Photo Courtesy Angel Maredia
As part of our elections coverage, The Lion is sharing responses from candidates about the following questions:
- What motivated you to run for this position?
- If elected, what would your goals be?
- What is something you want to fix at Columbia? How would you plan to address it?
- 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 email@example.com.
What motivated you to run for this position?
In the past, I’ve usually stayed away from student government. I felt like it was an organization that contained two types of people: those who truly worked hard to better their school, and those who simply joined to pad their resume and for the pride and perceived glamour the position brings. In this past year especially, I thought the latter dominated. Transparency has practically disappeared, and the needs of engineering students were blatantly ignored. For example, the current president of ESC has proposed adding on another required course about community building, academic integrity, and sexual respect. While these are all important to learn about, why should we add a new class to a curriculum that already requires 128 credits (at least 5 classes a semester) instead of perhaps revamping another required class we have such as Art of Engineering to include this proposed curriculum? Instead of spending money on alcohol and free swag to events no one even stays for, why doesn’t ESC reinvest their time, and their money, into policies that are more important such as mental health, pushing for co-ops, and improving our Leave of Absence policy? Actions and proposed policies, or lack thereof, reflect that ESC has not been as aware and responsive to the needs of its students as it should be. Many students have grown disillusioned and even apathetic towards student government.
I am running for ESC Class of 2018 Representative because I decided that I was done with just sitting down and complaining about all the shortcomings of ESC and policies, from administration or from student government, that don’t meet the needs of engineering students. As a representative, I can enact changes and focus on policies that will positively benefit all engineering students, or at the very least, start a dialogue amongst students that can prompt action. Student government should not be about playing politics, but about building a better community, about addressing the issues and needs of SEAS students, and about creating a better four years for all our undergrads.
If elected, what would your goals be?
Internships are crucial for engineering students. They allow us to see what we like, try out new things, gain skills that we otherwise wouldn’t be able to in the classroom, and create connections with companies for future employment. In fact, most engineering schools even have co-op programs which allow students to utilize entire semesters to intern at an engineering company, yet Columbia has written off instituting a co-op program that would be extremely beneficial for us. Columbia heavily markets SEAS, yet they don’t have programs in place that expand and maximize their students’ success.
This points to a larger issue of our Leave of Absence policy. If students want to voluntarily take a leave of absence to pursue an internship, they are forced to take an entire year off unless there are “exceptional circumstances,” and will also not be guaranteed housing when they return. This policy serves as a deterrent for students who are seeking to find more skills and experience in a job market that becomes increasingly more competitive, and limits their room for exploration. My goal is to start laying the foundations for a formal co-op program that would easily allow students to take time off of school to pursue internships and co-ops.
Our Leave of Absence policy also brings up the issue of medical leave. SEAS students have to take, at minimum, one year off from school. Only in “exceptional cases” will students be allowed to return after a semester. This differs from Columbia College, where students can take a semester off instead of an entire year. Essentially, the decision of whether you get to come back to school or not after a semester does not rest in your hands, but in the hands of the administrators. This is obviously problematic, since students are being forced to essentially take off one entire year of school, while our peers in Columbia College can come back after a semester.
Another aspect of my campaign focuses on mental health. Because we have such a heavy academic course load, mental health is often an underplayed problem among SEAS students. Due to our large class sizes and lack of connection between us and professors/departments, it is often easy to feel lost, and it is even easier to drown in work and stop taking care of yourself. I think one way to alleviate student stress is by having departments host town halls that give students a space to voice their concerns about the classes they are in. I would also like to start developing a program that would allow students who are interested to be directly mentored by professors.
What is something you want to fix at Columbia? How would you plan to address it?
Now before I begin, I do believe ESC in the past has done some good for SEAS students, but this year’s student government has not made many significant strides in helping students. However, to address this problem, we must identify why ESC, especially this year, has been unable to meet the needs of the students they are supposed to govern.
One of the problems any major, well known organization on campus has is people joining just to pad their resumes. Now I’m not saying that all students in ESC are there to pad their resumes; however, I do believe enough are to the point where productivity and efficiency are harmed. Some members get caught up in the glam and perceived sense of power, and forget that at the end of the day, it isn’t about themselves, but about the students they are supposed to be the voice for. Unfortunately, this is not just a fault of ESC, but also us students as voters. For the executive board, we were the ones who elected a VP of Policy who has never had policy experience on student council, and we were the ones who elected a president who wants to add more classes on top of our already required amount. To address this problem, I believe ESC has to make an active effort to engage with students and convince them that what they’re doing is important. They have to win back the trust of SEAS students.
The first way to do this is instead of having a breadth of vague, ambiguous goals, we need to develop fully fleshed out policies and solutions. Having undefined goals gets nothing done: ESC needs to focus on creating more actionable plans, not just saying buzzwords for the sake of getting approval.
Another aspect of this comes from engagement. So far, ESC’s methods of engaging with students often involves newsletters, giving free stuff out at events, and organizing dinners. While this is a great way for SEAS students to be able to get together, it doesn’t do a good job of letting students communicate over their issues. The best way to do this is by either having town halls, or even going door to door. This will allow ESC to create events and institute policies that the students want.
Any additional comments you would like to share with voters?
While winning the election would be great, my main focus is to bring the issues that I’ve presented in my campaign to the forefront of our dialogue. ESC has a large effect on how our four years here at Columbia go, and we cannot let our disillusionment prevent us from developing solutions to the issues we face.