Updated April 5, 10:47 p.m.
Polls for the School of Engineering and Applied Science and the School of General Studies student councils opened on Monday at 10 a.m. and will close on Wednesday at 5 p.m.
Unlike Columbia College Student Council candidates, Engineering Student Council and General Studies Student Council candidates are not tied to their parties. As such, the Editorial Board critically evaluated each candidate—even those running unopposed—on their unique visions, the tangibility and specificity of their ideas, their understanding of administrative bureaucracy, and their overall ability to execute and lead. Our ideal candidate is not only competent in all these aspects but also is undeniably inspiring.
After inviting the candidates to personally speak with us and thoroughly evaluating their platforms, the Editorial Board presents the following recommendations for ESC and GSSC.
ESC Executive Board
ESC President: Aida Lu, SEAS ’19
ESC VP of Student Life: Ben Barton, SEAS ’18
ESC VP of Communications: Julia Joern, SEAS ’18
ESC VP of Policy: No endorsement offered
ESC VP of Finance: No endorsement offered
ESC has two parties on the ticket for executive council: Back to the FUture, led by current Vice President of Finance Aida Lu, SEAS ’19, and SEAStheCurve, led by Onur Çalıkuşu, SEAS ’19.
Back to the FUture’s ideas lack enough specificity to instill absolute confidence that the party’s candidates would be able to make tangible change, and some platform points suggest only a limited understanding of bureaucracy at Columbia. Overall, however, they have a cohesive group vision and dynamic. We commend their focus on mental health, though we feel they could benefit from more concrete, preventative solutions.
In our interview, presidential candidate Lu appeared to carry the group with her background as VP of Finance and had the most concrete understanding of each individual role within the executive board. VP of Student Life candidate Ben Barton, SEAS ’18, and VP of Communications candidate Julia Joern, SEAS ’18, both spoke persuasively with compelling proposals to increase accessibility, transparency, and the sense of community within SEAS. VP of Policy candidate Zoha Qamar, SEAS ’19, seemed to follow the greater party vision, but her vague platform reveals an insufficient understanding of her position within the student council. VP of Finance candidate Cesar Trujillo, SEAS ’18, did not speak, even when finance concerns were presented, deferring instead to Lu.
SEAStheCurve, comprised of presidential candidate Çalıkuşu, VP of Finance candidate Camila Solis-Camara, SEAS ’19, VP of Policy candidate Aaron Thompson, SEAS ’19, and VP of Student Life candidate Lal Uncu, SEAS ’20, lacked the team dynamic essential for an effective executive board. Although Thompson provided a clear presentation of ideas, the party had a naïve understanding of the limitations facing Counseling and Psychological Services, and many of the mental health solutions it presents are either unfeasible or ineffective.
Thus, we endorse presidential candidate Aida Lu from Back to the FUture, along with her VP of Communications candidate Julia Joern, and VP of Student Life candidate Ben Barton. We do not endorse either candidate for VP of Finance or VP of Policy.
Note: Michael Tai recused himself from the ESC executive board endorsement because of his relationship with one of the candidates.
No endorsement offered to any candidate
Candidates for Technology Representative, Sustainability Representative, Student Services Representative, Student Groups Representative, Racial Diversity and Inclusivity Representative, International Students Representative, Disability and Accessibility Representative, Campus Affairs Representative, 3/2 Combined Plan Representative, and First-Generation and Low-Income Issues Representative did not choose to speak with us. Thus, we offer no endorsements for those positions.
Two candidates are running for Academic Affairs Representative: Danielle Deiseroth, SEAS ’18, and Krithika Kuppusamy, SEAS ’19. When she spoke to us, Deiseroth was very passionate but needed more clarity on her suggestions of academic regulations to reduce unnecessary stress. Kuppusamy proposed faculty expansion to compensate for a lack of higher-level computer science courses and the hiring of fewer faculty concerned with research, demonstrating a lack of understanding of the administrative and faculty structure of a major university. Therefore, we offer no endorsement for Academic Affairs Representative.
The two candidates running for Professional Development and Alumni Affairs Representative are Can Akdere, SEAS ’20, and Mohnish Chakravarti, SEAS ’20. As Akdere currently works for Spectator, we recuse ourselves from evaluating him. Chakravarti showed enthusiasm and careful thought regarding professional development but failed to offer a concrete proposal of how to handle alumni affairs when prompted—a crucial component of the position for which he is running. As such, we do not endorse a candidate for Professional Development and Alumni Affairs Representative.
