Opinion | Staff Editorials

An endorsement for University Senate, CCSC and ESC executive boards

Updated April 5, 10:29 a.m.

Polls for the Columbia College and School of Engineering and Applied Science student councils and University senator positions opened on Monday, April 4 at 10 a.m. and will close on Wednesday, April 6 at 5 p.m.

We think it’s important to critically assess the platforms of all the candidates in the race—even those who are running unopposed. To accomplish this, we attended and watched videos of last Sunday’s debates, and also reached out to all of the candidates and invited them to meet with us personally. Ultimately, we issued endorsements to candidates we unanimously support as an editorial board.

Our ideal candidate has a clear vision for the Columbia community, a list of specific goals relevant to their position, and the tenacity and administrative know-how required to fight for the realization of those goals.

It’s important to note that for the Columbia College Student Council’s executive board, voters may choose to vote for vice president for finance, vice president for campus life, and vice president for communications candidates as individuals separate from their respective parties. This is not the case for CCSC president and vice president for policy, who must be voted for together. All of the candidates running for ESC’s executive board, on the other hand, may be voted for as individuals.

CCSC’s executive board

Two parties are on the ticket for CCSC’s executive board—the 1U party, led by current Academic Affairs Representative Nicole Allicock, CC ’18, alongside her VP for policy candidate, Abby Porter, CC ’17, and the N/A Party, led by Andre Adams, CC ’17, alongside his VP for policy candidate, Iqraz Nanji, CC ’18. Nathan Rosin, CC ’18, Josh Sudman, CC ’17, Anuj Sharma, CC ’17, all members of the 1U party, are running unopposed for VP for campus life, VP for communications, and VP for finance, respectively.

President and VP for Policy

Last year’s victory for the Freedom, Liberty and Freedom Party led by current CCSC President Ben Makansi, CC ’16, certainly demonstrated the ability of satirical candidates to rally student support and succeed in student council. Despite this, we feel that the N/A Party’s dour, depressing platform, “No Vision, No Ambition, No Problems,” reflects a poor understanding of effective satire. Effective satire uses biting wit to critique the current state of affairs—it does not passively accept it, as Adams and Nanji have.

We also find Adams and Nanji’s calls for a Barnard wall and a Public Safety drone program to be largely tone-deaf, though they did clarify that they would not actually advocate for a Barnard wall. (The Barnard wall did, however, amuse our editorial page editor, who is a Barnard student.)

In regards to the 1U Party, we appreciate Porter’s experience in student government at Columbia—last year, she ran, and lost, for VP for policy as an incumbent alongside Peter Bailinson, CC ’16 and the incumbent for the presidency.

Porter’s extensive experience working with Columbia’s sexual respect initiatives and eagerness to work with the University as it implements its newly-announced $15 minimum wage for student workers are also admirable. More importantly, we appreciate Porter’s willingness to correct her previous mistakes: During this week’s debates, for example, she acknowledged her previous failures to upload CCSC meeting minutes to yourCCSC.com with an admirable level of frankness and maturity.

Allicock has certainly served our community well as the current academic affairs representative. But during this week’s student council debates, Allicock was unable to articulate the specifics her policy goals. Although we applaud Allicock for recognizing the unique student identities and experiences present at Columbia, we worry that she has not formulated a concrete, actionable plan.

Therefore, we do not endorse either member of the N/A Party, and because candidates for CCSC President must be voted alongside their VP for policy, we also do not endorse Nicole Allicock and Abby Porter, 1U’s candidates for president and VP for policy.

VP for Campus Life

Although Rosin’s willingness to coordinate engaging student events would serve him well as VP for campus life, we worry that he has misdiagnosed the main issue troubling the Columbia community. The problem with campus life is not that student events do not exist; it is that Columbia students simply do not care about the ones that do. What we had hoped to see was a candidate who identified this underlying issue and several possible solutions. Thus, we do not endorse Nathan Rosin of the 1U party for VP for campus life.

VP for Communications

The suggestions advanced by Sudman, which include weekly office hours, town halls, and a more navigable website, may not be enough. At a university where students often feel distant from the administration and don’t feel inclined to show up to office hours or town halls, it’s important for the VP for communications to provide effective ways to connect students with the resources they need. We do, however, commend Sudman’s plans to utilize polls and surveys to assess student needs and concerns. Therefore, we do not endorse Josh Sudman of the 1U party for VP for communications.

