The Student Governing Board elected outgoing Muslim Students Association President Abdul Rafay Hanif, CC ’14, as its new chair and voted to recognize four new student groups at a town hall meeting on Tuesday night.
Hanif served on the executive board of SGB as a representative-at-large and is also a student representative to the Committee on the Core Curriculum.
Hanif pointed to his experience communicating with administrators as a strong point of his candidacy, telling student group leaders that “having heavy access and familiarity with administrators puts me a step above everyone else.”
He served as MSA president when a report that the New York Police Department had monitored the group sparked vigorous debate on campus.
“As president at the time, it was important for administration to know how we were approaching the issue,” Hanif said. “It’s about getting your name out there and letting them know you’re serious about the way the University is run.”
David Fine, CC ’13, the outgoing chair of SGB, which represents political, religious, activist, and humanitarian groups, said that the position involved “constantly thinking about the needs of every single group, which can be very diverse.”
“I have meetings every week with administrators,” Fine said. “I worry—I stay up all the night thinking about how to help our groups.”
Despite the work of communicating with University bureaucrats, Fine said that “the most well-known secret on this campus is that administrators really do help you when you go to them.”
“People get most frustrated when they’re not meeting face to face,” he said.
SGB also elected the rest of its executive board, including the vice chair, treasurer, secretary, and representatives-at-large.
Ankita Gore, SEAS ’15, an incoming representative-at-large and an executive board member of the Hindu Students Organization, said that she would like to organize more intergroup programming.
“HSO, Hillel, and interfaith organizations arranged a lecture series last year,” Gore said. “I’d like to see more programming between religious and activist groups.”
A common theme in the candidates’ speeches was the allocation of campus space, an issue that Hanif said he plans to focus on as chair.
“I want to make it easier for students to request spaces outside of Lerner,” Hanif said. “It’s very important for SGB to work with the councils and look at how money can be reallocated to those spaces.”
Hanif also emphasized a return to SGB’s political roots—the board was created as a conduit of free speech during the University’s 1968 student protests.
“We’re the one governing board that really values political discussions and debate,” Hanif said. “We have widespread connections on campus to organize students who are truly invested in topics in order to come together and discuss them.”
Fine pointed to the board’s decision to ignore the Barnard fliering policy last year as “a really heartening incident for our campus” that also hearkened back to SGB’s political origins.
“It doesn’t fall under our traditional scope,” Fine said, “but it allowed us to reclaim our roots as a student umbrella that really advocates for student free speech and expression.”
At its meeting Tuesday, the board also voted to recognize four student groups: Student-Worker Solidarity, the Columbia University Family Support Network, Inwood Academic Tutoring, and Generation Citizen.
Evan Burger, CC ’13, a lead organizer of Student-Worker Solidarity, said that the recognition would allow the group to utilize “funding, space, and institutional presence.”
He also said that SGB recognition allows the group to independently use resources when organizing rallies.
“When we have rallies, we have to get a recognized group to lead it,” such as Lucha or the Columbia Democrats, Burger said before SWS’s recognition. “If any sort of disciplinary action is necessary, if something happened, Lucha would have to take the heat, and that isn’t fair.”