Category: Columbia

The Lion asked candidates five questions about their campaigns to give us insight into their aspirations and motivations for running. Here is what Maria Fernanda Martinez had to say:

1. Are you affiliated with a party, and if so, which one? 

Nope 

2. What position are you running for, and what motivated you to run for it? 

Alumni Affairs–honestly, the closer graduation gets the more I realize how little we make use of our alumni connections and they’re one of our biggest resources on this campus. I want to make sure that this is a resource we all can feel comfortable using and knowledgeable about. 

3. If elected, what are your goals? How do you plan to actually achieve them? 

My goals are to increase accessibility in this area of our lives for all students, and I plan on achieving that by really keeping things simple and going back to basics. What is networking at its core about? It’s about making connections and maintaining relationships. The best way to do these things is to actually interact with people with whom we have shared interests and common backgrounds. My goals are simple: create a student-led newsletter for alumni, host curated alumni-student meet ups based on specific interests and backgrounds, and make sure to lead workshops prior to these meetings that help students work through anxieties about networking and provides folks with specific strategies they can implement. 

4. What is something you want to fix at Columbia? How would you plan to address this? 

I would love to push us towards an environment that is less about competing with each other and more about collaboration. I think this would be so useful in helping to deal with stress culture etc on campus. I plan on addressing this by creating spaces that function on the basis of people working together, and emphasizing that there is no need to compete when there are so many things to do and achieve! 

5. Any additional comments you’d like to share with voters

While I am running for your Alumni Affairs representative, there is a wide range of issues that I have been involved in throughout my time at Columbia, and I will be able to represent our interests across the board. 

The Lion asked candidates five questions about their campaigns to give us insight into their aspirations and motivations for running. Here is what Aaron Fisher had to say:

1. Are you affiliated with a party, and if so, which one?

I’m not affiliated with a party.

2. What position are you running for, and what motivated you to run for it? 

I’m running for CCSC Student Services Representative. For the past four semesters, I’ve been the head of Third Wheel Improv. Because the group is recognized at Barnard and not Columbia, we’ve had many issues concerning the governing boards and space allocation. In my capacity as head of my improv group, I began meeting with Columbia administrators about space allocation and club issues on our campus. Meanwhile, like many other students at Columbia, I’ve been alarmed and saddened by the mental health issues that affect our campus. I began thinking about how to tackle some of the many issues that we face as a community, and I started to realize that there are many seemingly small issues that, when fixed, would together improve our lives at Columbia. These issues range from the mundane–for example, the poor Internet connection in Butler–to larger, more essential issues, such as the lacking mental health support for many students in our community. Student services and community are intricately related: were we to have greater access to the lawns outside Butler, for example, we could further foster school spirit through events and Columbia traditions. I believe that because I’m a junior and have already been involved with a wide array of clubs and communities on our campus, I have the right mix of experience and freshness–I’ve never been involved with student government–to serve Columbia College as Student Services Representative.

3. If elected, what would your goals be? How do you plan to actually achieve them?

I plan to keep Nightline open all night, instead of closing at 3:00am, as it currently does. I plan to achieve this goal by speaking with the heads of Nightline and with administrators who work to improve mental health on our campus. I think that given everything that has happened on our campus in the past year, and given that students already staff CAVA all night, there will surely be students who are willing to work shifts at Nightline past 3:00. I also plan to bring back Staff Appreciation Week, which CCSC spearheaded in November 2015, but then cut from its budget. During this week, students went up to members of dining services, mail services, security staff, and other staff positions and gave them stickers that said “We Appreciate You.” At the end of the week, there was a luncheon to honor our staff members. I believe a week like this is crucial because it’s important to show staff members that they’re just as much a part of the Columbia community as we are. I also think this goal will be easy to achieve because it won’t cost CCSC very much money, and will attract a lot of support from the student body. I also plan to work to keep the lawns outside Butler open longer in the fall, and when they do re-open in the spring, I will try to keep both lawns open more often, instead of just having one open. I believe having more space to relax and hang out with friends on campus during the week will help alleviate stress within the student body. I’ve already spoken with a couple of administrators about this issue, and as Student Services Representative, I plan on continuing this conversation, while making sure students who are not involved with student government are included in the discussion. To find out about more of my campaign ideas and about the rest of my platform, please visit my website here: 

