A task force of Columbia College and School of Engineering and Applied Science students will spend the next eight months debating whether to merge the two schools’ undergraduate student councils.
Columbia College Student Council passed a near-unanimous resolution on Sunday night to form the task force, and the Engineering Student Council is expected to approve the same resolution Tuesday night. While they address academic concerns distinct to their schools, CCSC and ESC have, over the years, increasingly addressed the same quality of life issues for the two student bodies, who live in the same dorms and run in the same social circles.
If both student councils approve the task force’s proposal—which is due by January 2014—then all CC and SEAS undergraduates will vote on it as a referendum.
Proponents of the resolution said that a joint body would streamline council processes and create more efficiency, since both councils already work together to plan various campus events.
CCSC President-elect Daphne Chen, CC ’14, said that the merger makes a lot of sense, but she and CCSC President Karishma Habbu, CC ’13, emphasized that the resolution is not a mandate for merging the councils. The task force, they said, will explore the possibility of a merger and see if it is achievable.
“We work in the same exact buildings, and we live in the same buildings,” Chen said. “It is a huge venture, and there are many things that are going to change ... We want to know, how do we make it the most efficient council for CC and SEAS? Is it even possible?”
ESC President-elect Siddhant Bhatt, SEAS ’14, said that while the merger would be exciting, there are still a lot of questions the task force needs to consider before it can happen.
He said that because the undergraduate population at Columbia College is much larger than that at SEAS, the task force would have to make sure engineering student groups have their interests represented on the joint council.
Habbu said that the merger would require a lot of discussion.
“This is a yearlong, intense conversation,” she said. “There are a lot of questions to figure out, but the spirit of the idea is to make things easier from a student perspective.”
Chen and Bhatt will serve on the task force, along with Bob Sun, CC ’14 and CCSC vice president-elect for policy, and Tanya Shah, SEAS ’14 and ESC vice president-elect for policy. The four other members—two from each school—will be selected through an application process.
Sarita Patankar, CC ’14 and class of 2014 representative, cast the sole vote against the 27 representatives who voted for the resolution. During the meeting, she questioned why the General Studies Student Council was left out of the task force. She said that GS students already feel divided from campus culture, and it would be detrimental to leave them out of the conversation.
Habbu said the merger makes sense for just CCSC and ESC because the two schools have “more synergies.”
“We do some of the more same activities,” she said. Besides having separate deans of student affairs and financial aid, Habbu noted, “the GS council functions in a very different way as well.”
“At this point, for us to put this kind of merger on them would be more of a burden,” she added.
Nevertheless, she said she would talk to GSSC President Jennifer Wisdom, GS, about the task force and see if GSSC would be interested.
“In an ideal world, we’d have one council,” Habbu said. “But we have to take it one step at a time.”