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GSSC Talks Conflicts Of Interest And Childcare

GSSC had cookies, guys. And they gave me one.

Newly crowned GSSC Bureau Chief Zöe Sottile swung by the Satow Room to cover this week’s meeting of General Studies Student Council. If you want to watch the drama and discourse yourself, check out GSSC at 8 pm on Tuesday nights. 

General! Studies! Student! Council! This is the week of elections, so get out there and rock the vote. Voting closes on Thursday; election results should be out by 5 pm then, with the exception of Senate elections which take longer because they require the input of the Premedical Association. Democracy makes the dream happen.

VP Campus Life: The Fun Stuff

GS Gala is this week! They still need volunteers to help set up the decor – GS students should’ve gotten an email soliciting volunteers, so respond if you want to help make Gala as beautiful as possible.

Campus Life moved to allocate $1,546.30 from the Campus Life Budget to the Senior Gift, since the senior class is larger than expected, requiring additional funding. The motion was approved.

Aaaaand there’s an upcoming event co-hosted by Barnard called We’d Like To Hang Again on April 20th (blaze it) from 1 to 5 pm. Campus Life moved to allocate $300 from its own budget for the event, so that they can rent tables and chairs in case it rains and people don’t want to sit on the wet grass. How considerate, Campus Life.

VP Finance

Most of the finance discussion last night involved various cosponsorship requests. Global Brigades requested $600 to fund a GS student – who also happens to be a GSSC member – to travel to Nicaragua as part of the business brigade. The president of Global Brigades spoke on her behalf, emphasizing that the vast majority of students involved with Global Brigades pay out-of-pocket for their trips. One GS student has already dropped out of a brigade because of a lack of funding. The president asserted her desire to get more GS students involved in her organization, suggesting when prompted that she would be open to having a GS-specific position on the club’s e-board. Questions from the council mainly concerned what exactly the role of student government should be in supporting specific student projects. Cosponsorship, the VP Finance explained, is intended to be used for first-time events and emergency funding at the discretion of GSSC. Council members debated whether funding a single student could really benefit the entire GS population, while the president of Global Brigades pointed out that since Global Brigades currently has only one GS member, funding her might entice others to join. It remains to be see what will come of the request.

The Students of Color Alliance requested a $568 co-sponsorship for an end-of-year brunch with thirty students at Amity Hall on April 20th (blaze it). This brunch was a past SOCA tradition that has died out; the current leadership wants to revive it and help give community to GS students of color. They’re using a lottery to decide who gets a spot at the event, so be sure to sign up if you want some free food and some good times.

VP Policy

The main move in policy last night was for board games in the GS lounge in Lewisohn to help build community and make the GS lounge a fun hangout space. VP Policy moved to allocate $500 from the Campus Life budget; the Senator later amended this to $650 because there’s $150 left unused in the Senate budget. Questions centered around why such a large amount should be used for board games – because good board games are expensive and they may purchase multiples of the same game – and how the games would be protected from theft.

Students With Families: Everything Sucks

Family and Working Students Representative Julia Dewey Hewitt GS ’20 presented the results of the recent Students With Families survey, intended to better understand the needs of students caring for children or other family members. The results looked pretty grim. While almost half of students have a commute of less than thirty minutes, many commute far longer distances: 26% commute for over an hour to get to class. A full 20% of students with families work full-time. Obviously, balancing a family, courses at Columbia, and a full-time job must put extraordinary pressures on a student. And according to respondents to the survey, Columbia is doing a pretty awful job of supporting them. On a scale of 1-5, students on average ranked their satisfaction with Columbia’s services and resources for students with families a 2.5. Several students were so disappointed in Columbia’s services that they manually wrote in 0, which was not included in the original scale. When asked what Columbia does well for students with families, many respondents answered with variations on “nothing”. Dope, Columbia. Others praised the Food Bank and family-friendly events like the Halloween Party in the fall. When asked what else Columbia could do to support students with families, many suggested more family-inclusive events as well as one-one-one guidance or advising for students with families. They also brought up more support for commuter students, increased access to lactation rooms, and allowing part-time students to live in Columbia housing.

But overwhelmingly, the consensus from the survey was that Columbia needs to provide childcare for GS students that is near campus and affordable or subsidized. One program at Columbia provides back-up childcare for graduate students and some faculty; GS students have asked that it be extended to them. They are also seeking support for periods when school is not in session but Columbia still is, like Columbus Day or many Jewish holidays. They’ve also asked for help regarding the scheduling conflicts that often plague GS students with families: recitations aren’t listed alongside courses during registration, so students may not know if they are unable to make a mandatory recitation; office hours are often inconvenient or impossible for students with families. Filming classes and offering more flexible class scheduling, like in the evenings or on the weekends, are some solutions to the problems that plague GS students with families. Overwhelmingly, the results of the survey support a common thread among Columbia student complaints: that Columbia, and GS in particular, prides itself on its diverse and unique student body, but does little to actually support the diversity of that student body. There are students with families who rely on them at Columbia, and it seems clear that they need to be supported as much as any other students.

VP Communications

The new GSSC website is live! Check out gssc.gs.columbia.edu. The reason it took so long to update is because CUIT ensures that everything published on the Columbia domain is accessible to people with visual impairments. Everything on the new GSSC website is correctly formatted so that it can be read with a screen-reader.

Additionally, WikiCU has been revived! Reach out to the GSSC E-board if you want to help edit some outdated pages.

Comments From The Audience: WoooooorldStaaaaaar

The real excitement at GSSC came towards the end, when the council opened up to commentary from the audience. A few people gave sweet shoutouts to upcoming events. But then, one audience member raised the question of whether there were conflict of interests involved in the ordering of catering for GS events from Eric Lunzer, VP Finance, since he would financially benefit from such decisions. The discussion of this conflict was curtailed by the fact that elections are still open, and no campaigning – which this conversation edged towards as it concerned a current VP Finance candidate – during council meetings. Lots of people shouted and talked over each other. However, council members did contend that Lunzer, a former executive chef, is able to prepare meals, in particular Kosher food, at much cheaper prices than other comparable vendors. VP Campus Life in particular emphasized that his goal is to provide as much food as possible as cheaply as possible – a goal that Lunzer’s catering helps accomplish. Ultimately, members of the board reinforced the idea that every purchase made by GSSC is recorded, voted on, and reviewed by the Office of Student Life.

Various Other Updates

  • GS’s senior cruise is separate from the cruise for CC, SEAS, and Barnard students, but it’s still gonna be great.
  • Since a lot of people didn’t get senior sweaters, a new order is being opened.
  • If you know a cool GS senior, nominate them for a Senior Wisdom! Nominations close April 25th.
  • Next week is the last GSSC meeting! School’s – almost – out for the summer.

And that’s all for now! Tune in next Wednesday to find out what they feed me next.

sweet sweet suuuuuugar via Wikimedia Commons.

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