Today marks the second full day of voting for CCSC and ESC elections. After meeting and conversing with several candidates Sunday about their platforms, the Bwog editorial team was particularly impressed with the following candidates and would like to endorse them for their respective positions.
Beom Joon Baek for CCSC International Student Representative
After taking on the role of CCSC’s International Student Representative this past semester, Baek has made clear the experience he has gained in understanding and working with administration and campus organizations to achieve specific goals. Building on his current efforts, Baek hopes to continue working with CCE and administrative deans to expand Curricular Practical Training, an important step in work authorization for international students.
We found Baek’s platform to be especially thoughtful and cognizant of the nuanced challenges that international students uniquely face. In particular, we appreciated his goal of creating a special mental health initiative dedicated towards international students, which would link CPS advisors of a certain cultural background to the relevant students of the same cultural background.
Baek identified dining hall closure during winter break, which affects international students who do not travel home, as a key issue he hoped to bring more awareness to. In addition, his goal in planning a consistent annual conference among current and former Columbia international students seemed both realistic and impactful. Baek’s platform portrayed his genuine care for and experience in working to better international students’ experiences, and we believe that Baek’s continued involvement in CCSC would highly benefit the international student community as a whole.
Olivia Horwitz for CCSC Gender & Sexuality Representative
We were impressed by Horwitz’s well-thought-out platform for CCSC Gender & Sexuality Representative, which tackles common-sense issues facing LGBTQ+ students on campus in a succinct and achievable way. We also have confidence she can address these concerns given her wide range of experiences on campus, such as the primary coordinator of the One Love Foundation and the Director of Activism and Awareness of the Columbia Public Health Club.
Horwitz plans to rectify existing issues in health forms, such as those used by CPS, that do not accurately reflect the difference between sex and gender identity. Horwitz also plans to implement a mini-Safe Zone training at the end of the NSOP SVR workshop; while we are concerned about reducing the time of the SVR workshop, her rationale that it’s easier to add training on LGBTQ+ issues to an existing NSOP event rather than create an entirely new requirement makes sense.
According to her platform, new faculty will be required to attend the comprehensive three-hour Safe Zone training offered twice a semester, something Horwitz says will abate the issue of faculty misgendering students, which she has witnessed.
Horwitz’s answers to our questions displayed a comprehensive knowledge of the issues and resources on campus, and her genuine passion towards this work impressed us. Given her experience advocating for LGBTQ+ students on campus and her solid platform, we are confident that Horwitz will be able to affect meaningful change in CCSC during her tenure.
Aryeh Hajiba-Piranesi for CCSC Academic Affairs Representative
The cornerstone of Hajiba-Piranesi’s platform for CCSC Academic Affairs Representative is reforming the Core Curriculum, an especially fraught topic given the events of the past academic year. The goals he laid out are admirable and he seemed deeply passionate about adding writers of color to the syllabus. His platform also calls for increased rigor in the Global Core through a seminar requirement. This echoes similar previous pushes by CCSC and seems like a reasonable first step that the Academic Affairs Rep can take to begin addressing diversity in the Core.
However, other proposed reforms reflected Hajiba-Piranesi’s limited perspective as a first-year student. His proposed non-Western LitHum/CC already exists in several departments (though his would be mandatory) and fails to answer criticisms that non-Western cultures are an afterthought in the current curriculum. Similarly, Hajiba-Piranesi proposed a “reserve system that collects books for students with financial difficulties,” with no mention of Butler reserves or the FLIP Library until asked. His plan to make books more affordable by distributing PDFs to the student body has good intentions but fails to take into consideration issues of copyright that pertain to most of the texts/translations assigned.
We similarly appreciate that his platform contained smaller, more actionable steps alongside these larger goals. This included promoting student-faculty bonds through lunches and lectures and an academic coaching program that would connect first-years with student coaches who would help them improve their academic skills as they transition to Columbia. We were most interested in his proposed improvements to the clunky and stressful registration system. They included allowing students to put their name on up to 5 waitlists and creating a priority system for students with late registration times in the next semester.
