Columbia College Student Council elected Cleo Abram, CC ’15, the new University senator for Columbia College on Sunday night.
Abram, who is taking the seat vacated earlier this semester by Eduardo Santana, CC ’13, was one of three finalists who presented at the meeting, along with Benjamin Spener, CC ’14, and Daniel Bonner, CC ’13.
During her presentation to the council, Abram focused primarily on her research and experience in online education—including founding TEDxColumbiaCollege as a first-year—and emphasized Columbia’s role in the emerging market for online courses.
“I care a lot about this community,” she said. “That’s foundationally why I wanted to run for Senate.”
CCSC President Karishma Habbu, CC ’13, said that Abram impressed her and the council with her presentation.
“I think that Cleo presented herself as a very capable, very efficient candidate who would bring a real energy and real vision for the Senate,” she said.
Habbu said that online education would become a vital issue of discussion in the next year, and that CCSC members felt that the Senate would benefit from Abram’s expertise.
Abram said that she would love to have a dialogue about the future of online education at the Senate and what it means for the Columbia brand.
“I envision Columbia getting involved in the growing online education movement in the same way that Harvard, MIT, and Yale have,” she said, “but in a way that suits its students’ needs.”
The council members reached a two-thirds majority with a paper ballot, but a group discussion after the initial vote resulted in a unanimous decision to elect Abram.
Jared Odessky, CC ‘15 and vice president of communications for CCSC, said, “I think that Cleo has proven herself to be very competent and able, and she demonstrated a very strong knowledge of both senate issues as well as CC-specific issues. I think that that’s what we need in a senator that will be representing both Columbia College students as well as the University as a whole.”
Bonner, the former president of the Columbia/Barnard Hillel, said that he was happy for Abram. “I think Cleo will be great. I thought I’d give it a shot and have another chance to do something interesting and impactful on campus, but I’m really excited for her,” he said.
Spener said that while he has not decided whether to run for the position again in May, he still wants to make a difference on campus.
“I’m not going to run for the sake of running,” he said. “If I run, it’ll be because I want to make a difference in the issues.”
According to Habbu, the council received over 100 applicants, and applicants were interviewed by herself; Will Hughes, CC ’13 and CCSC vice president for policy; and the two other CC senators, Richard Sun, CC ’13, and Matthew Chou, CC ’14. After the initial interview process, three finalists were chosen to present to the council.
Abram said that she was still absorbing the news.
“I’m really excited and honored to be a part of it,” she said. “I hope I can do my part.”
Also at the meeting, Jessica Marinaccio, dean of undergraduate admissions and financial aid, reviewed the recent changes in the financial aid office and the feedback the office has since received from students and parents.
Before the changes, she said, most students were frustrated with having to wait a long time to meet with a financial aid officer about a simple question. Now, with the new walk-in hours, students can stop by the office and have their questions answered readily.
She said, “It was not to remove personalization but to service students better.”
Marinaccio also mentioned the need for more communication and educational outreach. She said that there was often confusion among students about whether an issue they have pertains to the financial aid office or to another department. The office is in the process of developing financial aid workshops for current students, and Marinaccio said that she hopes the workshops will educate students about the process of applying for financial aid.
Correction: An earlier version of this article identified Daniel Bonner as the president of Hillel. He is the former president. Spectator regrets the error.