The polls for Columbia College Student Council and Engineering Student Council opened on Monday, March 22 at 10 a.m. and will remain open until Friday, March 26, at 5 p.m.
This year, Spectator invited candidates for Columbia College Student Council, Engineering Student Council, and University senator positions to speak with our endorsement board about their ideas for the upcoming year. Our editorial board was composed of Editor in Chief Sarah Braka, SEAS ’22; Managing Editor Elizabeth Karpen, BC ’22; Editorial Page Editor Ryan Oden, CC ’22; and video staffer Ryan Balderas, GS ’22.
Our decisions to endorse these candidates are based on information they presented during their interviews. The endorsements below reflect our discussions as an endorsement board during which we assessed candidates’ goals, the feasibility of those goals, and candidates’ track records within student council, if applicable. We also took into account candidates’ institutional knowledge and plans to work with administration to achieve their goals.
Due to the expedited timeline of elections this semester, many candidates could not meet with Spectator before the publishing of this article. As such, we chose not to disclose who met with Spectator and did not receive an endorsement as we did not think it fair to give one candidate a negative review when we did not know the policies of their opponents. Ultimately, while those candidates who Spectator chose not to endorse often proposed plans that seemed difficult to implement, no candidate expressed ideas that we deemed harmful to the student body and deserving of explicit censure.
Columbia College Student Council
We are proud to endorse Colby King, CC ’22, for University Senate. King currently serves as the race and ethnicity representative for CCSC and sits on the University Senate Committee on External Relations and Research Policy. King is currently working to create accountability for Public Safety, expand the Center for Race and Ethnicity, and create fair admissions processes at both the undergraduate and graduate levels. His vision includes creating a timeline to make sure Columbia follows through on its commitment to carbon neutrality by 2040, ensuring potential CARES Act money is properly allocated to students, and working with the University to foster connections among students during the upcoming fall semester. King has shown incredible commitment to increasing the University’s accessibility, and we applaud his work in holding the Office of Undergraduate Admissions accountable to recruiting from more diverse communities.
Moreover, we appreciated King’s commitment to holding the University accountable to the community, seeking a better implementation of the Community Benefits Agreement, ensuring the community is included in senate deliberations, and advocating not only for students’ access to a COVID-19 vaccine but also for Columbia to secure vaccinations for the local community.
Between King’s institutional knowledge and excellent vision, we believe he will guide the University to a more equitable and inclusive place over his term.
We also endorse Brandon Shi, CC ’22, for University Senate. His experiences within the CCSC Diversity Standing Committee, Multicultural Affairs Queer and Trans Advisory Board, and the Columbia Alumni Association Task Force on Belonging demonstrate a commitment to amplifying often-underrepresented voices at Columbia. His policies have all reflected this strong commitment to inclusivity. Shi understands the role of the University senator as a member of an inter-school body, and outlined plans to not only connect the undergraduate schools to form a united front but also create programming for undergraduate students interested in learning more about graduate schools at Columbia.
In his three years on CCSC, Shi has learned how to handle administrative setbacks, particularly with the rollout of the peer mentorship program, and he has built the necessary relationships with administrators to implement contentious policies and gained the experience working alongside University senators and other members of CCSC necessary to execute his plans. We hope to see him continue to advocate for diversity, equity, and inclusion as a University senator.
Note: Brandon Shi is a former staffer at Spectator. He had no part in the endorsement process.
President and VP of Policy
We endorse Rads Mehta, CC ’22, and Krishna Menon, CC ’22, for student body president and vice president of policy.
With three years of experience on CCSC, Mehta has the experience and knowledge to execute her plans. Her work this year in securing pass/fail grading, improving equity in housing for students with accommodations, and implementing the student resource fund which disbursed over $100,000 to low-income students, demonstrated a high level of leadership and the ability to execute policies at a high level.
Menon’s experience on CCSC also shows his prowess in executing on ideas. As a transfer student and vice president of communications this year, Menon hit the ground running by spearheading major programs like providing meals to low-income students over winter break when dining halls were shut down. Alongside Mehta, he was also instrumental in generating the support needed to secure pass/fail grading. This work, as well as his position as the standing chair of the equity and inclusion task force, demonstrates Menon’s dedication to representing the entire student body and implementing equitable policies.
We have confidence in Mehta and Menon’s abilities to make several of their current initiatives—like improved pass/fail grading policies and the student resource fund—permanent fixtures here at Columbia. Additionally, their focus on equity and accessibility, combined with their proven track record of creating impactful programs, assures us that Mehta and Menon are the perfect fit to represent the student body during the upcoming year, no matter what form it may take. We’re excited by their potential and hope they have the chance to execute their vision.
