Tag: elections

College is expensive, Columbia ridiculously so. Columbia is the most expensive school in the Ivy League and amongst the most expensive in the nation. Now, Columbia is very generous with financial aid, meeting 100% need for all students and not packaging student debt in its financial aid offering. However, student debt is still an option. In 2013, the WSJ reported that the average student loan at time of repayment was $12,500. If you end up like the 4.2% of college graduates unemployed as late as September of 2016, that’s a difficult debt to pay down, still so if you consider yourself underemployed at Starbucks.

Hillary Clinton, urged by a primary challenge by Bernie Sanders, wants to change this. The Democratic Platform wants to make public college debt-free, community college totally free, and current debt re-financeable. If accomplished, her plan theoretically would free up money for the consumer economy that otherwise would go to paying down interest, and it would make college as accessible as high school is today. Too bad she won’t get to enact this entire plan. Major legislation needs to get through Congress before it gets to the president’s desk, and for a variety of reasons, the House is probably going to stay Republican. She could change the executive’s interpretation of the law, a power often used by President Obama and widely criticized by anyone who believes the president should not have too much power. For that very reason, she probably couldn’t get away with too much without alerting the House. She could also, as she suggests, pressure states to cough up some of the funding necessary to make community college free and fund other parts of her agenda, but that was the same system the Affordable Care Act used, and Republican governors by-in-large revolted.

It doesn’t sound like this affects Columbia much if successful, given Columbia isn’t a public university nor does it host community colleges. But competition can play a role. With free and debt-free options available, many students that Columbia would otherwise recruit might prefer to use those free local options instead of expensive private schools which may not have an accurate picture of what 100% need means for them. Columbia would probably reach into its endowment and rest on its prestige to give more full scholarships, which also sounds like it shouldn’t be a problem, but of all the Ivy League universities, only Yale experienced positive endowment growth last year. A significant increase in financial aid to remain competitive may add to that concern, though not as much as it would for smaller private colleges.

This is the part where I describe the nominal Republican alternative, where the government gets out of the debt business and leaves student loans in the hands of the private sector. For people with good credit, this would be good news. Your interest rates wouldn’t be as low as an auto loan or mortgage, but because the banks trust you, they’ll feel safe loaning money at lower interest rates. People with no credit history, however, get stuck with the higher interest rates, and people with bad credit might not get a loan in the private sector at all. But, Donald Trump complicates everything, as he promised to cap presumably federal loan payments at 12.5% of income and forgive the rest after 15 years. That’s more generous than the current Democratic plan to cap payments at 10% but only forgive after 20 years. That also means it’s more expensive and doesn’t fit into the economic conservatism that normally characterizes the Republican Party and such a plan would have a hard time passing Congress, but Donald Trump would also have the executive branch and the same power of interpretation Obama enjoys today. In case you thought endowments would be safe here, though, Donald Trump also threatened to revoke tax-exempt status for endowments, which certainly isn’t winning him any fans in the administration.

Those are your options. No pressure.

The Sexual Respect Initiative runs through October which is Relationship Violence Awareness Month, so it’s important we cover sexual assault. We’ve gone a long way since the 90s where there wasn’t a unified definition of sexual assault across the University. Yes, I know, this is absolutely bizarre, but it speaks to what was many times an insufficient system of addressing sexual assault during the same time period where America got tough on “super-predators” and drug crime. This has started to change in this new millennium, and one of the forefronts of that change has been on college campuses.

In April of 2011, the Office of Civil Rights of the Department of Education (OCR) released a guidance letter which stated that “sexual harassment of students, which includes acts of sexual violence, is a form of sex discrimination prohibited by Title IX” and importantly that, “Title IX requires the school to take immediate action to eliminate the harassment, prevent its recurrence, and address its effects.” This is critical because schools found to be in violation of Title IX are at risk of losing federal funding, otherwise known as the Pell Grants, work-study funds, and research grants that a lot of colleges value. In response to this and increasing attention towards sexual harassment and assault in this decade, colleges have revised on-campus disciplinary proceedings to be more in line with the desires of the Obama administration, and by any indication, this doesn’t seem to be a one shot deal. The Democratic Party, in its party platform stated that they “will provide comprehensive support to survivors, and ensure a fair process for all on-campus disciplinary proceedings and in the criminal justice system.”

However, some would inquire what a “fair process” looks like. For as long as this has been an issue, the OCR has come under fire from some civil-rights advocates for using the threat of Title IX to develop processes unfair to defendants. Namely, the Foundation of Individual Rights in Education has criticized OCR’s insistence that campus proceedings be determined on a preponderance of the evidence standard, its expansive definition of sexual harassment, and in New York, the standard of affirmative consent pushed by a Democratic state government. Of five years of OCR investigations revolving around Title IX, very few have actually ruled in favor of defendants, and when they did, it was for blatantly violating written disciplinary as mandated by the OCR. Assuming Hillary Clinton’s administration would be a continuation of Obama’s, there’s no discernable reason why she would stray from the currently criticized course.

