example, the Dean explained that when investigating converting some of the Columbia-owned buildings in the neighborhood to extra residence halls, there were concerns from the local community about having Greek life on their block, and though she would love to inform them of all the positive things Greek organizations do for the community, she has no way of knowing what the Greek organizations are working on, so it’s difficult to reassure the community when all she sees are the negative reports.

Photo via Wikimedia Commons