Here are Bwog’s endorsements for the Columbia College and Columbia Engineering student government elections.
After several days of interviews, the Bwog editorial staff has decided on who we should endorse for student council elections. These decisions were made following the interview process, in which Bwog’s editors reviewed all interview notes and discussed the candidates’ platforms. Factors contributing to our decisions include but are not limited to: experience, platform details, equity towards first-generation and low-income students, COVID-19 safety on campus, versatility for remote and in-person environments, and community. We appreciate and thank everyone who sought our endorsements and made the time to meet with us. We encourage all candidates to keep getting involved, keep running for office, and keep advocating for the issues that they are passionate about. Read on to find out who we endorsed and why.
For Student Body President, VP Policy, VP Finance, VP Campus Life, VP Communications: CU Again! party
We at Bwog endorse the CU Again! ticket for CCSC Student Body President, Vice President of Policy, Vice President of Finance, Vice President of Campus Life, and Vice President of Communications. The CU Again! party platform centers on low-income students and pledges to increase safety for students with regards to COVID-19, be it through winter break meals or increased awareness of the Columbia Community Health Compact. We are also endorsing their full ticket due to the fact that they have worked together before, thus setting up a seamless transition into the next year of CCSC.
1. Rads Mehta for Student Body President and Krishna Menon for Vice President of Policy
Rads and Krishna exuded cohesion and compatibility on our interview call, and Bwog is confident this duo will work highly effectively to accomplish the goals they set forth with their joint platform. Their main focuses are mental health and wellness, financial accessibility, and community and traditions. When speaking with Bwog, Rads and Krishna emphasized their desire for every student to truly enjoy their years at Columbia by alleviating mental and financial hardships and enhancing social and communal opportunities.
2. Sophia Adeghe for Vice President of Finance
Sophia currently holds the position of Vice President of Finance, and Bwog believes that she is best suited to fulfill the role for the upcoming year as well. During our interview, there was great emphasis placed on supporting FGLI students and protecting those who are the most marginalized. A few plans to accomplish these goals include institutionalizing the Resource Fund that began recently, which would allow for a lending program of iPads and other devices for low-income students; providing additional FLEX dollars to those who cannot go home during winter break; and expanding the MetroCard Initiative to occur twice a semester to make it easier for low-income students to also enjoy what the city has to offer. With these plans and more included in her platform, Bwog endorses Sophia for VP of Finance
3. Elsa Chung for Vice President of Campus Life
Elsa’s planned initiatives center around reviving the joy and unadulterated fun that is meant to be felt by undergraduate students in college. Bwog appreciated Elsa’s optimism that we would be able to return to campus in the fall, allowing her to implement a Welcome Back Party, a Fall Festival, and 2020 and 2021 class reunions for courses who never got to meet in person, especially those meant to provide a sense of community to first-year students. The Welcome Back Party is intended to be a midsized event that will celebrate students returning to campus, with merchandise, food, and activities. The Fall Festival will be a musical event on a weekend in September, featuring student artists performing on Low Steps. Elsa also plans to support the CU Again! Buddies/Pal system initiative and other campus life programs like NSOP and Town Halls.
4. Teji Vijayakumar for Vice President of Communications
As a first-year, Teji understands the difficulty her peers face in staying in the loop with news and information that pertains to them. Bwog believes that Teji will make excellent contributions to the University as Vice President of Communications, following her experience working with the Communications Committee and serving as a 2024 representative. One of her plans includes a redesign of the CCSC website where all pertinent information can be found in one place, as well as forms of communication between students, their representatives, and administration. There will also be an online bulletin board for students to remain in the know about club events through posted advertisements. Overall, her objectives revolve around transparency, accessibility, and approachability which is why Bwog endorses Teji for VP of Communications.
