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GSSC Talks CARES Act, Veteran Advocacy, And The 2020-2021 Budget

Aaaand we’re back! GSSC Bureau Chief Olivia Mitchell gives you the highs and lows, the ups and downs, and the trials and tribulations of the first almost full General Studies Student Council meeting of the Fall 2020 semester.

President Jane Jeong GS’22 started this week’s meeting by congratulating the newly appointed members of the GSSC who were appointed in last week’s meeting: Jerome Brackins Jr. GS’22 (Chief of Policy), Ace Cook GS’21 (Student Services & Academic Affairs Representative), Joan Bolanos Martinez GS’21 (Students with Disabilities Representative), Xochitl Pereira (Equity & Inclusion Chair), Savannah Melcher GS’21 (Health & Wellness Representative), Ryan Wee GS’23 or ’24 (Chief of Finance), Alex Ariunbold GS’23 or ’24 (Treasurer), Je Seung Yu GS’22 (External Events Chair), Cole Wagner GS’21 (Alumni Affairs Representative) Claire Kang GS’22 (Community Service & Sustainability Representative) Kambi Gathesha GS’23 (First Year Class President), Rachel Harris GS’22 (First Year Class Vice President), Brian Laurito GS’22 (Social Media Representative), and Dylan Jia-Jei Lee GS’22 (Technology Chair). Jeong went on to explain that the council is currently undergoing its second round of appointments and are looking for two legislative assistants for the University Senator Jeremy Wahl, a JTS Representative, a Family & Working Students Representative, and a Senior Class Treasurer. Applications close tomorrow, Thursday, October 1st, at 6 pm EST. Interviews will occur in the following few days and the council will vote on them next week.

President Jeong then introduced a discussion regarding a letter that Jeong and the Vice President of Policy Serengeti Timungwa GS’23 had recently drafted for the higher university administration and sent to GS Dean Lisa Rosen-Metsch regarding the CARES Act, which is the economic stimulus bill passed by this recent 116th Congress and signed into law in late March as a response to the COVID-19 Pandemic. They have also been working with the University Senator Jeremy Wahl GS’22 on creating an advocacy strategy for students affected. Timungwa stated that 40% of GS students are Pell Grant recipients, and that the CARES Act is based on the percentage of Pell Grant recipients at the university, emphasizing the importance of the CARES Act holds for GS students. Timungwa, Jeong, and Wahl hope that this letter will compel Dean Rosen-Metsch to advocate for students, also praising the Dean for her previous acts of GS advocacy.

Timungwa then went onto explain the Policy Committee’s recent actions and discussions, where they explained that the next step in advocating for the CARES Act is to form a partnership and coalition with the other student councils and, hopefully, get them on board for creating a general undergraduate push for the acceptance of the act. They have also created a motion to start a letter signing campaign, in which they and Jeong will draft a letter to which students can sign onto as a way to create a set amount of data to later share with President Lee Bollinger. The motion passed unanimously. Timungwa then shifted to discuss Get Out The Vote (GOTV) efforts for GS and non-GS students, saying that a lot of the Columbia student population has been displaced as a result of the pandemic, but still need to be able to have a voice and vote. These efforts would be completely non-partisan and focus on getting students civically engaged. Timungwa explained that they have drafted up an agenda, where the hope to focus on having voter registration office hours where GSSC members volunteer their time to allow any student to register to vote, advertising ways for people to check their voter registration status and volunteer in the GSSC newsletter, and programming events, such as a movie discussing the issues of voting rights. Finally, Timungwa explained their and Wahl’s latest actions in working on finding different companies focused on mental health for students on campus, as the general campus feels unsupported by the little mental health services that remain on campus. They hope to provide students with options and resources.

The Communications Committee, Campus Life Committee, and University Senator had no updates to share, other than to follow GSSC on Facebook and Instagram @yourgssc.

The council then heard from the nominee for the Dual BA Representative, Nicholas Lee. Lee is a first-year at GS, but a third year in the dual degree program with Sciences Po Paris in Paris, France. They explained that their platform is focused on providing clarity, transparency, and communication for the GS community. The council will vote in executive session on whether or not to confirm this appointment.

After the appointment discussion, Student Veterans Representative Anthony Costanzo GS’23 motioned for their ability to attend the Ivy League Veterans Council this upcoming Saturday. The Ivy League Veterans Council is a non-profit organization for student veterans that works to pull down the barriers between veteran students and Ivy League schools. This upcoming conference will be led and attended by student veteran advocates to discuss what other schools are doing for student veteran advocacy matters. Costanzo’s motion was passed unanimously with the addition of requiring them to send the council an itinerary of the conference beforehand and then a write-up of what they learned from the conference.

Finally, at the end of the meeting, he Finance Committee, represented by Vice President of Finance Josh Brown GS’22, presented and discussed the budget for Fall 2020 and the entire 2020-2021 academic year. The GSSC budget consists of the student activities fee that every GS student pays. Usually this fee is $98 per person, but, as a result of the pandemic, the fee was decreased from $98 to $50 for this semester. With a total of 1,987 students this semester, the Fall 2020 budget ends up being around $96,000. If the council increases the fee back to $98 for the spring, the Spring 2020 budget will be projected to be around $198,000. In total, the budget for the entire 2020-2021 school year is officially estimated to be $294,000, excluding the unofficial estimate of the $100,000 rollover from the previous academic year. The fall budget has around $5,000 of unallocated funds, and the total budget has around $36,000 of unallocated funds. Funds are subject to change. The discussion period of the council is occurring for 24 hours over email, and the following voting period will occur for 24 hours as well, with a total of 48 hours for the discussion and vote. After the presentation of the budget, Brown answered questions from other council members, most notably a question on why the students and the council have to pay the facilities and securities fund for this year. Brown explained that these are two funds that the council pays into, and that they have to pay it regardless of whether or not facilities or securities are being used, and that the payment being made this year is the same percentage as the amount paid last year.

Aaaand that’s a wrap! Stay tuned next week for the next GSSC meeting on Tuesday, October 6th.

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