It’s that time of year again and the USenate election looks pretty interesting and competitive this year. Sophomores Ramis Wadood, Daniel Liss, and Daniel Stone are running alongside junior Michael MacKay and freshdude Jacob Johnson. The debate ranged the topics of Quality of Life surveys, Title IX, course evals, accountability and more. It was definitely an interesting debate and we are thankful to have had Satow Room Chief Joe Milholland cover it for us.
• Ramis Wadood, a sophomore who has been the class of 2016 president for two years, talked about his previous work with the Honor Code, dining, the Coalition Against Sexual Violence, mental health, and his current status as a University Senate staffer. He wants improvements to mental health services, an increase in “academic resources,” improvements to the open course registration, more time for students to work at Avery, NoCo, and Butler, and to bring the Manhattanville discussion to students.
• Jacob Johnson, a freshman who has run for University Senate before, said the University Senate “is not so much a governing body, as a service organization.” He wants “shorter, more specific specific, more frequently offered quality of life surveys,” and a “Senate Rule” that would make the Senate vote on any “measure that receives a very strong, one-sided response from students in the frequent surveys.”
• Michael MacKay, a junior, has worked with the visiting student program, community impact, and the Kingsmen. He says he is “the only candidate with a concerted effort for improving our technological systems.”
• Daniel Liss, a sophomore who is currently CCSC’s alumni affairs representative, talked about his alumni mentorship program, his work on Grades@CU, and his creation of the proposal “that allows students to vote for candidates without parties.” He wants to work on “increasing access to alumni” and career placement by getting internships that are only for Columbia students.
• Dan Stone, an editor and writer for The Lion and The Blue and White, wants a student trustee, open meetings for meetings that relate to Columbia College students, and “ensuring that college senators report back to their constituents.”
The first question was about how the candidate was the best to get things done:
• Stone talked about his desire “to challenge the status quo” by discussing more issues of “substance” during Senate Plenaries and his understanding that surveys don’t “do a lot.”
• Liss said he has already done work on alumni outreach and career placement, like with career mentorship.
• MacKay talked about his work with community organizations and his desire for “a new, comprehensive strategy” in the University Senate.
• Johnson emphasized that a single senator could accomplish little in the whole senate and the group needs a “realistic understanding of ways we can create change through committees.”
• Wadood talked about his work as a staffer on the Student Affairs Committee and the Chair of the Executive Committee. He said this experience would counter the “very steep learning curve” of the Senate.
The second question was about the Quality of Life survey
• Johnson reiterated his plan for shorter and more frequent quality life surveys and voting on things that get a strong response.
• MacKay said the major problem with the quality of life surveys was “apathy” and that it was “unwise to put too much emphasis on quality of life surveys.”
• Liss said it was an “important initiative” but it “sucked a lot of oxygen out of the Senate.” He wants the Senate to work on issues more relevant to students, like divestment and sexual assault that students had to take up for themselves.
• Stone called the Quality of Life survey a “big waste of time.” He said “it might really look good on consulting interviews, but I don’t think it really looks good for Columbia College students.” He said the survey would bring “nothing other than the obvious.”
• Wadood said he was the only candidate to work on the Quality of Life Survey, which he said had the “potential to be one of the most powerful tools for student advocacy” by allowing students to “back-up” their desires to administrators.
The next question was on sexual assault and Title IX policy
• MacKay emphasized the importance of having a “staggered” Consent is Sexy program throughout the year.
• Liss expressed worry about RA’s mandatory reporting with Title IX and didn’t want “restrictions placed on how [RAs] interact with students.” He wants a vote on the number of members on PACSA.
• Stone wants “to ensure the campus debate about this continues.” He criticized the administration’s slow response and wanted to “make noise” about it as a University Senator.
• Wadood said he was the only candidate “directly involved in the sexual assault initiative.” He wants to continue to include students in the process.
• Johnson wants more transparency and NSOP consent training “every month.” He wants improvements to the sexual assault resources on campus as well as to support Sexual Assault Awareness Month.
The next question was how the senators wanted to handle open course evaluations
• Liss said he was in “strong support” of open course evaluations and wanted to work with the “departments most excited to participate” like CompSci.
• Stone said open course evaluations are “important” but not a Senate priority. He also had a “philosophical objection” that they could make education a “seller’s market.” He said the program was “a little anti-intellectual.”
• Wadood disagreed with Stone and said the senate needs to “better administer” the system. He said it is not a “top priority” but could be “very successful” with work.
• Johnson has a plan to “formalize the open course evaluation process.” He said CULPA has a “voluntary bias.”
• MacKay wanted a “very specific” approach to open course evaluations and warned against “broaching the field of A-range grades” because a professor’s work “can’t be reduced to a single letter.”
• Stone reiterated his desire for a student trustee and said it was “ridiculous they’ve been discussing free speech in secret.”
• Wadood emphasized his experience. He wants to ask for student feedback and to improve mental health services.
• Johnson said he has a “fresh experience” but knowledge to “steer the change in the system.”
• MacKay said that “you can do reform in committees.” He wants “virtual office hours” and to do work on Lion’s Den for “on-campus start-ups.”
• Liss talked about his work in committees and his work on CCSC with alumni mentorship, Grades@CU, and elections reform. He also planned a forum for student groups to talk with alumni.
The first audience question was for Jacob Johnson on his plan for Senate to vote on initiatives to brought up by students. Johnson said he work “through the rules committee.” He said the Senate “must vote on” initiatives that received a high turnout and 80% response for one side. He said his rule would have made the Senate vote on fossil fuel divestment.
The second question was about student apathy and how the senators would ensure their accountability.
• Wadood said he would communicate with students via e-mail and social media.
• Johnson said that as a freshman he would “not be a lame duck on day one” and has the “possibility of re-election” that would hold him accountable.
• MacKay said he would “approach the senate by committee” to make sure everyone was doing their job.
• Liss said the apathy was because student government was not working on issues “most directly impact students.” He said the he could get ideas through student projects like EcoRep’s cleaner labs initiative, bike share, and changes to the sexual assault policy.
• Stone said it was “unfair to expect students to actually care” and wanted to communicate with students via student press.
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