This week, CCSC tackled the issue that’s been literally sitting in the forefront of campus for the past couple of days: CDCJ’s protest. Bureau Chief Joe Milholland reports on the council’s resolution, as well as on the statements made by a representative of CDCJ at last night’s meeting.
“I don’t care if this group is the Mickey Mouse Fan Club, I think this discussion is almost entirely about how the university deals with student protests,” said CCSC President Benjamin Makansi on Sunday night, as the council discussed the protests in Low by Columbia Divest for Climate Justice (CDCJ). The video of Sunday night’s meeting is available here.
That night, the Columbia College Student Council (CCSC) received a visit from Daniela Lapidous, CDCJ member who argued for CCSC’s support of CDCJ.
CCSC eventually passed a resolution that attempted to give context to the protests and argued that the protesters should not be suspended, but not until after Lapidous was grilled by council members.
Lapidous said that CDCJ is asking for divestment from a large number of fossil fuel companies and has yet to hear from PrezBo himself: “He’s been communicating mostly through Suzanne Goldberg.” CDCJ members are now (as of Sunday night) sitting in PrezBo’s office in Low, and Public Safety has shut down Low. CDCJ protesters who have left have not been allowed back in, and the numbers of protesters in Low has dropped from 16 to 7.
Goldberg has recently threatened suspension for the CDCJ protesters in Low. Lapidous also said that CDCJ did not want to shut down Low. Lapidous then pointed out that other universities have had similar protests that were much more lengthy because the university did not lock down the space where the students were protesting.
When asked for more specific information about similar protests by VP of Policy Vivek Ramakrishnan, Lapidous gave the example of Fossil Free Yale protesters who were arrested, yet not punished by the university. (Ramakrishnan also said that “the threat of expulsion is really, really over the top.”)
2018 President Ezra Gontownik asked about CDCJ’s previous interactions with the administration. Lapidous responded that CDCJ started in fall 2012, wasn’t able to meet with ACSRI until fall 2013, met with ASCRI several times over two years, and then met with PrezBo three times. “In those meetings, [Bollinger] said divestment wouldn’t hurt the endowment, he said he was supportive of us, he said that he would bring the issue to the Board of Trustees for decision, he promised us a personal statement of his views,” said Lapidous. PrezBo did not complete this last promise. CDCJ has also met with the Board of Trustees three times.
2018 Rep Nathan Rosin asked about the protest’s connection to Days on Campus, and Lapidous confirmed that the protest was intended to fall on Days on Campus. “We felt prospective students deserved to know what students’ concerns are and how the administration responds to them,” said Lapidous.
CCSC’s University Senators pointed out that Rules of Conduct decisions are made only by the University Judicial Board, and they abstained from voting on the resolution. The decision to argue against suspension in the resolution was just barely passed – 17 of the 32 CCSC members present voted in favor of it.
“I am much less certain about suspension as a possible sanction than I am about expulsion,” said Makansi about adding this to the resolution.
Also, when the time allotted to discuss CDCJ ran out and the council failed to approve more time for discussion (they then moved on to voting), Makansi said, “It’s kind of annoying that the people who voted to not extend discussion are also the people who aren’t saying anything. If you think the discussion is complete, then it’s also useful to give input into the discussion.”
VP of Finance Sameer Mishra brought up two suggested changes to CCSC’s constitution on Sunday night. The first was to get rid of the positions of Alumni Affairs Rep and Pre-professional Rep, and instead have those positions appointed by the VP of Policy. Mishra argued that few people run for these positions; CCSC could appoint better people for these positions than could be elected. University Senator Marc Heinrich argued that Mishra’s logic could apply to any position on CCSC.
Mishra also argued for changing what the Sandwich Ambassador does – he doesn’t have specific responsibilities yet. Daniel Stone, an outspoken member of the Columbia community who co-wrote and co-founded the initiative for the Sandwich Ambassador, said that the Sandwich Ambassador is part of a conversation around financial accessibility. However, Stone said he was “disappointed” with the direction the Sandwich Ambassador had been headed since its creation.
“I think that eliminating the position is not a way of dealing with those issues,” said Stone.
Heinrich said that more students voted in favor of the Sandwich Ambassador initiative than any elected member of CCSC.
CCSC will vote on changes to the constitution in coming weeks.
Update: A previous version of this post said that Deantini “doesn’t think highly” of CASV’s proposal. Rather, according to Makansi, Deantini didn’t think the proposal fell under his purview.
The road to Prezbo via CU Admissions