For University Senator: Brandon Shi
After serving for two years on CCSC as Class of 2022 representative, we believe in Brandon Shi’s ability to represent Columbia College at the university level. Brandon has worked on the CCSC Peer Mentorship Program, successfully implementing a project he described preliminarily to Bwog in last year’s election cycle. He has also served on the Inclusion and Diversity Task Force, which is now a committee, has been involved with the Winter Break Meals program, and has sat on the Queer and Trans Advisory Board within the Office of Multicultural Affairs. Brandon addressed what many see as a flaw in Columbia University’s system—the institutional silos and isolation between each school—by committing to develop mentorship-style relationships with the Law School and Business School specifically.
Bwog appreciated Brandon’s evident concern for the wellbeing of FGLI students; he was adamant that the winter meals program, which provides meals for first-generation/low-income students over winter break when dining halls would typically close, be expanded to other student councils and not just exist within CCSC. To address the unique experience of FGLI first-year students, Brandon mentioned that older mentors, which could include graduate students, and first-year mentees can be paired up according to their identity as FGLI, international, or both. Additionally, Brandon plans to build on the FLI network to continue distributing PPE to FGLI students, which initially started as a method to combat price gouging for PPE. Brandon expressed concerns for current first-year students who missed out on meeting older students in passing in and around campus, and he believes the mentorship program will help alleviate that missed opportunity to some extent.
When thinking about the exit out of a completely isolated world, Brandon plans to provide educational resources to students on what activities are safe and unsafe when vaccinated. Bwog appreciates Brandon’s forward-thinking approach to the next phase of the pandemic: inoculation.
We are confident that Brandon has an excellent understanding of the capacity of this role and will represent Columbia College effectively to the broader University Senate while building relationships with other schools.
For University Senator: Colby King
As he has served as the Race and Ethnicity Representative on CCSC for the last two years, and as he is the current student co-chair of the University Senate’s Commission on Diversity, we believe that Colby King understands the responsibilities and capacities of this position and is capable of serving effectively as University Senator. Colby’s broad areas of concern include increasing accountability for Columbia Public Safety, increasing financial support for students impacted by COVID-19, providing greater structural support to Race and Ethnic Studies faculty of color, creating a fulfillment plan for the Community Benefits Agreement (CBA) to hold the Senate accountable for the completion of this agreement, and increasing equitable recruitment so that graduate schools aim to recruit more underrepresented students. Colby also shared that he wants to see more transparency in how the University hires faculty and how the University is spending money. To achieve greater financial support for students, Colby plans to eventually eliminate the student contribution portion of financial aid, and he plans to advocate for students to receive faster and easier access to CARES Act funding.
Bwog was particularly impressed with Colby’s bold ambition to create an independent review committee of Public Safety’s actions which would include the West Harlem community, students, staff, and faculty.
Colby’s conversation with Bwog left us feeling certain that concrete measures will be taken to hold Columbia accountable for hiring a diverse faculty and staff, recruiting underrepresented students into graduate programs, and relieving the financial burden on students wherever possible.
Bwog is confident that Colby has extensive knowledge of the responsibilities of this role and will represent Columbia College effectively to the broader University Senate while advancing equitable and inclusive policies and practices.
For Student Services Representative: Virginia Lo
Having transferred into Columbia, Virginia Lo understands the struggle of easily accessing resources within the tangle of Columbia’s bureaucracy. Virginia spoke to the detrimental effects of the pandemic on students’ mental health, and Bwog appreciated her commitment to providing therapists to students with shared identities and experiences, as mental health resources should be applicable to students of all backgrounds. Virginia’s platform is grounded in working closely with the Student Health Advisory Committee to enact many initiatives including making COVID testing more flexible and increasing communication around vaccine rollouts. Bwog places great value in Virginia’s previously established working relationship with the Student Health Advisory Committee; this connection lends itself to effectuating change around health policy and health initiatives in a rapid manner. While running amidst a pandemic that has persisted for over one whole year, never before has health been more crucial to the services provided to students. Out of all her health-oriented initiatives, Virginia most specifically plans to see the process of testing and vaccination streamlined to simplify the burden of logistical coordination in students’ already packed schedules.