https://asfisher18.wixsite.com/ccsc2017/platform

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

The overarching theme of my campaign is improving community through student services. Often, there are many small things that bother students and make our everyday lives more difficult. Columbia is our home, and it’s important for us to live here as comfortably as possible. I will work to address this issue, among other ways, through fixing smaller issues on our campus. These issues include the difficulty some student clubs and groups have of reserving adequate space on campus. I believe University Events Management should work with individual clubs to make sure they’re getting the spaces they need. For example, some performance groups might need to rehearse in larger spaces, while academic clubs might be fine with smaller classrooms. Another such issue is the lack of air conditioning and the problem of overheating in some of the older residence halls on campus. As Student Services Rep, I’ll work with Columbia Housing to figure out solutions to these problems on our campus.

5. Any additional comments you would like to share with voters?

As I have written about in Spectator, too often, CCSC seems distant—even irrelevant—to many Columbia students. As your Student Services Representative, I will hold office hours to speak with any student about your ideas for how to make Columbia’s student services work better for you. Only by such measures of open communication can we learn from each other and ensure our voices are heard. After all, every one of us makes Columbia home, and every one of us deserves the best experience possible. 

The Lion asked candidates to tell us about their campaigns to give us insight into their aspirations and motivations for running. Here is what Ethan Kestenberg had to say:

Hi! I’m Ethan, and I’m running for Pre-Professional Representative (no party affiliation). For the past two years, I’ve worked on CCSC as an appointed representative. As a freshman, I served as Secretary of CCSC ’19. We were able to combat food insecurity issues on campus by partnering with 18 local restaurants to create discount meal programs for all 24,000 Columbia students. This year, I am working on the Committee of Finance, and am in the final stages of developing a new Student Events Fund to alleviate prohibitive event fees for eligible students on financial aid.

I want to continue my involvement with CCSC because I believe in the power of community. CCSC provides me with the greatest opportunity not only to get more connected with our community, but also to give back to it. I’ve learned that, without a doubt, the best thing our class council can do is build upon our community. The diversity of our student body, the array of our distinct individual voices, that’s our strength. I firmly believe that this position should be focused on expanding our community so that students of all backgrounds can soak in the rich benefits of our collective body. It’s not about getting everyone an interview at Goldman Sachs, or securing more offers at McKinsey. It’s about building people. It’s about paving the stones of our community. Then the rest will follow.

If elected Pre-Professional Representative, I will promote a more equitable pre-professional environment at Columbia so that students of all backgrounds can confidently prepare for their future careers. I will do so through three stages of community building.

First, I will tackle the hyper-competitive nature of pre-professional club recruitment at Columbia. It is no question that there are many aspects of Columbia that are unduly stressful; club recruitment is no exception. While pre-professional clubs provide students with incredible opportunities, the admissions processes for many pre-professional clubs systematically favor students with certain backgrounds over others, perpetuating already existing student imbalances. This club culture leaves many students feeling rejected and discouraged, particularly freshmen who are not accustomed to such levels of competition. This culture of rejection is installed by freshmen resume ‘screens’, rigorous interview processes, and students not being informed when they are rejected from student groups. I will work hard to ensure club recruitment is more egalitarian by addressing these burdensome club recruitment policies. I will implement a “no-resume rule” for freshmen applying to recognized pre-professional organizations. I will also ensure that clubs provide sample interview questions before each interview to increase transparency and level the playing field. It’s my mission to ensure that pre-professional clubs serve our entire community. This can only be done through an encouraging and cohesive environment, not one that pawns student against student, club against club. I will implement these policies by working with the Policy Committee to draft a motion for what constitutes hyper-competitive club recruitment policies. Then, I will work together with the Activities Board at Columbia to limit access to the activities fair for clubs engaging in hyper-competitive policies. I will also work together with SGA, GSSC, and ESC to curtail excess funding approvals through JCCC to clubs not complying with the CCSC bill.

