This week’s ESC meeting was a continuation of last week’s discussion that attempted to find ways to alleviate the stress of Columbia students. While the Columbia Administration acknowledged the Executive Vice President Sidney Perkins ideas, it remains uncertain if the administration will take student proposals into consideration.
Yesterday’s weekly meeting of the Engineering Student Council quickly established itself as a spiritual continuation of last week’s meeting, with Executive Vice President for Policy Sidney Perkins first detailing the results of last week’s poignant resolution. VP Perkins recounted how the University Senate reached out to ESC after the Senate’s Student Affairs Committee (SAC) published a private memorandum regarding mental health conditions on campus. ESC was asked to provide an addendum to this private memorandum, prompting ESC’s Policy Committee to perform quite a bit of outreach in the compilation of a 10 page document.
The Addendum, which VP Perkins explained “should be entirely public,” consisted of suggestions “to prevent and respond to such tragedies on campus.” The preface to the document (linked here and included below) heralds how “no student should ever feel that their only escape from the pressures and stresses of Columbia is to be found in death,” and identifies three areas where “suicide prevention” intersects with “student wellness”: exorbitant student academic stress, a lack of student spaces dedicated to mindfulness and identity, and widespread feelings of student isolation.
The document comments upon a litany of improvements to campus life which have been haphazardly and separately thrown about by various student populations in recent history. The breadth of the recommendations, each reinforced with numerical data or the successful policies of peer institutions, is quite staggering in retrospect. ESC identifies faults in the bureaucratic and inefficient Center for Student Advising, negligible faculty-student rapport, the lack of student spaces, the absence of a 24/7 student union, ill conceived NSOP programming, and the University’s inability to internally handle the mental health situation at Columbia. Recommendations vary just as wildly, ranging from the expansion of prefrosh orientation programs like COÖP and CUE, the provision of greater resources for students with children, the opening of Lerner as a redesigned student union after the evacuation of the administrative Mecca to Uris (or vice-versa), and miscellaneous steps to help mend Columbia’s campus community in the wake of tragedy. In grim fashion, the Addendum concludes with ESC’s statement that “We eagerly await action from the central administration, and we hope and pray that our efforts may help save the lives of our peers, colleagues, and friends.” The full text of the private memorandum, as well as the various addenda (including ESC’s addendum), will shortly—and physically—arrive in President Bollinger’s hands.
Otherwise, the rest of the discussion this week was based around a more defined version of last week’s constitutional amendment proposal by VP Perkins to institute what are defined as “continuing resolutions.” Such resolutions would essentially hold future councils to described goals, bounded by expiry dates within 10 years of a continuing resolution’s passage. Passing a continuing resolution would then require a 2/3 majority of the council, whereas a continuing resolution would require a 1/3 plurality to absolve the council of its responsibility to the outlined goals. Responsibility, determined as consisting of regular reports as well as demonstrated effort, is assigned to a specific position in the text of the resolution, and that position’s accrued responsibilities will pass on to the position’s next representative. VP Perkins, in response to some questioning on this point, clarified that this might put some undue effort on candidates with no personal interest in these issues assuming such responsibilities, but counterbalanced this by pointing out how a candidate could run on eliminating ESC’s subjugation to that specific continuing resolution. Therefore, VP Perkins advocated, if a 2/3 majority were unwilling to impeach a refractory council member (as a 2/3 majority is required for impeachment), then that member’s “responsibilities” would not inherently be supported. While transference of responsibility was brought up, nothing concrete was described by VP Perkins.