The Buffet by Jean-Louis Forrain

GSSC last night lasted until 11:30pm and Bureau Chief Romane Thomas has all the details on how intense it was. 

At last night’s General Studies Student Council, things got ugly. But before getting down in the nitty gritty of elections and the upheaval they caused, some other updates must be addressed.

GSSC President Larosa reminded the council that elections are going on right now and apologized for the website errors that have been delaying voting. He also pointed out that Lerner 476 A and B can now be reserved by LGTB groups and groups representing people of color.

GS Senator Curtis announced that the Food Bank would soon be able to move in to their assigned space. Meanwhile, the VP of Policy is currently working on the Teaching Administrators Awards and hopes to have the online nomination system ready by next Tuesday. Chief of Policy Raisa Flor updated the council on the current state of constitutional review. She is confident that it should be done by the end of the semester. The Student Services Representative announced that the JTS student Council passed the swipe access resolution unanimously and that ESC also passed the resolution with only two votes against. He is still waiting on the other councils’ decision.

The council then debated the merits of allocating an extra $154 to the organization of a buffet for the Ivy Policy conference, to which they had already given $375. All councils have been presented with this recent development and have been asked to vote on it. The GS VP of Finance advised that the council vote against this funding as it will “subsidize students from other schools.” To clarify, the $154 would go towards a buffet shared by all the students attending the conference, including some GS students.

The council was very split over the topic. Some supported giving extra funding. They pointed out that the student life fees paid by every GS student should go towards initiatives that benefit GS students and that the Ivy policy would have a positive impact on the development of initiatives that could help our community. They also pointed out that it would only come down to $22 per GS student attending (including the original funding), which is a low price to pay compared to other events GSSC has previously funded. They also explained that having a buffet is a tradition in Ivy Policy Conferences that have happened in the past in other universities. Not funding this buffet would give Columbia a bad reputation.

On the other hand, some council members did not support funding this buffet. They argued that General Studies is not just like any other schools stating that we have high student debt and low rate of financial aid. In general, arguments against funding the buffet revolved around the strained budget of GSSC and the issue of funding food for non-Columbia students.

In the end, the council voted to give the extra funding only in the event that all other student councils accept to fund it as well.

After this debate, VP of Campus life Brett Krasner had nine events and their budget to present to council. In a remarkable moment of straightforwardness, he told the council:

“We have nine budget votes on the floor. Please don’t take 40 minutes for each because I will drop kick everyone.”

Here are the events:

  • April 20: We’d like to Hang: $1,000
  • Food Truck Event: $2,000
  • April 13 Passover: $600
  • Staff Appreciation Day: $500
  • Milvets Softball Event: $250
  • Carvajal Event with samba dancers and Brazilian snacks: $3,000
  • GS/BC Frisbee: $350
  • Senior/Freshman Luncheon: $500
  • Snack Attacks overall budget: $4,185

Next, First Year President Nicole Rodgers presented the work she has been doing over the past week. She is working to expand the religious offices that are offered on campus. She is also organizing the Joint Four Council First Year Event (a mouthful but it sounds fun). The event should be a charity race (either a 3K or 5K) meant to raise funds for a non-profit that helps animals. She also hopes to increase minority and indigenous first year engagement by working with the committee organizing the annual Pow Wow. She also hopes to facilitate Dual BA students’ transition to Columbia by issuing a survey to the students here.

The Community Service Representative is organizing an event called Step Up Against Sexual Assault on Lewishohn Lawn, April 21 at 1pm. This event is a workout that is meant to engage people who “do not usually come to these events”.

The VP of Communications announced that the GSSC app will be ready by the end of the semester. He hopes it will help students keep informed through push notifications and updated calendars.

After these (civil) updates and announcements, GSSC started to debate about events that transpired over the past few days regarding the elections. While the Columbia Elections Board (CEB) rules are clear, some members of council (including members of the E-board), had personally endorsed candidates for election on social media. Other members of the council had then taken it upon themselves to call them out publicly on Facebook. This created an extremely tense situation and CEB sent out an email reiterating their rules and clarifying the wording. In general, members of council are never supposed to endorse or support any candidate for election in any capacity. The representative of CEB present stated that “you are welcome to endorse any candidate you want, after you resign from your position.” This made it clear that there was no such thing as a personal endorsement. Any endorsement, whether in an official or non-official capacity, is a violation of the rules. One of the members of the audience pointed out that “no part of you is ever not a member of council.” In the email that CEB issued, it stated that any previous violation would be forgiven but that any new or ongoing violation would be liable for reporting.

Right after the discussion started, the silence was palpable in the room. One of the council members pointed out, “It is strange that no one has anything to say now when really hateful stuff is sent to our mailboxes which should be shared here.” From there a heated discussion ensued. Some members maintained that “students have a right to know who the previous VP or President thinks would do their job well.” Others blamed CEB for their inability to communicate clearly what the rules were. Some also pointed out that “allowing endorsements is unfair and causes confusion.” Refusing to allow these endorsements will “give people a shot who are not drinking bros with people on council.”

Although it is clear that members are not allowed to endorse others, there was also a debate about whether it is fair to call them out on it publicly without going through the proper reporting process that CEB enforces. One member of council pointed out, “If we are not allowed to support anyone, we should not allow people to reprimand others either.” Some members of the audience said that, while it is not the place of a GSSC member to endorse anyone, it is also not their place to reprimand others publicly. Instead, an official report should have been filed to CEB about the wrongdoing, which they would have investigated objectively.

Another member of the audience proposed that a statement be put out by GSSC to address these allegations and endorsements, and to tell the GS community to disregard them in making their choice in this election. After much debate, GSSC passed a motion to draft such a statement, provided that either the VP of Policy or the VP of Campus Life, both of whom were uninvolved in the endorsements or reprimands, should draft this statement.

The Buffet via Wikimedia