This week in ESC, they met with Vice President of Campus Services Scott Wright to discuss the initiatives that he is working on. Bwog also got mistaken for Spec. ESC Bureau Chief Lori Luo reports.
VP Scott Wright
ESC’s guest for the meeting was Vice President of Campus Services Scott Wright. Campus services encompasses many different departments across Columbia, including the bookstore, transport, printing, and the mail room. In a few weeks, VP Wright will have been at Columbia for 20 years, and he has been VP for the past 12+ years. Today, he focused on three initiatives that he has been working on with ESC: affordable course materials, space on campus (specifically regarding Lerner and housing), and health services.
Sustainability Representative Ade Balogun asked VP Wright to specifically clarify on updates regarding his work in developing health services. VP Wright responded that three weeks ago, he presented to the trustees regarding this issue as well as a need for more space. To emphasize this point, he showed them other schools’ health spaces, such as Duke’s new health center, and the trustees asked him to do a formal study on space with a 3rd party. They also would like him to benchmark the results with other similar schools in urban areas and similar numbers of students.
Balogun then asked for clarification around the goal of the study, to which VP Wright said that the study is to focus on space. The example he gave was that at the current moment, he believed there were about 23 exam rooms with at least one clinician per room and up to 3 per room. If the number of rooms increase, Columbia Health could see two to three times their current patient load and increase access to care. So, the proposed study is to benchmark the space we currently have with other places and to help VP Wright come up with exact demands. Space is also critical to ensuring that Columbia Health will be able to properly meet student needs. This September, there were 1600 additional visits to Columbia Health as compared to last September, with similar increases in each subgroup of Columbia Health. As demand grows, it’s also integral to forecast what will be needed 10 to 20 years down the line. The current goal now is to show how much space we need.
One part of this goal is to find a single unified health building as there are many students who seek a variety of health services and it would be convenient for them to all be located in one building. Health services are looking for a building that is preferably between 70 thousand to 80 thousand square feet. Class of 2023 Class Representative Kennedy Salamat asked for clarification around what spaces they’ve been looking at so far. VP Wright answered, saying that they had originally looked at a location near St. Luke’s but had decided that building wouldn’t be suitable due to its condition. Specifically regarding what type of building they’d prefer, a unified health building ideally would be in an area with high ambulance activity that isn’t in a residential setting. While it would be nice to have something on campus, it’s unlikely. Uris has been floated as an option, however it will likely be used as an arts and science building. Furthermore, Uris wouldn’t be ideal as ambulances would have to run through the grove.
ESC also questioned VP Wright about the issue of space on campus, especially for student groups. International Students Representative Katherine Liu, who is currently working on the SEAS Gala, wanted to know what would be some ways for groups like ESC to book spaces in Lerner for the lowest cost possible. VP Wright addressed this by saying that it is important to ensure that rooms with amenities, such as AV, are booked. However, VP Wright also would like to ensure that the Varsity Show and other performance groups can get the rooms that they need. For events who also do not require food, having the event in a classroom would also then make space for events that need to be in Lerner, such as the previously mentioned performances. Also to address this issue, Columbia just recently hired a new student events manager who will start in November. In the future, if there are event bookings, it would be useful to talk to her.
On the topic of spaces for student groups, Vice President of Policy Estevan Mesa asked if there was any discussion on ensuring that groups aren’t taking away study spaces when reserve places, such as lounges in the residence halls. In his answer, VP Wright focused on the priority of Columbia to ensure that community spaces will be community spaces. For example, currently for South Lawn, there are tight parameters around who can reserve the lounges, and at the moment, that is limited to performance groups. They are also working on renovations that will be both ADA accessible and that will introduce ground level common spaces that anyone–Barnard, GS, graduate students, etc–can get into without a swipe. As the number of communal spaces in residence halls are increased, VP Wright wanted again to reemphasize that his group’s job is to help the students administer what they’d like to do with the spaces. They only dislike it when the spaces aren’t used.
Class of 2020 Class Representative Youngjae Ryu was concerned about groups not paying for booking spaces, specifically RAs. VP Wright clarified Columbia’s policy, saying that certain recognized groups on campus, such as CUEMS and Spectator, don’t pay for booking. Notably, when VP Wright mentioned Spectator, he looked at Bwog, at which I made a sound of disagreement and shook my head furiously. ESC laughed. Since there isn’t enough space as in on campus, Columbia is reluctant to expand who has access to spaces for free. Regarding RAs, they have the advantage of being in residence halls and having spaces on each floor to host events in.
Vice President of Communications Adheli Gonzales asked VP Wright about the textbook affordability program, specifically regarding whether it would be covered by financial and whether it would be beneficial to low income students who can use the FLIP library. VP Wright confirmed that yes, the program would be covered by financial aid and nothing in the proposal would change anything with financial aid. The program really comes down to leveraging efficiency and purchasing power. If Columbia is able to promise a specific group or publisher a guaranteed number of people buying from them, they could get a 20 to 40% discount on books. However, students are free to opt in or opt out of the program at will each semester, so you aren’t locked into one or another when you arrive on campus. Of course, the number of students that opt out would affect the program, specifically pricing and discounts, so the price would likely have to be recalculated each year.
New Health Services Building via Flickr