Second, I will foster diversity in student career choices by connecting students and faculty through a Pre-Professional Mentorship Program. The initiative would enable students with the opportunity to build and develop close relationships with professors in their field of interest. Recent research suggests that schools that implement student-faculty mentorship programs not only reduce student feelings’ of being marginalized, but also empower students to embrace their unique identities. This program will inspire students to explore the various arcs along their career path, offering direction and encouragement to those who lack guidance in navigating the professional world. Moreover, this program will enable students with the ability to work one-on-one with their mentors through student projects, faculty research, and professional work experience. I am confident that this initiative will greatly enhance the focus and clarity of many student’s academic and pre-professional profiles. It will allow our community to soak in the knowledge and experience of our incredible, multifaceted faculty, and break away from the cookie-cutter mold so prevalent at Columbia. I will implement this initiative by first creating a taskforce on the Policy Committee to determine the preliminary structure of the program to propose to the administration. I recommend the proposal include several features, such as designating a faculty member as the program coordinator who is in charge of leading an orientation meeting with mentors and students at the beginning of the program. The proposal should also include some requirements on all mentorship participants, likely requiring each pair to meet at least once a month. Once we draft our proposal, I will work together with Dean Lisa Hollibaugh of Academic Planning and Administration to set up the role of program coordinator, and I will look to Dean Andrew Plaa of Advising for assistance in the development of our Pre-Professional Mentorship Program. Personally, I envision it will be most pragmatic to start with a small experimental group next year – say, fifteen mentor-mentoree pairs—in order to determine what works and what doesn’t work in the program. Then, the plan will be to build off our beta test by rolling out access to the program the following year to the greater Columbia community. We will create an application process for students interested in the program, which will consist of a variety of ‘fit’ and ‘interest’ questions to develop a well-rounded class of mentorees to benefit students of all backgrounds. Our taskforce on the CCSC Policy Committee will interview and screen all applicants to the program. This year on the Committee of Finance, through the Student Project Grants fund, we held a very similar interview and screen process that has proven markedly effective and pragmatic for CCSC to handle.

And finally, I will implement a CCSC database dedicated to pre-professional development that will be constantly maintained and updated each year. To name some examples, the database will include a library of Graduate School Prep Books, an archive of where current and former CC students have worked, and a series of guides on how to master industry-specific interviews. I will collaborate with CCE and our Alumni Affairs representative to ensure that this database is both comprehensive and applicable to Columbia students. This database will build on top of what CCE has to offer, however, it will have a student-minded spin. This initiative will leverage the benefits of near-peer mentorship. While CCE offers many great resources, it’s important to recognize that CCE is overtaxed in many areas and offers an adult-oriented approach to navigating the professional world. I believe that student-engineered database will perfectly complement the resources that CCE offers. Many of the greatest tools we use at Columbia are peer-developed. Think ‘CULPA’, the late ‘gradesatcu’, or Spec’s ‘THE SHAFT’. The initiative will be centered around an online forum for Columbia students to contribute tips and advice on industry-specific interviews, graduate school preparation, and relevant employer information. The forum will be built for students, by students. I hope to interweave this forum with our archive of where current and former CC students have worked so that students can contact their peers regarding specific posts or advice they’re interested in. The ultimate goal is to build a network of peer-developed resources that not only enriches our community, but also inspires interconnectedness across Columbia.

Overall, I see several clear ways of leveraging the responsibility of this position. First, by decreasing the hyper-competitiveness of pre-professional clubs and organizations on campus to expand our community; second, by fostering a pre-professional student-faculty mentorship program to deepen our community; and finally, by developing a warehouse of knowledge that enriches our community. I believe each measure will empower individual student growth and development, while reducing the necessity of students falling into the cookie-cutter mold that we so often get trapped in the vicious battle for internships and jobs.

This position is more than preparing students for the professional life. It’s more than building resumes. It’s about building individuals. It’s about strengthening a community and raising everyone together, not just supporting those already at the top. The greatest thing I can do for this community is to make it more equitable, diverse, and interconnected. I’m excited to do so by reinvigorating our pre-professional development.

The Lion asked candidates to tell us about their campaigns to give us insight into their aspirations and motivations for running. Here is what the members of the Low Beach Party had to say:

Dave Mendelson

My name is Dave Mendelson, and I’m running for CCSC President with Low Beach Party! The thought that many of my peers don’t enjoy their time at Columbia, and that there are a few tangible things I can do to help build the CU community, is what motivates me to run for CCSC Executive Board. I feel that the re-election of this year’s executive board would leave many students in the same place as they were this year; Low Beach Party brings in fresh ideas and a complete restructuring of CCSC that will significantly improve the student experience at Columbia. 

