Every Tuesday, Bwog presents a recap of the Engineering Student Council (ESC) meeting from the day before. ESC Bureau Chief Finn Klauber recounts this week’s meeting, wherein ESC debates the ways in which it can preserve its institutional memory for future council members. Click below to read about other updates in ESC.
In the wake of the Engineering Student Council retreat this past weekend, the entirety of the substantive discussion yesterday evening concerned an informal proposal to streamline internal documentation of ESC action. This discussion was just the latest in a thread of discourse winding back to the concerns of former VP Policy Sidney Perkins regarding institutional memory. To recap, student councils at Columbia rotate almost entirely each year, with new members filling empty spots—and these newly filled positions usually have a year’s worth of action, planning, and deliberation which are almost entirely forgotten. President Aida Lu recalled, for example, how she didn’t remember everything she accomplished and learned as a freshman class representative while writing her end-of-semester report.
The reinstitution of this end-of-semester report is just half of the informal proposal presented by 2019 VP Asher Goldfinger and Technology Representative Andres Aguayo. The semesterly report is fairly self explanatory, as each member of ESC ought to summarize their experiences and connections, what worked and what failed over the year, into an easy-to-read document to be passed on to their successor. President Lu recounted how this report used to be filed each year, implying that, recently, the practice ceased. Various members offered suggestions regarding these reports, such as 2018 Representative Cristal Abud who said that “having a template for the transition document with key points of contact, how they helped…would be better.”
Nevertheless, the controversy in this ESC meeting related to the other half of the informal proposal. Goldfinger and Aguayo proposed a “weekly blog” style of documentation, where each member would write at least a sentence regarding what they tried to accomplish during the week, who the met with, their thinking, and so on. The format would not only be open for the entire council to see in perpetuity—addressing the question of internal memory—but also publicly available for anybody at Columbia to read. This would add an extra lens of transparency to ESC meetings and actions, especially as the livestream recording was, once again, not utilized for the council proceedings. Various members criticized such a form of weekly documentation, however. Acting VP Finance Saarthak Sarup claimed that “the blog format isn’t great” and that, while he is “not presenting an alternative format [he] doesn’t think a blog is best.” 2019 President Richa Gode chimed in that “there is already a high level of accountability, and reporting week to week is not something the next council will want to sift through.” Student Services Representative Saurabh Runwal added that “at a long term perspective it may not be best,” as for representatives there may be four weeks or so for a project to gain traction. VP Student Life Ben Barton, however, voiced his agreement for the proposal, comparing the weekly deliverables to taking notes in class. When council members have to write an end-of-semester report, having these “weekly notes” will make the job much easier and the reports much more substantive.
Ultimately, President Lu tabled the discussion until next week, so that the executive board is able to discuss how and if such a plan can be implemented.
- At the weekend student council retreat, there were multiple discussion with administrators regarding Columbia. The executive board could publicly announce that Butler Lawn will be finished in October, that classroom space will be opened up for student group starting next Monday, and that the adjudication process for groups wanting to bring in outside speakers will have a fixed number of non-CUID guests per speaker.
- SEAS bathroom renovations are under way, according to Dean Boyce. The plan is to revamp two floors in Mudd every year, with two of each bathroom—male, female, and gender neutral—available on each floor. Furthermore, there will be bathrooms with disability access available at least every two floors.
- Stage two of the tampon pilot program will commence the first week of October. Three bathrooms in Butler, Carman, and Lerner will be monitored to ascertain the upper bound of sanitary product usage.
- University Senator Izzet Kebudi recounted the goings-on of the University Senate. Columbia apparently has a plan in the works for a “one stop shop” for mental health services. This will create much more space in John Jay and Lerner, but not much is know about it yet. Two new professional studies programs were approved—a process reviewed and proposed by the Education Committee. Finally, there “has been and will be” discussion regarding the ratification of a Columbia report regarding free speech. This discussion began last year following UChicago’s (in)famous letter regarding the same topic. The report focuses on fostering ideas and opinions specifically within the classroom. The Senate will be formally approving it at the next meeting.