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Photo Courtesy Matt Landes

As part of our elections coverage, The Lion is sharing responses from candidates about the following questions:

  1. What motivated you to run for this position?
  2. If elected, what would your goals be?
  3. What is something you want to fix at Columbia? How would you plan to address it?
  4. Any additional comments you would like to share with voters?

Below, you can find the candidate(s)’s unfiltered responses to help in deciding who you choose to vote for.  The Lion has yet to endorse any candidate at this time and the views below do not necessarily represent the views of our team. For more information, email submissions@columbialion.com.

What motivated you to run for this position?

I was motivated to run for Alumni Affairs Rep mainly because I think that alumni should be involved as much as possible in the lives of students in order to enable an even better experience as students while at Columbia, but also in order to help set up current students with good opportunities for their lives after college. The combination of helping my peers out without having to get so caught in the internal politics of what the Executive Board and similar positions deal with plus working directly with alumni seemed really appealing to me. Basically being on a Student Council that also deals with the world outside of the College seemed especially enticing, and I think I could do a good job at it as well.

If elected, what would your goals be?

My ultimate goals would be to achieve what I delineated in the beginning of my previous answer. The main ways I would go about achieving those goals would be through trying to grant students access to the alumni directory and getting alumni more directly involved with clubs. With the help of the current Alumni Affairs Rep I composed particular strategies to accomplish these two things, and if you are interested in hearing about them I suggest either showing up to the debate on Sunday or just reaching out to me (I do partly address the strategy with regards to alumni being more engaged with clubs in the next answer).
What is something you want to fix at Columbia? How would you plan to address it?
I want to fix the disconnect between students and alumni, and as I mentioned above one of the ways I want to go about doing this is by matching alumni with clubs so that particular alumni can be affiliated with specific clubs in the capacity of an advisor or even just as a friendly face. Alumni with real world experience in particular fields can be especially helpful to clubs with focuses on that sort of real world experience. And student activist groups can even enlist the help of alumni to further their causes. The matching process would start with reaching out the members of the Board of Visitors and other particularly engaged alumni and matching them with clubs. Once those initial matches are made, those alumni can suggest other alumni they know that might be interested, and so on.
Any additional comments you would like to share with voters?
Just read up on each candidate, especially their platforms and what Spec, Bwog and The Lion write about them in order to make the most informed choice. Don’t focus so much on campaign promises, rather focus on how candidates plan on implementing those promises. Also, good luck on all the midterms and papers.

 

 

Photo Courtesy Finn Vigeland

At 3PM today, Columbia’s Office of Undergraduate Admissions announced that it had admitted 6% of applicants to the Class of 2020, the lowest admissions rate in CC/SEAS history. In data released to student publications, the Admissions office noted that over 36,292 applied for admission and that only 2,193 were accepted.

The full statement from Dean Jessica Marinaccio can be found below:

“Today, my colleagues and I are thrilled to welcome the newest Lions to the Columbia Class of 2020. This year’s 2,193 admitted students, selected from the largest applicant pool in Columbia’s history, amazed and humbled us with their exceptional accomplishments in and out of the classroom, their adventurous intellectualism and their commitment to a better society.

“The students admitted today, along with those admitted Early Decision, represent an extraordinarily diverse range of backgrounds and voices that we are excited to have at Columbia College and The Fu Foundation School of Engineering and Applied Science. They come from all 50 states, Washington, D.C., the territories and 85 countries around the world. As our applicant pool grows, the process of selecting next year’s class becomes increasingly challenging. But we are confident that the Class of 2020 brings that unique combination of academic ability, leadership skills and personal characteristics that have distinguished Columbians over the years, and it makes today truly one of the most rewarding days for us in the Offices of Undergraduate Admissions and Financial Aid and Educational Financing.”

 

Congratulations to the incoming Class of 2020; the entire community is so excited to welcome you in the fall!

Photo Courtesy Bradley Davison (CC ’17)

NOTE:

A few days ago, the ColorCode team posted a response in regard to a “RoboCop” assignment assigned to students in Professor Satyen Kale’s Machine Learning (COMS 4771) course. In response Professor Kale wrote a response on his website, which can be found here. In order to make sure that both ColorCode and the Professor’s views are visible to interested parties, we have shared his piece below:

The original task description (“Robocop”) was regrettably written in a highly offensive manner. It was not our intention to suggest that imitating the “SQF” practices (or any racially-prejudiced practices) in the future is desirable in any way. In fact, the made-up setting for the task in a fictitious, dystopian future was meant to be an ironic indicator of precisely the opposite sentiment. We are strongly against practices such as SQF. While the primary intention for the task was purely pedagogical—to give students exposure to using machine learning techniques in practice—we acknowledge that not providing proper context for the task was poor judgement on our part, and we sincerely apologize for that.

