USenate Elections: Meet Your Candidates, Part 2
Written by Bwog Staff
After giving you the first half of the USenate election candidates, we present you with the rest–again in the chronological order in which we got their responses. You can also get more of their character in our super official Debate LiveBwog. Please also note that Cameron Demsey, who was announced in the original list, has dropped out of the race. Are you proud of us for doing all of this campus politics elections coverage yet?
Name, school, class year: Alexander Andresian, Columbia College, 2014
What do you bring to the table? I bring experience. Having served as a member of CCSC for three years and as a senate staffer last year, I’ve seen policymaking both in the college and throughout the university. I know what channels to navigate when trying to get things done. As a senior who has immersed himself in the Columbia community, I understand what makes Columbia great and where we still can improve. Since we’re filling an unexpected vacancy, we need a senator who can hit the ground running. If you’re looking for someone who has experience in student government and in the university community, I’m your guy.
What issues do you care most about?
October 13th will mark three years since the USenate last posted on Facebook. In my view, this is unacceptable and it can be improved. In order to foster deep connections with the community, we must have strong lines of communication. That’s why I want to spearhead its digital communications strategy and revamp its website: so students know what’s going on and so they can make their voices heard. I want to work to build a USenate that is open to the community, one that asks for input and gives it the consideration it deserves. I’ll make sure that every student knows what initiatives the USenate is considering and that no decisions are made behind closed doors.
I’m also interested in improving student wellness on campus. We should use the results of the Quality of Life Survey to provide effective solutions to student wellness that are responsive to the needs and wishes of students like us. You’ve already told the USenate what works and what doesn’t; I want to help make those changes happen.
Have you been involved in campus politics? How? From the moment I came to campus, I was dedicated to improving it. That’s why, after serving on CCSC, I decided to run for class council junior year. Though my candidacy was ultimately unsuccessful, I learned so much about the desires of Columbia College students that I decided to redouble my efforts to improve our campus. Since then, I’ve remained a dedicated member of the senior class council’s extended committee and have worked as a senate staffer. Now, I’m ready to take on a bigger role so I can help improve our community in even more meaningful ways.
If you could change one thing about Columbia, what would it be? I would change the way that our administration now handles sexual assault on campus. We need to rethink how we care for victims of sexual assault and how we punish the perpetrators. I’ve had friends of mine file formal complaints after an incident and they agree that the process is imperfect and can be improved. I may not be well versed with the legal side of the issue, but I know that the university can be doing more on its end to ensure that there are real consequences for offenders. It’s a difficult issue, but it’s one I’m ready to take on.
Would you rather give up oral sex or cheese? I’m not seeing anyone currently, so I’m just hoping that I won’t be forever provalone.
Name, school, class year: Conor Skelding*, CC ’14
What do you bring to the table? Familiarity with the senate—I’ve been covering it since late 2010, when the NROTC process started. I’ve been to very many plenary meetings. More than that, candor. I’m no good at public relations.
What issues do you care most about?
Campus surveillance (there shouldn’t be cameras in student lounges). Divestment (we should divest). Labor relations. That the 2009 Community Benefits Agreement is carried out. The College’s place within Arts and Sciences.
More broadly, the senate’s relevancy to students: student government should translate between the administration and the student body, not put another layer of PR between students and the truth.
Have you been involved in campus politics? How? A little coverage for Bwog.
If you could change one thing about Columbia, what would it be? I wish we all spent less time in front of screens, and more time being with one another or reading.
Would you rather give up oral sex or cheese? I won’t be prepared to answer this question until spring, and maybe not then. The Internet is forever.
*Editor’s note: while Conor is indeed on Bwog, he has not done any USenate elections coverage, nor will he. Should he be elected, he will not do coverage on Senate-related issues, apart from acting as a noted source. — A. Svokos
Name, school, class year: Manik “Munna” Uppal, Columbia College 2014.
What do you bring to the table? I bring a freshness of perspective to the table that I think is sorely missing from the University Senate. The Senate is limited in its scope. As Jared Odessky wrote last week for Bwog, the Senate has no power over the appropriation of funds because the budget is under the jurisdiction of the Trustees. That leaves only a niche subset of policy issues that the Senate is capable of considering. A lot political capital and influence that University Senators have is left on the table as a result. I want to exhaust that capital to be an advocate for the student body at large, even for issues that are not directly within the purview of the Senate. Certain issues I have in mind are facilitating stronger alumni mentorship on campus and increasing access to undergraduate research. While these aren’t within the scope of the Senate, open discussion is still possible as there are committees in the Senate dedicated to research officers and alumni relations. In broad strokes, I bring a new approach to the responsibility and leverage afforded to University Senators.
What issues do you care most about? I think there are several important issues directly under the Senate’s purview. Aside from greater accountability on the part of the administration in the form of open course evaluations and transparency on sexual assault policy, I think a fresh approach to technology is key. We speak often about transparency, and I think technology can genuinely be the bridge between the students and their representatives. Starting a Twitter feed designed specifically for all campus student government news could be a good idea. I think that Columbia should start investing its technological resources into mobile apps that the students can use. As a start I think we could work with CUIT to integrate SSOL, Courseworks, and LionMail into one centralized portal accessible via a smartphone app. I think this would increase the efficiency of using these services.
