This shit was two and a half hours long. GSSC Bureau Chief Andrew Chee provides the highlights of the elections, including some brief drama.
Candidates were given time to speak about themselves and their platforms, after which they answered questions from the audience as well as the livestream. President Raisa Flor also sent out an email with detailed bios and platforms.
In order of appearance:
- Veteran Students Representative
- Senior Class President
- Jewish Theological Seminary (JTS) Students Representative
- Vice President of Campus Life
- Vice President of Communications
- Vice President of Policy
- Vice President of Finance
- Student Body President
Veteran Students Representative
A first-year student and political science major who served three years in the US Army infantry, including a tour in Afghanistan, and understands the huge transition from military life to academic life. He has worked at the Office of Admissions as a tour guide and as a student point of contact for applicants. He writes for Spectator as a columnist, and he is also the treasurer for Columbia University Libertarians.
His four main points include:
Continuing to maintain transparency concerning future university policy changes—especially those affecting students’ finances—so that the GS veteran community is not again taken by surprise.
Facilitating the transition of prospective veteran students.
Getting veterans more involved with the greater school community.
Reaching out to students of the expanding international veteran community, such as those from Israel, Singapore, and Korea.
A first-year student as well, Rodrigo served ten years of active duty. His platform is about trying to diversify the experience that veterans have at Columbia and doing his best to highlight veteran accomplishments.
“What are the greatest challenges facing veteran students and how do you plan on addressing them in the upcoming school year?”
Kevin: Largely academic challenges, which can be addressed by making the existence of academic resources more widely disseminated to people.
Rodrigo: The greatest challenges include veterans’ backgrounds and experience prior to the military. Some get the opportunity to study in the military while others don’t. As such, these students must have access to resources.
“How do you see the role of Veteran Students Rep in relation to MilVets on campus?
Rodrigo: They present a lot of opportunities for veterans on campus. I want to make sure there are opportunities for all veterans of all majors.
Kevin: In my opinion, I’m working more with the administration more than the veteran community per se. I want to see how I can help the veteran community by interacting with the higher-ups on administrative and policy-related endeavors.
“I’m a female veteran. What are you going to do for me?”
Kevin: “I’m working for all veterans in the community […] but specifically for women…”, I plan to spread information of the women’s veterans community to get the word out to people who are not aware of these programs and services.
Rodrigo: At community college, I helped found the school’s only LGBTQ organization. As the “Lavender Coalition”, we were able to collect and distribute 18,000 units of feminine hygiene products for free. I intend to continue or be involved in projects in a similar vein.
“What experiences do you guys have as a liaison, either here at Columbia or elsewhere?
Rodrigo: I have a lot of experience dealing with organizational policies in the military, and I spent a lot of time attempting to get veterans more involved with the arts. While I do not have much experience in college as a liaison, I am down for a challenge.
Kevin: I have worked with Columbia University Libertarians (CUL) and worked in admissions, where I reached out to other students and gave them more information about the university.
Senior Class President
Matthew Evan Linsky
Serving an active role on the council right now as the Students with Disabilities Representative and the Student Services and Academic Affairs Representative, Matt Linsky also currently represents GS on the Student Health Advisory Committee, is the Vice Chair of Events Coordination for The Food Pantry at Columbia, is the Chairperson of the Student Group Adjudication Board, sits on the board of the GS Peer Mentorship Program, and has been a dedicated component and champion of the JED Initiatives.
His platform includes decreasing the cost of Lerner Pubs and either maintaining or increasing the budget allocated per senior in future years, as the number of seniors is expected to increase.
Max Waldroop (Walton)
Serving as a rabbi prior to GS, Max believes that this job is about coordination with other leaders, student groups, administration, and so on. He has managed two teams of ten people each overseas in the past; his platform includes coordinating with the alumni board and administration. He stresses that he is all about being able to listen and respond to other people.
“What do you think are the greatest concerns or challenges that GS students face and how would you be there to help them?”
Matt: The budget is the greatest challenge for GS students as a whole. Post-bac premed students face underrepresentation in the GS community and in GS events. Since they have their own council and budget, they can only come to the senior cruise or senior events if they are a guest. If we cannot integrate our own community, how can we claim we want to integrate into the greater undergraduate community?
