ESC continues to fight the good fight with trying to change the finals schedule, 3-2 student housing, and COÖP. Students have also petitioned to expand representation of the African American and Latino communities.
After first referencing the tensions apparent in the last meeting, including “tones, faces made, [and] laughter that went on,” President Neha Jain reflected that the ESC Board wants to encourage an environment where everybody can project their thoughts and opinions in a respectable manner. Such a tone dominated the remainder of the meeting, which mainly focused on a final exam resolution and a (previously covered) petition concerning representatives in the Activities Board of Columbia.
Finals Schedule Policy
Proffered by University Senator Izzet Kebudi, this resolution would encourage a reformation of Columbia’s policies in regards to the number of final examinations an undergraduate student can have within a certain period of time. That is, the current policy regarding a maximum of two final exams in one “day” is often subverted by implacable professors, or that, in its current definition of a “day,” the Columbia Registrar allows up to 4 examinations in a 24 hour period and thus propagates Columbia’s stress culture. Kebudi’s resolution encourages defining a day in terms of this 24 hour period, advocating further, in light of questioning by 2019 Representative Walker Magrath, for a more automated system to be implemented by the Registrar. Harvard’s registrar, for example, is automated in such a way that students’ exams are automatically rescheduled if the system detects conflicts. The Columbia Registrar, in comparison, is drafted in the beginning of each semester, with final examination times designated based upon the specific “time slot” and days in which every Columbia class is scheduled. Languages, among other subjects, are granted a higher degree of flexibility in finals times, however. The solution to any final exam conflict which occurs, as a result, is dependent upon the cooperation of each individual professor, some of whom refuse to reschedule.
While Kebudi hopes that any resulting policies will eventually be applied to midterms as well, he sees this as a more distant possibility. In reference to why this might not even be possible, 2019 Representative Asher Goldfinger explained how professors have diminished the term of “midterm” by changing the name or quantity of such examinations. Because professors enjoy such freedom in assigning midterms, any restriction to the current system would engender a lot of pushback from faculty. After fully discussing Kebudi’s resolution, ESC voted by acclamation in nearly unanimous approval.
ABC Restructuring Petition
The other main portion of yesterday’s meeting consisted of a proposal by members of the Black Students’ Organization, PorColombia, and the African Students’ Association to reform the “Black and Latino Cultural Chair” position into three new Chairs, with each Chair consisting of the different types of groups represented altogether currently: African American groups, “Laitnx” groups, and Indigenous groups. Although Bwog’s CCSC Bureau Chief, Nadra Rahman, has already covered the previous pitch to CCSC on Sunday evening, suffice it to say that the current issues as described by the petitioners relate to “an almost impossible workload” of varying cultural identities.
Technology Representative Vinay Mehta first asked how this expansion would affect the actual workings of ABC, seeing how some other Chairs already represent more interests already than the Black and Latino Cultural Chair. According to the petitioners, a change is actually desirable in that “there should be a more vocal presence in the room” for these groups which may be lesser than, say, Engineering clubs in number of members. The argument continued that “there are just fewer people in minority groups” in general, and that any comparison based upon quantity of members will always put down the African American, “Latinx,” and Indigenous groups. In responding to Mehta’s inquiry regarding how increasing the number of “Cultural Chairs” will affect funding, the petitioners claimed it would only “allow for a more effective cultural understanding streamlining into the financial process.”
Furthermore, the petitioners explained how the abstention policy in ABC asks any representative involved in groups whose budget proposals are being voted upon to abstain from that vote. Although the petitioners claim that “there is a cultural identity which we share…but it won’t change anything” this petition echoes past criticisms of funding in relation to Black, “Latinx,” and Indigenous groups. If this petition originates in these previous (refuted) criticisms of ABC activity, then such a change would inevitably create a new voting block consisting of 20% of ABC Chairs united in increasing funding towards their groups above an already equitable level (as claimed publicly by ABC). Nevertheless, the petition was endorsed with unanimous approval.
- President Jain and VP for Policy Sidney Perkins announced that they are working with Mohammed Shaik, a member of the Graduate Engineering Student Council, to reform policies regarding TA training. Current training is both lax in content and loosely enforced, and further takes no student input into account. Working with Mark Phillipson, the leader of the Graduate Student Teaching Initiatives and Programs team in the Center for Teaching and Learning, they hope to have new policies implement in the future.
- Priscilla Wang, a non-ESC member of the Policy Committee, has put together an in-depth report regarding the experience of 3-2 students on campus. 3-2 students are carted off in their first year to Carlton Arms, a dorm both distant and ill-kept by Columbia Maintenance. The full report can be found here, and records that Columbia Administration treats 3-2 students like “second class citizens.”
- Jain and Perkins are further working on expanding COÖP in some capacity. They hope to meet with Dean Kromm to express how COÖP “provides a springboard off of which students can create a social network once they’re here.” In this sense, COÖP stands against the “stress culture” initially present to freshmen students who do not participate in any of the pre-frosh programs.
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