The Blog


Photo Courtesy Arabelle Chafe

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?

The SEAS Class of 2018 consists of about 330 students. This is about the size of my high school class. I remember knowing the name of every single person in my high school class. Unfortunately, with my SEAS family, I cannot stay the same. There is a big void in terms of a class community. People don’t know each other, and there is a lack of sufficient opportunities for community building. As we enter into the final half of our college careers, we really ought to create something special, something that we can look back upon after graduation with fondness. But we won’t be able to create this community at the pace at which we are currently moving. If our time at Columbia ended this May, would you be content?

 

Recognizing this problem, I looked into the SEAS student council to see what was going on. I read meeting minutes, spoke with some council members, and tried to research what our class council had done over the past 2 years. The result was not surprising. The events for SEAS Class of 2018 alone have been few. On the rare occasion that there is an event, it is usually just piggybacking off of a CCSC initiative. This is a shame. We are engineers. We are supposed to be the creative builders and innovators. We need a student council who will both collaborate with CCSC and originate its own initiatives to benefit and bring our class together.

 

In order for this to happen, we need fresh blood in student council. We need leaders from all walks of life, from different campus clubs and communities, who have taken part in creating communities and successful policies outside of student council. This is what I will offer as President, and this is the philosophy behind my party, SEASoned Engineers. We all come from different parts of the world and have participated in different aspects of student life. From these experiences, we will take an out of the box approach to student council that will revolutionize our class dynamic.

 

If elected, what would your goals be?

As Class Council President, my main job will be building the community that we deserve. I plan on taking ideas from another, similarly sized but much more tight-knit, community that I am a part of at Columbia and reimplementing those ideas for the SEAS Class of 2018.

 

While student life will be a crucial part of my job as Class President, I see the purview of my position as much broader than insomnia study breaks or free soul-cycle classes. I want to serve as a representative of my class in tackling the larger policy issues that affect our entire campus. To accomplish this, I plan on working with my council to develop a communications infrastructure for collecting student input so that we can make informed policy decisions and actually carry out the desires of our class. I see myself as a class champion, listening to the concerns of my peers and bringing them directly to administrations.

 

What is something you want to fix at Columbia?

As an engineer, and as on Operations Research major in particular, I look for ways to optimize processes. Certain parts of the way in which our university operates are both outdated and inefficient. Examples of this are timesheets for university employees, which are still done by paper, the messy manual reservation system for fitness equipment at Dodge Fitness Center, and the abysmal failures of temperature control in certain dormitories and academic spaces.

 

How would you plan to address it?

Technology and communication are always the answer. For the timesheets and the fitness equipment reservations, I plan on proposing digitized and/or online systems for streamlining these processes. Regarding the temperature in dorm rooms, I think that Housing made an important first step with the installation of AC units in floor lounges. While air-conditioned floor lounges can provide an escape from the often inhuman temperatures of dorm rooms, they are only a temporary fix. As someone who lives in a McBain shaft room, I live through the struggle of suffocating heat almost daily, even in winter. In August and September, the hot outdoor temperatures turn my room into a Sauna. Then, just when Autumn temperatures start to kick in, Columbia fires up the heater and keeps it on until April, regardless of what the actual temperatures outside are. A mere 5 minutes in the bedroom can often be enough to require a second or third shower for the day, and sleeping is nearly impossible. I plan on inviting administrators into these rooms at their peak temperatures so that they truly experience the need for a long-term fix.

 

Any additional comments you would like to share with voters?

Our council is really excited to serve you, not just the SEAS Class of 2018, but the larger Columbia community. Come talk to us if you have ideas. Send us a Facebook message and we can get coffee. Like us on facebook. Follow us on the campaign trail via Snapchat @seas2018. Also, we’ll be doing a fun video blog to talk more about our ideas. Be sure to check it out. Guaranteed to make you laugh.

This week, ColorCode was pleased to learn that Professor Kale revoked the Robocop competition and issued a full apology for the original assignment, which, as he writes, “failed to provide adequate context” for a data set laden with historical and political racial trauma. We appreciate Professor Kale’s explanation of the assignment’s intended impact––to lead students to interrogate the policy implications of ML classifiers trained on racist data––and hope that future assignments can convey this lesson with the clarity that this assignment lacked. We sincerely applaud Professor Kale’s timely and appropriate correction, and hope that all professors at Columbia can follow his example in responding to student concerns with empathy and accountability.

 

Since our last statement, some of our peers have questioned whether the assignment’s revocation has deprived the class of an ethics lesson in handling politically challenging data sets. Lessons should not come at the cost of direct harm to the most marginalized groups involved. While we agree with Professor Kale’s professed intentions in assigning the Robocop competition, we stand by our original assessment (with which Professor Kale himself has agreed): that the assignment in its original form could not have produced the intended pedagogical outcome and discussion on data responsibility in Machine Learning. And while this particular incident has been sufficiently redressed by Professor Kale himself, we think it’s important to locate the Robocop assignment in the context of a larger department and school that excludes and silences Black students and students of color. We are studying computer science in a department with few Black students and no Black faculty, in an engineering school that builds on a legacy of close collaboration with the U.S. military and NYPD, at a university that is gentrifying Harlem to build its newest science center. From casual remarks about our intelligence by classmates, TAs, and professors, to academic policies not intended to help the most marginalized of us succeed– these experiences contribute to an academic atmosphere that repeatedly dismisses and delegitimizes our pain by “intellectualizing” academic work with horrific, racist implications and impacts. Computer Science at Columbia is steeped in a history of racism that still persists today. Within this context, an assignment “welcoming” students to a “future” of “cyborg law enforcers” trained on racist, violently-collected data is inexcusable.