Our goals are threefold: events to decrease stress culture, policies to promote mental well-being, and CCSC re-structuring to bolster minority representation. On the intriguing topic of Fall Bacchanal: I have been working with administrators since November to plan this event, and I have figured out exactly how to craft it such that we can make it a campus tradition. First, we need to compromise with the administration and addresses their largest concern: student behavior. We will start small with something like a DJ on the lawns, and by successfully demonstrating to the administration that students will treat their peers, public safety officers, and livers with respect, we will move into a large-scale concert on the Steps. We offer this as an alternative to our opponent’s “fall bacchanal-esque” conert at Baker; I proposed this idea to the administration in January, and they told me that the noise would upset the local residents, and thus Columbia would not host this event. We also plan to host a TEDx Columbia and a few other events that our VP Campus Life Candidate, Vik, will tell you about in his interview. 

I know that Kristen will talk more about our proposals to CPS and policies on mental health, so I will go into detail on our proposal to open access to course materials. To promote equity for students who cannot take all the courses they want to during their time at Columbia, potentially because of a part-time job or health issue, we will urge administrators to allow students to access readings and presentations from all courses offered at Columbia, not only ones that you are currently or were previously enrolled in. This is something that I have spoken to many professors about, and they really support this idea. 

On the re-structuring of CCSC- this aims to fix the issue of the lack of minority representation on CCSC. It is impossible to elect students of every identity, every year, to represent the student body. With that said, we believe that people from a specific group facing an issue are best suited to speak on that issue and generate solutions. Thus, we aim to amend the CCSC constitution to build a Committee on Diversity and Inclusion, which would have representatives from many student groups and volunteers. The Committee would be led by the Inclusion and Equity Representative, and it would help plan events and policy proposals that specifically benefit members of our community who are not currently represented by CCSC. We also aim to create the positions of Sustainability Representative, Disabilities Representative, and Mental Health Representative, to spend all of their time working on initiatives specific to those three causes and hosting town halls on their respective areas of expertise. 

Adam Resheff

Are you affiliated with a party, and if so, which one?

I’m affiliated with Low Beach Party! 

What position are you running for, and what motivated you to run for it? 

I’m running for VP Finance of CCSC. I felt motivated to run because I’ve seen firsthand over the past two years that I’ve been on the Finance Committee the massive discrepancy that exists between the amount of resources this university has and the amount of resources that actually make their way to students. I’ve formulated a platform that will address this larger concern, making funding more accessible to student groups and ensuring there aren’t cost barriers for students to engage in campus life.

If elected, what would your goals be? How do you plan to actually achieve them?

I have several platform points that aim at reducing cost barriers for students to engage in campus life and to improve funding mechanisms for student groups. First I want to finalize the Student Events Fund. I served as the point person this year for the Students Event Fund initiative, working with administrators across different offices to create a fund that would cover the ticket costs of Columbia events for students who otherwise. The Dean’s office has indicated their support for this initiative, and I would finish putting this initiative into place by finalizing the logistical details of the fund with the Office of Financial Aid, the TIC, and Undergraduate Student Life to ensure student confidentiality. Next I want to create an Art Class Registration Fund. Currently cc students have to pay registration costs for art classes, as well as supply costs, that aren’t covered by the administration or financial aid that can total thousands of dollars. Students shouldn’t be prevented from taking a major or classes at a school like Columbia because off their financial status, and I’ve spoken to students who’ve said they couldn’t do an art major because it was too cost prohibitive. I would work with the deans office as well as the office of financial aid to help create this fund to cover registration fees for these classes and then look to expand it to cover supply costs. Next, I would create a Morningside Heights restaurant week. This concept is one that’s been implemented as several of our peer institutions such as Princeton and Yale. This week would allow all CC students to explore all the eating options in Morningside Heights at a reduced cost. During my first year at Columbia, I helped with securing restaurant discounts with my class council, so I would look to use my experience to make this event happen. Finally, I would make a reform to the JCCC (the Joint Council Co-Sponsorship Committee) constitution to create a per—student price cap. The past two years I’ve been on JCCC, the Fund has run out, which has prevented student groups that apply at the end of the year from getting adequate or any funding. This change would ensure that students groups get the funding they need, regardless of when they apply in the year. 

