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GSSC Bureau Chief Olivia Mitchell reports on this week’s GSSC meeting, where the council talked with Michael Higgins GS ’21, the Co-Founder and Chair of the Food Pantry at Columbia, about food pantries on campus– including a brand new third location– and the upcoming Campus Hunger Education Week (CHEW), discussed financial allocation for the senior class cruise, opened up about starting election procedures, and more. If you’re interested in hearing about what GSSC talks about in their council meetings, check our weekly update that posts every Wednesday!
Christopher Thompson GS ’20, GSSC President, kicked off the night’s meeting by talking about the opening of nominations for student leadership awards, which will take place on May 5th. He went on to emphasize the importance of the work GS students have done in the Columbia community and how these awards are a way for those students to be officially recognized. Nominations are due March 13th. Thompson quickly plugged the upcoming Glass House Rocks and an upcoming Financial Literacy events, both discussed again in-depth later, and then went on to discuss upcoming council elections. GSSC has officially begun the election process for this year, starting with the creation of an independent commission known as ECAC, or the Election Commission Appointment Committee, which is composed of Thompson as the Chair, Senior Class President Matt Linsky GS ’20, and four other graduating seniors — Karla Puga GS ’20, the Alumni Affairs Representative, Josh Lefkow GS ’20, the Vice President of Policy, Dynah Vidaurre GS ’20, the Chief of Finance, and Piragathesh Subramanian GS ’20, the International Students Representative — who will accept applications, interview, and subsequently nominate 2-3 GS students for the position of General Studies Election Commission Chair, who will work as the head of another independent elections commission known as the General Studies Elections Commission, who will then be voted into position by the rest of the council. Once an Elections Commission Chair is in place, that chair will then select 2-3 GS students to form the rest of the Elections Commission. Thompson went on with his announcements and quickly noted that next week, due to travel, he will not be at GSSC and the acting president will be Vice President of Policy Josh Lefkow GS ’20.
After this slew of announcements and information, Thompson then introduced the night’s guest, Michael Higgins GS ’21, the Co-Founder and Chair of the Food Pantry at Columbia, to discuss news concerning campus food pantries. Higgins started by talking about the Food Pantry at Barnard, which opened last semester, that is situated in room 125 at the LeFrak Center in Barnard Hall. With both a location in Lerner Hall and Barnard Hall, Higgins explained, the University now has access to the food pantry for every weekday, with the Lerner location being open on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays from 4 PM – 7PM and the Barnard location being open on Tuesdays and Thursdays from 4 PM – 7 PM. Higgins went on to excitably announce the opening of a third location on the Medical Campus at Bard Hall, which will take place sometime in the next couple of weeks. The days for which the Food Pantry at the Medical Center will be open are still in discussion, but Higgins hopes that this location will act as a possible solution to the food pantries being closed on weekends. The hours for the Food Pantry at the Medical Center will be announced after its official opening in March.
Higgins continued by then talking about next week’s Campus Hunger Education Week, also known as CHEW, which will be taking place from February 23rd to February 29th. CHEW began last year as a way to start a larger discussion about food insecurity on campus and help provide resources for students dealing with food insecurity. CHEW will be hosting about 7 large events and some smaller events throughout the week. This year’s CHEW will also be hosting a Mardi Gras event — not discussing food insecurity, but simply a fun event — on Tuesday, February 25th, in the West Auditorium from 7 PM – 9 PM. It will be filled with food, music, beads, masks, everything that a Mardi Gras event needs (including king cakes). Higgins then explained that for the Mardi Gras event, the Food Pantry has been asking for small donations from student organizations, and have currently been pledged by the Arts and Sciences Student Council, CCSC, and FLIP.
Higgins then opened the floor for questions from the council concerning the variations between the food pantries, what can be done to support the food pantries, and what the administration is doing to support the food pantries. He explained that there are only small variations between the locations, such as the Barnard location having a fridge so the pantry will be offering perishable and pre-packaged foods there, but all meals are nutritionally-based, and items found in one location can typically be found in another. Concerning what students can do on campus, Higgins emphasized the importance of spreading the word of the Food Pantries’ existence, due to the fact that many students are not aware that any of these resource exist, and also emphasizing that accessibility of all the food pantries being open for every single student on campus, regardless of school or whether or not the food insecurity they face is a one-off or perpetual. He also showed gratitude for the University’s role in supporting the Food Pantry at Columbia, stating that through Columbia Dining, the Food Pantry receives $5,000 per year, and that the University has been doing everything they need to be doing at this moment in time. After Higgins finished with questions and with speaking, he was met with applause from the council before the council moved onto Campus Life.
