You can catch Nadra Rahman in the Satow Room on any given Sunday night, observing the tumult and angst that characterize a good CCSC meeting.
The Columbia College Student Council (CCSC) had two items on its agenda at its meeting last night: discussing a proposal by black, Latinx, and indigenous constituency groups for reallocating representatives on the Activities Board at Columbia (ABC); and self-flagellation.
“Vocal Representation” in ABC
Members of the Black Students’ Organization, PorColombia, and the African Students’ Association came to CCSC to ask for endorsement of a proposal for ABC—which requests the “Black and Latino Cultural Chair” position be divided into three separate and individual “Black,” “Latinx,” and “Indigenous” representative positions. At the meeting, the emissaries cited a broad need for “authentic representation” that would improve the “channel of understanding” between ABC and student groups. The proposal will be voted on at an upcoming ABC town hall, so the groups behind the proposal are trying to raise as much awareness as possible.
From the start, there was not much resistance to the endorsement, though Council members asked a few clarifying questions. 2017 President Jordana Narin asked if it was typical for a single ABC position to represent as many as 13 groups, as in the case of the Black and Latino Cultural Chair. The presenters said that while it wasn’t unique, the key issue is that distinct communities have distinct needs, agendas, and financial considerations, and as such, should not have the same representative. They stressed the importance of “appropriate and authentic vocal representation” in financial matters and allocating resources. They also noted the burdens placed on the ABC representative in dealing with so many disparate communities and needs, and mentioned a lack of successful communication. When asked if any previous Black and Latino Cultural Chairs have had the “skill and finesse” to execute the position successfully, they answered that the role itself was flawed, setting representatives up for failure. (The title, for example, does not even acknowledge the indigenous groups represented by the position.)
President Nicole Allicock asked whether other groups would find it unfair that only three groups would fall under the purview of the Indigenous Representative, but the presenters argued that “as underrepresented students, we are never going to win the numbers game.” Currently, indigenous students are the most underrepresented on campus, and providing them with their own representative will allow for increased cultural context, conversation, and vocal representation. Furthermore, just because fewer groups fall under this category does not mean that each group will get more money. Allicock later added that a lack of appropriate representation in ABC means that certain events or student group projects are decontextualized, leading to cost-cutting measures that reduce the events’ cultural significance. Better representation can lead to nuances in ABC’s thinking.
Finally, Student Services Rep Ethan Park questioned whether the groups behind the proposal had reached out to other minority student groups, such as East Asian or South Asian cultural groups, to discuss ABC representation. While they hadn’t done so, the presenters said that they encouraged such groups to examine their own issues and to bring up their concerns with the Board. They added, “If anything, this sets a precedent for restructuring,” creating a template for other groups that do not feel they are being faithfully represented.
After discussion, the vote to endorse the proposal was held—and passed unanimously. A brief statement explaining CCSC’s reasoning will be issued soon.
Missteps in Publicizing Elections
On Tuesday, March 21, the Judicial Board of CCSC—consisting of USenator Sean Ryan, VP Finance Anuj Sharma, 2017 VP Brennon Mendez, 2017 Rep Kunal Kamath, and chaired by 2017 President Jordana Narin—sent out an email to CC students describing their request that the Columbia Elections Board (CEB) postpone the upcoming CCSC elections by two weeks. An excerpt from the email:
Last night, the CCSC Judicial Board was informed that, despite requests from the Columbia Elections Board (CEB), the upcoming CCSC elections had not been advertised as planned due to an internal misstep on CCSC’s part. Both the candidate registration link and a timeline of the elections should have been sent out by email to student body and posted to our Facebook page – neither of which happened. As a result, the CCSC Judicial Board has requested that CEB postpone the elections by two weeks.
We made this decision based on the belief that fair and competitive elections can only be held after a sufficient registration period in which all eligible students are properly informed of the elections and their right to run. Candidate and party registration will remain open until Tuesday, April 4th, at 11:59 p.m.
