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Michelle Shin / Endorsement

Updated Apr. 8 at 10:44 p.m.

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.

When seeking to make endorsements, Spectator invited candidates for executive board and University senator positions to speak with our editorial board about their ideas for the upcoming year. Our evaluation of candidates comes both from these interviews and from an analysis of their platforms. The endorsements below reflect our discussions as an editorial board during which we assessed candidates on the feasibility of their goals, their plan for executing those objectives, and their past record for success in their various roles on campus. We also took into account candidates’ desire to effect positive change on campus and their institutional knowledge about Columbia and its administrative structures as indicators of their capacity to accomplish their goals.

While the majority of candidates that we interviewed seemed eager about their positions, we felt that a number of them lacked institutional knowledge about the responsibilities that would fall within the scope of their role. Moreover, we felt that many of the candidates did not propose ideas that would be feasible to execute during their tenure.

Additionally, we specifically want to express our disappointment in the lack of candidates running for positions on the Engineering Student Council. This trend reflects a broader lack of engagement with student government at Columbia, where council races are often dominated by incumbents.

COLUMBIA COLLEGE STUDENT COUNCIL

Student Body President

We endorse Patricia Granda-Malaver, CC ’20, for CCSC Student Body President due to her history of taking a leadership role in imperative student initiatives, such as by supporting student groups like UndoCU and organizing Multicultural Night. Her dedication to working with the Academic Success Programs and Questbridge students reflects her commitment to positively impacting Columbia students. She also demonstrated a stronger understanding of how to navigate bureaucratic channels required to achieve feasible goals, such as helping garner funding for events that foster community. [See UndoCU’S response to this endorsement in this letter to the editor.]

We do not endorse Isabella Lajara, CC ’20. While we felt that Lajara understood many of the most pressing issues facing this campus, including food insecurity, mental health, and housing, we did not think she proposed solutions that were feasible to achieve during her tenure.

Vice President for Policy

We endorse Henry Feldman, CC ’21, for VP for Policy because he conveyed his plans to continue his collaboration with student groups like First-Generation Low-Income Partnership to improve student life on campus. We believe his ability to work effectively with administrators will make him equipped to implement policies directly impacting students, such as helping students make informed decisions about meal plans and budgeting, and connecting them with financial aid officers. Feldman also demonstrated a clearer understanding of the specific responsibilities of the role of VP for Policy.

We do not endorse Srivatsav Pyda, CC ’21. While we think that his platform centered around alleviating stress culture had potential, we felt that his main goal of changing the drop deadline would not be the most effective way to do so.

Vice President for Finance

We endorse Sarah Radway, CC ’21, as we believe her experience in student council demonstrates a track record of achieving tangible initiatives that aid the student body, such as the recently passed initiative to fund MetroCards for low-income students. Her detailed action plan for improving LionLink is an example of her innovation in this position.

We do not endorse Jenny Zhu, CC ’21. While Zhu indicated a decent understanding of the budgetary process, her resolutions for change lacked specificity and detail, and therefore they seemed infeasible.

We do not endorse Michael Gao, CC ’22, as he did not meet with Spectator.

Vice President for Campus Life

We endorse Jesús Guerra Ocampo, CC ’20, due to his innovative ideas about engaging various student affinity groups and student bodies. Ocampo displayed a comprehensive understanding of how to collaborate effectively with councils across undergraduate and graduate schools in order to connect the greater University community.

We do not endorse Eva Bogomilova, CC ’22. While she proposed ideas for alleviating stress on campus, such as planning study breaks, we felt that the scope of these ideas was not far-reaching enough and could have been better outlined with specific action items. Additionally, we do not believe that creating a common application to standardize the process of joining clubs is as feasible as proposed.

Jesús Guerra Ocampo is a former staffer at Spectator. Kaili Meier recused herself from the VP for Campus Life endorsements due to her relationship to one of the candidates.

Vice President for Communications

We endorse Blessing Utomi, CC ’22, because he detailed a clear plan for streamlined student engagement through a more centralized social media plan.

We do not endorse Sarah Basha, CC ’20. While we felt her ideas for connecting the community were strong, we ultimately felt that they lacked specificity and were meant more to garner votes than improve communications within CCSC.

University Senator

We endorse Ramsay Eyre, CC ’21, for University Senator because we felt that Eyre proposed ideas with actionable plans and demonstrated an extensive knowledge of the Columbia administrative structure. Specifically, Eyre presented thoughtful ideas to help push forward a plan to establish an integrated health center in the soon-to-be-vacated Uris Hall, and provided examples by which his past experience in CCSC has equipped him with the skills necessary to accomplishing this goal.

We endorse Heven Haile, CC ’21, for University Senator because of her thorough understanding of the most pressing issues facing the Columbia community and the demonstrated feasibility of her plans to address them. We felt that Haile exhibited the skills necessary to further bridge the divide between the Columbia community and the often opaque Senate. Further, Haile demonstrated a strong understanding of the administrative structure of Columbia and other bureaucratic systems that will be necessary to navigate in order to actualize her proposals. Finally, Haile has illustrated a meaningful commitment to advocating for marginalized communities on this campus, notably first-generation college students and students of color.

