Staff writer (and art major) Zöe Sottile channeled Bureau Chief Finn Klauber to report on the happenings of the Engineering Student Council in his stead. Stay tuned for updates about the different programming ESC has planned for the coming weeks.
Like in past weeks, the discussion section – this time dedicated to possible renovations in Lerner – was kept off-the-record, along with comments on President Aida Lu’s meeting with the Committee on Instruction. So, this week’s coverage will once more take the form of updates.
President Aida Lu
ESC President Aida Lu began the meeting by discussing the upcoming faculty tech talks. The talks are a response to students seeking more interaction with faculty members. Lu spoke with Assistant Director of Graduate Student Services Alvaro Rojas-Caamano, who requested that ESC members attend the tech talks and offer feedback. One talk is scheduled for today from 6 – 7:30 pm in Carleton Commons; the next will be on November 29th.
Lu also met with Vice President of Campus Services Scott Wright to discuss an off-the-record proposal to renovate Lerner. Her meeting last Wednesday with the COI was also kept private.
Lu attended a meeting of F@CU, Columbia’s mechanism for funding student groups. She discussed wanting to reform the funding process to magnify student voices and standardize allocation, and also potentially moving the process from the spring to the fall.
VP Policy Zoha Qamar
Vice President of Policy Zoha Qamar brought up CPT (Curricular Practical Training), a visa for international students to work in the United States over the summer. This allowance, which used to only be available to graduate students, is now accessible to all SEAS undergraduates. Qamar wants to publicize this change and its associated deadlines; students need to complete their applications by February. Qamar met with ISSO and CCSC, who are helping push for the same goal.
Qamar also met with Scott Wright, Vice President of Campus Operations, and Melanie Bernitz and Michael McNeil of CU Health to discuss the initiative to supply free pads and tampons to students. Pilots in the spring and fall received lots of usage, but questions about budgeting make the future of the project unclear. CU Health doesn’t think their budget can accommodate student need, and also harbors concerns about how the pads and tampons would be distributed. Staff at Facilities are concerned about the possibility of vandalization at the current bathroom distribution stations. However, the development of any other dispensing machine will require even more funding.
The same problems plague efforts to offer free emergency contraception, like Stanford does with their Plan B wellness machine. Dr. Bernitz of CU Health is attending a conference at Stanford where the item is on the agenda for discussion, which suggests more progress soon. Qamar remarked that, “Going forward, what we want to address in this project is what we’re trying to get at: access, or stigma, or privacy, whatever that might be, we want to kind of narrow the focus.” After all, emergency contraception is already available at John Jay Health, though few students know that.
Qamar also met with the Student Financial Services (SFS) Office to discuss expanding work-study options for SEAS students. SFS put the onus on departments and professors to list positions. Qamar’s suggestions were to create mock templates for job postings for specific departments, and find a specific “point person” for each major. Additionally, the option for students to petition for work-study positions could be publicized more.
Qamar also gave an update on CSA, where efforts to work on an FAQ are in development.
VP Student Life
VP Student Life Ben Barton had a lot to say about the various new events sponsored or planned by the ESC. On Thursday, for instance, Basketball Mania will be held in Levian Gym from 8:30 to 9:30. The first thousand attendees receive free pint glasses. One volunteer will have the opportunity to attempt a half-court shot, with the possibility of winning $10,000.
The second Spec Food Expo is also in the works, with plans to improve on the mistakes of the first Expo.
Vice President of Finance Austen Paris discussed designing and distributing a funding poster. The poster would list funds and opportunities available for student groups, as well as their associated deadlines. This would hopefully make funding more transparent and more accessible to student groups.
VP Comms gave updates on two new ESC programs. One was peer mentorship, an effort to pair underclassmen with upperclassmen to link them to important information about class registration and major selection. Right now the council is in the process of sending an interest form to freshmen and sophomores.
The board is also working on updating WikiCU. VP Comms reached out to Jake Hershman, who was the leader of Blue and White Publishing when it adopted WikiCU. The wiki might have to be transferred to an entirely new website, and board members are working on coding for it.
University Senator Izzet Kebudi
Izzet Kebudi reported that the Academic Freedom Resolution was discussed at length at Friday’s Senate meeting. There was a dispute between the faculty authors of the resolution and the student representatives over where exactly the resolution should apply. The authors described the resolution as intended for “all academic settings”. Student senators pointed out that almost anywhere at Columbia, including club meetings, could be interpreted as an academic setting. They proposed an amendment to change the wording to “classroom setting”, but the authors pointed out that the resolution should also cover office hours. With no agreement in sight, there was a motion to table the conversation until Monday. Senator Kebudi plans to meet with the authors on Friday to create a resolution both students and faculty can agree on. When a member asked Senator Kebudi why there was renewed interest in the resolution, he pointed to rising classroom tensions after the U.S. presidential election. With divisions in opinion becoming more difficult, he said, the resolution was a good step to ensuring faculty and students feel comfortable voicing their opinions.
A few student senators are also working on the Dodge Fitness Center and Wellness Task Force. They’re pushing to make Dodge more welcoming, especially to those who haven’t used it a lot. Their first line of attack is to create a video tour.
On the Professor Accountability Task Force, non-academic office hours are being explored. According to Senator Kebudi, years ago Columbia paired students with faculty mentors who could offer advice about their majors and career paths in their free time. This initiative, brought up by a faculty senator last year, would similarly allow students and faculty to connect on a more personal, non-academic level. Additionally, there are plans to create a calendar of holiday schedules for faculty and clarify policies on what constitutes an absence.
Senator Kebudi is going to meet with the Office of University Life to discuss the DACA Task Force. They’re working on new methods to distribute the resources of University Life to undocumented students. Also, there are plans to hold a panel with an alum who was undocumented while attending Columbia.