CCSC: Council Members No Longer Have to Attend Council Meetings
Written by Bwog Staff
It’s a long one! Our Satow Room Bureau Chief/Muckraking philosopher queen Sarah Ngu has lots to say about Sunday’s CCSC meeting.
At the majority of student council meetings, a remarkable amount of time is spent discussing unimportant details. Recognizing the state of “complacency” in CCSC, President Aki Terasaki made the executive decision (read: it was not up to vote or discussion among council members) to no longer make attendance at any Council meeting mandatory, unless a vote has to be taken. “[We don’t] want to force people to take their position seriously,” Terasaki said. Council will pilot the policy for the entire Spring semester.
Terasaki had been contemplating this decision for awhile and his ideas were confirmed after conducting evaluations from Council members and talking with (pro bono) a meeting consultant Al Pattampalli, an acquaintance of Virat Gupta, the VP of Communications. The resounding feedback was that meetings were too long and felt perfunctory, and that people weren’t really motivated to get things done. The new policy would “trim the fat,” by retaining those most invested, encouraging communication via email, and allowing people to focus on their interests. Council meetings, ideally, would become much more like “open forums” for the public.
Everyone agreed something had to change, but the whole E-Board wasn’t entirely behind Aki’s decision. Jasmine Senior, VP Campus Life, was concerned that the lack of mandatory attendance would make it harder for her committee to get things done. However, after the meeting ended, there was little lingering debate. Bwog spoke to a few members who agreed with Terasaki’s assessment of the problem, but attributed it more to a lack of leadership, and did not believe this new policy would change much.
The Current Structure
Here’s a brief rundown of how CCSC is structured, to give you a sense of the way things are run:
- There are four class councils, with five people on each.
- Each class council plans events for their class (these are still mandatory), and each class council member is required to serve on a Campus Committee: Policy (they change stuff), Funding (they give money), Communications (they are the information liaison between body and council) or Campus Life (they put on campus-wide events).
- The heads of each Campus Committee, in addition to the overall CCSC president, form the Executive Board.
Terasaki nailed the problem of a lack of motivation. There are, to be sure, a few standout council members: Virat Gupta and Wilfred Chan have transformed the website, and Karishma Habbu, has introduced significant reforms of CPS and Financial Aid. By contrast, take policy committee: While the VP, Ryan Cho, and a few other reps like Bruno Mendes, are doing a lot, 25% of people in the committee aren’t involved in affecting any policy changes, and come just to talk. During the discussion itself, three or four people dominate, and contribute all of the policy ideas.
The inertia of the council could be explained in two ways: It’s either a problem of leadership, or the members. A leader needs to inspire his members with a vision, hold them accountable for it, and challenge them to step up. Or if it’s the members fault, maybe there’s nothing the leader can do, and he should only work with his most motivated members.
Aki has effectively decided it’s the later— the membership is the problem. The Council has tried to motivate all its members, he said, by encouraging everyone and reminding them that they were elected. He feels that these strategies have now reached their limit.
Are students electing the wrong people, if they’re voting at all? Or is everyone at Columbia too busy and spread-out to really be committed? The recent outburst of campus activism displayed by the Student Wellness Project (full disclosure: this reporter is a participant) and the Student Forum seems to indicate that there’s no shortage of passion. Council members are part of these projects and have collaborated on planning an Undergraduate Student Space. But CCSC is not leading the campus conversation on what really needs to be done at Columbia. Council lacks a sustained sense of urgency. Part of this is due to individual motivations of members, but you cannot overlook the prerogative a leader has to cast a compelling vision and lead.