This week ESC discussed the credit limit for this year’s three semesters, the length of winter break, and adding a Transfer Student Representative to the council.

This year, SEAS students are allowed to take a total of 40 credits spread out over three semesters (fall, spring, and summer) or a maximum of 21 credits in both the fall and spring semesters. Many students have raised concerns over this policy. CC students have more flexibility in terms of the credit limit and taking courses over the summer. Additionally, this credit limit prevents some students from spreading their courses out over the three semesters. Students must choose between a more dense course load over two semesters or losing the opportunity to take two additional credits. 

Student Body President Estevan Mesa (‘22) has been in communication with the deans regarding this policy and will continue to discuss it with them. At this week’s ESC General Body Meeting, though, the council attempted to make sense of the policy. VP Student Life Katherine Liu (‘21) suggested that this policy could have originated from concerns regarding paying professors, since typically students who take summer courses pay additional tuition. The council did not come to much of a conclusion regarding this topic. However, the members plan to add questions regarding students’ thoughts about the three semester structure in a future survey.

The council also discussed student concerns regarding the short length of winter break. Columbia’s winter break is shorter than that of many other schools. Various council members expressed concerns about students not having enough time to recover from Zoom school fatigue. Mesa and Professional Development Representative Shomik Ghose (‘23) noted that at this point, adjusting the length of winter break is likely not a feasible option, since it would require a large procedural shift and many students would have to scramble to adjust plans. FGLI Representative Martha Escobedo (‘21) noted that collecting data on how students feel about the three semester academic year and whether or not they are using the summer semester could help determine a way to best deal with this situation if it should come up again. She favored the idea of ending the fall semester earlier in future years in order to have a longer winter break.

After ending the discussion on COVID-19 related academic policies, the council moved on to talk about a proposed amendment to the ESC Constitution to add a new position to the council: Transfer Student Representative. Class of 2023 President Angel Mancera introduced the proposal and explained the role envisioned for this representative. Their primary role would be to voice the concerns and experiences of SEAS transfer students. This would include speaking with transfer students and reporting findings to ESC and facilitating activities to create a sense of community among transfer students. The representative would also evaluate the process of transferring credits to SEAS from other institutions and helping transfer students access support in doing this and work with other ESC members and Columbia offices on various programs and initiatives.

Class of 2023 Representative Matthew Wahl spoke briefly about his own experiences as a transfer student. He discussed difficulties he had with transferring credits and feeling like NSOP grouped him with freshmen without connecting him to fellow members of his own class. Wahl hopes that this proposed representative will provide the support he wished he had for future transfer students.

The council motioned in favor of entertaining this amendment and will be voting on it early this week via Google Form. If approved, the position will be added to the council.

Several ESC members provided updates this week. University Senator Joe Hier (‘21) attended an IT Committee meeting this week. Topics discussed at the meeting included making sure that people’s preferred names are used across various technology systems at Columbia and what to do from a policy perspective if SSOL crashes again during future registration periods.

Technology Representative Vish Rao (‘23) met with CUIT’s Maneesha Aggarwal. She explained that not all Columbia students were given Zoom Pro accounts because the university is in the process of switching over to using RingCentral instead. She also acknowledged concerns regarding Proctorio and informed Rao that the school vetted the data proctorio was allowed to collect and use before making a deal with them.

Student Health and Wellness Representative Lori Luo (‘23) is currently creating a survey on student mental health. When she discussed this survey with a representative from Alice! Health Promotion, Luo was encouraged to focus on qualitative rather than quantitative data to jumpstart initiatives, since Columbia Health plans to collect quantitative data in a survey next semester. Luo noted some concern over the usefulness of getting qualitative data from Columbia Health’s survey, since it will be conducted later in the year. This would allow for less time to create and implement new initiatives to address the concerns raised by the data.

We Love Lerner via Bwog Archives