A big part of this role is negotiating the budget with other councils, and that is how I will assist in integration for the GS community, internally and externally.
Max: Event planning. While serving as VP and Chief of Communications, I worked with Student Life and Campus Life planning events.
“You will be representing the senior class as well as campus life. How will that those roles be different, similar, or in conjunction?”
Max: It’s all about temperament and how you can interact and negotiate with other people.
Matt: I have experience hosting events prior to GS with Billboard.
“Postbac students don’t pay into the same student life fund. It would be fiscally irresponsible to pay for post-bac students using non-post-bac funds. What would be your solution?”
Matt: We need a structural overhaul to combine and integrate those funds and budgets.
Max: In the immediate future, we need cash transfers from one budget to another until we can combine the budgets.
“This is a question for Matt: based on my own personal experiences and the experience of my friends and peers, you have regularly acted in ways that have made GS less accessible and inclusive. This has included arguing publicly against a peer who has voiced financial concern, revealing confidential financial information from GSSC executive session, and more. How do you plan to improve upon this behavior in order to adequately represent the GS community?”
Matt: “First off, I did not reveal any confidential information at all. That person disclosed it by themselves. It’s true that anyone who applies for a subsidized ticket to Gala, that’s confidential. If he posts about it, then I’m sorry, ‘that milk is out of the udder and he can’t put it back.’ Secondly, I have never revealed a thing from executive session. I’d love to hear what you have to say so I can address this absolutely directly. Would you care to do that?”
[She replied], “I’m not going to reveal that publicly.”
Matt: “Fair enough”, but about accessibility, 2554 students have been able to submit medical records to the school when previously that was not possible. I have made that happen as Student Services Rep, and we are going to expand that program to graduate programs and students. I have also expanded UW sections for GS students and I just closed a deal for Campus Services to fund the Food Pantry annually with $5000. “I think you need to research your own information and not rely on heavy-handed gossip.”
“I’m going to be a senior next year, and what can you do to help out other students with job or career-related services or issues?”
Max: I have a lot of experience looking over resumes and cover letters, and I am always available to look over things.
Matt: I do plan on making Senior Class President a dual campus role. The best way to improve accessibility is through policy.
“How can you increase senior involvement in senior events, especially with four school events?”
Matt: We have to be there and be present and be excited about the events. If we just keep sticking to inviting people on Facebook, nothing is going to change.
Max: Start meetings with other senior class presidents in the summer to start planning early. I also want to have more non-alcoholic based events to include more people who may not be able to drink or choose not to drink for whatever reason.
Jewish Theological Seminary (JTS) Students Representative
A sophomore in JTS, Daniela’s platform includes increasing the amount of programming and diversity in order to boost engagement among all students, as well as more events with the esteemed professors and administrators at the university. She plans to work with the Dual BA Representative for the benefit of all Dual BA students, increase membership in the GS Mentorship Program, host the Shabbat dinner in the new JTS building for all GS students to encourage further integration of the communities. Daniela is very passionate about the Jewish community in JTS and the wealth of knowledge in the GS community.
“In your opinion, what are the greatest challenges facing JTS and GS students?”
JTS students are often less engaged year after year than GS students. The resources that JTS has for Jewish students on campus mean that JTS students need not utilize GS-specific resources. However, these students are really missing out, so I will reach out to more JTS students. One way I plan to do this is to host less-drinking focused events as JTS tends to be younger.
“Many resources that are available to GS students are not available to JTS students solely because of their status as JTS students. For example, JTS students cannot ask for aid from the financial aid office or the Columbia Health Services office. How will you tackle this issue?”
The two different administrations (GS & JTS) often refer problems to each other, deferring responsibility to the other instead of taking charge. However, just because we are a part of two different communities does not mean we should not have access to both communities’ resources.
“How do you think you could expand campus life and how could that expansion involve more policy?”
I will be spending more time addressing concerns with VP of Policy. We work really well with Dean Griffiths, who is a beneficial avenue for us to access answers and effect change.
