CCSC still found ways to get riled up despite the prospect of a short meeting right before Spring Break. Nadra Rahman reports from the Satow Room, in admiration of their energy.
Though last night’s Columbia College Student Council (CCSC) meeting had only one major item—to approve candidates for the Columbia Elections Board (CEB)—it certainly was not short. Members grappled with the risk and consequences of bias in the four applicants.
Who’s Biased? Why Bias? The Election Board Debate
In a shift from previous years, the four CEB candidates were voted on by the different student councils, with each council receiving the anonymized interview responses of the applicants alongside the interview committee’s recommendation (or lack thereof). This time, one candidate was GS and three were CC; the interview committee ratings ranged from “strong recommendation” to “recommendation with reservations.” When asked how many candidates should be approved, President Nicole Allicock replied that CEB was so understaffed that appointments should be maximized, not minimized.
Candidate A, a GS student, breezed through confirmation and was unanimously approved without much debate, largely because CEB does not have enough of a GS presence. 2017 VP Brennon Mendez, part of the interview committee, said that the candidate’s “GS-specific expertise” could help increase GS voter engagement and participation, which is key. 2017 President and former CEB member Jordana Narin added, “Having a candidate from GS is super super important…we all just did a really great thing.”
Before discussion over Candidate B got underway, VP Policy Abby Porter urged members to have productive discussion: “I think we should at least attempt to have a discussion on everybody…we haven’t taken the time to ask everyone questions [in previous years].” That being said, discussion over Candidate B was also relatively brief. Narin and USenator Jay Rappaport liked the applicant’s involvement in the campus community and their “social justice lens,” which might be useful in reaching out to certain types of candidates. Rappaport called the applicant a “good community advocate” and added, “it’s hard to have any qualms with justice in general.” This candidate was unanimously approved as well.
Candidate C is where things got interesting—the applicant had run for office last fall, and the Council was concerned that bias against current members could cloud their judgement. 2019 VP Adam Resheff and VP Campus Life Nathan Rosin raised these concerns about bias, while 2019 President Sophie Broadbent thought that the candidate was just “bland.” In response, Mendez said that the interview committee had no reason to suspect any possible bias on the applicant’s part, specifying, “I cannot imagine a situation where a person who had run for CCSC could be more removed than this person.” Porter and VP Finance Anuj Sharma claimed that the Council was looking at the issue too narrowly—as Sharma put it, “We’re really only thinking about ourselves.” Any person could run for Council, and any CEB member could have a bias against them, making the issue of bias very difficult to address. Furthermore, as Narin pointed out, CEB does not resolve rules violations; those are decided by the Judicial Board, of which she is a part, “so you need to worry about my bias.” 2020 VP James Ritchie’s comment drew applause—“If we have fears of potential biases…that says something more about our own campaigns.” Eventually, Candidate C was approved.
No such luck for Candidate D, who was controversial because of their membership in the Class of 2019 Appointed Council. The fear raised by many was that the candidate was too close socially to CCSC members and had not specified any steps they might take to mitigate bias. Sharma elaborated: “We need to avoid the perception of bias,” and later, “It is very important for us to improve our image on campus if we want to get stuff down.” USenator Sean Ryan championed the candidate (a Senate staffer), applauding their engagement with “highly complex, highly confidential” information and campus involvement, calling the insinuations of bias “an attack on their character.”
Most other speakers disagreed. Narin said that community involvement didn’t really matter much here, and that “biased for is a lot more dangerous than biased against,” due to safeguards for the latter in CEB procedure. She brought up her own experience on CEB and the week that she slept outside her suite because her suitemate Abby Porter was running for election, admitting that even this was not enough—she shouldn’t have been allowed on CEB for the election. Allicock was particularly concerned about public image, bringing up the worry that people would be turned off running due to a perceived insularity in CCSC. Several members urged the group to consider the fact that the interview committee had reservations about the candidate (2020 Rep Grant Pace called ignoring this “a shady* idea”). As the conversation wore on, 2018 Rep Stephan Montes pointed out that most of the people defending the candidate were from the Class of 2019 and knew the person. At any rate, the discussion eventually ended and the vote was taken. With 12-16 against, the motion to approve the candidate failed.
Correction*: not “shitty”
Photo via Plexuss.