Before classes even began, a handful of Barnard students struggled to find housing, the class of 2016 had to cope with the death of one of its classmates, and, while Columbia College finally settled on a permanent dean, the School of Engineering and Applied Science was experiencing leadership problems of its own. Going into the fall, the University has already faced its share of controversial issues spilling over from spring and summer. The following are some of the major issues that we, the editorial board, intend to monitor throughout the coming months.
FINANCES: Barnard’s financial struggles manifested themselves late this summer as it struggled to find housing for its students. Yet the housing shortage is only the latest development in a series of monetary problems west of Broadway. On top of consecutive years of over-enrollment, Barnard has also mandated meal plans for upperclassmen living in the quad and closed its pool.
Meanwhile, problems east of Broadway are presenting themselves differently. During the Columbia College Student Council executive campaign in the spring, it was brought to our attention that the council has a large financial surplus that has gone unused for years. Of particular interest is roughly $80,000, which former CCSC councils sat on. Going into the fall, that money is still unspent. The 212 pledged to find a way to spend that money, and as the candidates formally step in to their positions, we hope they will put it to good use.
STUDENT WELLNESS: After Tina Bu’s death last fall, multiple campus groups, particularly the Student Wellness Project, have made appreciable strides in raising awareness and fostering dialogue about mental health issues on campus. With the death of Martha Corey-Ochoa during NSOP week, we were all reminded to stay mindful of mental health. Yet the large number of wellness organizations on campus that have developed in the past year have begun to overlap and have become difficult to navigate. We will continue to applaud every effort to improve student wellness on campus, but we are also interested in examining the effectiveness of these collective efforts thus far.
ADMINISTRATION: With recent changes at the very top of the administrative hierarchies of CC and SEAS, campus politics and administrative turmoil will surely be on our minds. As James Valentini settles in to his new permanent post as dean of CC, we hope to see him follow through with the long-term goals that he set for himself when accepting his post—to address funding and staffing issues in the Core Curriculum, for example. In the lead-up to Feniosky Peña-Mora’s departure as dean of SEAS, the engineering faculty had made their priorities clear in terms of physical space allocation, quality of academic hiring, and ability to attract top graduate students. We should gain a better understanding of how Interim Dean Donald Goldfarb responds to those needs, as SEAS looks for a permanent replacement and works toward its own ambitious future.
ACADEMICS: Last semester saw the creation of two new structures within Columbia’s academic system: the creation of the Educational Policy and Planning Committee and the endowment for the Core Curriculum. Envisioned as a committee made up of both students and faculty that will advise Executive Vice President Nicholas Dirks on matters pertaining to the academics of all schools under the Faculty of Arts and Sciences, the EPPC could have a significant role in determining Columbia’s academic decision-making. The proposed $100 million endowment for the Core is progressing in terms of its fund-raising efforts, but there is still no clear decision about how such an endowment will be spent. With the Core already so integral to Columbia undergraduates, this endowment could be the beginning of a long-term project that both preserves and improves the current iteration of the curriculum.
As always, we encourage you to engage with us and take part in the discussion in the opinion pages of Spectator.