Vice President of Campus Life
Prior to enrolling at General Studies, Megan was a water polo athlete at UC Santa Barbara, after which she spent the next five years coaching youth swimming and water polo, coaching with the Olympic Development Program for girls’ water polo, and working in Special Education with middle school students. She has served as First-Year Class Rep and helped plan Glass House Rocks, so she has experience working with other councils.
To her, e-board consists of the leaders of the team. Campus Life is more than events; it is wholeness, happiness, and the health of the students. Thus, Megan does not have much in the way for new events, but more planned for bonding events.
Born with cataracts, Lillian had to receive surgery at birth in order to be able to see. As a result of that experience, she founded a U.S. based global 501(c)(3), Vision For and From Children, dedicated to providing eye surgeries as well as vision services to children without access to such care. It has helped more than 28,000 children receive the gift of sight and has impacted over 3 million lives on the importance of public service. As CEO, Lillian continues to run operations and events for the organization. Through her experiences, she has gained organizational skills, facilitated missions worldwide, and collaborated with others. Her vision has always been about bringing people together through collaboration, and she wants to bring her experience in harnessing the power of power to bring the community together.
“What do you believe is the most important responsibility of VP of Campus Life? How do you want to improve or manage that?”
Megan: Keeping a schedule of successful events that students already look forward to and adding to those events in a timely manner. I have organizational skills from working with Student Life office this past year and on the e-board of my sorority at UCSB.
Lillian: Integration and inclusion of people, from other folks on Campus Life committee, all GS students, and the broader Columbia community.
“This is a role that requires a great deal of organization and familiarity of the bureaucratic processes. Can you walk me through your event planning process — how you would follow up with communications, how would you pay for the event, and who you would talk to for the event?”
Lillian: Despite being a first-year student, I have a lot of organizational skills that I developed prior to enrolling at Columbia. I can take a certain amount of money and generate even more funds. Working with everyone on GSSC is ideal and necessary in order to organize and plan events.
Megan: An event must be fully planned out and run by me at least seven weeks prior to the event occurring. For instance, for Flamingo Mingle (around Valentine’s Day), it must be done before winter break. So one of the reps, for instance, alumni, JTS, dual BA, etc., whoever is spearheading the event, must be in contact with me before Thanksgiving break to discuss where they want to plan it, who they want to speak with, what their budget is, and so on.
Then we must contact the outside vendor, who must be approved by Columbia, tell them what we have planned for the event for the budget and tell them what we want and what it entails, such as food, drink, etc., run it by the finance team, and finally run it by Student Life office to get it out to the community.
“You mentioned a lot about inclusion, but do you have any specific ideas for that?”
Lilian: I know both sides of JTS and GS, so I can definitely understand being a non-traditional student but also being a college-age student. I want to plan events to involve the greater community, and want to focus on that by having more specific events that involve GS with other specific undergraduate schools.
Megan: I think we have a great system set up with Barnard at the moment. From working on Glass House Rocks, I know who are the administrators from other schools and Student Life whom I need to contact in order to create more events for the inclusion of the greater community. Additionally, I have experience being an undergraduate college-age student at UCSB. As First Year Class Rep we had a lot of events centered around bonding and that is how I would like to continue.
Vice President of Communications
Luísa is the current International Students Representative. Her platform is that some events don’t reach enough people and that GS social media platforms are underused, so we should use them more, as opposed to the forms currently utilized for the most part.
“What skills are you bringing to this position that make you think you be successful for this position?”
Bringing visibility to these events. I am very active and have a lot of experience working with the VP of Communications in the past for my own events. Delegating is very important because the committee is not huge and there is a lot of work to be done.
“How are you specifically going to use social media to increase visibility? What technical skills do you have to produce images and other things?”
Instagram Stories can be used to display events going on right now. Additionally, we can also use polls on Instagram Stories to gauge quick feedback or to ask what events students would want to see in the future. I have some editing skills as well, and I intend to use creative fun writing to engage students and draw them out, as opposed to just saying, “this is an event. Come.”
“What are your plans for the GS website next year? What technical skills do you have for handling the website?”