Do you have a choice on this issue? Perhaps. The Republican Platform gives us the following: “The Administration’s distortion of Title IX to micromanage the way colleges and universities deal with allegations of abuse contravenes our country’s legal traditions and must be halted before it further muddles this complex issue and prevents the proper authorities from investigating and prosecuting sexual assault effectively with due process.” This sounds like genuine concern for a lot of the issues FIRE is trying to address, but here, the messenger is compromised. This is the party, after all, of Donald Trump, who advocated in Hofstra University for the continuation of stop and frisk, a police tactic whose application was ruled unconstitutional by a judge. This is the same Donald Trump who said of bombing suspect Ahmad Khan Rahami’s receival of legal testimony “His case will go through the various court systems for years and in the end, people will forget and his punishment will not be what it once would have been. What a sad situation. We must have speedy but fair trials and we must deliver a just and very harsh punishment to these people.” This is the same Donald Trump who refused to apologize for his behavior towards the Central Park Five, who he accused of raping a woman after authorities found the actual rapist and gave the five men settlement money. One must ask if Donald Trump is as concerned about due process on college campuses as the Republican Party Platform says it is, then why isn’t he concerned about due process anywhere else? This is on top of the release of a tape where Donald Trump bragged about using his star power to grope women, the latest in a string of anecdotes where Trump was described as a misogynistic harassment machine. Is it possible for someone who has repeated sexually harassed women to appoint people responsible for tackling it?

In summary, one can assume a vote for Hillary this November means more of the same, investigations into universities and strongly worded requests to change. One could assume a vote for Trump would be for a different course, but whether that course is towards due-process, law and order, or more of the 90s is anyone’s guess.

Ufon’s mini-series, Columbia and the 2016 Election, will run through the November 8th Presidential Elections.

The Lion is the only Columbia publication with an open-submissions policy. To respond to this piece or to submit one of your own, email submissions@columbialion.com

If you have been living under a cave for the past year, you might want to keep hibernating. Presidential elections have always been contentious since the results determine control of an entire branch of government for four years.

This year, things have gotten rather grim. With two of the most disliked candidates in history running within the much-maligned two-party system, sitting at home sounds like a sweet release with few real-life consequences. After all, even if America picked the worst candidate and they implemented terrible policies as president, a university in solidly liberal New York is the perfect bubble to ride out that storm, right? No. The sentiment is nice, though.

For the outside world, this election obviously has implications for economic, social, and foreign policy and you should take the time to look those up on your own. However, whoever wins the presidency could have a direct effect on admissions, disciplinary, and financial aid policy here at Columbia for four years. To put that in perspective, if you’re reading this before the election as an undergraduate, this election determines policy for the rest of your time as an undergraduate at Columbia. The goal of this article and this series: Columbia and the 2016 Election, is to convince you, a student of Columbia University, that this election has direct consequences for you as a student here. For higher education, this election is a choice between Hillary Clinton’s maintenance of the status quo with minor adjustments or the radical shift of a Donald Trump administration, and those are two two different realities for Columbia and how it interacts with the federal government. Whether or not you vote this November, it’s critical as a student voter to understand these hyper-local factors as well as other factors that may be on your mind. With that, good luck with midterms, and watch this space.

Ufon’s mini-series, Columbia and the 2016 Election, will run through the November 8th Presidential Elections.

The Lion is the only Columbia publication with an open-submissions policy. To respond to this piece or to submit one of your own, email submissions@columbialion.com

Earlier this evening, the Columbia Elections Board announced the winners of the Fall 2016 elections. We are excited to share the results below. Congratulations to the newly elected representatives.

CCSC 2020 President & Vice President

Siddharth Singh and James Ritchie

CCSC 2020 Class Representatives

Grant Pace

Danielle Resheff

Astrid Walker-Stewart

CCSC 2017 Representative

Tracy Ting Cao

CCSC Sandwich Ambassador

Joseph Villafane

ESC 2020 Class President

Ria Garg

ESC 2020 Class Vice President

Marisa Ngbemeneh

ESC 2020 Class Representatives

Joanna Paik

Abhishek Chakraborty

ESC 3-2 Representative

Priscilla Wang

ESC Disability and Accessibility Issues Representative

Adriana Echeverria

ESC International Students Representative

Pranav Arora

ESC University Senator

Izzet Kebudi

This Monday was highlighted by the first presidential debate. But sadly there is no television in the lounge of my residence hall, so I watched it on Facebook using my cellphone. I walked into an elevator, listening how Donald Trump say about his tax return, while another student bumped into the elevator with his cellphone displaying the same live video as mine. We caught each other’s eyes, and we smiled. And it was that moment I felt a strong connection with my peers, that we are the same species, that we care about the same issue.

Columbia has had a reputation for being politically active, and I know it especially true when I saw the crowd in Lerner’s piano lounge watching the presidential debate. We have different political groups. We have student government. We have campaigns and initiatives calling for political actions. All these things remind me that I am in a political atmosphere, and political discussion is a thing embedded in the practice of our community.

Aristotle says, remarkably, that “men are born political.” This statement is especially true in this time, where social media and internet expose us to a life with ever-growing political focus. The question for us, however, is not whether a political life matters, but rather in what way should political discussion integrated in our daily life. Should it be in a serious manner, as if we are talking politics in an academic setting and must pay attention to the details of the subject we are discussing, or should it be in an easygoing way where we treat political discussion as a daily routine that every person would take part in? Should we be scientific in our political life? Or should it just be about personal reaction?

I am not trying to answer these questions, as I believe different people could have different philosophy towards their lives, and what role does politics play in it. The more important thing is the fact that we are looking at the way we talk about politics in an introspective lens. Because of that, we know what position we are, and why we are at this position. It is this self-examining process that makes us better understand politics, and ultimately ourselves.

Coming from an applied math major, I always find that the most important thing in my study of math is not the solution to a problem, but rather the way that leads to the solution, and I think there is a similar thing in our political discussion. It is always easy to have an opinion, but it is hard, yet more importantly, to understand the reason behind the opinion. That is what this column is trying to achieve: it attempts to examine behind the kaleidoscope of opinions and ideas in politics, international relation, and economy, and provide insight into our understanding of our world and society.

Perspectives of a Math Major runs alternating Wednesdays. To submit a response, email submissions@columbialion.com