And just when you thought ESC could reach the pinnacle of its relevance with its smoking ban it recently passed, Finn Klauber takes you through another meeting where even their legitimacy to pass said smoking ban is up in the air.
Last week, I reported that the legitimacy of Engineering Student Council’s vote to encourage a smoking ban would lay upon the specifics of their updated constitution, supposedly to be ratified at this week’s meeting. However, despite the procedural failings in continuing to operate according to an unseen and officially moot constitution, the actual structure and work of the Council remains the same regardless of any procedural liabilities. Regardless, ESC spent most of its substantive time in session discussing two resolutions—one which was unanimously voted upon at the end of the meeting, the other which had just debuted in its initial planning and discussion stage.
In light of the usage of the Smoking Survey™ to approach a smoking ban through either Democratic or Authoritative means, newly elected University Senator Izzet Keboudi, SEAS ’19, proposed the “Resolution to Publicize ESC Survey Results & Responses to Columbia Community”. Essentially, the two-clause resolution clarified whether the surveys used in ESC proceedings would be made public or not, to be stated clearly on the survey itself, and further clarified that personal info from the survey will not be released except when fundamental to “the nature of the survey.” After accepting a friendly amendment to further clarify that these surveys are not looking for, and thus will not scrutinize, any individual’s specific response, ESC voted by hand and by acclaim concurrently in a unanimous approval of the resolution.
In the midst of this resolution process, ESC also discussed another topic put forward by VP of Finance Aida Lu, SEAS ’17, regarding Columbia’s Financial Aid. Continuing a thread of discussion from the previous few meetings, ESC is trying to make Financial Aid more accessible and the entire process of acquiring financial aid easier to understand. In terms of these goals, VP Lu specifically included suggestions regarding an improved Financial Aid landing page, which would be easier to use and to navigate.
When opened up to Council discussion, specific complaints included concerns regarding international students being unable to receive financial aid if they do not enter Columbia with any already granted. Allegedly, the only thing which can prompt change in such situations is something akin to the death of a parent, which Columbia then subjects to some sort of extreme vetting before accepting as fact. Other complaints included that the density of the information offered by the office prohibits searching for answers to relatively simple inquiries. Another council member advocated for specifically directing attention to contacting Financial Aid Officers, and perhaps increasing their personal availability. What proposals will be included in any future resolution is still in the air.
- VP Sidney Perkins is communicating the results of the Lawns survey to Dean Kromm, as well as proposals for what the signs used for the Lawns will include and what they will look like. VP Perkins expressed, however, that the Council received pushback from the very beginning of this initiative from Kromm in respect to what Public Safety and Facilities would actually allow the Council to get away with.
- Student Services Representative Saurabh Runwal announced some important updates. In talking to Health Services, Representative Runwal is now publicizing that same-day appointments are now available, and that a call should deliver an appointment if the online system can’t. Furthermore, in talking with Honey Fishman, Executive Director, Business Services and Lerner Hall Operations, Runwal announced that new tables are being put on the third floor of Lerner outside of Ferris. Rooms 474, 476a, and 476b in Ferris will now also be available to public reservation. Runwal also wanted to know if the Santander ATMs were working out for everybody, though this prompted a tangent regarding the SIPA ATM adding a charge for CitiBank transactions.
- The Council discussed the screens in Lerner—mainly, those in Cafe 212/East—which depict the names of countries where Columbia students are from. Essentially, ESC wants to try and put other items on those screens. One council member proposed some sort of news channel, but that possibility was shut down when VP Perkins described that those signs could only show Powerpoint presentations. Other members said in that case, pictures and videos from student groups could be placed there.
- VP Perkins clarified that according to constitutional procedure, he had to be elected each meeting as the Parliamentarian before directing council resolution procedures. This process, according to VP Perkins, had apparently gone unfollowed “for years” previously. We hope this procedural balance will be fully utilized in cases where there is obvious conflict of interest in resolution procedure.
Photo courtesy of the SEAS website