We choose not to endorse a candidate for the open Columbia College seat in the University Senate.
We do not feel comfortable endorsing any one candidate after attending Sunday’s debate. We were underwhelmed—both by the candidates’ lack of clear ideas and by their understanding of the senate. We do feel comfortable recommending several candidates, but this editorial is not an explicit endorsement. Rather, it is a breakdown of the situation intended to help you choose a candidate.
At the debate, Marc Heinrich, CC ’16, and Manik Uppal, CC ’14, stood above the rest. Heinrich’s time as a staffer has given him concrete experience and insight into the legislative process and the nuances of the Quality of Life survey. He is well-prepared to—as he put it—“hit the ground running.” Heinrich’s website details a thorough list of ideas that he has clearly put time into forming. Our only major qualm is that he potentially represents a continuation of stagnant University Senate policies.
Much of being a University senator is making connections, and Uppal stood out with a confident, poised personality. He focused, in large part, on using technology and reinventing “a persona of what it means to be a senator.” Uppal also showed dedication, pledging that he would work as a senate staffer regardless of whether or not he wins. His proposed mobile app for the University Senate, while inventive, is perhaps overly ambitious. Additionally, Uppal’s one-year term might limit his potential for impact.
Jacob Johnson, CC ’17, should be noted for his excellent ideas—particularly those regarding shorter and more specific surveys to assess quality of life surveys that could pressure the senate to take action. While his ideas were impressive, we cannot endorse someone with only one month of experience at Columbia.
For the most part, the candidates agreed with each other on the issues. They espoused largely the same basic ideas—“implementing” the Quality of Life survey, responding to sexual assault statistics, and getting Columbia to divest.
In response to some of these rather equivocal answers, the question of what candidates meant by “implementing” the survey was asked. The candidates were, by and large, vague about actual implementation and failed to address the question. Conor Skelding, CC ’14, should be commended for his frankness for admitting that he did not fill out the survey—a fault of its massive size, which he rightly criticized. Skelding also accurately noted that because none of the candidates besides Heinrich knew anything about the results of the survey, their responses were simply conjecture.
A field of nine candidates meant that there was only about one minute to respond to each question, so answers should have been concise and not repetitive. Instead, there was much stumbling and rehashing of points. Buzzwords like “transparency” were thrown around throughout the meeting, and there was disappointingly little engagement with the issues and how the senate worked.
The candidates should be noted for their passion for activism. However, most misconstrued the purpose of the senate: It is not a forum for student activism. It is a legislative body that may hear the concerns of the students through their senators. Electing a University senator is not a paradigm-altering shift, as some candidates seemed to think. The University Senate is not controlled by students in any sense of the word. But it must be admitted the University senators do wield a substantial amount of power, and so this election matters.
Again, we feel that Heinrich and Uppal were the two most impressive candidates. Voting begins Wednesday and ends Friday. Consider our position, but more importantly, research the candidates, and go out and vote.
Disclosure: Marc Heinrich is a Spectator nonprofit development associate.
To respond to this staff editorial, or to submit an op-ed, contact email@example.com.