Berlin town hall

A townhall much like this one.

Last night General Studies Student Council hosted a town hall where many crucial issues were discussed including mental health initiatives, stress culture at Columbia, and representation of marginalized groups.

President Larosa started by giving his own update about the intiatives for mental health that the council had been working on. He explained that the council was working to consolidate health care services and centralize them in one specific location. He also hopes to increase resources at CPS to include more certified staff and to set up a 24/7 hotline. He expressed a wish to work with  Veteran Affairs and networks off campus such as New York University’s own initiatives. Incorporating mental health training in NSOP and establishing advising deans who specialize in underrepresented groups (such as LGBT and student of color) will constitute important aspects to mental health initiatives.

After the president’s update, VPs and representatives updated the council and the audience on their goals and achievements for this semester. The VP of Policy spoke about their collaboration on the feminine sanitary product initiative and the need for volunteers to collect data about their use. She also hopes to include a stress workshop in ERC Life. Next up the new chief of policy Raisa Flor spoke about her ambitions for constitutional review and invited the council to send her any ideas for the improvement of the constitution. Academic Affairs Representative Tamta Desu Arakhamia talked about her trip to Colombia for the Ivy Council. She announced that an inter-ivy newspaper is currently in the works and will include articles about diverse topics including internship opportunities and social respect. She also told the council to be on the look out for a Columbia Chapter to be formed in the next few weeks which she hopes will open more opportunities to Columbia students.

The Diversity Representative announced the development of a special policy initiatives geared towards supporting refugee students for Undocu. She hopes to include infographics that will concentrate on centralizing data about the help available to refugees and undocumented students. She is also working on setting up a mentorship program between Columbia alumni who work in law and refugee students.
Next, VP of Campus Life Brett Krasner congratulated the student body on a great turnout to the community service on 114th and Broadway last Friday. He announced that the gala would take place on March 25 at Gotham Hall and that its theme will be Northern Lights. The Campus Life team is currently working on GS week which will take place between March 2 and March 9 and will include a multicultural day, puppies and a day dedicated to veterans.

First Year President Nicole Rodgers spoke of her own plans for the first year class. She is deeply involved with creating a safe space initiative, working on health policy and participating in the negociations between Barnard Faculty and Barnard Administration. Communications VP Dennis Zhao talked about the need of his team for financial support. In order to render the GSSC website secure, the council must invest in an encryption program. He also spoke about advertising for GS events through the facebook advertisement system, for which he would also require financing. This year, the communications team hopes to be more active on instagram (yourgssc) and to include weekly features of council members starting with the recently appointed Student with Disabilities Rep. Jonathan.

After individual presentation of agendas, projects and hopes, Raimond Curtis (GS senator) and Sean Ryan (co-chair of the Student Affairs Committee) gave a presentation about the need for reform of mental health policies on campus based on the 6 loses that Columbia suffered in this academic year and the other cases of suicides that occurred in the past years. They concluded that mental health initiatives needed to be tailored to specific marginalized groups on campus, including LGBT students and students of color. Some of their other suggestions included creating a space to foster interconnectedness through a full scale renovation of Lerner, providing space and support for at risk groups, meet gatekeeper community standards.

After this short but impactful presentation, the council let the Town Hall begin. Students asked questions specifically regarding mental health initiatives and how students could get involved. Some council members raised questions about the involvement of the target groups on the committees that organize these initiatives. Two students from the Dual BA with SciencesPo spoke about their need for representation on council. Along with constitutional review, the council hopes to satisfy this wish and to create a new position that would work on behalf of Dual BA students.

At the end of the meeting, a new student affairs representative nominee was presented to the council and his possible appointment will be announced next week.

Town Hall via wikimedia commons