A joint Columbia College Student Council–Engineering Student Council task force charged with investigating a possible merger between the two has returned to the news this week. The original proposed merger was greeted with a fair amount of confusion and skepticism when it was first unveiled in the spring—not surprising, considering that a council merger has been put forward unsuccessfully several times in the past.
Last week, it was announced that the task force will not simply evaluate the potential for a merger, but rather will consider a full range of steps that might bring about closer cooperation between the two groups—possibly, but not necessarily, including a merger.
We remain skeptical of a merger between the two councils. The first issue is that of representation: Columbia College is three times larger than the undergraduate portion of the School of Engineering and Applied Science. How would the structure of a combined council deal with this imbalance? It would be equally unfair to give the two schools an equal vote as it would be to give Columbia College a three-to-one advantage.
It must be noted that there are many advantages to a merger between two student councils for schools with the degree of overlap that Columbia College and SEAS have. Students of both schools live together, are part of the same organizations, and by and large, share in a Columbian tradition. However, as ESC President Siddhant Bhatt, SEAS ’14, has pointed out, SEAS and Columbia College have unique curriculums, career aims, alumni support, and student culture. These differences—primarily academic and pre-professional—are ably served by the current two-council setup, and it doesn’t seem like the confusion and compromise required for a merger would actually leave either group better off.
In light of these differences, we encourage the task force to focus more on the areas where CCSC and ESC can work together. For all the differences between the student bodies, it is also undeniable that CC and SEAS students intermingle and form strong relationships with each other. We live together, eat together, participate in clubs together, and even take many of the same classes.
Currently, both councils have a single, unelected member who serves as liaison to the other council. Elevating this position to the executive board level for both organizations—creating a “Vice President for Inter-Council Affairs”—would serve to increase cohesion and dialogue. Joint monthly meetings would promote additional collaboration. This structure would also provide a workable framework to include Barnard’s Student Government Association and General Studies Student Council.
Columbia has four undergraduate schools, but we’re one university. While we do not support a full-blown merger, we hope the task force will make recommendations that recognize our differences but strengthen our common foundation.
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