Forty-two candidates from eight parties presented their platforms at the debates for Columbia College and Engineering Student Councils' fall elections on Sunday.
Positions being contested are CCSC and ESC Class of 2020 council, CCSC Class of 2017 representative, CCSC Sandwich Ambassador, and ESC's 3-2, Disability and Accessibility, and International Students representatives.
While specific policy plans differed, parties voiced a unified desire for increased financial support for students and a stronger sense of community within each undergraduate college.
Students will be able to vote from 10 a.m. Monday until 5 p.m. Wednesday via the Columbia Elections Board. The full list of candidates and party platforms are published on the CEB website.
CCSC Class of 2020
Candidates focused on financial support for students, with multiple parties voicing support for converting leftover meal swipes to Dining Dollars and University-subsidized MetroCards.
Members of the Blue Anew party said that they would expand kosher options in the dining halls, as well as create initiatives to combat food insecurity, such as serving leftover perishables to students in the hall lounges. Vice Presidential Candidate Zeina Laban, CC '20, argued that Columbia needs more "campus traditions" for a less "clique-y" student body.
The Lion Heart party also emphasized school spirit as a top priority. Vice Presidential Candidate James Ritchie, CC '20, proposed that Columbia T-shirts should provided to students instead of the other free items that are handed out during New Student Orientation Program.
Unlike other parties, the Morningside Five party put campus safety at the forefront of its campaign. Sohil Patel, CC '20, a candidate for class representative, advocated for more call boxes around campus.
Members of the Blue Crew party criticized other groups' ideas, claiming their initiatives would be too ambitious. Vice Presidential Candidate Alex Ashton, CC '20, said he would work to change how documents uploaded to PawPrint expire after two hours.
Although the five parties brought a variety of ideas to the debate, Blue Anew, Mafia and Blue Crew all claimed they would implement a system in which leftover meal swipes could be converted to dining dollars. Another popular idea was school-subsidized Metrocards, which Morningside 5, Mafia, and Lionheart all put in their platform. Although these were popular ideas among all the parties, none of the candidates could specifically pin down how they would implement this in office.
Other parties openly advocated for large, long-term goals rather than smaller, short-term ones.
"Why can't we have lofty goals? Why can't we try to address those issues while also recognizing the limitations?" Danielle Resheff, CC '20 and a Lion Heart candidate for class representative, said.
Resheff said that her party isn't afraid of taking on larger tasks such as installing air conditioning in every dorm and implementing a token system for towels at the Dodge Fitness Center.
Patricia Granda-Malaver, CC '20, the Blue Crew party's presidential candidate, was excused from attending the debate.
CCSC Class of 2017
Tracy Cao, CC '17 and the only candidate for CCSC 2017 Class Representative, said that she would lower prices for tickets to senior events to improve attendance. Last year, then-CCSC President Ben Makansi, CC '16, and then-Vice President Vivek Ramakrishnan, CC '16, led a successful campaign to subsidize the cost of Senior Ball tickets for low-income students.
She also said that she would work more with the Center for Career Education and student groups to create more events for the senior class.
Campaigning to fill a seat left open by a candidate who was elected "as a joke," candidates Ufon Umanah, CC '20 and Joseph Villafañe, CC '20 said that they would take the job much more seriously.
Umanah said that he understands the position would be an "ambitious role." He said he would create a website that would gather the eating habits of Columbia University students. Rather than collecting data on students, Villafañe's platform focused on gathering information about the restaurants in Morningside Heights and consolidating menus.
ESC Class of 2020
Class of 2020 candidates' discussion focused on building community, with SEASus Take The Wheel candidates advocating for more council outreach to international student groups and the Society of Women Engineers. Similarly, the E & B Party proposed a TEDx event, and a "SEAS Book of Records" event where students could compete in competitions such as hot dog eating.
The SEAS The Moment party said they would develop an alumni donations platform that would subsidize iClicker and calculator costs, and film large introductory classes to help students on religious holidays or during shopping period.
SEAS The Moment said they plan to form a cross-school tutoring program where CC students would help SEAS students with humanities subjects, and SEAS students would help CC students with STEM subjects—to which SEASus Take The Wheel Representative Candidate Joanna Paik, SEAS '20, replied that the Center for Student Advising already offers free tutoring services. SEASus Take the Wheel representative candidate Abhishek Chakraborty, SEAS '20 added that students are not predisposed to particular academic strengths by the college they choose.
The three male candidates for SEAS's sole seat on the University Senate discussed diversity and women in engineering, disability support, and transparency.
Izzet Kebudi, SEAS '19, highlighted inclusion, saying he would support opening a student-staffed call center to support students with disabilities and that he hopes to work with Barnard's Student Government Association to determine how best to involve female voices in engineering.
Echoing the concerns of student activists, Charles Harper, SEAS '18, said the Senate should advocate for the creation of a 24-hour rape crisis center and advocate for fossil fuel divestment. He also said he would advocate for the creation of an LGBTQ center, as well as mandate bias sensitivity training for professors and teaching assistants.
Andrés Aguayo, SEAS '18, plans to advocate for students who identify as low-income or minority, especially to ease the first-year transition. He hopes to host events focusing on the achievements of women in engineering fields. Aguayo added that he wants to make University Senate plenary and committee meetings open to the public. Senate plenary meetings are already open to the public.
Joshua Zweig, SEAS '18, was excused from attending the debate.
ESC Disability and Accessibility Representative
Both Jacob Nye, SEAS '18, and Adriana Echeverria, SEAS '18, aim to increase awareness of students with disabilities on campus.
Nye hopes to facilitate disability awareness training for student group leaders and make more buildings wheelchair-accessible through their primary entrance, calling the side entrances to buildings like Philosophy Hall or Low Library "undignifying."
Echeverria, who has difficulty walking, said that her personal experience makes her the ideal candidate. She hopes to increase disability awareness both among and for transfer students and students in 3-2 programs.
ESC International Students Representative
Pranav Arora, SEAS '19, said that his experience on the International Student Advisory Board and as an International Student Orientation Program leader will help him develop designated international student advisors within the Center for Student Advising and the Center for Career Education.
Mohnish Chakravarti, SEAS '20, said he would also focus on making specific on-campus jobs available for international students and push for subsidized summer housing for international students—a goal that Arora called "naïve."
ESC 3-2 Representative
Priscilla Wang, SEAS '17, the sole candidate for 3-2 representative, plans to work toward guaranteed housing and free laundry for 3-2 students, the absence of which she says makes 3-2 students feel alienated from the undergraduate community. She hopes to ensure NSOP leaders are aware of the different structure of services provided to 3-2 students.