Daphne Chen, Yanyi Luo, and Jared Odessky formerly held positions at Spectator. Their previous involvement did not bear on the writing of this editorial.
After reading through platforms, listening to debates, and holding exclusive interviews with the two parties in the Columbia College Student Council executive board elections, we have found that The 212 and Block Party’s differences lie mostly in the scope and specificity of their visions and that this is reflected in the composition of individuals that make up the two parties.
Block Party presents a campaign of fresh ideas, new faces, and plans it calls “visionary.” It is led by its presidential candidate, Alex Jasiulek. In interviews and debates, Jasiulek has spearheaded Block’s responses. Block’s vice presidential candidates tended to look to him for leadership and seemed to offer supplementary comments in support of the main line of argument, which was usually presented by Jasiulek. This is perhaps unsurprising, as Jasiulek is the only candidate on the Block ticket who has experience in campus politics. While the other candidates can appeal to involvement in diverse student groups, Jasiulek brings institutional knowledge to the Block ticket, a strength that was evident in the debates and our interview. Thus, when it came to talking about campus politics and specific policy and logistics, Block often appealed to an overarching vision rather than concrete details.
While The 212 did not appeal to “vision,” it made more compelling policy claims in its campaign that gave us more confidence in the party’s ability to push through tangible initiatives. Its candidates are more familiar with campus politics, as presidential candidate Karishma Habbu, VP candidate for communications Jared Odessky, and VP candidate for finance Daphne Chen all have experience working with CCSC councils and committees. Generally, 212’s candidates showed better knowledge about advocacy issues and how to tackle them. They have concrete platform goals about relatively major issues in student life—the selection of the next CC dean, the upcoming Core endowment, and student involvement on the Educational Planning and Policy Committee—and have been decidedly firm that students should have a voice in them.
When we asked about how they planned to leverage student involvement in the selection of Columbia College’s next dean, for example, VP candidate for policy Will Hughes was able to cite what are now effectively defunct statutes of Columbia College as potential legislative means of doing so. Likewise, when speaking about institutional memory, a claim also present in Block’s platform, Odessky mentioned particular concrete initiatives such as how-to guides and the creation of an online collaborative forum with existing campus media. Block VP candidate for communications Lauren Barriere mentioned similar plans but failed to show a comparable level of detail. This level of familiarity with the Columbia administration weighed heavily in favor of 212 and showed it has thought through and carefully prepared policy stances, allowing its members to stick to their consensus as a unified party.
In our mind, Block’s lack of familiarity with CCSC politics hurt its candidacy, while 212 showed a more promising amount of institutional knowledge. Although Block’s vision might sound promising, we were skeptical about its direction and have reservations about the party’s ability to push student issues through the campus bureaucracy. Given the institutional barriers in Columbia’s campus politics, 212 has the decided advantage in its appeal to create tangible change. That said, we do not agree with all of its specific policy directions. We are skeptical about the party’s push for micro-events as having potential to add to campus life. We are likewise skeptical about its plan to extend the Student Governing Board’s opt-in club resources rental system, which is essentially a plan to buy AV equipment for clubs to rent at lower prices and seems unnecessarily complicated. This plan creates unnecessary redundancy that can be avoided by streamlining operations with University Event Management. Most of all, we are skeptical about The 212’s policies on the EPPC. The most problematic concern in the soon-to-be EPPC is a lack of genuine faculty involvement, not a lack of student involvement. However, 212 deserves recognition for at least bringing the issue to attention in its platform. While we can disagree and debate with 212’s policy initiatives, we find ourselves unable to discuss Block’s platform in concrete terms. When asked about the EPPC issue in Sunday’s debate, for example, Block questioned—through Jasiulek—whether it was productive for CCSC to focus on “minutiae” like EPPC and referred back to its “vision.” This lack of direction is troubling, and we are concerned about Block Party’s ability to present a cohesive front on behalf of the students.
What we also have to realize is that the CCSC executive board has relatively few real, legislative powers. It is unable to unilaterally enact policy in a way that directly and substantially affects student life. It is, above all, an advocacy group. Its most important powers are soft. But the CCSC executive board is the only body that is nominally representative of all of Columbia College, and its symbolic, representative power is its most crucial. In the absence of significant legislative powers, the CCSC can potentially harness its ability to speak on behalf of Columbia College students in a way that no other elected body is able to do.
Administrators at Columbia are keen to pay lip service to being receptive to student input. Whether we take them at their word is another issue. CCSC’s most useful power is its ability to present a single student voice. In this particular election, 212’s institutional familiarity, experience, and unity give us most reason to hope that the CCSC executive board will be able to present a strong student voice. For that reason, we, the editorial board of the Columbia Daily Spectator, endorse The 212 for executive board of the Columbia College Student Council.
Hannah D’Apice, Simon Jerome, and Virgilio Urbina Lazardi recused themselves from the writing of this editorial because of professional and/or personal connections to CCSC executive board candidates.