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CCSC Approves Metrocard Program For Low-Income Students

Nadra Rahman reports from the balmy climes of the Satow Room on CCSC’s latest ventures.

It was a finance-heavy night for CCSC as they navigated where they (a) want their own money to go, and (b) where they want others’ money to go. But there was one big outcome to cheer about: a Metrocard program targeting low-income students so they that they can explore the city.

That’s A No For Bacchanal

The first discussion of the night was on the future of the Alumni Fund. Alumni, long removed from both Butler and 1020 binges, have solicited CCSC’s input on what their money should go towards, putting forth three suggestions: (1) campus traditions, (2) specific student needs, and (3) student activities.

For the most part, members seemed set on directing alumni funds towards student needs. As USenator Alfredo Dominguez pointed out, dedicated funds exist for both campus traditions and student activities in a way that they don’t for certain student needs. He was echoed by students who voiced the need for improved health and CPS services (2020 President James Ritchie), recreational space (Student Services Rep Henry Felman), reduced food insecurity, hangout space for marginalized students (Race and Ethnicity Rep Heven Haile), and exam prep classes for low-income students (from the audience).

VP Finance Adam Resheff did briefly speak to the potential value of increased funding for events like Bacchanal, “the tradition that has the most tangible impact for the broadest group of students.” While more funding for Bacchanal might make it possible for us to get better artists and impact a larger swathe of students, VP Policy Elise Fuller rebutted that students can’t very well enjoy these events if they are going unfed or are unsupported in other respects. She added that the Policy committee often works to address student needs and is constantly searching for funding for their initiatives—support from alumni could alleviate that stress.

Eventually, the body approved the idea of recommending “student needs” as the main focus of the alumni fund. CCSC will also design a survey that will help them determine which needs are of the highest priority.

$2.75 For My Kingdom

2021 Rep Sarah Radway presented an initiative for which she has been the lead architect—an opt-in program in which Metrocards are allocated to low-income students. These Metrocards are intended to provide such students with an opportunity to explore the city (and the Core). Transportation to events required by Core classes is already covered by the school, but these Metrocards will help students access concerts, exhibits, and other events that enrich their engagement with the Core. Once all the details are worked out, the program is set to launch next semester.

Radway initially requested $5,000 from CCSC’s surplus fund for this program, with the understanding that each Metrocard would hold 5 swipes, but held off on finalizing the amount requested. After all, as Disability Services Rep Aaron Liberman pointed out, we might be able to get a discount. And as Fuller suggested, maybe we should have an even number of swipes so students can get back to campus?

International Students Rep Nikola Danev voiced his support for the program—and said that Columbia College should match CCSC’s contributions: “They shouldn’t taking money from the students to give to the students; they should open their own wallets.” According to President Jordan Singer, however, that might prove tricky. If the administration is involved, even just by identifying or verifying low-income students, that would make the Metrocards part of financial aid grants and thus, subject the program to extensive financial reporting. But if the program goes well next semester, CC might match CCSC’s funding or take over the program entirely, since the benefit to students would be worth the effort.

Co-Sponsorship Time Gets Testy

CCSC has been receiving more co-sponsorship requests this year than ever before—perhaps because a few organizations have dared to ask for more than $25, and have succeeded. Of course, CCSC isn’t equipped to provide large co-sponsorships; it doesn’t have a dedicated fund or detailed rules surrounding co-sponsorships, and generally expects governing boards, JCCC, and the Capital Investment Fund to provide emergency funding to student groups.

For these reasons, there was a bit of controversy surrounding a co-sponsorship request from Club Zamana, which is hosting a mental health event today at 7 pm. Though the request (for $115) seemed innocuous enough, Resheff expressed his “philosophical mixed feelings,” saying that the event should have been covered by the club’s governing board if it is indeed a recurring one (“This should be covered; I’m a bit curious why it’s not covered.”) President Jordan Singer suggested that the club had perhaps not understood the distinction between CCSC’s surplus fund, which is rapidly being depleted and which this request was directed towards, and the Campus Life committee, which co-sponsors events that it jointly plans with clubs—last year, Campus Life co-sponsored the event.

At this point, 2020 President James Ritchie motioned to “downvote” co-sponsoring the event through the surplus fund (with the understanding that Campus Life would work with Zamana as they did last year), though Fuller scolded him for “priming” people to vote a certain way. A bit of commotion ensued as others tried to insert secondary motions (not possible). Ultimately, the motion to fund the event through the surplus fund did not pass, much to Ritchie’s relief, and the body instead approved the pulling of funds from Campus Life’s budget, contingent upon the committee’s approval. (According to Mander, the committee is all but set on supporting the event.)

An Emotional Appeal

In light of the recent shooting at a Pittsburgh synagogue which left 11 dead, members of Columbia’s Jewish community have prepared a statement against antisemitism for both individuals and organizations to sign on to. Last night, Disability Services Rep Aaron Liberman, Orit Gugenheim Katz (CC ‘21), and Izzet Kebudi (SEAS ‘19) appeared before Council to share deeply personal stories about antisemitism in settings ranging from London to Turkey, and to encourage CCSC to sign on to the statement.

With zero debate, CCSC voted to sign the statement, which pledges to “make Columbia a place where [Jewish students] feel safe.”

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