Narin said that the Judicial Board was notified of the lack of advertising and “felt incredibly unfair” to have elections proceed in light of it. The Judicial Board (made up of seniors) voted on the matter internally, partly due to the reality that many Council members are running for reelection, creating conflicts of interest.
VP Communications Josh Sudman accepted blame for the misstep. After CEB reached out to him, he “purely forgot” to publicize election information. He stressed that there was no political maneuvering on his part, since as a senior, he has no stake in the coming elections.
Still, many members were confused by the timeline of events and lack of transparency. The Judicial Board was appointed at around 8:30 pm on Tuesday night, via an email vote, and the decision email was sent out at 11:24 pm, just three hours later. What happened in the lead-up to these events, and in between them? Narin said that the vote to appoint Judicial Board occurred as soon as she heard of the advertising issue, and that the group worked on the matter as soon as they were confirmed, resulting in a swift, last-minute decision. Still, multiple members questioned why the problem wasn’t discovered and action wasn’t taken earlier on, and why Sudman had only been contacted by CEB a single time.
Pre-Professional Rep David Mendelson said he felt uncomfortable with the lack of transparency in appointing the members of the Judicial Board. He questioned whether email votes were constitutionally allowed, why the press was excluded from the thread, and whether they should have officially voted to close the vote before excluding the press. He added, “This is so sketchy.” Narin replied that previous email votes had never included a vote on closing, adding she was unclear on whether the press should have been involved. Later, VP Policy Abby Porter made the distinction between transparency to CCSC and transparency to the general public: CCSC members should learn the decision at the same time as everyone else, partly due to the numerous conflicts of interest that make it important for them to not know the information beforehand.
Throughout the discussion, Narin emphasized the lack of a coherent structure or position for advertising and publicizing election information. Through constitutional review, she hopes to integrate advertising and outreach into the role of the Judicial Board. As Sharma noted, there are structural faults if a single person making a mistake derails the entire publicity campaign. When questioned by Inclusion and Equity Rep Lewit Bedada how the process can be changed so that elections are better-advertised in the future and diverse candidates run, Narin referenced personal outreach and restructuring the role of the Judicial Board, while VP Campus Life Nathan Rosin brought up the candidates’ mixer that occurred last year; neither suggestion, perhaps, reaches the core of the matter, which Bedada described as a campus life and culture issue.
Of course, the discussion was laced with notes of self-congratulation. Numerous members praised the Judicial Board for acting as well as they could under the circumstances and limiting the damage done. Bravo, Judicial Board, etc. With that, the meeting concluded.
- Inclusion and Equity: Bedada brought up a proposal, currently in the beginning stages, for fashioning a new activities board for groups that are identity-based, so that such groups can receive “proper funding, proper representation, proper voice.” This so-called Council of Minority and Marginalized Students would address the concerns raised by the groups at last night’s meeting, but on a more structural level.
- Policy: The Committee is drafting a report on the tampons and pads program after collecting and analyzing data, and is meeting with administrators to discuss the program’s effect. Additionally, Columbia University Apartheid Divest has requested to insert a ballot initiative into the elections, so CCSC will meet with stakeholders, both opponents and proponents, to discuss the initiative and draft the language.
- The GSSC swipe proposal will be up for a vote at next week’s meeting.
- Senate: USenator Josh Schenk will present a student space report at the Senate plenary this Friday.
- Communications: Because Columbia’s homepage is apparently the worst in the Ivy League, it’s being renovated. A usability survey will be distributed soon to help guide the process. A reminder: those students and student groups that submit their pictures to be featured on CCSC’s new website will be entered into a raffle.
- Campus Life: To echo VP Campus Life Nathan Rosin, College Days is upon us. From the event’s description, “Free dinners, giveaways, awesome prizes, and competitions await!”
- Class of 2017: First-Year Flashback: Residence Hall Reunion Dinner is taking place on Tuesday, March 28 from 8 to 10 pm in Roone Arledge Auditorium. You can fill out the Google form here.
- Student Services: JJ’s Place has made its triumphant return (but the floors are an unappetizing color now, right?).
- Last but not least, there is now a printer at Dodge gym, finally allowing for the perfect union of reps and readings.