Last week was four (4) hours, but last night they bounced back

Last night’s CCSC meeting was a merciful two hours, but a bit disjointed. Here are the latest deets from the Satow Room, courtesy of Bureau Chief Nadra Rahman. 

The Columbia College Student Council (CCSC) had two things on its plate last night: the General Studies Student Council (GSSC) resolution on providing GS students with swipe access to CC/SEAS residential halls, and constitutional review. These matters were preceded, however, by a visit from Columbia University Apartheid Divest (CUAD) in response to the Council’s recent vote on the group’s proposed ballot initiative.

The Return of CUAD
Last week’s CCSC meeting centered on the proposal to add the question “Do you support Columbia University Apartheid Divest’s campaign as part of the Boycott Divestment Sanctions movement?” to the ballot for the upcoming elections. Speakers mostly concentrated on concerns about marginalization, safety, and divisiveness as they debated the issue, speaking less to the proposed subject of the meeting: the question’s language and adherence to the mission of CCSC. In the end, council members (controversially) voted down the motion to add the question to the ballot. CUAD released a statement in response to the decision, available in full here.

Representatives from CUAD attended CCSC last night to read the statement aloud and to ask questions about CCSC’s effectiveness in acting as a representative body. An excerpt from the statement is below:

The question was deemed too divisive, too political, not conducive to building community and destructive to campus life. By shutting it down in its entirety, CCSC did make a political statement, and a very clear one: that it only cares about community insofar as the most privileged members of the student body are appeased, and that it refuses to hear the voices of Palestinian students, of CUAD members and their call endorsed by the Black Students’ Organization, the Muslim Students Association, Columbia Queer Alliance, African Students Association, Asian Political Collective, South Asian Feminisms Alliance, and other minority representative groups on campus.


By the end of the meeting, a CCSC member motioned for a closed vote on the grounds of anti-democratic pressure and bullying inflicted on members of CCSC who supported putting through our question by others in the organization. The vote reflected this toxic environment, with CCSC members who had voted against us approaching our members later to describe the harassment that prevented them from voting their conscience.

CUAD followed up their reading of the statement with a few questions: How would the Council fulfill their obligation to address widespread student concern and sentiment regarding the Boycott Divestment Sanctions movement? And how would Council show that last week’s voice wasn’t a suppression of Palestinian voices on campus?

A brief discussion followed. Largely, the CCSC members who spoke acknowledged that Council had in some way faltered or had abdicated its duties the previous week. VP Policy Abby Porter was not alone in her sentiment when she stated, “I have to agree, I don’t think our discussion was about [feasibility] at all.” 2020 President Siddharth Singh clarified that his own class had voted down the referendum because they felt there had not been adequate discussion on its language and feasibility, not because they were opposed to the idea of the referendum. Other members spoke to the alternative routes for bringing about a ballot initiative—CUAD can get at least 15% of CC students to sign on to a resolution; additionally, they can wait until next semester and try again.

CUAD’s mention of “harassment that prevented [CCSC members] from voting their conscience” also drew some attention. 2017 President Jordana Narin referred to the “banalities about transparency” uttered by members against closing the meeting, saying, “Talking points like transparency don’t mean anything if students are not voting their conscience.” CCSC President Nicole Allicock added that she thought the vote might have gone differently had it been a secret one.

Nothing concrete emerged from this discussion besides a consensus that Council should Do Better and take responsibility for the consequences of its decision, especially as certain groups have been left feeling marginalized and ignored. Before they left, CUAD made note that 419 current CC students had signed onto their petition for divestment.

Swipe On In
Next up, GSSC presented on their resolution to allow GS students swipe access to CC/SEAS residence halls. The presentation, delivered by GSSC Student Services Rep Yona Kornsgold and GSSC VP Policy Silin Huang, emphasized the many challenges faced by GS students unable to access dorms: they cannot easily access Counseling and Psychological Services offices located in dorms (or must forego confidentiality in this matter to get past guards) or club events located in dorm lounges, even though they pay the student fee. Overall, argued Kornsgold, the lack of swipe access was bad for building community and thus antithetical to recent pushes for better mental health through community-building. (Later, Kornsgold agreed with 2019 Rep Alex Cedar that the quantity of programming in dorm lounges and the lack of GS access was symptomatic of another larger campus discussion: the dearth of space on campus.)

