Once again, ESC has shut out both Bureau Chief Finn Klauber and his Spec counterpart from observing their “off the record” discussion. In the “public” meeting, however, ESC met with the Morocco division of Engineers Without Borders (EWB) and discussed funding issue. Also there was a cappella drama, but what else is new.
President Aida Lu
President Lu reviewed her meeting with Dean Morrison, SEAS Vice Dean of Undergraduate Programs. The main point of their conversation included the transformation of the course evaluation system—a topic which was (once again) discussed off the record as it relates to President Lu’s participation in the Committee on Instruction. Because SEAS is transitioning to canvas, the college will mostly likely implement a new tool for course evaluations. Dean Morrison primarily hopes to increase student participation in the course evaluations. They also discussed major representation at career fairs—a source of concern to ESC for the past three years. As ESC has already collected a list of engineering companies and firms which they hope to see, the only real roadblock is the Center for Career Education.
VP Policy, Zoha Qamar
VP Qamar discussed a variety of topics relating to low-income and first generation students. She met with Columbia First-Generation Low-Income Partnership (FLIP) to review their efforts with the FLIP lending library, Giving Day fundraising, summer aid and housing, and the student work contribution. She also discussed expanding the Academic Success Program (ASP) with First Generation and Low Income Representative Carolina Garcia, President Lu, and FLIP. The main issue with expanding ASP is the inconstant cost of the program. ASP generally consists of four weeks of funding students’ classes, meals, and housing—but the number of ASP participants changes every year. Furthermore, some amount of funding for ASP is provided through New York, meaning that the exact price per capita for ASP is unclear. Meanwhile, VP Qamar wants ESC to outline and publicize the exact objectives of ASP, emphasizing the formation of an ASP community, by gathering student perspectives on the program.
VP Qamar, President Lu, and various high ranking officials from CCSC met with doctors from Columbia Health regarding student mental health training. Essentially, CCSC and ESC want to pool the divided resources of University Life, Undergraduate Student Life, and Columbia Health into a single consolidated training. Notably, this training would be open to every student—not just student leaders. Apparently, the doctors from Columbia Health were “pretty receptive” to this idea, as their “friend to friend” training only premiered last semester. The next step, VP Qamar stated, is for ESC and CCSC to meet with the above three departments. This should occur sometime in the near future.
VP Finance Austen Paris
While discussing JCCC funding and project grants, some sort of discussion sparked up regarding recent drama and a cappella group funding. Apparently, the student councils grant money to a cappella groups as whole, and these groups are then supposed to divide up the funding among themselves. After receiving their project grant, however, a single a cappella group used all the money to buy new equipment for their own club, telling the other groups that they could “rent out the stuff.” Very strange.
University Senator Izzet Kebudi
The responses from the recently released Quality of Life survey are in. With 11,790 responses, almost a third of Columbia’s undergraduate student body, the Quality of Life survey enjoyed a 24% increase to the number of responses—”robust data,” as Senator Kebudi put it. Furthermore, Senator Kebudi discussed the proposed changes to Lerner Hall, which would replace the East and West Ramp Lounges and the evacuated mail spaces with student space. Apparently, Senator Kebudi and CCSC University Senator Josh Schenk made some sort of video outlining these changes in terms of three different design options. ESC and CCSC members then voted on their favourite layouts. Designs “one and two” got support. Although we don’t know what these designs exactly are—and the Senators should feel free to send the video to firstname.lastname@example.org, if they’re allowed to share them—design two allegedly includes some sort of space for “games.”
Engineers Without Borders: Morocco
As VP Communications Julia Joern discussed earlier in the meeting, ESC will now be meeting with student groups for a short period during each session. This change, most likely inspired by Barnard’s Student Government Association (SGA), will hopefully connect ESC a little more with their constituents. Although your humble correspondent was doubtful about the efficacy of this change, as the student groups brought in to SGA and CCSC in the recent past are generally contentious and/or argue for contentious actions, the meeting with EWB: Morocco paved the way for non-contentious and civilized discussion.
Allie and Kevin, project managers for the Morocco program of Columbia’s Engineers Without Borders chapter, introduced the project currently being worked on—a water distribution system for communities in rural Morocco. Besides this, twice a year EWB: Morocco maintains the footbridge they completed previously. When President Lu asked if there were any ESC initiatives which EWB: Morocco takes advantage of, Allie and Kevin responded negatively. Although they looked into ESC’s project grants, they realized that the grants only pertain to projects which can be completed in three months. EWB: Morocco’s projects take years to complete, excluding the club from any project grant funding. When President Lu asked if there is anything ESC could do to help EWB: Morocco, Allie and Kevin responded that the national organization for EWB increased fines across the board, which is severely impacting Columbia’s chapter. Before this year, EWB charged each chapter $1,000 to maintain their “charter,” so to speak. This year, however, the EWB national organization is charging separate fees for each individual program within the university’s EWB chapter. For Columbia’s chapter, that means all three distinct EWB projects (of which Morocco is only one) must pay administrative fees. Essentially, because there are three EWB projects at Columbia, the administrative fees for the club tripled.
Because EWB funding mostly comes from external grants, it’s entirely up to chance how quickly EWB: Morocco will be able to complete the water distribution network. The entire project costs about $100,000, an amount that some EWB chapters can receive in a single grant—if they’re lucky. In response to the increased administrative fees, VP Finance Austen Paris suggested that EWB apply for emergency funding through JCCC. Although this isn’t a constant source of funding, it could help EWB if they’re truly in dire straits.