Candidates for the Columbia College and Engineering Student Councils emphasized the need to expand resources for underrepresented groups on campus, increase club inclusivity, and call for initiatives that build community on and off campus at the student council debates on Sunday.
Many candidates, particularly those for class council, at-large representative, and executive board positions, are running uncontested. For ESC, nine representative-at-large positions, including the First Generation Low Income and Gender and Sexuality representatives, remain without candidates.
In past years, a majority of executive board positions have remained uncontested. In comparison to last Spring’s elections, however, the number of candidates has increased significantly—from approximately 80 to 118 candidates.
Many candidates cited the success of CCSC’s MetroCard initiative, which designated a combined total of $9,100 from CCSC’s budget surplus and Columbia College Alumni Association fundraising to subsidizing MetroCards for low-income students. In their platforms, a number of candidates pointed to the initiative as a model for efforts to allow all students improved access to the Columbia experience and the city, and strived to propose platforms that would include similar initiatives to address issues such as increasing accessibility for first-generation and low-income students.
In particular, CU Change candidates emphasized outreach to student groups to reinforce community in their overall platform. Jesús Guerra Ocampo, CC ’20, candidate for VP of campus life, specifically proposed partnerships with underfunded campus groups, community outreach to organizations within the city, and extending pre-professional opportunities for undergraduates pursuing graduate school. Candidate for VP of Communications Sarah Basha, CC ’20, said she plans to increase engagement of the student body in CCSC’s decision-making by using social media as a way to keep track of policy change, and maintaining collaborative relationships with other student groups.
Previously, CU Change ran on a full executive board ticket, but lost its VP of finance and VP of policy candidates due to reasons unspecified on posts about their exit from the race. The presidential candidate also had to step down as a result due to a Columbia Election Commision policy that states that a presidential candidate is no longer able to run without a VP of policy, since the two must be elected together.
Ignite outlined plans to tackle issues facing first-generation, low-income students through increased networking events, accessibility to the city through MetroCard allocations, and facilitated conversations between high-need students and financial aid officers to guide the selection of dining plans and work-study. Ignite’s platform also proposed a more personalized CPS experience, the reinstating of LionLink to aid community building from central location, and the implementation of a “common app” for club applications.
In ESC, SEAS the Change Δ is running uncontested for all executive positions, with the exception of VP of campus life. Alina Ying, SEAS ’21, candidate for president, has emphasized the need to combat low voter turnout in SEAS and a more serious focus on mental health for students. During the debate, Estevan Mesa, SEAS ’22, underscored the importance of someone younger pursuing policy and proposed that VP of policy across councils should work together. Sophia Sagandyk, SEAS ’22, candidate for VP of finance, plans to allocate more funding toward community building and sustainability. And Adheli Gonzalez, SEAS ’21, candidate for VP of communications, reiterated the importance of transparency to the student body on council.
For the VP of campus life position, Bret Silverstein, SEAS ’21, of SEAS the Change Δ is running against Jennifer Martinez, SEAS ’21. Silverstein’s platform focused on more events to increase engagement with SEAS alumni and professors, while Martinez proposed more engagement with mental health initiatives on campus.
The positions for University Senator, on the other hand, are highly contested, with four candidates competing for the two CCSC senator seats, and two candidates competing for the one SEAS position.
According to his platform, Ramsay Eyre, CC ’21, plans to keep Columbia accountable to its commitment to West Harlem and its own internal sustainability initiatives, while Heven Haile, CC ’21, emphasized the need to invest in restorative justice programs to combat discrimination on campus. Andrew Rodriguez, CC ’20, proposed a 24/7 SVR center for victims of sexual assault, while Travis Nelson, CC ’21, discussed plans to extend more resources to underrepresented identity groups.
Joseph Hier, SEAS ’21, put forth a platform centered on making classrooms more affordable and expanding Columbia Health’s hours, while Giorgia Fujita, SEAS ’20, has proposed to change international designations for undocumented students and increase gender-neutral bathrooms.
At-large representatives, on the other hand, focused on issues such as reforming the Core curriculum, broadening resources for queer and trans health, and combating food insecurity. Zayba Qamar, CC ’22, candidate for academic affairs representative, said in her platform that she plans to open testing accommodations to students with religious conflicts. Gabriel Franco, CC ’21, international students representative candidate, proposed an increase in programming for financial literacy, while Robert Vogel, CC ’22, disability services candidate, advocated for an electronic request system for students with testing accommodations.
Despite the overall lack of candidates in ESC at-large positions, the race for race and ethnicity representative is contested, with all three candidates citing the importance to push for diverse faculty and more pre-professional opportunities for minority students. While Mark Torres, SEAS ’20, proposed the creation of a student advisory board, Sabina Thomas, SEAS ’20, voiced her plan to work through student groups who already have held Columbia to their investment in staff diversification. Aryn Davis, SEAS ’21, suggested this action start with the graduate school, where many of the students are on the track to careers in academia.
The polls for Columbia College Student Council and Engineering Student Council will open on Sunday, April 7 at 5 p.m. and will remain open until Thursday, April 11 at 5 p.m.
Editor’s note: Jesús Guerra Ocampo, Ramsey Eyre, and Heven Haile are all former Spectator staffers.
Correction: A previous version of this article misspelled the name of candidate Heven Haile. Spectator deeply regrets this error.
Staff writer can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow Spectator on Twitter @ColumbiaSpec.