Kornsgold preemptively addressed two main objections to the proposal: (1) Regarding concerns that GS students could not be disciplined and stripped of swipe access in the way that CC/SEAS students can be, due to administrative boundaries, the undergraduate student councils moved to subject the students of their schools to the Dean’s Discipline Process in August 2016; any GS student would thus be subject to the same disciplinary procedures as a CC or SEAS student (2) As for the suggestion that GS students might use up amenities at dorms, the survey distributed by GSSC showed that around 9% of GS visitors used amenities when visiting dorms (around 6% GS visitors did laundry), although it is difficult to tell how this would change if they had better access to dorms. But said Kornsgold, “It’s unfair to punish us for a data point we can’t predict.”

Unlike the Engineering Student Council (ESC) meeting on this same resolution, CCSC offered little resistance. When questioned by Porter as to GSSC’s purpose in approaching CCSC, Kornsgold spoke to the power of numbers: “When we speak in one voice to the administration…they’re more receptive to us.” Besides this, most of the questions asked were technical in nature. The speakers clarified, for example, that they were not pushing for reciprocity (CC students having access to GS dorms) simply because it would be easier to tackle things one at a time and because most GS students don’t live on campus—CC students generally aren’t trying to access GS dorms. Narin concurred, saying that the swipe access was not an “equal give and take,” which is not the case with Barnard sign-ins.

And when VP Campus Life Nathan Rosin commented on the survey results, which indicated that some students felt unsafe at the prospect of GS swipe access, Kornsgold had a response at the ready: “A lot of [the fear] is based on age…Any discrimination based on that is illegal and violates New York State law.” Well, that takes care of that?

Without much more debate (besides a few thoughts on laundry and USenator Jay Rappaport’s qualms about a comma splice at the end of the resolution), the matter came to a vote. Council unanimously agreed to support GSSC’s resolution.

Constitutional Review
Though members were tempted to debate any proposed changes to the constitution, the purpose of last night was to identify members interested in drafting certain proposals and amendments for next week’s meeting. A few of the issues that will come up next week:

  • Adding new positions: namely Disabilities, Latinx, and Indigenous student reps. Inclusion and Equity Rep Lewit Bedada said, “There’s really no way that [the Inclusion and Equity Rep position] is enough to sufficiently address the needs of those students.” There was also discussion around adding a rep specifically for student wellness or mental health.
  • Clarifying the language around CCSC’s role in “gathering and expressing student opinion,” which was an issue last week.
  • Clarifying or restructuring the ballot initiative process.
  • Instituting roll-call voting.
  • Developing a timeline or schedule for publicizing elections.
  • Changing the language around the attendance policy.

Next week, we are likely to see a lot of debate on the issue of adding new positions—several council members urged caution. Porter said that “more people doesn’t necessarily mean more work getting done,” while VP Finance Anuj Sharma suggested that more positions might lead to more uncontested elections, reinforcing the image of CCSC as an insular, unrepresentative body. 2017 VP Brennon Mendez disputed this notion, saying that a position that fills a void might very well “invite more people into the conversation.”

While we wait, on tenterhooks, for all these proposals to be drafted, here are some updates:

  • Policy: There have been a few meetings on issues concerning student groups, such as gift discounts (where donations go through a 10% deduction) and approved vendors.
  • Communications: In light of last week’s meeting, CCSC is reaching out to marginalized groups, although a mechanism or end goal wasn’t specified. Inclusion and Equity Rep Lewit Bedada met with several student groups to finalize matters for Comms and to continue the conversation on marginalization.
  • 2017: 2017 is bringing back the senior boat cruise, this Thursday, April 20, from 6 to 10 pm. And be on the lookout for FedX CC’17 to hear TedX style talks from CC seniors, this Wednesday, April 12, from 8 to 9 pm in NoCo 501. And finally, big ups for Sheena Wright (CC ‘90), Class Day speaker and President and CEO of United Way of New York City.
  • 2018: Preparations for the juniors’ boat cruise are underway, as are talks for subsidizing tickets. The juniors’ cruise is also scheduled for Thursday, April 20, from 8:00 to 11:30 pm.
  • 2019: As per tradition, join CC 19 for Baked by Melissa cupcakes today, by the Sundial at 7 pm. The elections schedule, unfortunately, has prevented the event from falling on 4/20.
  • Alumni Affairs: Columbia College Student Ambassadors is having Tag Week from April 10 to April 13, hosting events every day to celebrate CC students, professors, alumni, and teachers.
  • Senate: Some changes were made to the Senate Rule Committee, such as adding a “Rules clerk” who would go between the committee and the University Judicial Board (UJB). The appeals process has been restructured so that the UJB, which consists of both students and faculty, will be the first body to hear the case; an appeal would go to a body made up of three neutral deans. These deans cannot charge a student with anything more serious than what they have already been charged with by the UJB. USenator Jay Rappaport called this a “big win for students” since students will be the first to hear one’s case.

L’s via Genius