Note: Sarah Braka recused herself from the president and vice president of policy endorsements due to her relationship with one of the candidates.
VP of Finance
We endorse Sophia Adeghe, CC ’23, for the vice president of finance position. As the current vice president of finance, Adeghe led CCSC through a year of turmoil and has impeccable plans to institutionalize many of the policies she has implemented this year. Adeghe managed the resource fund, which provided students with items they needed, such as laptops, workout equipment, and winter clothing. In addition, she worked with CCSC to begin a winter meals program that provided students with Flex points during winter break when the dining halls were closed. Adeghe’s ability to complete important tasks makes us believe that come next fall, she will be able to continue these programs and continue helping students in need. We’re excited about Adeghe’s tenacity and focus on expanding resources to students, and believe that she will be able to do a lot of good within the Columbia community if she is reelected as vice president of finance.
VP of Communications
We endorse Teji Vijayakumar, CC ’24, for the role of vice president of communications. Having served as communications representative on First-Year Class Council, she is in touch with the realities of the role and how it can be improved. Throughout our interview, she discussed the necessity of greater communication between the student body and CCSC. In particular, she discussed the issues with email blasts and ways she would like to streamline communication to encourage more students to read CCSC announcements. Further, she discussed initiatives like updating the CCSC website with frequent announcements and town halls and working with the computer science department to create a virtual bulletin board for events and initiatives. She understands what the heart of the position is: creating accessible information to educate students about the community around them. We believe that her prior experience and focus on expanding the outlets of communication will bring her much success.
VP of Campus Life
We endorse Elsa Chung, CC ’23, for vice president of campus life. She discussed her intention to integrate CCSC into the New Student Orientation Program planning process, using CCSC’s resources to specifically target the need of incoming first-years and transfer students to begin their Columbia experience with a strong feeling of community. In our interview with Chung, she presented a well-thought-out plan to bring back in-person events such as an outdoor fall music festival and a welcome back party in Lerner that would safely allow students to experience Columbia’s lively social scene. In addition, Chung discussed her plans to break down barriers to a fully integrated Columbia community by providing subsidized opportunities that were conscious of the state of the world and the economic realities of many Columbia students; we believe this mindset will serve her well on CCSC.
Note: Sarah Braka recused herself from vice president of campus life endorsement due to her relationship with the candidate.
Class of 2022 Council
We endorse Arya Rao, CC ’22, for the class of 2022 vice president. In her current position as vice president of the class of 2022 and a member of the policy committee, Rao has the experience needed to execute her plans for the upcoming school year. Her vision centers around accessibility and creating a strong senior experience for her class. Some things her vision includes are expanding the at-large student resource fund, subsidizing senior memorabilia, working with Columbia Dining and Columbia University Information and Technology to enable the seamless transfer of meal swipes in order to address food insecurity, and creating new senior year experiences, like a fall concert, in addition to the regular traditions of senior year.
We endorse Zayba Qamar, CC ’22, for the class of 2022 representative. We think her focus on creating senior-centric events, creating a stronger community after COVID-19, and furthering CCSC’s prior accessibility measures will serve the class of 2022′s needs as they complete their senior year. Her plan to create programming for seniors in collaboration with the career center and to continue creating pandemic-friendly events is realistic to the needs of the class of 2022. With her work as the academic affairs representative and at the peer internship project, we believe her focus on the future will help her execute her plans.
We also endorse Wesley Schmidt, CC ’22, for the class of 2022 representative. As a member of the NSOP committee, his experience working with the Office of Undergraduate Student Life would make him apt to help rebuild the community that we have lost over COVID-19. Schmidt discussed his plans for both virtual and in-person programming depending on the state of the pandemic. His dedication to student life and his experience working with the administration to create events and programming assures us that he can follow through on his plans.
Note: Lizzie Karpen recused herself from the class of 2022 representative endorsements due to her relationship with one of the candidates.
Class of 2024 Council
We endorse Maria Stuebner, CC ’24, for the class of 2024 representative. We think her three-pronged focus on academics, community, and transparency will serve the class of 2024′s unique needs—particularly as many students step foot on campus for the first time in the upcoming fall. She demonstrated clear plans to work alongside the administration, and we think her focus on surveying students and amplifying their voices will serve her well.