GSSC Executive Board
GSSC Student Body President: Samantha Demezieux, GS ’18
GSSC VP of Finance: Eren Villa, GS ’19
GSSC JTS Representative: No endorsement offered
GSSC VP of Communications: Nicole Rodgers, GS ’20
GSSC VP of Policy: Raisa Flor, GS ’20
Dennis Zhao, GS ’18, is currently the longest tenured member on GSSC, and his focus on continuity, understanding of the roles and abilities of the executive board, and push to deputize make him a remarkably strong candidate. We especially commend his desire to have a council member sit in on the Mental Health Task Force and his focus on interaction with other student councils.
Samantha Demezieux, GS ’18, impressed us with her fresh perspective and commanding, confident presence. While she does not posses student council experience, she had a successful tenure as treasurer of the U.S. Military Veterans of Columbia University, showcasing her ability to manage and lead. Her personal experience with mental health issues and different identities makes her uniquely qualified to address the needs of the greater General Studies community—indeed, her platform, which focused on financial security, mental health, and student space, reflects this. Moreover, her particular attention to the needs of commuter students and students with families showcases her awareness of the parts of the community with which she is not directly involved. Her ideas are concrete and grounded but still inspire us with a vision of what General Studies could be under her leadership.
Thus, while both candidates are extremely well qualified and we are certain either would do well in the position, we endorse Demezieux for GSSC Student Body President.
GSSC VP of Finance
Eren Villa, GS ’19
We strongly support Eren Villa, GS ’19, for VP of Finance. While Chris Jackson, Daniel Gromis, GS, and Tanveer Hossain Bhuiyan, all possess backgrounds conducive to the management and maximization of finances, Villa impressed us with his research into current funding despite being a newcomer to student council. While not overly ambitious, Villa demonstrated a remarkable and in-depth understanding of how to best make use of General Studies’ resources, and he was aware of the limitations of what he will be able to accomplish. We feel his grounded and thorough work ethic would best serve the position.
Vance Hu, GS ’20, did not choose to speak with us.
GSSC JTS Representative
No endorsement offered
We believe that Hannah Weiss, GS/JTS ’20, is far more qualified than her opponent, Kayla Pollak, GS/JTS ’20. Pollak focuses her platform around community service, and she fails to convey how she would support her constituency or offer concrete solutions to any community concerns. Likewise, Weiss has a vague platform for better inclusion of Jewish Theological Seminary students into the General Studies and greater Columbia community that addresses common concerns rather than offering new solutions. However, we found Weiss’ suggestion of alumni mentorship for JTS students to be well-grounded and worth pursuing.
We do not endorse any candidate for JTS Representative.
GSSC VP of Communications
Nicole Rodgers, GS ’20
Nicole Rodgers, GS ’20, most impressed us with her tangible, wide-reaching, and proactive policies. She possesses an awareness of the needs of different communities and wields her communications platform as the first line of defense for mental health issues. We feel she will best represent the diverse needs of the General Studies community while increasing transparency and reliability in GSSC.
Vladyslav Bobrovnyk, GS ’19, did not demonstrate an awareness of the needs of the wider community and does not seem ready to assume this council position. He did, however, exhibit genuine enthusiasm to help the General Studies community. Piragathesh Subramanian, GS ’19, has experience in council, and it showed through his strong and confident presentation, though his platform is not especially inspiring in its originality or inclusivity. His suggestions for a “What to Fix” box to listen to student concerns and posting on noticeboards lack the breadth of vision for large-scale impact.
GSSC VP of Policy
Raisa Flor, GS ’20
Both Yona Kornsgold, GS/JTS ’19, and Raisa Flor, GS ’20, are incredibly qualified and inspiring candidates. The Editorial Board feels confident that either of them would do an outstanding job based on the tangibility of their platforms and their nuanced understandings of bureaucracy and policy. Both have a grounded understanding of what is and isn’t possible and a solid vision of how to best address the most pressing student concerns.
Ultimately, Flor’s nuance and research won our recommendation. She not only has feasible and thoughtful ideas for combatting mental health issues on campus but also addresses how to fund them without raising student fees. Flor recognizes that many mental health issues can stem from financial insecurity, and, while ambitious, her suggestion of a beginning-of-the-semester fund to support students who cannot simultaneously afford tuition and additional expenses—like textbooks and housing—tackles a very important concern for General Studies. In particular, her attention to commuter students, students with disabilities, students with families, and veterans shows an awareness of the needs of her community.
The authors are members of Spectator's 141st managing board. Jessica Spitz and Aaron Holmes recused themselves from contributing to this editorial due to their continued coverage of the elections.
Correction: While not noted above, Lal Uncu and Danielle Deiseroth are both former Spectator staff.
Correction: While not noted above, Lal Uncu and Danielle Deiseroth are both former Spectator staff.