Last night, Alex Jones, a Bwogger who wonders what the Beats would think about an official CCSC debate in their once-legendary hangout, checked out the Spec-sponsored Q&A. The three parties running for the CCSC Executive Board in next week’s elections went head-to-head at Havana Central…

The master of ceremonies, Sam Roth, took almost a minute to quiet the crowd in Havana Central, despite the aid of a microphone. Once people heard his pleas for silence, Mr. Roth spoke briefly about how The Columbia Daily Spectator wanted to engage with and support the Columbia community by hosting a student government debate. Havana’s back room was filled with chairs, of which very few were covered with butts. Perhaps students were less concerned with student government “fostering” community, and more concerned with enjoying their own community?

Run Down of the three CCSC Tickets

Better Columbia CU Charge UniteCU
President Barry Weinberg, CC ’12 Aki Terasaki, CC ’12 Andrew Nguyen, CC ’12
VP Policy Ganiatu Afolabi, CC ’12 Ryan Cho, CC ’13 Elizabeth Kipp-Giusti, CC ’12
VP Student Life Wilfred Chan, CC ’13 Jasmine Senior, CC ’12 Megan Carley, CC ’12
VP Funding Steele Sternberg, CC ’13 Kevin Zhai, CC ’12 Brandon Christophe, CC ’12
VP Communications Varun Char, CC ’14 Virat Gupta, CC ’12 Alana Tung, CC ’12

The debate began with a short introduction from each party:

  • Better CU: Barry told the audience how his initial impression of CCSC as a party-throwing organization had changed. He now sees it as a powerful tool to shape the undergraduate experience at Columbia. He noted that he has experience working with student government on the issue of gender-neutral housing issue, through his work with Everyone Allied Against Homophobia. Also, how cool would it be to have two President Barrys affiliated with Columbia?
  • CU Charge: Aki claimed that his ticket was “uniquely qualified” to lead CCSC, and that their main issue was modernizing and streamlining democracy. Vagueness!  CU Charge also wants to work on a centralized portal system with CUIT and hopes to strengthen the community by partnering with student organizations.
  • UniteCU: Andrew changed the introduction game by introducing not only himself, but his whole ticket. They extended their CCSC-related radicalism even further when they announced their intent to get rid of study breaks that only offer free food (Um, way to put us out of business!). Instead, UniteCU would encourage events that are educational or provide a public forum for discussion.  Most importantly, Andrew Nguyen promised a two-day Homecoming Carnival—with a ferris wheel!

Given Columbia’s recent drug busts, fake I.D. busts, and frat de-housing, the state of Columbia’s party scene has an uncertain future.  What is CCSC’s role in this issue?

  • Better CU: Wilfred reminded the crowd that he is a “Carman type of guy,” which got some chuckles. He claimed that there was nothing for CCSC to do on the party front. The brownstone problem is an issue for people involved in Greek leadership, who will do their best to earn their houses back.
  • CU Charge: Aki argued that Greek life is a huge part of campus, and whatever happens to Greek life has massive ramifications for undergrads’ quality of life.  Although CU Charge could not officially endorse underage drinking, Aki claimed that people who are under 21 can still have loads of fun at student sponsored events.
  • UniteCU: Brandon said that while nothing can replace the frats’ role in the Columbia party scene, UniteCU would offer “dynamic” programs to help supplement the tragic loss. It’s called pre-gaming guys.

What should be done to foster sustainability at Columbia?

  • Better CU: Barry argued that sustainability is largely the result of personal decisions that need to be made by students, but that where CCSC can help, it will. He promised to make all CCSC events carbon neutral.
  • CU Charge: Jasmine explained how she is currently working on a plan that would place LCD TVs near elevators in every dorm so that fewer TVs would be needed, and student groups could run ads on the TVs.
  • UniteCU:  Elizabeth pointed to actions already being taken to support eco-friendliness. She is personally involved in many campus sustainability initiatives. Among other things, we are apparently getting new publication racks soon. She added that UniteCU would encourage student groups to be more sustainable.

With regard to the recent stir about safe spaces, what can CCSC do to make campus more comfortable and inviting for all students?

  • Better CU: Steele made Better CU’s commitment to safe spaces clear: “If any part of our community is unsafe, we need to change it.”
  • CU Charge: Virat complimented Columbia’s student body for being so active and vocal about issues that affect not only students, but people around the world. He cautioned, though, that the rhetoric surrounding this and other controversial issues must be toned down. CCSC, he believes , is an organization that shouldn’t take a stand on divisive issues, but should instead facilitate a better conversation by providing a forum for debate.
  • UniteCU:  Andrew is a staunch defender of safe spaces. The most important part of this issue, for him, is that freshmen, who don’t have a supportive group of friends in place, can feel comfortable participating in Columbia’s community.

Next, questions were asked to each specific party.

Better CU – How will you address complaints about CUIT? A Havana Central phone rang and a Speccie awkwardly answered it, so this Bwogger missed the exact question and beginning of the response, but Barry spoke about how he has contacted CUIT directly about their internal plans for future upgrades. He reports that CUIT’s primary concerns relate to issues surrounding Manhattanville. He then declared CUIT’s unresponsiveness to the sentiments of students unacceptable, and promised that he would push for the creation of a CUIT student advisory board that would work with CUIT. Steele mentioned possible Gmail-ification of cubmail, and his plans for a reformed space registration system.

CU Charge – Should CCSC take a stance on any difficult issues? Aki maintained his previous stance regarding safe spaces–CCSC should not take sides on issues, but should encourage education and dialogue amongst students.  He criticized the lack of leadership and substance in the ROTC town halls. CCSC has an obligation to provide for students who are willing to augment their peers’ education.

UniteCU – Your ticket has a lot of experience and quite a few policy planks, but what is your overall vision for Columbia? Reeling from this softball question, Andrew spoke about UniteCU’s commitment to community building and about his experience passing resolutions. His tickets’ significant background in student groups, he claimed, has provided them with the knowledge of exactly how to streamline the funding process.

Lastly, Mr. Roth returned to a round of general questions for each ticket.

What events would you get rid of, and what events would you offer in their place?

  • Better CU: Wilfred challenged the idea that study breaks should be banned if they are only free food-based. He harkened back to his freshman year, when he learned about and joined student clubs based solely on free food study breaks. That doesn’t mean, he cautioned, that there can’t be better athletic or educational study breaks, as well. Wilfred, meanwhile, took aim at UniteCU’s proposal for a homecoming carnival, estimating that the costs of renting a ferris wheel for two days would be about $12,000. He argued that CCSC shouldn’t pretend to be experts at planning parties, but instead should give more money to students so that they could throw their own events. This was easily the most exciting retort of the night!
  • CU Charge: Jasmine said that she would keep the successful and community building events—events where people didn’t go just for the free food.  Two example she offered were Passport to Columbia and the Tree Lighting Ceremony.  But she doesn’t want to keep the study breaks that are just about free food. Wait, really?
  • UniteCU: Megan thought that the Backyard Barbecue should be scrapped in favor of an off-campus two-day homecoming carnival (remember the ferris wheel!) that students could get to by shuttle bus.