First-year candidates for the Columbia College and Engineering Student Councils presented platforms dealing with issues of financial accessibility, student engagement with the council, and community outreach in Harlem.
All first-year positions were contested, with 28 students running for nine open positions. Last year, 39 students ran for nine open positions.
The debate was hosted by the Columbia Elections Commission, an external panel made up of an appointed commissioner and senior representation from CCSC and ESC and formed to replace the functions of the Columbia Elections Board in 2018 following wide criticism about its failure to publicize fall results in 2017. During elections last semester, candidates took significant issue with the CEC’s lack of transparency when responding to rules violations, a disconnect that created division within the council.
Candidates highlighted the importance of club inclusivity and funding, increasing accessibility to first-generation low-income students, and finding new methods for the council to engage with students in order to ensure proper representation and discussion of pertinent issues.
Elle Harris, CC ’23, of the DARTY party, said that her party would prioritize more avenues of socialization on campus by combating club exclusivity and increasing opportunities—an issue she believes could ameliorate stress culture.
“As people throw around colloquially at Columbia, we have a bad stress culture. Part of that is that people feel a sense of impostor syndrome coming here feeling like they don’t belong in these halls. … We will counter that by doing things such as social circles so people can come and feel like they have a community,” Harris said.
Across parties, candidates spoke about the importance of engaging with the Harlem community, specifically through volunteering informed by collaboration with existing community leaders. SEAS the FUture wants to come up with new strategies to combat climate change and excess plastic use in New York City, while Erin Choi, CC ’23, of the Pantone 292 party cited the need to acknowledge Harlem’s gentrification while connecting more students to organizations beyond Columbia and coordinating events with surrounding schools.
“We want to make sure really clearly that we’re not doing [volunteering] with a savior complex. Many people volunteer, they go out, take a photo, and that’s it. We want to make sure that our students are actively engaging in the Harlem and NYC community to make sure our school has communication with the neighborhood around us, the rich diversity of cultures around us.” Annie Tan, CC ’23, said.
Candidates spoke on issues that affect first-generation, low-income students—who they believe lack access to important resources at Columbia. Angelo Corrosco, CC ’23, expressed an interest in providing aid for first-generation, low-income students who are burdened by the cost of textbooks and supplemental classroom materials. Katherine O'Reilly, SEAS ’23, proposed a modification to the meal systems, which would allow for meal swipes to be rolled over the years, and which would also permit students to exchange meal swipes for Flex and Dining Dollars. According to O’Reilly, this plan would help combat food insecurity.
Candidates from both councils expressed the need to expand access to CCSC members, primarily through electronic means. Joy Mobley, CC ’23, of JoinThePride wants to incorporate an anonymous feedback form to the CCSC website, as an opportunity to better represent the student body. The SEAS Lions party noted that the ESC website has not been updated since 2017, and plans on building a brand-new, accessible website.
“It’s a two-prong approach. Having that core team of people that are going to maximize connection talking to as many people as possible but also having that online infrastructure to directly access student council, and to [do so] anonymously,” John George, CC ’23, said.
Voting began Sept. 21 at 5 p.m. and will close on Thursday, Sept. 26, at 5 p.m. Students can vote here and can access the full list of candidates and their platforms on the Columbia Elections Commission’s website.