As a first-generation college student and a woman of color, Virginia knows firsthand the feeling of being unseen and unheard. We greatly appreciate her dedication in listening to the concerns of all students in order to best advocate for each individual’s needs. Virginia proposed holding office hours for all CC students, which Bwog finds to be an endearing and effective way to render yourself approachable to feedback and advocacy-seeking students. Specifically, regarding FGLI students, Virginia plans to work with a student-led strategy, relying on the needs of forthcoming students and the willingness of the FGLI community to voice their concerns.
Bwog is confident that Virginia will serve students well and provide the most necessary and relevant resources for each individuals’ success and wellbeing, all while being receptive to student voices and input.
For International Students Representative: Blake Jones
Bwog was impressed with Blake Jones’ consideration of the many obstacles international students must navigate through, which have been amplified during the pandemic. If Columbia is in-person in the fall, Blake plans to run an ISOP 2.0 to provide resources on setting up bank accounts, cell phones, and connections to fellow international students. However, even if classes are offered in-person it is a real concern that some students will not be able to return to New York City. For those who would be impacted by this challenge, Blake would work with administrators to offer hybrid options so Zoom core classes and lecture recordings would be available. He mentioned during our interview that the current policy is for those who cannot return to defer a year—he is passionate about not allowing the University to delay students’ education and will work hard to ensure equal access and resources to continue coursework successfully.
If the fall semester is remote, Blake is prepared to utilize his past year’s experience in ensuring a smoother class experience for international students. He plans to work with Academic Affairs and the Committee on Instruction to require accommodations on exams, assignments, and courses for those in different time zones. He also plans on supporting extracurricular involvement through funding and open house events to ensure international students still have access to the Columbia community outside of classes.
Bwog is confident that Blake will be the best advocate for international students, both remote and in-person.
For Transfer Student Representative: Shelly Michael
For Transfer Student Representative, Bwog is endorsing Shelly Michael. Shelly transferred into Columbia this past fall as a junior, hailing from De Anza Community College where she served as Student Body President representing over 18,000 students. In this position, she increased the student minimum wage from 12 to 15 dollars per hour and secured a 200 million-dollar bond to be used for affordable student housing.
She also served as the first Transfer Student Representative this past year, launching a transfer student survey to learn that transfer students were not feeling academically and socially integrated into the Columbia community. To address this problem, Shelly created a friend-pairing initiative for transfer students to connect to other transfers and returning students.
Shelly’s platform centers around the idea that transfer students are often treated as an afterthought, detached from the rest of the student body. She wishes to create more transfer-specific NSOP programming as well as programs designated for transfers of certain communities by working with the Office of Multicultural Affairs. She also wants to institutionalize the online transfer community by creating a listserv for all CC transfers, replacing the random Facebook group chats. Shelly also specified that she would do this work over the summer, as CCSC will be operational during this season this year.
We are confident that Shelly will continue to represent all transfer students at Columbia College in an accurate and equitable way—we can’t wait to see what she will do next.
For Pre-Professional Representative: Anthony Adessa
Anthony was appointed as Pre-Professional Representative in February, and Bwog feels confident that he is best suited to fulfill the role for the upcoming year. Given his tenure has been short, there are several plans Anthony hopes to implement including a program called Lion Launch. In our interview, he cited the exclusivity of pre-professional organizations and passionately advocated for a collective resource that includes recruitment timelines, opportunities based on track and identity, and CCSC-funded coffee chats with mentors pursuing a similar career path. Anthony also emphasized the importance of accessibility to online resources like these for students attending Columbia remotely—a platform of information and connections would help close the opportunity gap that exists between those with easier access to career resources.
Bwog is confident in Anthony’s plans and endorses him for Pre-Professional Representative.