Two original motivations for using this data set were (i) to illustrate the difficulties in developing any kind of “predictive policing” tool (which already exist today), and (ii) to assess how predictive modeling could help shed light on this past decision-making. For instance, at the coarsest level, it is evident that very few of the cases where a subject is stopped actually lead to an arrest; this raises the question why the stops should have been made in the first place. Moreover, if it is difficult to predict the arrest decision from the features describing the circumstance, then it may suggest that there is some unrecorded aspect of the circumstance that drives the decision; such a finding could have policy implications.

There are critical aspects of the data set that make it highly inappropriate for use in developing any kind of predictive policing tool. First, the data only reflects the arrest decisions of past police officers, which are decidedly not what one would want to imitate. Second, even if the arrest decisions (i.e., labels) in the data set were appropriately modified (thereby altering the conditional distribution of the label given the features), the set of the cases there may only be representative of suspects that past police officers chose to stop, necessarily introducing biases into the distribution.

We originally thought that these challenging aspects of the data set would be of interest to the class. However, our formulation of the task was in poor taste and failed to provide adequate context. Because we can only objectively evaluate the predictive modeling aspects of the project that are independent of the context of the data set, we have decided to change the data set to one that is completely unrelated to the SQF data set.

A link to the Professor Kale’s original posting on his website can be found here. To respond to this piece or submit an op-ed of your own, email submissions@columbialion.com

One day on College Walk as I admired Low Library, it occurred to me, what will students see when they stand on College Walk some two hundred years from now? Will they see Butler and wonder what it looked like inside before it was converted to a computer mainframe? Will they wave at their friends on the steps or stop and chat for a few minutes with a classmate from their English seminar about the latest upgrade to the English Wiki? Will they sit on the lawn on a warm day in April, pouring over glowing tablets, stopping every so often to look up at the impressive facade of Low Library? Or maybe they just might see those infamous phallic shaped fountains, wondering as we do, what our forefathers were thinking.

The neoclassical buildings that define our campus are so imposing they appear to almost have grown out of the ground, as offshoots of the bedrock of Manhattan. Yet their existence is much more tenuous than you might imagine. After a mere hundred and ten years or so since many of the buildings were built, almost no original interiors remain intact, and many have be subject to unsympathetic renovations or disrepair.

Columbia’s original Morningside campus was designed by the preeminent architectural firm of McKim, Mead, and White, who designed many New York landmarks, including the original Penn Station and the main branch of the New York Public Library. Envisioned as a university campus with small, intimate courtyards, the new Morningside campus was meant to be a welcoming place to study that was well integrated in the urban fabric of New York. The remaining McKim, Mead, and White buildings on campus include Philosophy, John Jay, Low Library, and Avery. Even though much of the original landscaping has been altered or never implemented, one can still glimpse what the vision of courtyards coupled with striking buildings would have looked like by going to the courtyard between Avery and Fayerweather.

Some of our buildings are protected to varying degrees by virtue of being named historically significant sites. The facades of Casa Italiana, Philosophy Hall, Pupin Library and the interior of Low Library are on the National Register of Historic Places, which means Columbia receives tax incentives from the federal government to preserve these buildings deemed to be of historical significance. These same buildings, as well as St Paul’s, are unalterable due to being on the New York City Designated Landmarks registry. Unfortunately, others, including Avery Hall and Kent Hall, have no restrictions and thus may not stand the test of time.

However, historic status only goes so far. Even for buildings with historic status, there are no provisions for requiring Columbia to keep them well maintained. As Professor Andrew Dolkart, Director of the Historic Preservation Program and the James Marston Fitch Associate Professor of Historic Preservation, put it: “Columbia doesn’t maintain it campus as it should” given that we have some of the “greatest architectural monuments in the United States [on our campus].”

Columbia also has no impetus to keep the campus’s landscaping original. Professor Dolkart points to the “characteristic deep red bricks” of Columbia’s walkways — currently cracked, loose and dangerous. Instead of disinvesting from its campus to the extent that students are in danger of tripping from the beautiful bricks on the walkways, Professor Dolkart thinks that the walkways are a prime opportunity our administration is overlooking. The sheer scale of the operation would allow a brick factory to custom make the bricks to the historic specifications Columbia needs. This would allow for a more beautiful, historically accurate campus that Columbia deserves.

