The Lion asked candidates to tell us about their campaigns to give us insight into their aspirations and motivations for running. Here is what some of the members of Grassroots Columbia had to say:
Are you affiliated with a party, and if so, which one?
We are Grassroots Columbia! Rui is running for Student Body President; Richard for VP Policy; Cindy for VP Campus Life.
What position are you running for, and what motivated you to run for it?
I’m running for VP Campus Life because too many ideas and talented brains are not being implemented the way they should–whether due to bureaucracy, CCSC as a popularity contest, lack of funding, inadequate space, etc. My experience co-leading a formal petition for music performance space on-campus last semester (with over 1,000 signatures garnered) taught me much about working through every administrative loophole to accomplish a single goal, and I fully intend to carry the lessons I learned into helping every CC student feel as if his/her voice matters.
If elected, what would your goals be? How do you plan to actually achieve them?
- LGBTQ+ & POC advocacy: With the new open space in Lerner Hall designated for our LGBTQ+ & POC communities, we plan to ensure that its resources meet student needs to the fullest extent and that the administration follows through on their promise. I want to work closely with UEM, the administration, ABC, and the groups to whom the new space is dedicated to create a research spreadsheet of space usage throughout one semester, ensuring full transparency between UEM and the student groups.
- Space allocation for student groups: along a similar vein, though UEM’s/Facilities’ mantra is, “Columbia is a space-constrained campus and we are doing our best to maximize what we have,” I want to ensure every student group on campus obtains the best possible space for their programming and events. If a group is denied such space, it becomes a self-perpetuating cycle: the group’s members cannot program with the innovation and creativity they’d like, their allocation could decrease into the next year as a result of perceived “poor programming,” and they are less motivated as a result to express themselves fully. I want to sit down with/personally email every group’s e-board and ask them for the specific days/times per week their group requires space, and any end-of-semester bookings. Going into precalendaring for each semester, I hope to provide UEM with this comprehensive research so there is less conflict across groups in booking space.
- Preserving tradition: In the wake of the “abrupt restricting [of] the location of Orgo Night,” growing disillusionment plagues the Columbia undergraduate community that cherished student traditions are under threat. At a school that structures its otherwise-lacking school spirit around Orgo Night, the Tree Lighting Ceremony, Bacchanal, and primal scream, how can one expect to create community if such traditions are undermined? We will insist that any potential administrative changes to student-run and -loved traditions be firstly discussed and implemented with the four undergraduate student councils, the student group running the tradition, and the administration. This will provide the Columbia community with the transparency it deserves while maintaining what makes Columbia, Columbia.
- Disability Services: Columbia’s campus should be just as accessible to students with physical disabilities as it is accessible to students without physical disabilities. No student should be deprived of fundamental access to Columbia facilities. A few ideas: make accessibility information available in all CCSC emails about events; make event lines accessible; make sure important/prestigious campus events like World Leaders Forum are accessible; prioritize accessibility for student groups that specify it for their meeting spaces/times; make sure elevators are properly maintained.
- Mental Health: an integral part of Grassroots’ platform is addressing cutthroat campus stress culture and destigmatizing mental health through initiatives with student groups. Aside from those peers a student lives with, his/her immediate circle of friends, and classmates, the friends in their student groups are the ones with whom they spend the most time with on campus and alongside whom they pursue their passions. We hope to encourage groups to facilitate dialogue amongst themselves in their meetings and programming to promote inclusiveness
What is something you want to fix at Columbia? How would you plan to address it?
Since I’ve explained in-detail many things we’d like to fix above, I’ll add something obvious and annoying: very few, if any, printing stations have staplers (that are filled), and not everyone has time to run to a nearby library or the Hartley Hospitality Desk before they need to submit a paper. We plan to securely knot working staplers to each CUIT printing station on the Morningside Campus.
Any additional comments you would like to share with voters?
The differences between Grassroots Columbia and the opposing two parties could not be more distinct. We believe in free CCSC events that benefit and enhance the entire Columbia community. We believe in increased funding to student organizations so that they can continue doing what they do best: improving the lives of students across campus. Mental health can only be improved from the bottom-up, which means empowering our clubs to have the funds to host the events that best express their missions.\
1) Are you affiliated with a party, and if so, which one?
I am affiliated with Grassroots Columbia.
2) What position are you running for, and what motivated you to run for it?
I am running for VP Policy because I have noticed a strong lack of cooperation and partnership between CCSC and student organizations on campus. I am currently the President of the Columbia Science Review, and during that time I have noticed that CCSC’s main (if only) connection to student organizations at large is how much money they allocate to ABC (Activities Board Committee). Unfortunately, this relationship between CCSC and ABC (which is a proxy for all student organizations) is fraught because ABC is always wary of losing its ever-shrinking allocation. Currently ABC only has $360,000 for over 150 clubs (which is continually growing). Furthermore, huge portions of that allocation go to a few clubs, and the rest go to clubs with huge travel expenses. That only leaves a small amount of money for clubs to host events and board bonding events that would contribute to campus life. With mental health a big issue on campus, I would say that in order to drastically improve campus culture, we must empower our student organizations. And that means increasing funding to ABC to at least $500,000. Student clubs would then be able to put on more events unique to their own identities that would naturally draw students to them. Furthermore, the money exists in CCSC. Much of this money, however, does not leave CCSC because it is allocated towards CCSC-events that either never happen or lead to very low turnout. A bad event is worse than no event, because the money could have gone to a club who could have presented a better event. This leads into something else I plan on implementing. For next semester, there will be a Columbia Carnival where CCSC works with all student organizations to host activities integral to their clubs’ identities on the Butler Lawns. Not only would this showcase all of the diverse talents and experiences on campus, but it would be free to all students (and would naturally draw a huge portion of the student body.) Overall, mental health is not something that can be corrected from the top. Rather, it must be addressed from the bottom-up. We need to empower student groups with the funding and resources necessary to create a strong campus culture.
3) If elected, what would your goals be? How do you plan to actually achieve them?
Another issue Grassroots Columbia plans to tackle, in addition to those mentioned by Cindy and Rui, is food insecurity. Currently, if you go to the CCSC website, you will find information on local food pantries and student-run efforts to make sure any student can find food when he or she needs it (CU Meal Share Facebook page). However, what is lacking is a CCSC-specific effort to addressing food insecurity. We plan on implementing such an effort by centralizing the word of such Facebook pages as CU Meal Share so that such information becomes widely available to the entire Columbia community.
4) What is something you want to fix at Columbia? How would you plan to address it?
We would like to emphasize that Grassroots Columbia plans on improving campus culture without charging students for future CCSC events. Unlike the teams we are running against, we plan on hosting a free huge event that will likely draw much of the student body. It will be modeled after “Glass House Rocks,” but will take place outdoors on the Butler Lawns, and will be free to all students.