Every Tuesday Bwog brings you a recap of the previous night’s ECS meeting. Bureau Chief Finn Klauber recounts this week’s ESC meeting which covered a range of interesting topics, from the tax bill to home destruction.
VP Policy, Zoha Qamar
VP Qamar discussed the “wellness machines,” vending machines with health products such as emergency contraception, with Dr. Bernitz of Columbia Health, who was fairly receptive to the idea. Contraception such as Plan B would be offered for $25, which is half the price demanded at Duane Reade. Columbia just has to make sure they’re allowed to sell contraception without a pharmaceutical license, so they’re working with a Cornell unit to determine if they can sell these products without breaking federal or state law. If everything works out, ESC could begin stocking products within the school year.
Qamar also met with other members of the Mental Health Task Force to discuss the Residence Hall Leadership Organization’s (RHLO) proposal to place peer advocates in every resident hall. This plan would begin with Wien and Broadway, two dorms specifically selected by RHLO. Generally, RHLO would like to focus on dorms with upperclassmen, as there are fewer residence hall activities and a resulting lack of community. This plan is stymied, however, by the fact that freshman dorms would not be able to responsibly have freshman peer advocates. Other issues include space requirements, which vary from dorm to dorm, and the fact that instituting a peer advocate plan without optimizing CPS will just exacerbate the current mental health issues relating to that department.
VP Student Life, Ben Barton
The Tree Lighting was an overall success, but there were a few notable issues. A webcast was initially planned, so that those students waiting in lines for free products could watch a cappella groups on a livestream while hearing their voices live. However, Columbia facilities noticed that there was a 20 second delay while setting this up, so they scrapped the webcast. The Deans’ speeches were also supposed to last about five minutes, but only lasted for a minute, while one a cappella group finished three minutes too early. All in all, then, the Tree Lighting got lit about 20 minutes earlier than expected.
University Senator, Izzet Kebudi
Senator Kebudi first announced that he was a part of the Executive Committee Meeting on the soon-to-be-passed Republican tax bill. Although this meeting was confidential, Kebudi wanted to share that there is significant discussion about the tax bill in the offices of the President and the Provost, because “higher education will be damaged a lot…Columbia’s endowment will be damaged.”
Kebudi also presented a preliminary report on the Quality of Life survey at the last Trustees Meeting. The worst responses, generally, concerned space availability, fitness services, and mental health services. More information will be publicized on Friday during the Senate Plenary. Kebudi further updated ESC on the process of passing the Academic Freedom Resolution—a resolution brought forward by the faculty committee over a year ago. Apparently, the faculty committee acceded to the Student Affairs Committee that there are legitimate concerns about the organic power dynamic between faculty and students. As such, a new diverse subcommittee will work together to finally pass this lingering resolution.
Before VP Barton’s discussion topic could be presented, 2019 Representative Montana St. Pierre moved to impeach the current VP Finance. Although the VP Finance responded that “this would be a good thing to do off the record,” President Liu and VP Qamar had to report the constitutional process for such an impeachment. According to Article IV, Section 3 of the ESC Constitution, a special committee with one representative from each class council would be formed, with an additional two members selected from the E-Board or at-large representatives. This committee would bring forward the argument for impeachment the following week, with impeachment being determined by a 2/3 majority vote. In response to this being “brought up by someone who barely makes meetings as well,” the VP Finance said that he would prefer to resign “rather than go through this process.” Although Senator Kebudi prompted the VP Finance with a proposal to have a closed discussion, the VP Finance responded that “there was no opportunity to have a closed discussion because of the way this was brought up.” Since the impeachment motion was declared void with the VP’s resignation, ESC elected an interim VP Finance from the Finance Subcommittee.
Although this situation concluded in a somewhat peaceful manner, some concerns have been brought forward regarding procedural errors and potential E-Board misconduct. Section IV. A. b of the ESC Constitution states that “the executive board is expected to exercise proper judgement before calling a member for formal review,” and Section IV. B. b. i. states that “the impeached member must be informed of the motion for impeachment.” Although President Liu and VP Qamar stated that the impeachment being motioned for in a public meeting fulfilled the second statute, their nonchalance in allowing a sitting member of the ESC E-Board to resign after being totally blindsided by an impeachment motion can be interpreted as misconduct. At best, not prompting further discussion regarding an impeachment based (allegedly) on the VP’s absences seems unprofessional. This is especially true given the obvious enmity which existed between St. Pierre and the VP Finance, an enmity which may have prompted not only this motion but also St. Pierre’s offer to take over the vacated VP Finance position. Regardless, a motion to impeach an E-Board member, which is even possibly predicated on personal enmity, merits at least a private discussion, and this conflict may have been avoided entirely if such a conflict were resolved amicably and privately.
ESC moved on to VP Barton’s planned discussion topic, which concerned the fact that every few years there’s some catastrophe which forces students to leave their dorms at unpleasant times. Most recently, of course, this occurred with the Ruggles fire. In Barton’s view, Res Life was very patronizing to displaced students, with a paucity of information distributed to both Ruggles residents and to the wider Columbia community. Caution tape was placed at the entrance to Ruggles, for example, and any student who attempted to enter—simply to ask the assembled staff for more information—was yelled at. After being directed to the Hartley Hospitality Desk, he was asked—at 3:00 AM when no statement had been released to the student body—”don’t you have any friends [who can host you]?” He ended up sleeping in the Broadway Sky Lounge.
Various council members noted that there should be a university-wide email updating the student body, as well as a general statement concerning the fact that there are currently homeless students. President Liu specifically mentioned the option on the Housing Contract which asks if you would house a displaced resident in an emergency. Perhaps the university should reach out to these students in an informational manner in such a sudden nighttime emergency. Other ideas included utilizing the emergency alert system managed by Public Safety, which notifies students via text if there are nearby emergencies, as well as having an emergency coat closet of some sort for students who evacuate without grabbing outerwear.