When Columbia decides to beautify its campus, it does things well. Professor Dolkart points to the lamps outside many of our buildings. Not so many years ago, these lamps were rusted, had parts missing, and were truly an eyesore. Just recently, Columbia decided to have all of them fixed. Parts were recast and new glass was put into many of them. Now, they are restored in all their glory. Unfortunately, these lamps are the exception to the rule of disinvestment in our historic campus.

The reality is Columbia needs to start spending more money in order to preserve the historic character of our campus for generations of students to come. According to the Fiscal Year 2013 Report published by Columbia Facilities, of the 284 million dollars Columbia spent on construction, a mere nine million went to “historic preservation projects on campus and in the community.” Given that a majority of our buildings on campus are historic, why the lack of spending on preserving, maintaining, and protecting our characteristic neoclassical buildings? According to Professor Dolkart, the more decrepit the original buildings become, the harder it will be to maintain them, let alone renovate them to their original splendor.

What will be the backdrop of the Columbia Class of 2214’s graduation? Will they too see the splendor of the Beaux Arts vision that is our Morningside campus? Or will the years and years of lack of spending mean an irrevocably altered campus missing its history? It is time for Columbia to choose to start planning for the future; our buildings and their history deserve to be preserved for generations to come.

Photo Courtesy Josh Schenk

As part of our elections coverage, The Lion is sharing responses from candidates about the following questions:

  1. What motivated you to run for this position?
  2. If elected, what would your goals be
  3. What is something you want to fix at Columbia? How would you plan to address it
  4. Any additional comments you would like to share with voters?

Below, you can find the candidate(s)’s unfiltered responses to help in deciding who you choose to vote for.  The Lion has yet to endorse any candidate at this time and the views below do not necessarily represent the views of our team. For more information, email submissions@columbialion.com.

I decided to run for University Senate because of my experience as the CCSC Class of 2019 President and as a member of the Senate Committee for Students with Disabilities and the Senate Libraries Committee. Over the last year, I’ve had the opportunity to work closely with other students, faculty, staff, and administration on important issues. My accomplishments this year include securing air conditioning for undergraduate housing, partnering with 20 NYC restaurants for CU student discounts, and launching Peer Connect for first-year student. I feel that these experiences will allow me to begin immediately pursuing important University-wide initiatives as a University Senator.

There are a lot of issues I would like to fix at Columbia. I would address issues of race and diversity on campus. There are no spaces for many minority groups, and I would advocate for the further allocation of space to underrepresented minorities. Additionally, I hope to work with the Senate to recruit and retain a diverse student and faculty body. There remains a shortage of diverse staff in STEM fields as well as instructors of color teaching core classes. Lastly, it is necessary to add staff members of different ethnicities and cultural backgrounds to Columbia Psychological Services.

As Columbia begins to make the move to the Manhattanville campus, I will push for more lounges and study spaces on both the Morningside and Manhattanville campuses. Columbia students deserve places to relax and socialize.  I’ll also work to increase access to outside spaces, such as the grass lawns in front of Butler.

One of my biggest priorities is to make the actions of the Senate more accountable. I would hold town hall meetings once a semester to ensure that Columbia College student voices are heard. The Senate represents a diverse group of students and faculty, and it is important for Senators to not forget their constituency. Additionally, outside students are not currently allowed to attend committee meetings. As Senator, I would seek to change the guidelines so that Student Affairs Committee meetings are opened up to students. Lastly, I would like Senate committees to publish their minutes.

There needs to be a change in the University Senate’s Rules of Conduct that explicitly protects student journalists covering protests on campus. Students have a right to know what is happening at their school, and this right is not protected when reporters risk disciplinary action if they cover a protest. I plan to consult with the rules committee of the Senate to produce guidelines protecting journalists.

As a current member of the Senate committee addressing disability access, I will work to provide accessible entrances and access points, especially in getting from lower campus to upper campus. If an entrance or elevator is not functioning, students should be immediately notified by Disability Services and provided with an approximate timeline for service and an alternative route.

I would aim to change the finals schedule so that students do not have testing on December 23rd. It is unfair for international students and west coast students to not be home for the holidays. Additionally, professors should not react to this by scheduling finals before or during reading week. That’s just not right – reading week is a time for students to study in peace.

I will push for official University forms to provide an option for identifying as transgender/genderqueer. The University should continue its move towards gender-neutral bathrooms by accelerating the pace with which such bathrooms are implemented in buildings like Butler and Hamilton.

These are some of the issues I think are most important to address right away. Since my term would end when I’m still a junior, as opposed to most who would be second-semester seniors, I would be held accountable for my duties on the Senate and have more than two years to work on important initiatives.  If anyone reading this has any suggestions or issues that they’d like to see addressed, please email me at jms2430@columbia.edu! My full platform is available at http://joshschenk.wix.com/senate.