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

I want to help change the campus culture. We have a rampant stress culture at Columbia. Student council should be at the forefront of changing that culture on campus. I would address this issue through working with the other members of my party to plan fun events that bring the community together, such as a Fall Bacchanal and a TEDx Columbia. Additionally, a number of my Finance initiatives are geared towards making our community one that is all accessible to all students. If there are financial barriers for students to engage in campus life, it’s impossible for our community to come together to address stress culture for everyone on this campus. That’s why I have worked on and plan on implementing projects like the Student Events Fund and the Morningside Heights Restaurant Week – because I want to bring out campus together and reduce stress culture. 

Any additional comments you would like to share with voters?

I love working on student council. I feel it’s one of the most effective avenues of bringing positive change to campus. I have an extensive platform and the experience to make it happen – serving as Vice President of my Class this year and on the Finance Committee for the past two years, funding student groups through JCCC nearly every week, managing the Capital Investment Fund twice and again funding student groups, working on Student Project Grants, and pushing the Student Events Fund to its final stages. I will spend every second as VP Finance to address the needs of students and student groups on this campus, as I’ve always done. 

Wesley Hu

I am affiliated with Low Beach Party, and I’m running for Vice President of Communications. Throughout my first year at Columbia, while I felt that I was reasonably involved in a variety of campus groups, it seemed as if student government was always a bit out of reach and inaccessible. Only when I started considering for running did I begin to hear about the debates going on within CCSC doors, and felt as if more students should be aware of student council and aware of how they can use it to have their own concerns addressed as well.

Given my background and motivations for running, my main platform focus is on transparency. If elected, the first and easiest thing I’d like to do is bring back livestreaming CCSC meetings. ESC does it, CCSC has done it consistently in some years in the past, but this year the practice was not consistently continued. After elections were pushed back 2 weeks, a member of elections board and I tried to look for the recordings of the meetings in which the delay was discussed, but were unable to find anything and had to rely on hearsay about the meetings and what was discussed in them. Additionally, we’d like to better promote and publicize the CCSC website. It’s a really useful way to disseminate information and communicate with the student body. We’d add features to it, like a line of direct question that anybody could type any question in, and a member of exec board would have to respond within 48 hours. This way, any student could immediately have any concern addressed, and be able to voice any input they felt should be brought up at the next council meeting. We also would like to meet personally with representatives from student groups, especially those representing marginalized groups on campus. We feel as if administrative change is often slow and difficult from high up down, but if student groups can talk to members of student council exec board on a personal basis, they can very easily have their concerns voiced in student council meetings for much quicker remedies.

On top of the CCSC website, we’d like to improve CCSC’s facebook presence also. Using a combination of email and social media to survey and poll the student body would be effective at gauging student feelings about issues, and these polls and surveys can be incentivized by entering participants into raffles for gift cards or other simple rewards. Generally, it seems like an easier way to communicate with students is via catchy infographics on their newsfeed, rather than blocks of text in long emails.

Other than facilitating student council-student body connections, much of my platform is dedicated to helping to communicate to students information about the resources they have to them. So, I’d like to work together with health and wellness clubs on a wellness fair, to have fun events and free item giveaways to publicize these organizations. I’d like to revamp alcohol and sexual violence awareness training, both by increasing in person training, and reworking the standards for groups and organizations like Greek organizations and sports teams.

In general, the Communications role is all about information. And so, my job would be to facilitate the connections between students and campus life, and between students and CCSC. This way, we can all know how to best move forward collectively.

Vikramaditya Kapur

Are you affiliated with a party, and if so, which one?

I’m running with Low Beach Party for the Executive Council Positions!

What position are you running for, and what motivated you to run for it? 

I’m running for VP Campus Life. Currently I think the perception of Campus Life is solely as an event planning committee and I think that Campus Life entails not only events but also the wellbeing of the student body, both physical and mental. I was motivated to run because over 3 years at Columbia I have never been enticed by a Campus Life event and thus have never had a positive impact from the committee. Obviously I am not alone and thus I want to change the way Campus Life creates events to help students who feel marginalised or students that don’t have a place on this campus to feel included. I think this is an amazing way to combat mental health issues faced by students.