Although I do not have the technical skills to handle the website, I would want to delegate that work to the committee and utilize them to materialize the vision that I have for the website.
Vice President of Policy
Josh is currently serving on the council as the Veterans Representative. His platform is revolving around financial awareness, as he believes the worst thing is people leaving GS because they cannot afford to continue. Additionally, he wishes to improve access to graduate school advisors, as access can be very difficult and therefore needs to be expanded.
Jeremy is a first-year student, having just graduated from Queensborough Community College. Having served in the student government there, Jeremy acknowledges that “this is a position that can put people to sleep.” After his experience in student government and seeing student leaders not fulfilling their campaign promises, Jeremy wants to be realistic and pragmatic about accomplishing goals and ensuring no empty promises.
“Jeremy – You are a first-semester student, but this isn’t a position you can just wing, and it certainly isn’t a position that puts people to sleep if you know anyone on the policy committee. I would have to ask you: what specifically do you mean by unfulfilled campaign promises and overpromising, and can you point to specific examples? In addition, what is student government to you, in your experience? What insight have you derived in speaking to members of the community, such as administrators, students, and council members?
Jeremy: I have a lot of experience on the e-board on the council at Queensborough. During my first semester, I was VP of Part-Time Students, and by my third semester I served as secretary, and finally, I was University Senator for all of CUNY. As such, I have a lot of experience with student councils in general.
“Policy needs to be tangible, but also sometimes bold ideas need to be proposed for them to become tangible one day. What is your bold new idea? What is your next Food Pantry, your next Students with Disabilities, your next Student Ambassador Program, that is not an empty campaign promise, but a real idea that will help make this school a better place?”
Josh: A tuition cap — all the other undergrad schools can take additional classes that are interesting to them, but GS students do not have that luxury because of the prohibitive cost of paying for additional classes.
Jeremy: A real look at scholarships and grants. We must tackle the financial aspect; need-blind aid like the other undergrad schools is a must.
“What is a successful initiative you have seen come out of GSSC in the past, and what do think made it successful?”
Jeremy: This is my first semester here, but previously I was in community college, and three years prior to that, I was homeless. As such, we are all a product of successful initiatives, and I look forward to continuing that growth.
Josh: The adding of UW classes for students. The passion and energy for the project, in conjunction with the ability to present a clear and viable plan to the administration. We must nail down the practical elements of the plan in order to do so.
“As GS Senator, I work with the VP of Policy. Can you identify something that would make sense to work on?”
Josh: Sitting down with the VPs of Policy with other undergrad schools and asking, “how can we move forward in conjunction with the Universite Senate?” I would love to hash it out with them.
Jeremy: Despite a lack of experience at Columbia, I have a lot of experience with intergovernmental work from the past, and I hope to bring that experience here.
“I will be on the e-board next year, and one initiative I plan to take on is to use excess funds and direct them toward mental health and working with the financial aid office to help students in need. As VP of Policy, how are you going to help me get that initiative off the ground?”
Jeremy: Going to every meeting with you as possible, and speaking to other committee members.
Josh: Working with Dean Rogers to unveil this initiative, and also working with the Working Students with Families Rep in order to publicize this information.
“Jeremy – how are you going to hit the ground running? What are some of the physical things that you plan to do? Josh – how are we going to make sure that you are not simply resting on your experience and that you are still going about and doing your job?”
Josh: In the past, I sent out nine emails about an issue that did not affect me personally — I think that speaks toward my motivation, determination, and work ethic for the future.
Jeremy: I have a tremendous amount of experience. CUNY is one of the largest university systems, and I operated at every level of that bureaucracy. Although I am new, I want to keep pressing into new communities, learning from other people, and effecting change.
“If anything happens to the GSSC president, the VP of Policy assumes that role. Are you prepared to be president of GSSC?
Jeremy: Yes, I have plenty of experiences with student governments that do map onto this position, and while I am new, I do not necessarily think that newness is a detriment of this role.
Josh: I have seen the way the various aspects of the council operate, I understand the processes and the way things work, and I am prepared to step in if necessary.