Though his reforms for the Core seem far-fetched and difficult to complete during his tenure, we appreciate Hajiba-Piranesi’s obvious passion for these issues and believe that it’s important to have someone actively advocating for these issues within CCSC, regardless of whether or not they can be solved in a single term. Perhaps more importantly, while answering difficult questions from Bwog staffers, he proved willing to adapt his plans to the systems in place. We believe Hajiba-Piranesi’s enthusiasm and flexibility are necessary to continue the long-term push for reforming the Core without sacrificing reform that would benefit students’ academic life in the short term.
Jesús Guerra Ocampo for CCSC VP Campus Life
Guerra Ocampo’s two years covering student government for Spec seems to have given him a strong understanding of how CCSC actually works, which is evident in the concrete and actionable initiatives laid out in his platform. The only exception was his plan to partner with “underfunded campus groups” to help them host events they would otherwise be unable to. We were concerned by the failure to specify how CCSC would determine which clubs were underfunded. However, we are confident that his experiences as a member of both large, small, and unrecognized organizations on campus would allow for a nuanced and comprehensive understanding of the financial needs for clubs of all sizes.
Guerra Ocampo’s dedication to serving underserved communities underpins much of his platform. Aside from issues of funding, he also hopes to partner campus groups with the wider NYC community to give back to the neighborhood. He also laid out plans to work with the rest of the Campus Life committee to offer programming that promotes the voices of students and faculty of color with panels, lectures, and more. Though this programming is already offered throughout the year, we believe there’s always potential for it to be expanded and better advertised. Guerra Ocampo’s experience in campus Latinx organizations leave him well-suited to take on this task.
We were most impressed in Guerra Ocampo’s plan to foster relationships between undergraduate and graduate communities on campus. Citing his position as the first undergrad on Mexican Students Assocation (MEXSA), he emphasized the importance of creating these bonds on both a personal and professional level. His primary point of contact was connecting graduate student groups with similar undergrad clubs, a unique, concrete goal that holds a lot of promise and is relatively easy to push forward.
In general, Guerra Ocampo’s involvement in a wide variety of campus organizations has left him with a deep understanding both of how CCSC works and the varied needs of the organizations he would be working with as VP of Campus Life. We also appreciated the obvious dedication he has to promoting the voices of groups on campus who most need CCSC’s support.
Sarah Basha for CCSC VP Communications
Basha has a simple platform for improving accessibility and transparency of CCSC to the rest of the student body, namely by sending summaries of what was discussed in the CCSC president’s weekly email and theming town halls around certain subjects to raise attendance. Though Bwog is quite proud of its CCSC coverage, we understand that a short, bullet-pointed summary of the topics discussed could be useful to members of the student body.
Basha also plans to publish policy changes through social media channels so the student body can more easily track initiatives that have succeeded or fallen through. Finally, Basha plans to facilitate a better relationship with student body groups by attending their meetings and hearing their concerns in town hall settings.
Though her plans lack some specificity and finer details, we believe that the implementation of Basha’s platform would grant more transparency, accountability, and accessibility to CCSC.
Joseph Hier for ESC University Senator
In his conversation with Bwog, Hier, who currently serves as a Class Representative in ESC, emphasized the distinctiveness of SEAS problems from what he defined as “mainstream” problems. He pointed to the lack of study abroad opportunities for SEAS students – an under-the-radar yet important issue, as SEAS administration has long lacked supportive structures for SEAS students desiring abroad opportunities.
Hier also highlighted classroom accessibility as at the forefront of his campaign. Following unsuccessful previous attempts to receive discounts from BookCulture and Barnes & Noble, Hier hopes to instead work on a book exchange system to increase accessibility. Modeling the recent MetroCard program implemented in CCSC, Hier also hopes to utilize alumni funding to provide calculators and iClickers – some of the hidden costs that often come in STEM-related classes – for students.
We appreciated Hier’s pragmatism, inquisitiveness, and wide scope of knowledge when it came to SEAS-specific problems. In response to questions about how he would face stonewalls in trying to achieve his initiatives, he stated that he would step back and figure out what exact component of the initiative posed issues, demonstrating a realistic approach we believe will equip him well for the ESC University Senator position.
Editor in Chief Jenny Zhu registered to run for CCSC VP Finance on a ticket with Sarah and Jesus. Though she is no longer running, she recused herself from the decision to endorse these two candidates and had no part in writing those summaries.
Photo via Bwog Archives