Have you been involved in campus politics? How? I haven’t been involved in campus politics, but I’ve always taken a keen interest in the ongoings of student government. It seems almost annually that the Senate debates a huge issue that takes the campus by storm, like ROTC a couple years ago and the smoking ban last year, but I think the resolutions only affect smaller niches within the Columbia population. Maybe that’s why I still have seniors telling me they don’t know what the Senate is…
If you could change one thing about Columbia, what would it be? If I could change one thing about Columbia, it’d be the divisiveness. Everyone seems to have some sub-community within our student body that they like to bash on. For some people, it’s cool to hate on athletes. For others, it’s fun to make of competitive pre-meds. I recall last year around finals time, it was popular to hate on Business School students after Watson Library access was restricted. I think this is indicative of a deeper problem within the Columbia community. Maybe our student body is simply too large for each of us to extend genuine empathy to the other members of the community. However, I’d like to think this is due to other reasons. There’s no quick fix, but I think in general we need to take a collective step back, take a breath, and chill. There’s so much more fun to be had on this campus if we take ourselves a little less seriously.
Would you rather give up oral sex or cheese? I’ve never had a bad experience with cheese. Oral sex, on the other hand…
Name, school, class year: I’m David Froomkin, CC ’15. I’m running for USenate to reform a broken system.
What do you bring to the table? The University Senate is the only governance body that enables student input in university policy, but the current decision-making process bypasses student input. Columbia College has too few representatives in the Senate to make a decisive impact. This means that the only way for students to participate in the process is to use our voices. However, institutional rules requiring secrecy for the most important Senate deliberations deny us even this minimal level of participation. Students should set the agenda – but right now, we aren’t even allowed to know it.
What issues do you care most about? We should not be afraid to think big. Initiatives like improving campus printing and student space allocation are vital, but to focus on such issues to the exclusion of process concerns is to lose sight of the forest. The truth is, we all agree on the small things. Every candidate in this race is pushing for improving students’ quality of life. The question is: will they succeed? The single most valuable thing our representatives can do would be to focus attention on the process. The problem is more than a lack of “transparency.” There are significant institutional barriers to participation. These are the central elements of my program for reform:
- Open Senate committee meetings, and publish minutes
- Introduce public participation periods in Senate meetings
- Use technology to let students set the Senate’s agenda
Have you been involved in campus politics? How? Last Spring, I began a campaign to fix the Senate. I’m glad that my efforts have helped start a conversation about these issues, an encouraging sign that momentum is building for reform. The moment for reform is now. Students should have a voice. I believe in an activist use of the position of Senator. If elected, I will be a voice for the people, willing to speak truth to power.
Other questions unanswered.
Name, school, class year: Jacob Johnson, Columbia College, 2017
What do you bring to the table? I bring a fresh, optimistic perspective to Senate issues and will work to create new faith in the University Senate by constantly reaching out to students via discussions and surveys. I will assiduously advocate for the interests of Columbia College as a whole, not solely for my own individual issues or the parochial interests of small groups. I have the communication and leadership skills to form coalitions with other students and faculty, which is absolutely required to get anything passed. At the same time, I would not be afraid to promote bold new policies that at first seem unpopular, and then try to create support for those policies. Finally, I bring to the table a rigorous work ethic and attention to detail which would help to create progress on the individual committees, which are probably the best avenue for enacting reforms.
What issues do you care most about?
I want to make the Quality of Life Survey shorter and offer it several times throughout the year because follow-up surveys are necessary on those specific issues which garner a strong response. I would then work with the available resources to implement as many of the survey findings as possible, with the largest goal being to reduce student stress on campus. I would work to create a Senate rule that survey questions that receive a strong student response must be voted on by the Senate.
I want to formalize open course evaluations and make them readily available to students so that we do not solely rely upon CULPA.
I desire to create more transparency in the Senate by publishing the Senate minutes for committees that do not require confidentiality and by regularly updating the Senate website and social media used to communicate about the Senate.
I will advocate for campus-wide Wi-Fi and updating our technological systems, including printing.
I will be open to student recommendations on modifying the Core Curriculum.
I also believe in allowing student meals to roll-over from week to week.
I believe that we should end the smoking ban debate and stick with the plan to allow certain specified zones on campus in which students can smoke.
I want to work on ensuring that the expansion into Manhattanville has a campus feel and offers many opportunities to Columbia College students.
I strongly support the movement for fossil fuel divestment.
I will highly prioritize creating more transparency about sexual assaults on campus.
In order to promote more student participation in the Senate, I would play an active role in drafting initiatives and referenda, which increase voter turnout and create more passion about specific issues. Further, I would frequently send out surveys to various student groups or to the student body as a whole regarding specific issues, and I would fight for a change in the Senate rules so that any survey question that receives a very strong response must be voted on by the Senate.
Have you been involved in campus politics? How? As a freshman, I have not had the opportunity to be involved in campus politics yet, but I definitely hope to get involved, including through the University Senate, CCSC, and/or various student interest groups. I do, however, have experience from high school student government, having served as an elected Senior Class Leader and as a student representative to the School Committee advocating for issues like student evaluations of teachers.
If you could change one thing about Columbia, what would it be? I would hope to create less stress on campus. Although this is a very complicated issue, the Quality of Life Survey and Student Wellness Project definitely have the capacity to create positive reform along our ideals of a less stressful, less competitive, and more tolerant community. I am very excited about improving the Quality of Life Survey for helpful data on a macro scale, and I am looking forward to speaking to individuals for useful data on a micro scale. These data sources would provide great information about the impediments to less stressful student life and about how to resolve those impediments.
Would you rather give up oral sex or cheese? Bill Clinton’s problem precisely. Example A, the Monica Lewinsky Scandal. Example B, he’s vegan.