VP for Finance

Sharma, a former marketing manager for Spectator, was the only member of the 1U Party whose platform contained specific, actionable solutions. In planning to establish a student events fund that supports the subsidization of event costs for students, for example, Sharma has identified a problem—financial barriers to campus events—and drafted up a viable solution. Therefore, we endorse Anuj Sharma of the 1U Party for VP for finance.  

ESC’s executive board

Two parties are on the ticket for ESC’s executive board—the SEAS++ Party, led by current Vice President for Finance Neha Jain, SEAS ’17, and SEAS 101, led by current Class of 2017 President Larry Xiao, SEAS ’17.

We were particularly impressed by the SEAS++ Party members’ commitment to diversity and inclusion. Jain, the SEAS++’s presidential candidate, brings a valuable level of experience to her party. Her team members—Charles Harper, SEAS ’18, for VP of policy, Aida Lu, SEAS ’19, for VP of finance, Anthony Kim, SEAS ’17, for VP of communications, and Piyushi Bishnoi, SEAS ’17, for VP of student life—came prepared with concrete suggestions.

SEAS 101’s members—presidential candidate Larry Xiao, VP of policy candidate Sidney Perkins, SEAS ’17, VP of finance candidate Madison Cox, SEAS ’18, VP Communications candidate Aaron Appelle, SEAS ’18, and VP of student life candidate Alexandra (Sasha) Sklyarenko, SEAS ’17, lacked the team dynamic essential to accomplishing broad goals exhibited by SEAS++. We commend Perkins, however, for his concrete goals and strong ideas about task delegation.

Thus, we endorse the entirety of the SEAS++ party for ESC’s executive board.

Columbia College University Senators

There are five candidates running for Columbia College University Senators—Josh Schenk, CC ’19, Thomas Arbuckle II, CC ’17, Jason Hagani, CC ’19, Blake Mueller, CC ’18, and Jay Rappaport, CC ’18. Voters may select two candidates.

Schenk, the current CCSC class of 2019 president and a member of two Senate committees, clearly has the institutional knowledge necessary to succeed as a University Senator.

Schenk also has a great track record of getting things done. As class of 2019 president, Schenk has advocated for air conditioning in undergraduate housing, partnered with 20 New York restaurants to provide Columbia students with discounts, and launched Peer Connect, a first-year mentorship program.

Most importantly, Schenk has a clear vision for the future of the University Senate. When he met with us, he described advocating for robust media protections in the Rules of Conduct, transparency for students regarding the senate’s closed committees, a revised final exam schedule that accommodates for holiday travel, and increased student spaces on campus.

Notably, Arbuckle II is the only person of color running for University Senate this year. Although Arbuckle II has three years of student council experience under his belt, he was not able to describe the specifics of his platform when he met with us.

We recuse ourselves from potentially endorsing Hagani for University senator because he is a recent photographer for Spectator.

During our conversation with Mueller, he spoke at length about the changes made to this year’s Bacchanal programming by Public Safety, the importance of faculty diversity, and the increase of academic credits from three to four. However, we’re concerned that many of these issues are out of the University Senate’s purview.

We also commend Rappaport for his strong commitment to improving individual students’ experiences and tackling the perennial challenge of student space by promising to continue the work of the Morningside Space Initiative. However, we feel that Rappaport’s understanding of the tough issues concerning our community are too vague.

Although there are two Columbia College University senator positions available, we were unable to come to a consensus about a second suitable candidate for the position. Thus, we endorse only Josh Schenk for University senator.

SEAS University Senators

Luis Rivera, SEAS ’18, is the only candidate running for SEAS University senator. Rivera, who spoke at this week’s student council debates while brandishing a slice of pizza served by the Columbia Elections Board, did not submit a biography or platform to the Columbia Elections Board and did not sit down with the Editorial Board. A University senator should have clear goals and understand the inner workings of the senate—qualities that Rivera has not convincingly demonstrated. Thus, we do not endorse Luis Rivera for University senator.

The authors are members of Spectator’s 140th editorial board. Catie Edmondson and Clara Chan recused themselves from contributing to this editorial due to their continued coverage of the elections.

To respond to this staff editorial, or to submit an op-ed, contact opinion@columbiaspectator.com.


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