We endorse Andrew Rodriguez, CC ’20, for University Senator because of his history of implementing specific initiatives through his positions in RHLO. We also commend Rodriguez for being the only candidate to include specific action items necessary to execute his platform on the physical document that outlined his platform. We felt that Rodriguez demonstrated extensive knowledge of both the general student body and the administration at Columbia.

We do not endorse Travis Nelson, CC ’21, for University Senator. We commend Nelson for proposing ideas meant to specifically uplift marginalized students on this campus, but we felt that Nelson’s platform as it relates to space on campus and financial aid did not contain feasible action items to make it achievable. Additionally, we did not think Nelson demonstrated the knowledge necessary to capitalize on the senator position in all its capacity.

We do not endorse Joshua Elias, CC ’20, because he did not meet with Spectator.

Heven Haile and Ramsay Eyre are both former staffers at Spectator. Kaili Meier, Erin Neil, Nima Mozhgani, and Kevin Li recused themselves from the University Senate endorsements because of their relationships to some of the candidates.

ENGINEERING STUDENT COUNCIL

We have chosen not to endorse any candidate for the Engineering Student Council positions. While we recognize that many of these candidates will nonetheless be elected to council, we felt it was within our mission of “holding those in power accountable” to illustrate the reasons why we feel these students were not suitable candidates for the student council at present.

Student Body President

We do not endorse Alina Ying, SEAS ’21, for ESC Student Body President because we felt that she did not present tangible steps toward achieving the goals outlined in her platform. Instead of outlining issues within the student body and the specific ways she’d like to address them, Ying’s platform mostly focused on the responsibilities already expected in the job description of student body president. Additionally, we felt that Ying lacked fundamental knowledge of the council at large.

Vice President for Policy

We do not endorse Estevan Mesa, SEAS ’22, for ESC VP Policy. We appreciated Mesa’s drive to increase community on this campus by proposing initiatives meant to mitigate stress culture such as Lions’ Dens, places for students to take a study break and participate in recreational activities. However, we did not think he outlined the steps necessary to making this both spatially and financially feasible. Additionally, we did not feel Mesa demonstrated a sufficient understanding of the SEAS administration necessary for seeing his proposals come to fruition.

Vice President for Finance

We do not endorse Sophia Sagandyk, SEAS ’22, for ESC VP Finance because Sagandyk did not meet with Spectator.

Vice President for Campus Life

We do not endorse Bret Silverstein, SEAS ’21, or Jenny Martinez, SEAS ’21, for ESC VP for Campus Life. While we commend Silverstein for proposing ideas meant to increase community within SEAS, we did not feel he provided the details necessary to successfully implement a new cohort system during his tenure. We appreciated Martinez’s ability to recognize issues within SEAS related to mental health and stress culture, but her proposed ideas for the addition of mandated study breaks did not appear to have a feasible action plan. Additionally, we did not feel Martinez exhibited enough fundamental knowledge of SEAS and its administrative structures in order to implement her proposals regarding Columbia dining and town halls during her tenure. While we are choosing not to explicitly endorse Silverstein’s candidacy, we do believe that he is a stronger choice for ESC VP for Campus Life, especially given his experience as an RA and his connections with SEAS faculty.

Vice President for Communications

We do not endorse Adheli Gonzalez, SEAS ’21, or Tanmay Chopra, SEAS ’20, for VP Communications on ESC. We felt that neither candidate articulated proposals that fell under the purview of the VP for Communications. We appreciated Chopra’s plans to connect SEAS students to their representatives, but felt that his ideas lacked concrete action items or were already in place. Gonzalez’s plans to increase the mentorship program, while commendable, did not seem to relate to her role as VP for Communications and, further, she did not seem to have actionable steps to achieving this. However, we do believe that Gonzalez would be a better choice for VP for Communications because of her platform’s ideas about increasing transparency within ESC.

University Senator

We do not endorse Joseph Hier, SEAS ’21, or Giorgia Fujita, SEAS ’20, for ESC University Senator. We felt that neither candidate proposed platforms with feasible solutions. While we believe that Hier had strong ideas, he did not demonstrate a firm grasp of the greater responsibilities of the University senator position. Fujita, on the other hand, demonstrated a greater understanding of the senator position, but proposed ideas that did not seem relevant or feasible during her tenure, such as an app much like the Canvas app that already exists. We also felt that her platform did not seem to effectively address the most pressing issues facing the greater student body.

Editor’s note: In response to Spectator’s endorsement of Patricia Granda-Malaver, UndoCU published a letter to the editor. We acknowledge that our endorsement did not provide sufficient details regarding our interview with the candidate and want to clarify that information here. In our interview with Granda-Malaver, the candidate discussed that, as part of her role in the Student Organization of Latinxs, she was involved in an initiative to secure funding for UndoCU through the Joint Council Co-Sponsorship.

Correction: An earlier version of this article incorrectly stated that Andrew Rodriguez was a prior member of CCSC. Spectator regrets the error.

The authors are members of Spectator’s 143rd Editorial Board. News editor Karen Xia and managing editor of the Eye Julian Shen-Berro recused themselves from these endorsements due to their coverage of student councils.

To respond to this staff editorial, or to submit an op-ed, contact opinion@columbiaspectator.com.

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