In our four years as students at this university, we have seen three deans lead our college. Meanwhile, inconsistency and opacity are what we have come to expect from what is the most visible leader and administrative representative of Columbia College. When the still-unexplained departure of Dean Michele Moody-Adams in August created the opportunity to select a new dean, we anticipated a chance for students to leave a meaningful mark on the leadership of Columbia College as participants in the new dean search process through strong-willed, independent student representatives. We are pleased that there are two students on the dean search committee. However, it matters how well the students on a committee represent the student body, and we fully expected the participation of elected student representatives. After reading University President Lee Bollinger's terse email last Wednesday, we realized that our basic expectations had not been met. The only students selected to serve on the dean search committee were members of the Undergraduate Recruitment Committee, an arm of the Office of Undergraduate Admissions. While we do not question the qualifications, ability, or dedication of J.T. Ramseur and Mary Kircher, the students on the committee, we do not feel they are sufficiently representative of our full student body. Nor do we blame them. They are graciously performing a duty to their college, and their acceptance of the position only reinforces our perception of their commitment to the school. Instead, we find fault with Dean of Student Affairs Kevin Shollenberger for making his choice of students without due consideration to the need for proper representation. Dean Shollenberger should not have included only students from the URC. Positions on the URC are appointed by administrators rather than elected by students, and these students are accountable primarily to administrators rather than their peers. At no point were members of the Columbia College Student Council given notice that a search committee was being formed, much less asked which students should sit on that committee—two actions that, had they been taken, would have encouraged open communication and collaboration between students and administrators rather than confrontation. Unfortunately, this oversight lends itself to the possible appearance that the administration, fearing the presence of strong and independent student voices on the committee at a time of deep turmoil between Columbia College and the Faculty of Arts and Sciences, attempted to avoid student opinions independent of or even contrary to those of the administrators in Low Library. Instead, administrators should be doing everything to show that they care about student voices. While this oversight may have been unintentional, the lack of elected student representatives on the committee at such a complicated time for Columbia College contributes to the persistent and pernicious perception of an administration disconnected from the student body. This choice is also a dangerous precedent for future student involvement in major decisions about Columbia College. We believe an important purpose of having elected representatives, whether in student government or governing boards, is to have them engaged and incorporated in these processes. Elected students have recognition across campus and well-defined communication channels with both students and administrators, important attributes that become invaluable when Columbia College is in a state as uncertain as the one it has been this past year. Thankfully, this uncertainty has been countered in part by the open leadership of interim Dean James Valentini, which we hope will become the norm. We had the opportunity to meet with Dean Shollenberger recently to share our concerns. We found him open and receptive to making a change, and we sincerely hope that he will add someone elected by their fellow students to serve on the committee alongside J.T. and Mary, such as a newly elected member of the student council. It should go without saying that for future committees of such importance, Dean Shollenberger should learn from this mistake and return to the previous practice of selecting at least one representative from CCSC. Kenny Durell is a Columbia College senior majoring in economics and a University Senator. Alex Frouman is a Columbia College senior majoring in mathematics and co-chair of the Student Affairs Committee of the University Senate. Aki Terasaki is a Columbia College senior majoring in economics and president of the Columbia College Student Council. Barry Weinberg is a Columbia College senior majoring in economics-political science, former chair of the Student Governing Board, and a student representative on the Committee on the Core....
By Tim Lam, Tim Lam, Sara Jacobs, Samuel E. Roth, Mishaal Khan, Iman Nanji, Emily Tamkin, Chris Chan, Alisa Lu, and Alex Frouman
Over the past week, Ethiopian, East African, and human rights organizations all over the world have published a flurry of open letters, condemning Columbia's decision to host Prime Minister of Ethiopia Meles Zenawi at this week's World Leaders Forum. The letters reopen the old, rankling, and unsettled debates raised by Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's 2007 visit, questions about whether it is in line with the University's mission and stature to invite controversial—some would say dictatorial—world leaders to speak to students and faculty members on campus. As these questions reemerge, the Columbia Political Union wishes to express its position that the invitation of Zenawi, and all events fostering political dialogue and awareness, are both in tune with our own mission and that of the University as a whole. Yet, such events may only be beneficial to students and the world when the University serves as a neutral and critical moderator. In this light, the previous inclusion of an unedited quote from the Ethiopian government's mission on the WLF's online event description must be described as an unfortunate and sullying gaff. The unqualified statement implied University support for Zenawi and his government. The retraction of the quote and the reaffirmation in a statement by Columbia's Director of Media Relations, Robert Hornsby, that the University remains a neutral party and that Zenawi's speech will be followed by an open question-and-answer period, have done much to assure that the event will, in line with the goal of WLF, "advance lively, uninhibited dialogue." Still, the mishap has raised reasonable doubts. CPU maintains that this event can prove beneficial, especially in exploring the criticisms of Zenawi used to urge Columbia to reconsider its invitation. Detractors accuse Americans of viewing Zenawi, an American ally in Africa, without scrutiny—and this is fair. His is not a name to make the major news cycles, not a name to enter daily conversation like Ahmadinejad's. Profiles of the man in the West are a mixed bag—questioning his two-decade tenure and his treatment of opposition parties and the press, but applauding his push for stability, economic growth, and self-sovereignty. Most Americans could not tell their East African counterparts whether they consider the man a dictator, or a democrat in the throes of difficult national transitions. Giving such a man a podium does not mean endorsing his ideas, as has been argued. It does, however, mean drawing attention to the man. And as long as we are true to our spirit—and Hornsby holds his word that a free and robust questioning of Zenawi occurs, possibly forcing him to confront with candor the questions he may be able to avoid in his own nation—that attention will hopefully lead to reflection and investigation in the news cycle, and among individuals at Columbia and beyond, which will benefit the world. True, if Zenawi is a dictator, he may spin the event any way he likes at home, casting this as an endorsement. But spin is spin, and a dictator seeking self-legitimation will find it somewhere. Weighing the benefit of awareness, dialogue, pressure from our corner, and the manipulation of that dialogue by outside sources is a complex calculation. But to shy from controversy, to avoid engaging with a tricky situation, to cease even trying to support uninhibited and fruitful dialogue in the world, would be misguided and out of line with our mission as a group, and Columbia's as an institution. As long as the exchange is truly free, spirited, and critical, it is wise to err on the side of engagement. Sara Jacobs is the general manager. Emily Tamkin is the director of operations and the Spectator editorial page editor. Alex Frouman is the treasurer. Mishaal Khan is the events coordinator. Alisa Lu is the director of communications. Samuel Roth is the publisher and a member of the Spectator editorial board. Tim Lam is the CubPub.org blog editor-in-chief. Chris Chan is the technical director. Iman Nanji is the publisher of the Columbia Political Review. Mark Hay is the editor-in-chief of the Columbia Political Review....