 

We therefore point to the Robocop incident as evidence that massive reform is needed within the department to support Black students and other students of color, low income students, and other marginalized people in STEM. Professor Kale’s swift response gives us a lot of hope that change can happen here at Columbia. We will continue to hold professors, departments, and the university accountable to the impact of their academic work. We join Mobilized African Diaspora in demanding greater academic support for marginalized students of color, especially the hiring of Black faculty in Computer Science and SEAS. We also ask that SEAS as a whole reaffirm its commitment to its most marginalized students by expanding course offerings on research ethics and incorporating requirements in African American Studies and Ethnic Studies. We ask this with the recognition that technical knowledge is dangerous without an analysis of race and power. Finally, we urge current professors to build on pedagogy and research that is explicitly anti-racist and anti-oppressive, that gives students the opportunity to work on projects that uplift and liberate communities of color and other marginalized people.

 

We thank the following groups for their explicit support (running list). Please reach out to colorcodeboard@gmail.com if your organization would like to co-sign:

National Society of Black Engineers– Columbia

The Lion

No Red Tape

Students for Justice in Palestine

Divest Barnard

Photo Courtesy Aishat Jalloh

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.

1. I want to get more involved on campus in a meaningful way. I am very sociable/open person, and I place a lot of importance in Networking. I figured I can use that and contribute to helping our student body access and expand our Networks, starting with Alums.

2. One of my main goals is to strengthen FLIP alumni relations and incorporate them to our Alumni Mentorship program. FLIP Alumns are wildly successful in their fields, but tend to lose touch with Alumni Networks at times. Bringing them back into the fold will impact the success and motivation of student, especially current FLIP students, immensely and add a lot to our community here.
3.  Columbia is a relatively large school on a very large campus. This can make it difficult to foster a sense of community. It is not so much a problem, but it is something that we can work to improve. We can do so by encouraging students to go to things like sporting events more, and having more events like Glass House Rocks and small concerts on low that brought students out of their rooms or Butler.

Last Thursday night, the Metropolitan Opera roared with thunderous applause at the conclusion of Gaetano Donizetti’s Roberto Devereux, the first ever presentation of the piece in the company’s history. Even more momentous, with this performance, soprano Sondra Radvanovsky completed her season-long journey of singing all three lead heroines in the composer’s “Tudor Trilogy.” To celebrate the occasion, the Met assembled an all-star cast to perform the work in an opulent new production by Scottish director Sir David McVicar.

With each outing in these roles, Radvanovsky has further asserted her mastery of vocal technique and dramatic interpretation, even if her large voice is not typical of the Bel Canto repertoire. In Roberto Devereux, she plays an aging Queen Elizabeth I, weary after a long reign on the British throne. As the opera opens, Elizabeth struggles to win the affection of the much younger Robert Devereux, Earl of Essex, who has secretly taken up with Sarah, Elizabeth’s close confidant and wife of the Duke of Nottingham. After Robert is convicted of treason, Elizabeth is determined to save him from punishment, but when the truth of his affair with Sara is revealed, her love turns to rage, and she instead signs the death warrant that seals his – and her – fate.

Radvanovsky’s singing was even more polished than in past performances, characteristically combining prodigious sound with razor-sharp high notes while still carefully massaging the role’s lyrical phrases. As always, the soprano was especially moving when effortlessly floating sustained pianissimi, and with increasingly unhinged physicality, Radvanovsky conveyed Elizabeth’s descent into despair and resignation. Hers was a masterful portrayal that deserved the prolonged ovations it received, but in future performances Radvanovsky could bring a touch more grit to the interpretation and achieve even greater impact.

Nearly two decades after his Met debut, tenor Matthew Polenzani’s talent is being rewarded with some of opera’s most coveted leading roles; he likewise succeeded as the conflicted title character. Bringing a tone that has become rounder and more tender with age, Polenzani’s singing was both warm and insistent, and he capped ardent lines with robust top notes. Unfortunately though, Polenzani lost his stamina during his final impassioned aria, only cautiously concluding a triumphant night.

With a creamy mezzosoprano colored by just the right amount of smokiness, Elīna Garanča imbued her portrayal of Sara with great sympathy and expressivity. Up against the exceptional performances of his colleagues, baritone Mariusz Kwiecien’s portrayal of Nottingham was underwhelming. While Kwiecien often brings a wealth charisma to his performances, this outing felt unnaturally forced and was not aided by wooden singing.

