This week CCSC talked spring semester plans and continued their work in mitigating the COVID-era struggles that so many students are facing.
There is something cathartic about sitting on Zoom and listening to CCSC members appreciate each other and their weekly meetings. From the president of CC to first-year general body members, there was commiseration and gratitude that these weekly council meetings are, for many, one of their few chances per week of socializing. While this year has been difficult for everyone, seeing the community that has been built virtually by CCSC members did give me some much needed warm and fuzzies.
VP Policy Rads Mehna (CC ’22) and VP Finance Sophia Adeghe (CC ’22) have finalized their resource fund proposal which would provide needs to students who do not have access to Columbia’s resources given the virtualness of the semester. Examples of items provided would include printers, smartphones, professional clothes, and other miscellaneous academic supplies that are normally available to students when on campus. This would be presented as an online form for students to submit requests for specific items. It is expected to receive dean approval this week, after which CCSC general body members will have a vote. The dedication that CCSC members have to creating services and accommodations for students in need that the university shamefully does not provide during these times never ceases to amaze.
The presidents and vice presidents of the classes of 2022 and 2023 as well as Transfer Student Representative Shelly Michael (CC ’22) are in collaboration over the virtual friend pairing project, an effort to socially connect students of the two classes. This is an effort not only to improve the class community for everyone but also to ensure that transfers can feel that they are a part of the community given the unusual difficulties of being at a new university amidst COVID. Transfer Representative Michael also finalized her Transfer Student Survey, which will soon be sent to the classes of 2023, 2022, and 2021. Fill them surveys out! Class of 2022 VP Arya Rao also mentioned that this week there will be a trivia night for the class with prizes being offered from the Columbia Bookstore.
Student Services Representatives Zoe Davidson (CC ’24) and Daniel Meadvin (CC ’23) in collaboration with Class of 2024 VP Kathan Reddy have drafted the Student Services Guide, an online resource that succinctly and helpfully provides… more online resources! But seriously, new students especially this year have struggled simply because of a lack of sufficient knowledge of tools that Columbia provides to its students for free. This includes everything from on-demand evening campus shuttles to online library access. There are many needs that have been unknowingly met already by the university, but access to them is limited due to a lack of advertising and nuanced steps. Once finalized, this will be a great resource for virtual learning, especially for first-years and new students who can not learn through word-of-mouth on campus the many perks that being a Columbia student gets you.
University senators Elliot Hueske (CC ’23) and Ramsey Eyre (CC ’21) continue to work on tentative planning for the spring semester through surveying students and speaking to the administration. Senator Hueske urged for students to continue to fill out the Financial and Housing Survey to help her express to administration students’ financial needs and spring housing demand. Senator Eyre met with the Student Health Advisory Committee and Columbia Health to discuss the university’s response to COVID so far, as well as how that response may look going forward into spring. They also discussed expanding the current testing program provided at Lerner Hall as there have been some complaints from students that those not included in the mandatory testing group have encountered issues receiving a test on-demand. Given the hope by administration and students alike for more students being able to return to campus for the spring semester, expanding the testing program and working out its kinks now should be a priority.
Spring semester felt like the theme of last night’s meeting, as the last portion was spent having an open discussion about student concerns, hopes, and needs for the next semester. President Joon Baek (CC ’21) enlightened us on his meeting with Deantini, where the dean expressed his deep desire for at the very least seniors being welcomed back to campus in the spring but noted that the ultimate decision will be made by both the university’s COVID Task Force and the state of New York. With Barnard’s recent announcement and, as VP Policy Mehna pointed out, Governor Cuomo’s announcement reducing quarantine to three days for those without symptoms, there are reasons to be hopeful that a spring return for senior students is not completely out of the question. Senior President Maryam Elsayed (CC ’21) echoed a similar emphasis on the desire for students to be able to return for spring but noted that first years also need to remain a priority. Senator Heuske urged E-board to express to the administration that there needs to be a reapplication for housing to ensure that students who need it most are getting priority.
There are two sides to the argument of having more students return, and Race and Ethnicities Representative Colby King (CC ’22) added that the university still has a responsibility to the surrounding Harlem community to keep cases low, especially considering the limited access to healthcare that many nearby community members may face. Representative King also emphasized that some students have not received housing refunds from this semester and that financial accountability from the school in administering refunds is essential during these uncertain times. Both first-years, VP Reddy and VP Policy Mehna reiterated Representative King’s COVID concerns. Alumni Affairs Representative Sina Monfared (CC ’23) spoke up to share that his experience of living on campus this semester has been far from ideal and that students who are invited back should be provided a clear understanding of the activities that will and will not be happening, as well as what their access to university buildings will look like. Limited Lerner Hall and Butler Library hours were a chief complaint, especially given decreasing temperatures and increasing workloads. These open CCSC discussions as well as surveys will help CCSC members accurately communicate to the administration in their nearly weekly meetings what the student body’s opinions are on the spring semester plans.
To end on a slightly more positive note, VP Campus Life Justin Rossman (CC ’23) is working with the other student council campus life representatives on the virtual tree lighting ceremony. Finally, the COVID-19 Academic Adjustment Proposal after being passed unanimously last week by CCSC is now in the hands of the Committee on the Core and the Committee of Instruction waiting for administrative approval. Fingers crossed it passes!
Image via Bwog archives