Everyone deserves to get into Carman!

This week’s ESC meeting took time to debate GS swipe access to dorms and other Columbia undergraduate buildings. GS students’ restricted access has affected their participation in events and club meetings. ESC is trying to take action to give GS students swipe access. 

The Forward Swipe Access Update And Resolution

The main topic of discussion yesterday evening concerned a resolution penned by Vice President for Policy Sidney Perkins, in whose place 2019 President Richa Gode presided. This resolution would essentially reiterate a recent resolution from General Studies Student Council which requests increased swipe access (or some mechanism allowing increased swipe access) for GS students. Utilizing a bevy of polling data, the Swipes Resolution highlights how GS students suffer from restricted access to Columbia dorms where university-sanctioned events and club meetings are sometimes held.

Although some members of ESC doubted whether this constitutes a real issue among the GS student body, as when Vice President for Finance Piyushi Bishnoi commented that perhaps these events are restricted to this degree due to differences in financial sponsorship among the various student bodies, even VP Bishnoi acknowledged that she supports GS students receiving equal swipe access in theory. In fact, the main opponent of the core tenets of GS swipe access, that GS students deserve swipe access on a similar level to other undergraduate students of Columbia University, was found in the Representative for Disabilities and Acessibility Adriana Echeverria.

Representative Echeverria’s entry into this debate followed a comment by University Senator Kebudi in response to VP Bishnoi explaining that one such argument for GS students receiving greater swipes accessibility as flowing from the concerns of many GS students in fraternities (and sororities). Senator Kebudi argued that GS members of fraternities housed in East Campus cannot actually swipe themselves into this location, despite abiding by Columbia Greek Life rules and policies. Kebudi, a member of AEPi, which is currently housed in East Campus and includes a large number of GS-JTS students, is particularly acquainted with this issue. In response, Representative Echeverria announced that the East Campus housing “isn’t really fraternity housing,” that the AEPi suite does not constitute a legitimate house for their fraternity distinct from the other suites in East Campus, and thus that GS students in such situations do not require special permissions. While difficult to parse, Echeverria’s argument seemed to propose in light terms that GS students entering “real” undergraduate housing could constitute safety risks. In response to this polemic against GS students, Senator Kebudi coolly summarized that while Echeverria believes it may not be safe to allow any GS student to enter any residence hall, we should nevertheless refuse to view GS students as a “threat to our living spaces.”

Otherwise, most of the problematizing of the Swipes Resolutions concerned the true relationship between the undergraduate colleges of Columbia (and Barnard). On the one hand, as Vice President for Finance Aida Lu brought forward, CC and SEAS access for GS dorms often suffers from restrictions on immediate and unaccompanied access. If ESC were to forward any resolution regarding GS swipes accessibility, VP Lu suggested, then they should ensure mutual levels of accessibility in both directions.  On the other hand, 2019 Representative Asher Goldfinger strongly stated that any such push for more equitable swipes accessibility must include Barnard, as “GS is as much a part of our community as Barnard.” Naturally, this drew light criticism, as Senator Kebudi clarified both that Barnard, as a Women’s College, would not allow mutual swipe access for dorms and that this resolution pushes for strengthening  just the Columbia undergraduate community, that “when you look up the undergraduate schools of Columbia, it says CC, SEAS, and GS—so that should be our community.” Representative Goldfinger somewhat addressed Kebudi’s response in suggesting his own dorm arrangements as proof of precedent for equitable Barnard-Columbia swipes access, as he is a SEAS student living in a Barnard dorm.

Despite entertaining these tangent discussions on the legitimacy of fraternity houses in East Campus and the true makeup of the undergraduate community at Columbia, ESC saw the most engaging proposal in the arguments of 2017 President Cosmas Sibindi and Vice President for Communications Anthony Kim. Following Sibindi’s suggestion that ESC maybe focus on expanding swipe access specifically for those fraternity brothers or GS students who need it, VP Kim proposed simply amending the commuter/off campus swipes access application—or creating something similar in nature—to GS students. This was clearly the most sensible compromise of all arguments brought forward.

Reading Days Schedule

Following the discussion on the Swipes Resolution, University Senator Kebudi then initiated a discussion regarding a potential change in the schedule for our “reading week”—which has unfortunately come to be known as “reading days.” In comparison to our three reading days, Kebudi explained, he has yet to encounter any Ivy League finals policy with more than three weekday reading days. However, these reading days are differently apportioned, meaning some colleges place reading days around a weekend, creating, in effect, a five day “reading week.” Kebudi simply wanted input regarding a potential push to make the Monday before the three reading days another reading day, which could create a second semester imbalance in regards to the number of class days for Monday-Wednesday classes. Despite shortening class time, such a change would create a healthy block dedicated to finals preparation.

Somewhat in response to Kebudi’s proposal, Representative Echeverria complained that some SEAS students do not actually enjoy “real” reading days, as finals can be placed in or rescheduled for this open time period, a problem which Echeverria believes is “more of a thing in SEAS classes than in CC classes.” VP Bishnoi, in response to Echeverria, responded that she believes some professors schedule exams during reading days as a courtesy, since Columbia allocates some exams for troublesomely late dates.

A Note On Elections

President Neha Jain clarified at the beginning of the council meeting that sign-ups for the next round of elections end today at 11:59 PM. Results from the elections will be in by Wednesday, April 5th. Furthermore, as new council members will be taking their seats in the following weeks, the ESC meeting on April 17th is to be attended by Vice President for Campus Services Scott Wright. So if you have anything you want to say to ESC in the presence of a real-life Columbia administrator (shocking, I know), come to the April 17th meeting.

Image via Wikimedia Commons