McVicar has set the world of Roberto Devereux in the claustrophobic confines of a Jacobean theater that is filled with stunning visuals. The set, designed by McVicar himself, features black wooden walls, gilded ornaments, and imposing viewing galleries that drip with the trademark grandeur of the Tudor court and is enhanced by Paule Constable’s cinematic lighting. Especially noteworthy are the sumptuous costumes by Moritz Junge that utterly transform these modern singers into Elizabethan nobility. Unfortunately, McVicar’s direction did not match the lavish production values, with much of the onstage movement marked by unmotivated action devoid of any real emotional urgency.

Under Maurizio Benini’s baton, the first scene of the opera was thrilling; here each singer performed at his or her vocal and dramatic best. But this energy waned in the scenes that followed. In key moments, Benini chose uncomfortable tempi, and his sluggish pacing of Act 2 robbed the opera’s exhilarating showdown between Elizabeth, Nottingham, and Robert of much of its intensity. Eventually, the performance re-found its vigor with riveting final scenes by Radvanovsky and Polenzani, but this was not enough to save the evening from an overall sense of inconsistency.

In all, this performance, which was loaded with great potential, only partially delivered on expectations. Thanks to three strong vocal performances and attractive aesthetics, Columbia students will still find this an engaging night at the opera. Hopefully, with subsequent performances, the weaker elements can rise to meet these high standards.

Performances of Roberto Devereux continue through April 19 with the April 16 matinee performances being broadcast into movie theaters live in high definition and presented for free on 105.9 FM WQXR. More information can be found online at the Met’s website.

Photo Courtesy Aakanxit Khullar

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 have been elected VP of ESC 2018 twice consecutively since my freshman year. Serving on the class council has been one of the most challenging and rewarding experiences of my life at Columbia. Working to address the problems faced by my constituents has helped me bridge the gap between the engineers and Columbia administration. Often, people have approached me with issues – real issues that affect students (incuding myself). By bringing these up during weekly disucssions with various deans and administrators, I have been a part of the process of finding solutions to a given problem.

Be it enhancing Wi-Fi connectivity on campus, increasing utilization of Makerspace, developing ESC project grants, working towards a better financial aid policy, or organizing engaging, fun events for my class – I have relished it all. Assosciated with the council is a steep learning curve which we have enjoyed negotiating. I now want to capitalize on this experience and while serving as the President, make the second half of my fellow engineers’ experience at Columbia even more enriching!

If elected, what would your goals be?

My council and I want to continue the efforts we began to improve accessibility and distribution of information relevant to 2018 engineers. Remember the weekly newsletters we sent last year as part of our agenda before elections? This year we want to consolidate information about events in a class of 2018 calendar.

A major task of junior class council is to organize industry showcases and career-oriented events. If elected, we want to expand industry participation in both of these. We plan on hosting grad school info sessions for juniors with grad students and seniors who applied to grad school while making students more aware of already available resources regarding post-grad options, especially resources in CCE.

Finally, we seek to get students more involved with the overall community and student life. Last year, we designed and sold over 200 SEAS department specific T-shirts to engineers across all four classes. Organization of well attended events such as Project X-Wing and SEAS Get Degrees was made possible by meticulous planning and smart execution, for instance the quadcopter flying obstacle course competition in X-Wing. For major declaration, we invited faculty members, CSA and CCE advisors to help fellow engineers plan their future. The success of SEAS Get Degrees was palpable in the large number of genuine questions posed by the engineers, the frank answers given by Professors, CSA, and CCE advisors. We will certainly host many more events partnered with sports teams like engineers’ nights that will get students  more active in school spirit. We will also seek out more businesses that would partner with us and host events for engineers that foster a sense of community among engineers.

What is something you want to fix at Columbia? How would you plan to address it?

Stress culture and lack of environmental awareness. Columbia is not the friendliest of colleges and the stress asscociated with academics is something all of us have felt at some time or the other. Unfortunately, the lack of ability to handle stress sometimes is so pronounced that even simple things like talking to a friend appear difficult. As President, I will work to the best of my ability to improve CPS resources that would make students feel safe and stable not only physically but also mentally. My council will work with Columbia administration to make CPS service around the clock. We also intend to plan workshops in association with the Mental Health Task Force to make students more aware of the resources available to them to help tackle both academic and non-academic stress.

I am sure we have all witnessed blatant wastage of electricity and come across a certain degree of lack of awareness surrounding environmental issues on campus. Climate change is real, and our actions as individuals directly impact our planet. My council feels strongly about raising awareness about green initiatives around campus. If elected, we will work with EcoReps and other groups to get engineers thinking generally more eco-friendly,and specifically through design competitions to solve ecological problems like beverage waste.

Any additional comments you would like to share with voters?

I am extremely proud of what we’ve been able to achieve in the past two years together with you on council. I hope we can count on your continued support for the upcoming year as we seek to work on a variety of issues and make your journey at Columbia an even smoother one. While I suggest that you vote Mac n SEAS, I do concede that what is the most important is that you exercise your vote. So starting Monday, choose wisely!