If elected, what would your goals be? How do you plan to actually achieve them?

Our party in an effort to be transparent has divided our platform into two sections: policy and advocacy. Policy changes are those that come within CCSC and we will definitely be able to secure. Advocacy points are those under other Columbia authorities that we will advocate for making sure the students voices are heard.

Policy:

  1. TedX Columbia: A great way for faculty, guest speakers and even students to share their stories with a wider audience
  2. Reinstate the Senior Lecture Series but make it accessible to the entire student body
  3. Appreciation Weeks: Athlete, Dining Staff, Public Safety and many more
  4. Fridays at the Beach: Student groups and music playing on the laws and at Low, to raise moral among students
  5. Involving Reslife and RHLO to advertise out events make sure they are better attended and utilise them to plan bigger and better events
  6. Week Long events before Bacchanal: Inclusive events for everybody! There are still some students during events like Bacchanal and homecoming that do not feel included these events would allow them to be more involved.

Advocacy:

  1. Opening the lawns more frequently
  2. Late Nights at Lerner: Make Lerner a place where students can meet and interact at night! Have Music Playing, allowing people to use Lerner not only to study but also to relax!

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

Rebuild this community! I want it to be a place where everyone feels included, people attend sports games, people meet new people all the time! I would address this by having events that inspire socialising, inclusion and school spirit.

Any additional comments you would like to share with voters?

While I am not an incumbent, I believe that CCSC requires radical change and fresh voices. I have not benefitted from CCSC in the past and I believe I am not alone, CCSC should be a body that makes a positive impact on everybody on this campus.

Kristen Santiago

My name is Kristen Santiago and I’m running as VP Policy with Low Beach Party. I decided to run as VP Policy because I have had the opportunity to make an impact in groups I truly care about on campus. This past year, however, I realized that those who aren’t a part of such passionate, warm groups often do not feel the same way on campus. Thus, I decided to run in the hopes of making an impact on a larger scale so that everybody feels included and a part of the Columbia community, which is currently lacking on a large scale. 

If elected, I would hope to expand CPS to combat the prevalent mental health issues on campus by advocating for identity-specific counselors for those who only feel comfortable approaching someone of a certain identity. Additionally, I would advocate for CPS to be a presence at career fairs given how stressful of an environment these can be. I would work closely with CPS and the administration to bring these proposals to fruition. 

Additionally, we would like to create a mental health day form, modeled after Duke STINF (Short Term Illness Notification Form), for students to notify professors that they will not be in attendance that day to due to mental health reasons. Hopefully the administration will then adopt this form so that students can take a day off when absolutely necessary. 

With regards to the tampon initiative, I would like to collect data to determine the need for sanitary items around campus and to increase the stock of sanitary items in restrooms so that no financial strain or inaccessibility would prevent a female from having these essential sanitary items. 

I will also pressure the administration to create a prayer space for Muslim students in either Uris or Lerner, along with a dining hall in Uris. 

The Lion asked candidates to tell us about their campaigns to give us insight into their aspirations and motivations for running. Here is what Nikola Danev had to say:

My name is Nikola Danev and I am running for CCSC Student Services Representative. I’m an international student and a member of CU-EMS, and as such I have experienced hands on many of the issues I would like to address, if elected. One of my main platform points is Columbia Health – I strongly believe that we must have walk-in times at Columbia Health Services. More importantly, CPS must expand its walk-in times, both in terms of duration and number of locations. I believe that these two changes will greatly improve student health at Columbia. A second, and also very important goal of my platform is ensuring financial security for all students. By this, I mean waiving the financial aid reapplication fee, ensuring Residence Halls have hot water at all times, and making sure that either dining halls have extended hours during academic breaks, or that Flex dollars or debit cards are accessible to students on financial aid that decide to stay on campus. I have already discussed my ideas with stakeholders in Columbia Health and other relevant offices and plans have been developed to implement these ideas within the timeframe of one academic year. Lastly, I would like to see a professional 24/7 hotline with a psychiatrist on call during more stressful periods of the year, where students can seek mental health advice discreetly. With regards to student spaces, I believe that students should be able to book classrooms much like study rooms in Butler after classes in academic buildings. Most importantly, none of my ideas would incur additional costs to the CCSC or student group budgets, allowing for funding for other groups and projects.