Columbia College Student Council got it right. If its recently released website, WTFColumbia.com (What To Fix Columbia), catches on, CCSC will revolutionize and revitalize the role of student government at Columbia. WTF Columbia is a crowdsourcing website that allows students to submit suggestions for improving our university and then to vote on their favorite ideas. The site builds a direct, data-driven link between students and their council representatives.
CCSC Vice President for Communications Jared Odessky, CC ’15, told us that the council will restructure its activity based on the issues that students find most pressing. The site, Odessky explained, will serve as the “only priority list” for the council’s activity. As part of this restructuring, each CCSC policy meeting will now begin with a recap of the week’s top WTF Columbia suggestions, and every CCSC committee will moderate its page on the site. Although we were concerned that students’ ideas would remain suspended in cyberspace, the early signs are good. Odessky told us that CCSC Vice President for Policy Will Hughes, CC ’13, has already met with Columbia University Information Technology to address this week’s top suggestion: a CourseWorks app for smartphones.
Students, we urge you to register for WTF Columbia and to use your real UNIs to comment and vote on problems to fix. If a critical mass of undergraduate students begins to use the site actively, it will accurately reflect students’ concerns and interests, and CCSC will be able to address them effectively. The site is not only for CC students—CCSC has created pages for Barnard, the School of General Studies, and the School of Engineering and Applied Science as well.
We urge the administration to embrace this innovation. There will be ideas proposed on WTF Columbia that are outside the scope of a student council’s responsibility. For instance, the second-most popular item on the site this week calls for a renovation of Pupin Plaza, a project well beyond CCSC’s budget or authority. It is the administration’s responsibility to keep tabs on the site, partner closely with the undergraduate student councils, and respond to student concerns addressed at them. The administration should at least respond publicly to all suggestions that reach a minimum number of suggestions. CCSC has presented us with an innovative, a 21st-century model of democracy. According to Odessky, the University of California, Berkeley’s student council has already contacted CCSC about potentially imitating its model. We encourage students and administrators to use this site as a tool to effect change.
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