If you missed CCSC’s latest gathering at the Satow Room (and who can blame you), let Monday maven Nadra Rahman catch you up on the latest resolutions, appointments, and comparisons to totalitarian regimes.
Last night’s CCSC meeting focused more on collecting ideas than taking action, but the pause was necessary.
If you missed them, fall elections just ended—and with them, the Columbia Elections Board (CEB). Chair Charlie Kang (CC ‘19) stepped down after the latest cycle of elections ended, and as the only remaining member of CEB, his departure spelled the end of the current elections system. But where one door closes, another opens: last night, President Nathan Rosin asked members of CCSC to discuss what they wanted in a new elections committee—from membership to the adjudication process—as the discussion would inform the shape of the new process.
The bulk of the discussion centered on the membership of the new committee. Who could be unbiased enough to run elections? VP Policy Nicole Allicock offered some thoughts from the Policy Committee, suggesting that seniors from other student councils could oversee CCSC elections (and vice versa), minimizing the risk that CEB members would have intimately worked with candidates (while also allowing for an experienced membership). VP Campus Life Alex Cedar offered an addendum, advocating for a dual structure: one committee made up of unaffiliated appointed members (the previous set-up for CEB) and another a judicial board populated by seniors from different student councils. Others wondered why advisors and administrators, arguably more impartial than anyone else, were not more involved in the elections process.
Interwoven in the debate were concerns about the sustainability of a future CEB. Several pointed out that CEB members receive nasty emails, have to navigate complicated rules, and are targeted in the media and other channels. Allicock called it an “onerous” job, 2018 Rep Matt Neky claimed there was a “culture of harassment around elections,” and 2020 Rep Grant Pace suggested that CEB members were unable to feel relaxed in settings ranging from class to Bacchanal, for fear of encounters with candidates-past. Pre-Professional Rep Rafael Ortiz said that one previous member of CEB still had nightmares relating to the job. And beyond that, CEB is simply uncool. Who would want to do the job?
2020 President Sid Singh’s proposed making the membership of the new elections committee anonymous, reducing the number of personal attacks. Allicock expressed doubt that this would cut down on the volume of emails sent to the CEB address, and VP Finance Adam Resheff, among others, felt that transparency is necessary if the body is to make important decisions. Still, several members expressed interest in anonymity. Concurrently, members discussed the need to make CEB appealing by increasing its prestige and/or providing institutional support to the position so that (a) people would want to join, and (b) members would not have to bear the burden of overseeing elections alone. (Pace was doubtful, saying, “I think it’s weird we’re trying to repackage CEB to make it more marketable,” adding, “It’s not gonna happen.”) Alumni Affairs Rep Maria Martinez asked if the chair position could be paid (unlikely).
The discussion then moved over to rules and adjudication, a topic which invigorated Resheff. He, along with 2018 VP Emily Lavine lamented the current state of elections, in which candidates strategically use vote deductions to win—poring over small, subjective infractions that result in big deductions for their opponents. Regarding adjudication, Resheff compared CEB to “Russia or any other totalitarian state,” claiming that decisions made in these situations are “just as arbitrary.” He ended his diatribe by declaring “CEB has run amok” and making a comparison to Miranda v. Arizona. It was clear that many felt that changing or removing some elections rules would remove some of the subjectivity in adjudication, mitigate the issue of bias, and make the task of CEB easier.
Generally, members agreed that publicizing elections had to be a major focus for CEB and CCSC going forward, from sharing debate videos on CCSC’s Facebook page to making the link to vote easily accessible. 2019 Rep Sofia Petros opined that making elections information open and accessible to everyone would indicate CCSC cared about the integrity of the elections, thus improving the discourse and potentially alleviating the problem of harassment.
Further deliberations will occur over the next few weeks, and the final proposal will be enshrined in the Constitution.
Two uncontested appointments were made last night. The first was to the University Event Management Scheduling Committee, a body that decides whether student group pre-calendering requests are valid. This year, a representative from CCSC will join administrators and a GSSC representative in forming the body. While VP Campus Life Alex Cedar would have been the de facto appointment, he withdrew his candidacy after USenator Omar Khan put himself forward for the role.
The second appointment was an alternate to the University Life Events Council, a newly-launched group that will coordinate events open to all schools of the university. The current representative is Cedar and International Students Rep Sim Mander offered himself as the alternate.
Image via Creative Commons