CCSC barely managed to cling to a quorum but still got hectic. For the last time this academic year, Monday marionette Nadra Rahman reports from the Satow Room. Read on for details on a new International Students Rep and travel fund for CC students.
The final meeting of CCSC was unexpectedly empty and blissfully, only an hour over schdule. Throughout, the meeting teetered dangerously on the edge of losing quorum, to the point that visits to the bathroom had to obtain approval lest they meant a vote couldn’t occur. Even so, CCSC worked its way through multiple proposals for constitutional amendments and yes, paper plate awards.
Unethical Patagonias: A Note On F@CU
Before beginning the meeting, several members of CCSC spoke about F@CU (pronounced Fac You), the hours-long funding extravaganza in which the four student councils divide the money collected from student life fees amongst the five governing boards, after removing their own internal expenses.
VP Finance Anuj Sharma made the point that CC students, had paid disproportionately more than students of other schools, as usual—though in the coming year, CCSC will be given more flexibility in how they would spend the money. VP Campus Life Nathan Rosin was even more emphatic: according to him, CCSC puts most of its money in F@CU, while other councils retain more money for internal spending (which includes money for class councils, Campus Life, and Communications). This allows other councils to put on more events, but disadvantages the rest of student life, so Rosin voiced his desire that other groups would meet CCSC in their F@CU contributions. In his statements, Sharma also referred to “clear differences in the ethical practices of councils.” When prompted to elaborate, he said that Barnard’s SGA had spent $2,000 on Patagonias for board members. There is too much stereotype confirmation here to really say more on the topic.
New Reps? Three No’s and One Yes
Multiple members of CCSC proposed adding new representatives to the body in this final installment of the saga that is constitutional review. Perhaps surprisingly, CCSC voted against adding a rep for mental health and wellness; later, they voted against a rep for academic and intellectual diversity.
2017 President Jordana Narin’s vision for a Health and Wellness Rep overlapped with 2018 President Ezra Gontownik’s proposal for a Mental Health Rep, so discussion on these occurred concurrently. Narin suggested that physical health and mental health were intertwined, referencing queer and trans groups specifically, resulting in her version of the position. The Health and Wellness Rep would have liaised between the CC student body and health/wellness organizations on campus, in addition to sitting on committees and task forces related to the topic. The language for the Mental Health Rep was much the same, maintaining twin foci for the representative.
Proponents for such a position said that the need for a specific point person on the topic was important, especially as the campus conversation surrounding mental health has been particularly urgent and lively this past year. Many council members, however, had objections. VP Policy Abby Porter brought up her general wariness about expanding the Council, calling it a “dangerous path to go down on” due to uncontested races, though she conceded that a mental health representative race would likely be competitive. She also mentioned that the best way to advance the conversation would be to elevate the voices of those affected by mental health issues, and inserting CCSC might be counterproductive; furthermore, those most affected might not run. Narin brought up concerns that a representative who sat on university committees or task forces might appropriate the mental health work done by such groups, such as the university’s Mental Health Task Force—as this has already been an issue with CCSC this year.
2020 VP James Ritchie echoed the points made by Porter and Narin and also referred to the fact that many candidates elected to CCSC for the coming school year had made mental health and wellness cornerstones of their campaigns. Would passing on the work to an as-of-yet unelected rep be a “shirking of our duty,” as he put it? To this, Gontownik and 2017 VP Brennon Mendez answered that a rep would be a point person, and other members of Council could, and should, contribute to the work on mental health and wellness. Mendez also made a note on the failure of Student Services this year, asking Council to hold the reps accountable for addressing mental health next year, if this position was not created. As another member put it, “Student Services has massively failed to live up to the expectations of students.” Council members will just have to ensure that the Student Services reps attend to these concerns, then—as neither proposed version of the position passed.
Gontownik also presented for an Academic and Intellectual Diversity Rep, who would “ensure student satisfaction is met with regard to academic and intellectual diversity” by polling academic departments and meeting with student groups to hear out their concerns. In his presentation, Gontownik specifically mentioned papers graded unfairly due to the student’s ideological orientation. He ended by saying: “Intellectually, my experience at Columbia has been limited severely” due to lack of intellectual diversity. Objections to this were instantaneous. VP Finance Anuj Sharma found it “deeply hypocritical and painfully ironic” that CCSC, which has been criticized for its handling of intellectual diversity, would be head of this initiative—and that furthermore, this would be a democratically elected position that would probably not result in the election of someone with unpopular opinions. In fact, he called it “counterproductive.” President Nicole Allicock questioned the feasibility of the position: how would the rep go about enforcing anything, or getting anything done? How can a single person represent intellectual diversity? With all this in mind, the motion to add the position to the Constitution did not pass (decisively). (Members of Council, did, however, voice their appreciation that an important topic had been breached.)
2019 Rep Alex Cedar spoke for the proposal to create an International Students Rep—and actually succeeded! He spoke to ESC’s creation of such a rep and the urgent need for someone to represent international, and perhaps undocumented, students in light of the political climate. This rep will “ensure that the concerns of the International Student population are being put before administrators, and that initiatives and programs are being adequately advertised to international students;” visa issues, integration into the Columbia community, and post-college pathways might all fall under the rep’s purview. With minimal debate (one might say none), Council voted to add the position to the Constitution.
After a great deal of discussion on what should constitute an excused absence (Narin questioned why a religious obligation should be excused and not a fellowship interview, for example), how many general body absences should be permitted, and how many overall absences should be permitted, CCSC decided to make changes to the attendance policy. Council members tended to the side of stringency, and in the end decided to: extend excused absences to include immovable obligations for paid work and interviews and allow nine total absences before the offending member is placed under review (a change from six unexcused absences). This portion of the meeting was marked by the most confusion, with members uncertain as to what was being voted on throughout.
CCSC wrote a statement in support of UndoCU and undocumented students on campus, prepared by 2019 President Sophie Broadbent. It reads as follows:
A couple of weeks ago, Undocu, the Undocumented Students’ Initiative at Columbia, sent out a survey for students impacted by recently implemented travel bans – the survey allowed affected students to request summer housing. Undocu has worked tirelessly this year to try to provide summer housing for at-risk students, and this survey serves as a reflection of the tremendous progress they have made with the Columbia administration in voicing the concerns of many students on this campus.
To our disbelief, the survey received a handful of hateful responses, some of which included obscene racial slurs and targeting of specific students. We, the Columbia College Student Council (CCSC), are shocked by this intolerance and discrimination. We stand in support of and alongside Undocu and all those affected by these hateful slurs. Furthermore, we urge the Columbia administration to investigate this issue immediately, and to hold accountable those responsible for these hateful attacks.
Paper Plate Awards
The last event of the night was the distribution of paper plate awards. The following is an incomplete, flawed list of the awards given out, affected by my inability to hear. Enjoy!
And yes, there were updates!
Image via Patagonia