Bwog’s GSSC (General Studies Student Council) Bureau Chief, Alex Tang, brings us a recap of last night’s meeting, the last one of the semester!
This week’s eventful GSSC meeting, the last one of the semester, included a visit by the new incoming dean of GS, updates on the reorganization of the GSSC elections process, and speeches by new council nominees.
The meeting began with a presentation and Q&A with the new dean of the School of General Studies, Lisa Rosen-Metsch, who will take over Dean Awn’s role in January. The incoming dean arrived early, greeting council members and meeting attendees. Introducing herself as an alumna of the GS Jewish Theological Seminary Joint Program, Rosen-Metsch will be the first GS dean who is also a GS graduate. Trained as a sociologist, Rosen-Metsch worked at the Mailman School of Public Health, focusing on the social determinants of health, specifically on issues such as HIV prevention and substance use prevention. Rosen-Metsch highlighted the unique identity of GS, with “no other school like it in the Ivy League or in the world,” and emphasized her desire to maintain a close relationship with GSSC.
When asked about what she sees as being the biggest challenges that GS faces, Rosen-Metsch mentioned the limited availability of financial aid for GS students, as well as affordable housing and food insecurity. During her first semester as dean, Rosen-Metsch plans to meet as many students and faculty as possible. Rosen-Metsch encouraged GSSC to share student concerns with her as often as possible, noting that the student council is a place for the dean to present initiatives and to get genuine student feedback.
Later in the meeting, VP of Policy Raisa Flor updated the council on the policy committee’s progress in streamlining the GSSC elections process. Flor presented a report that briefly introduced how Columbia handles student council elections and how it compares with other peer institutions.
Since 2014, CEB (Columbia Elections Board), an autonomous body, ran elections for CC, SEAS, and GS. However, after the 2017 Fall elections, certain complaints were lobbied against CEB, leading to the resignation of all CEB members. Concerns included the observation that elections weren’t advertised well enough, as candidates often ran unopposed. Furthermore, students spoke against the lack of transparency in CEB decision-making processes, as well as the arbitrariness of the vote deduction penalty, which certain candidates tried to use against opponents. Other students complained that CEB rules could be interpreted differently and were subject to frequent change. Many CEB members were harassed by students who did not agree with decisions by the board.
The policy committee then compared Columbia’s elections process with that of peer institutions, and found that Columbia had the most elections rules out of the Ivy League and similar schools. As a whole, elections at Columbia seem more confusing than those at other schools — hence the streamlining.
To reorganize GSSC elections, the policy committee proposed the creation of two distinct documents: election rules and a code of conduct. The election rules document would seek to provide “black and white rules,” free of possible interpretation. In her presentation, Flor stated, “it is important that [election] rules are clear and concise, the adjudication process is detailed and fair, and that the potential violations are straightforward.”
In contrast, the elections code of conduct would define how candidates are expected to behave during elections. However, candidates will not be adjudicated based on violations of the elections code of conduct. Voters will have access to the code of conduct, with the idea that all candidates will be held to a certain standard by voters. Voters will be able to see if candidates have been following the code of conduct, which may be a possible determinant in deciding who to vote for. In Flor’s words, with the code of conduct, “[candidates] are all looking at each other, evaluating themselves.”
The meeting ended with speeches by three nominees (all approved) for GSSC positions. The new council members are:
Jeffrey Panosian (Equity and Inclusion Chair): Stating that “in GS, not everyone lives on campus, so it’s easy to fall through the cracks,” Panosian plans to reach out to the GS community to make sure that everyone feels included.
Olivia Hartzell (Health and Wellness Representative): Hartzell will fill a new council position on the policy committee. She plans to focus on short-term, immediate issues with CPS, as well as broader, long-term goals, including the implementation of mental health resources used at other schools.
Matthew Linsky (Students with Disabilities Representative): Linsky plans to build upon policies from the last representative, Jonathan Criswell.
The Holiday Sweater Party is tomorrow, Thursday, December 7 at 9pm in Amity Hall. Show up in a holiday sweater to participate in a sweater competition (grand prize is a bottle of champagne)! Free food and beverages will be provided.
The GS survey for students with disabilities already has nearly 200 responses! If you haven’t already, be sure to respond before the survey closes the Saturday after reading week. Information gleaned from the survey will be helpful in coming up with future policy and initiatives.
The December OWL will celebrate Dean Awn. Send in any stories or photos you might have of interactions with Dean Awn!