Category: submission

With graduation on the horizon, the Lion reached out to seniors to hear their thoughts. Here is what Kunal–a senior who is graduating from Columbia College with a degree in Human Rights–had to say.

What are you passionate about, and how has Columbia helped you find these passions?

I’m passionate about community building! This means everything from socializing with friends watching a movie in a floor lounge, to attending academic symposiums and meeting exciting people. Columbia has a space for everyone, and I believe that the struggle lies in find one’s niche and figuring out how you want to go through the four years that you get to spend here. 

If you could re-experience one thing you did during your time at Columbia, what would it be and why?

I want to re-experience the Bacchanal-Holi celebrations! The day on which these events occur has been, hands down, among my favourite days of the year. The amount of fun (and drink!) which was had was unparalleled. I wish that we had more events that would bring our community together, which make it more fun, and less stressful.

What is your least favorite thing about humanity?

Measuring the weather in Fahrenheit instead of Celsius (this system literally makes no sense…). But seriously, I would say lack of empathy is deeply concerning to me. This is of course something that extends beyond Columbia’s campus, but I find that it plagues us here too. Talk to that random person you see who looks stressed out, say hi to strangers in elevators, just take a moment to listen 🙂

If you were a Columbia library, which one would you be and why?

I would be definitely be the area outside the Law Library – I say this because I have studied in a library exactly 9 times in the span of my Columbia career. The area outside the Law library is nice though – it comprises of nice couches and talking and eating (even smiling!) students, which are all the things I wouldn’t find in the ref room in Butler. 

What advice do you have for the incoming class?

Try everything under the sun! I hope that by the time you graduate, you have experienced stress, contentment, heartbreak, loneliness, wholesome love, (being in) love, incessant worry, and delirious happiness. Do everything you can to achieve all that you want – but never forget to value the important people around you. 

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

I am not affiliated with any party. I am Alfredo Dominguez, and I am running for University Senate. I became motivated, and stayed motivated to run for senator because of the egregious lack of diversity among the current senate make-up. This issue of representation is something that extends beyond the lack of people of color representing CC in the University Senate because we also do not have any first-generation or low-income students currently representing CC. As a first-generation, low-income student of color myself I can speak to the feeling of othering that is had when you are one of the most historically marginalized identities but you have no voice on the highest acting body in the University. I do not naively believe that I can be the voice for all people that identify as people of color, first-gen, low-income since every person has their own unique experience, but I am supremely confident that I can do a better job than those that have never lived the experience. With that being said, the goals that I have for my senate tenure are things that will benefit the entire Columbia community. I seek to improve mental health support on campus, and sexual violence and response. These things all provide a wholesale positive affects the Columbia community, but they Mental health has become the number one issue at Columbia, and for good reason. Our community was rocked by the recent waves of suicide and it is clear that something must be done to better campus-wide mental health. The Student affairs community has already created a steering group that will work with the Jed foundation to evaluate how the university needs to address the issues of mental health on campus. Hence, my focus as a University Senator would ensure that the voices of Columbia’s most marginalized communities, who are disproportionately affected by mental health, are brought to the conversation on how to better mental health on campus. The initiative I would center in these conversations would be increasing the diversity of the CPS staff. Me and every other student of color or first-generation student who wanted to have their CPS staff member to be a person of color or a first-generation would have to wait even longer than normal to receive help. This wait time could be up to half of the semester, which is a ridiculous amount of time to have to wait to receive help. Further, I want to take a comprehensive look at how CPS is handled during NSOP in hopes of decreasing the stigma around mental health and ensuring that as many people get help as need help. One such program that I would advocate for would be an Opt-Out appointment that all freshmen would be signed up for. Each student would choose if they wanted to actually attend the appointment, but this would remove the initial stress and stigma of having to schedule an appointment with CPS in the first place.

Next, even though sexual violence has remained a big issue in campus, it does not seem that there has been effective reform. It would difficult to convince the university to allocate more funds, but we can take a comprehensive look at the programs we have now and how we can improve them. For example, there was an SVR requirement during NSOP, but it was very light and played down how big of an issue sexual violence is on campus. Hence as University Senator, I will take a look an extensive look at these programs, and bring in the voices of groups like No Red Tape to center the experience of survivors in the process of reform.

I do not know if I would use the word “fix”, but I would like to improve upon Columbia’s commitment to Community Service. Community Service is a lacking part of the Columbia experience. Many of us acknowledge and criticize Columbia for its negative impact on the Harlem community, but few of us spend a lot of time trying to help the community. That is largely in part to the fact that many students just do not have the time to spend looking for community service opportunities. Hence, I will want to work with SGB and ABC, the umbrella organizations that contain almost all students groups, to incentivize all student groups to have more service events. These incentives would be given in the form of increased budget allocation.

Vote Alfredo Dominguez for University Senate! 

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.