Vice President of Finance
A current junior, Natasha currently serves as Chief of Finance. Given that “every semester you contribute hundreds of dollars to Student Life — I want to make sure it goes to the right place.” She also wishes to tackle food insecurity, Bacchanal funding issues, and give GS students more of a say where they believe funds should go. Lastly, Natasha aims to create a fund like the other undergraduate schools in order to assist with financial support for travel for GS students.
Originally from Italy, she has prepared and managed a budget of more than $20 million at her previous job. She aims to optimize allocation and to tackle issues like food insecurity and co-sponsorship.
“Natasha – you proposed a 20-30% increase in Bacchanal budget? Where would that come from, considering that the budget, which is already very stretched out as it is, is allocated at the beginning of the school year? Why would that benefit the GS community, considering that less than 5% of Bacchanal attendance is GS?
Natasha: Baccahanal should get external sponsorships like other schools in order to cover costs. I am also in talks with the other councils to increase the Bacchanal budget. Let’s just add more money and make it the best event we can. If it doesn’t work out, we can readjust the following year. Also, I went to the GS Lounge on the day of Bacchanal and nobody was there studying, so clearly the people out on the lawn show that GS students do in fact attend Bacchanal, [contrary to what the data shows,] so it’s growing in popularity amongst GS students.
Funds for Bacchanal can come from a decrease in contribution to F@CU.
[NB: Funding at Columbia University (F@CU) is a yearly event in which the four undergraduate student councils decide allocation amounts for the student group governing boards and Bacchanal.F@CU generally occurs during the spring semester reading week as a two- day event. During the event, the student councils present the amount of their budget they plan to allocate at F@CU, and governing boards and Bacchanal present allocation requests. The student councils then deliberate over allocations, announce decisions, and consider any appeals. ]
Nadia: I do not think we should increase funds to Bacchanal. Students are facing way more challenging problems such as food insecurity, and I would rather fund existing initiatives such as Snack Attacks.
“How do you plan to implement the travel budget?”
Natasha: Use funds that we are contributing to clubs that we do not turn out to as much as other schools.
Nadia: I do not believe that we have the means at the moment to create a travel budget, but I do think it is a good idea down the road.
“How specifically do you intend to address food insecurity with the budget, as food insecurity disproportionately affects the GS community?”
Nadia: Expand co-sponsorships, such as with the Food Pantry. Advocate for these funds being used more often with FLIP. Put more money toward Snack Attacks as the food goes fast; I would also like to see them being deployed more often than just during midterm and finals season.
Natasha: We cannot feasibly use Student Life fees to feed students for the entire semester, so I believe in advocating for the administration to contribute funds to assist in eliminating food insecurity.
“Are you as candidates aware of the problems that students on campus face, besides food insecurity?”
Natasha: There are issues such as commuting to school, but the role is rather limited in scope and it is more up to policy to assist with those issues.
Nadia: GS students are not as involved with or aware of events on campus as they could be.
“How do you think funds should be allocated toward F@CU for the next school year? Increase or decrease?”
Nadia: It should be fairly steady; about the same.
Natasha: More funds allocated toward GS specific events; do not increase contributions to F@CU.
“If we pull back funding from F@CU, how can we expect the integration of GS if we are not contributing the same or even more funds than the past? Additionally, co-sponsorships were underutilized for the last year, so what is the purpose of expanding the co-sponsorship budget?”
Natasha: We are getting the money that we put in. I want to directly benefit GS students, and there is no evidence that the other councils and boards are utilizing funds to assist GS students.
Nadia: A lot of clubs were not aware of co-sponsorships, that is why they have been underutilized. Events that have utilized co-sponsorships have turned out to be great events, so I think we should expand awareness of co-sponsorships.
Student Body President
Serving as the current First-Year Student Body President, Alexa is running for Student Body President on the platforms of career development, expanding into areas such as humanities and the social sciences, resume and CV help, an alumni mentorship program, and a student art initiative.