By Alex Frouman
The US-China relationship is the most important bilateral diplomatic relationship for the US today. The issues that link these two world powers include the economy, nuclear proliferation, climate change, and human rights. Meaningful progress cannot be made in any of these issues without effective US-Chinese collaboration. The global economy is the top issue for the two nations. The U.S. has the world's largest economy by far (counting the European Union as individual nations), and Japan came in second place until this year as China passed Japan for that spot. Even now China's economy is still growing despite the opposite worldwide trend. Though China's economy is still much smaller than that of the U.S., China will not only emerge from the recession debt-free, but it will also own about $1 trillion in U.S. government debt. China has enough money saved to fund not only its own $600 billion stimulus (which is larger than the U.S. stimulus package when adjusted for the size of the economies), but also in part that of the U.S. China's massive trade surplus in the recent decades, opposed to the U.S. trade deficit, has left it with this saved money. Beyond the $1 trillion in U.S. government debt, the Chinese reserves contain nearly another $1 trillion. The Chinese government bought these dollars from Chinese exporters in order to keep them out of China's economy, a technique to keep the RMB down in value. However, this trade does not come without contention. In a senate hearing, U.S. Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner accused the Chinese government of manipulating its currency, the Renminbi (RMB or Yuan), to keep it weak to the dollar, which promotes Chinese exports but not imports. The result is that roughly one third of the Chinese foreign reserves are in dollars. The power this gives China is simple: If China were to withdraw dollar holdings, the value of the dollar would plummet. However, if China were to start seriously withdrawing U.S. dollars, as it did that, the value of the dollars still invested would go down. That is, the first dollar withdrawn would be worth much more than the last; $2 trillion would become much less. Thus, any negative fluctuation in the dollar is bad for China too. There is a mutually assured destruction that prevents abuse of China's U.S. dollar holdings. Indeed, by some measures, the more China has, the better. By integrating the Chinese and U.S. economies, both parties become invested in a common security that takes the punch out of recent Chinese threats about abandoning the dollar because it is insecure. Some even go further and consider the Chinese "fear" about the dollar to be a distraction from its manipulations of the RMB. It is not all good, though; A trade surplus hurts the US economy, and the Obama administration needs to focus on reeling in the U.S. trade deficit. One way to do this is by ending China's manipulation of the RMB, which would allow it to rise in value. Yet we may not want the RMB to change right now, as it would devaluate the dollar and potentially cause stateside inflation. However, the RMB needs to be allowed to fluctuate appropriately and fairly with the market within the next few years as the world emerges from the crisis. President Obama has already taken steps towards progress in U.S.-China economic policy. During G20 this past week, he met with Chinese President Hu Jintao, announcing cooperation of the two powers and a plan to meet once a year on both strategic and economic fronts for an initiative headed by Clinton and Geithner. This framework opens preliminary doors to success. Beyond the economy, an area of success in U.S.-China diplomacy has been their mutual opposition to nuclear proliferation. The united voice speaking against North Korea's nuclear development and missile launch this week displays the two nations effectively collaborating for common interests Regarding climate change, the nations also have common interests, but both have been resistant to change. China refuses to act in line with Western nations, claiming that it is entitled to use fossil fuels to develop as the West did, and that the majority of the greenhouse gas in the atmosphere has come from the West; meanwhile the US is simply failing to make concrete promises. If the US wants diplomatic clout when it comes to climate change it needs to make clear international commitments and subsequently pressure China, the new number one emitter of greenhouse gasses (passing the US this year), to do the same. Finally, the Obama administration has adopted a harmful policy regarding China and human rights. In Clinton's recent trip to China, she emphasized looking beyond issues such as Taiwan and Tibet in order to unite over the economy. In a press release regarding President Obama's meeting with President Hu, the White House said the two agreed to "resume the human rights dialogue as soon as possible." This deferral of important issues is unacceptable if the U.S. desires global moral influence. The U.S. cannot afford double standards regarding human rights. While the U.S. should weaken its demands for now to prioritize the economy, putting off talks completely is a mistake. China is still just entering the stage as an international power. As China learns the rules of the game, the U.S. must apply pressure rather than appease its developing partner. Appeasement now will only make it more difficult to apply pressure in the future. The U.S. needs to set standards from day one, which means the Obama administration cannot completely remove human rights from the table....