For University Senator: Elias Tzoc-Pacheco
Bwog endorses Elias Tzoc-Pacheco for the ESC University Senator seat. Elias is currently the Race and Inclusion Representative at ESC, using this position to advocate for SEAS to obtain a more generous PDF policy and lecture classes that discuss the intersection of different identities and engineering. Elias also attempted to create a free Columbia-run career advisory event for Harlem residents. with the Center for Career Education.
Elias’ platform for University Senator revolves around making SEAS more equitable moving forward. To accomplish this task, Elias wants to ensure that pandemic policies such as class recordings, closed captioning, and the extended PDF policy stick around after the pandemic ends. He also wants ESC to help create a comprehensive review of Public Safety in regards to recent anti-Black and anti-Asian violence.
Elias also informed us that the COVID-19 testing center at Columbia is inaccessible to students who are deaf or hard of hearing—which puts these students at an extreme disadvantage when it comes to student health and pandemic safety. Elias believes this inaccessibility indicates that the testing center must address inequity immediately, in order to keep students safe. He also is unopposed to COVID-19 restrictions continuing in the future if the pandemic situation does not significantly improve.
We at Bwog believe that Elias deserves the ESC seat in the University Senate because he wants to assess which pandemic policies succeeded and preserve them for the future. He’s ready to advocate for more equitable policies for all SEAS students and make campus a safer place from COVID-19.
For Academic Affairs Representative: Nikhil Mehta
Bwog endorses Nikhil Mehta for ESC Academic Affairs Representative. Nikhil has never participated in ESC before, but he decided to run this year after experiencing disappointment with professors, SEAS, and Columbia throughout the pandemic.
Nikhil’s platform centers the academic experience during the pandemic by creating solutions to the problems students face in the virtual classroom. Nikhil has noted that some professors have made offensive comments towards students, so he wants to create an anonymous feedback form to track these microaggressions and professor conduct. He also wants to aggregate Columbia’s current data on professors in one place, so students can more easily choose professors that best suit their needs.
Beyond enhancing relationships with professors, Nikhil wants to ensure that SEAS students have access to fair academic policies. He wants to partner with CCSC to show the Columbia administration that other competitive institutions, like M.I.T., have more equitable policies—making the compelling argument that accessibility would not infringe on Columbia’s prestige. Nikhil also wants to secure the same program that CCSC has with regard to providing FGLI students with tablets, textbooks, and software like SolidWorks. ESC had a fund similar to this CCSC program, but it’s now on pause—Nikhil wants to restart it immediately as many students are in the same situation that they were months ago.
The Bwog editorial staff was concerned about Nikhil’s lack of previous CCSC experience, as we want our endorsees to be successful in negotiating with administrators, but Nikhil proved us wrong. As Co-Head Submissions Editor at The Federalist, he’s gained the management skills needed for CCSC by virtually working with a large staff on a tight schedule. Nikhil has also been in contact with current Academic Affairs Representative James Wang and plans to seek his advice in the future.
Bwog has decided to endorse Nikhil for ESC Academic Affairs Representative because he has a plan to create more equity within SEAS and an energy that only comes with a fresh face to student government.
The editorial staff at Bwog would again like to thank everyone running for student government, as well as everyone who sought our endorsement this year. Thank you for representing the student body and working to build a better, more equitable Columbia.
Managing Editor Caroline Mullooly is on the Columbia Political Review with Colby King, Virginia Lo, and Blake Jones. Due to these conflicts, Caroline excluded herself from the selection process for these candidates. Internal Editor Aditi Misra is also in the Alpha Kappa Psi Business Fraternity with Brandon Shi and similarly removed herself from that selection process to avoid a conflict of interest.
Bwog Senior Staff Writer Lori Luo is currently running for ESC Health and Wellness Representative. Lori was not involved in any aspect of this year’s endorsement process nor was she considered for an endorsement from Bwog; however, her exclusion should not be considered a statement on her candidacy.
Low Library via Bwog Archives