Christopher Thompson currently serves as many roles, such as a peer advisor, the Health & Wellness Rep for GSSC, serving on JED and the Student Health Advisory Committee, and the VP of Student Recovery Coalition. As such, he views student body president as “a new dimension of work already in progress.” He has fostered long term relationships with the administration and is proposing a comprehensive five-part vision:
- Equitable mental health resources and accessibility
- Alumni student integration
- Financial literacy
- Campus Life
- Making student voices heard
“What do you think is the one issue that GS students most struggle with, and what do you plan in your platform to address that?”
Alexa: Community. We must create initiatives to bring the community together in a much stronger way.
Christopher: Financial insecurity. I have worked with the Office of Educational Financing in order to bring financial literacy education that will be instituted in the fall in a number of ways. I would also like to see financial aid walk-in hours in the future.
“Any experience do you have managing teams and having people work under you?”
Christopher: Beyond implementing policy and events, the primary role of the president is to empower people to be able to do their jobs. I have managed a number of teams, large and small, in the restaurant industry. I also have experience building coalitions based around ideas with a broad array of students and administrators in the last two years. Thus, I have a lot of institutional knowledge from the last two years.
Alexa: First-year events have been very successful first-year students have been very excited. In Sciences Po, I led a number of clubs and created my own writing association.
“What would your Health and Wellness Rep do that the current does not?”
Alexa: I really want to make student health a broad initiative. As such, I would like it to be a larger umbrella that encompasses multiple avenues.
Christopher: I think that the role of the rep can definitely be expanded to do more. They can do more than sit on a policy committee; more of a student life oriented focus.
“How do you plan to hit the ground running? How do envision supervising or managing people on the committee?”
Christopher: I’m going to hit the ground running before the semester. I will be here over the summer, and I will meet with administration ahead of time. I will meet with the e-board as well. I deeply understand them, their function, and how their committee function. The president as one who listens and manages and helps out the rest of the board.
Alexa: Expanding alumni outreach, such as with Science Po with Dean Rosen-Metsch. I will be getting in touch with the administration and meeting with executives once everything is finalized.
“How do you plan on reaching out to companies in order to create new opportunities for networking and career development for students? Additionally, what is the one thing you would want to complete?”
Alexa: Envisioning it more as a peer assistance event — people at an event where they can reach out to mentors, as well as creating community and bonding. Additionally, creating and developing a mental health initiative — Raisa has been working on a great one, and I want to make sure that it takes off and keeps going as it is very important to me.
Christopher: I have spent the last 9 months working on a mental health initiative that will finally be brought to the GS community in the fall. We must also expand financial literacy resources for students and bridge the gap between alumni and students, which will aid in the financial health of the school long term, as well as assist in the career development of students.
“How do you envision being a strong leader and protecting your e-board to make sure there are very little fluctuations between the years?”
Christopher: Being a peer advisor has taught me to grapple with maintaining my personal boundaries.
“How do you intend to target the FLI community? How will you work with organizations such as FLIP?”
Alexa: I want to be involved with those initiatives in order to help target those issues.
Christopher: I believe my body of work speaks for itself and what I plan to continue doing for the future.
“How can co-sponsorships be better utilized to help GS integrate as a whole?”
Christopher: More promotions about how co-sponsorships can be more widely publicized. When students create groups, I do not think they have a good idea of what resources are available to them.
Alexa: Bringing the community together so that they are aware of the resources available to them so they can take full advantage of those.
“Can you do other people’s jobs, in the event that other people do not do their own roles?”
Alexa: A lot of my initiatives are very policy heavy, and I look forward to working with the administration as well. I intend to sit with the council members in order to better understand their roles. I have spreadsheet experiences, as well as past experiences within communications that are relevant.
Christopher: It is critically important that I meet with the people on the e-board from the very beginning so I am aware of the roles, demands, and duties of the various positions.
“Post-bac premed students do not have access to our funding and events. Despite this, the post-bac budget has been used on occasion to fund events for students from all the undergraduate schools. Are you willing to consider opening up our events to the post-bac pre-med students?”
Christopher: Yes, I am definitely open to speaking with people in order to better integrate the post-bac community.
Alexa: I have noticed that many smaller subgroups and niche communities isolate themselves, so I am looking forward to integrating them. Yes, but I also wish to be financially responsible while also bridging the budgets and co-fund events together.
Image via Bwog archives.