Campus Life began by talking about last week’s event, the Flamingo Mingle, which they deemed a success that was met with a lot of love from GS students. They then moved onto Glass House Rocks, which is happening this Thursday, February 20th, from 8 PM – 12 AM in Lerner Hall. 20 student groups (again, with CUMB being mentioned specifically) will be performing or holding discussions and free reusable straws will be handed out, in reference to this year’s theme, which is “The World’s Fair” with a focus on sustainability. GS has also turned out a high amount of volunteers, having more than any of the undergraduate schools at Columbia. Campus Life went on to talk about their upcoming financial literacy event, which will be taking place on Thursday, February 27th, from 4 PM – 5 PM in 308 A Lewisohn Hall. The council then unanimously allocated $200 for snacks for the event. And finally, Campus Life announced the date for the upcoming GS Gala, which will take place on April 18th at Guastavino’s, with the theme of Masquerade.
Switching gears, the council then shifted focus to the Senior Class President Matt Linsky GS ’20 to discuss the senior budget and the senior class cruise. Previously, the council decided to buy 350 tickets for the senior class cruise, pledging a 25% downpayment of $6,000, with the total cost being $19,000 come April 18th. The senior class board then made an internal deadline for the funding to be situated and squared away for March 2nd so the process for subsidizing tickets can take place. The senior class budget began with $28,000, with $4,000 being locked for Senior Week and $3,000 being set aside for senior gifts. At this point in time, $12,657 of the budget has been spent. With 350 tickets bought for the cruise, they have to pay $19,000 and currently have around $15,000, but after selling 315 of those tickets with 10% subsidized, $9,000 will be brought in in revenue (everything with a total net cost of $16,818), leaving the budget with a surplus of $5,091. The question asked was what should be done with the surplus? Continuing, Linsky explained the inherent accessibility issue with the cruise due to the price, and suggested they should use this funding for more tickets, with the ultimate goal, selling at $30 per ticket, 10% subsidized, and 500 tickets sold, the total would come out to $24,027, leaving the budget in the red of $2,117, but with the ability to reallocate senior gift money, and after distributing $400 of the surplus to the senior luncheon, leaving the budget with $483. They then went on to explain three possible options that could act as a solution for this surplus: first, they could raise the selling price to $35/ticket, purchase 500 tickets, subsidize 50, being left with a small leftover slightly less than the third option’s surplus; second, they could keep the $30/ticket price, buy 500 tickets, and then nix the fully subsidized option and make tickets partially subsidized at a price of $15, with an overall budget surplus of $1,233; third, they could increase the ticket number to 450, fully subsidized 45, and sell the rest at $30/ticket as previously agreed, with a net cost of $21,000, leaving a leftover of $2,886 that could be used for senior class swag. After an intense debate between the council, with many arguing about the need for accessibility for students and the possibility of pricing students and family members differently, a motion to keep the price at $30/ticket, buy 5oo total tickets, selling 450 at full price and partially subsidizing 50 tickets at a price of $15, was brought to the council and passed at a tight margin of 12-11, with President Christopher Thompson GS ’20 breaking the tie.
As the night came to an end, the council again shifted to listen to the updates from the University Senator Jonathan Criswell GS ’20, who went on to explain the creation of the Presidential Advisory Committee on Sexual Assault, which is made up of 1 University Senator, 1 undergraduate student, and 1 graduate student and holds 2-3 meetings per year with members holding 2-year terms, is looking for an undergraduate student who has experience and knowledge on the subject of gender-based violence to join the committee. If interested, please reach out to University Senator Criswell. The committee is looking to have 2-3 candidates by February 24th and have selected the candidate by the 28th.
That’s GSSC this week! Sorry for the long write-up, but a lot was said. Join in next week for more information on the GSSC council meeting or checkout GSSC’s live stream on their Facebook page.