Student Services Representative
We endorse Virginia Lo, CC ’23, for student services representative. Some of Lo’s major goals for the 2021-22 school year are to connect students with the appropriate resources, to implement a safe transition to an open campus, and to be responsive to student needs. We believe Lo has strong plans to guide Columbia to the safe reopening students desire; she is a strong advocate for increasing testing accessibility and providing an equitable rollout of vaccinations. While we have some concern that Lo’s plans focus primarily on COVID-19 safety in the fall, we believe she has shown a commitment to listening and advocating for all student concerns. Furthermore, the attention to detail in her plans convinces us of her ability to create impactful solutions to all student needs. If she is elected, we look forward to seeing Lo’s excellent planning and vision turn into reality.
International Students Representative
We endorse Blake Jones, CC ’22, for international students representative. With his thorough plans to ensure protections for international students returning to campus in the fall, including an “ISOP 2.0” to help reintegrate students back into the United States and Morningside Heights, we think Jones has the knowledge and experience to demonstrate real follow-through. He has faced administrative setbacks in his role as disabilities representative that we feel will prepare him to work effectively with the Committee on Instruction and other administrative offices to secure as seamless a transition back into a new normal for international students as possible.
Alumni Affairs Representative
We endorse Justin Ghaeli, CC ’22, for alumni affairs representative. He plans to create a streamlined process for contacting alumni and generating more alumni engagement with the student body. In addition, Ghaeli plans on improving the visibility of resources that connect students to alumni like the Odyssey Mentoring Program and the alumni directory. In our interview with Ghaeli, he demonstrated a high level of enthusiasm and the ability to work with the administration which will allow him to execute his vision.
We endorse Anthony Adessa, CC ’22, for pre-professional representative. Having only recently been appointed to the position, Adessa has laid a solid foundation for the upcoming term. He is currently spearheading two programs, the Opportunity Initiative and Lion Launch, which we believe will greatly benefit the Columbia community. These programs seek to streamline connecting students to available resources and increase accessibility to often highly-selective pre-professional organizations by providing pre-professional organizations with the resources and incentives needed to ensure as many students as possible benefit from them.
In speaking with Adessa, we found he had an ironclad vision for the future and the ability to execute on his plans. We believe that Adessa is highly qualified to be the pre-professional representative, and if elected, we expect to see many successes in connecting students with the best resources possible and in securing these connections for as many students as possible.
We also endorse Camden Lee, CC ’23, for pre-professional representative. Lee is both pre-law and pursuing a business concentration; before transferring to Columbia, he was also on the pre-medical track at the University of California, Berkeley. In addition to being familiar with the trials and tribulations of the various pre-professional tracks, we were impressed by his plans to increase funding for the Work Exemption Program offered through the Center for Career Education. In addition, Lee plans on making these programs more accessible by creating a process to help students with visas.
Lee plans on working with other representatives to frame pre-professional issues as not only being career issues but also issues that have a nexus to race, gender, sexuality, and income. Particularly important to Lee is ensuring that Asian, Asian American, and Pacific Islander concerns are met, particularly in light of the recent surge in hate crimes. We support his plans to create AAPI-specific programming.
Transfer Student Representative
We endorse Shelly Michael, CC ’22, for transfer student representative. As the incumbent transfer student representative, Michael is in touch with the transfer community. Her goals are to make sure transfer students are properly integrated into the Columbia Community. She plans on doing this by securing Under1Roof programming, improving the NSOP experience for transfer students, and making sure the University prioritizes the general inclusion of transfer students. We were especially impressed by Shelly’s commitment to ensuring that Columbia remains an accessible environment to immunocompromised students in the fall by creating programming that caters to their safety while also maximizing their inclusion. We believe that her extensive knowledge of the problems that afflict transfer students and her strong solutions make her an excellent candidate for transfer student representative.
This is the first year that CCSC has included the position of religion representative, and we were excited to endorse an inaugural representative to the position. Unfortunately, however, we do not believe any candidate who met with us is qualified for the position. While candidates who spoke to Spectator said they wished to create and support interfaith initiatives, they could only spell out policies that concerned their respective personal religions. The religion representative must advocate for students of all religions within Columbia College, and we strongly urge the future representative to set this precedent.
Engineering Student Council
Spectator is excited to announce endorsements for two candidates for Engineering Student Council. While this is not as many endorsements as we would have liked to offer, we found many of the policies proposed during our interviews to be non-implementable and under-researched.
As in 2019, we want to express our disappointment in the number of empty positions remaining on ESC, creating gaps in what the council can accomplish. We hope that moving forward, more members of the School of Engineering and Applied Science look to represent their school within the council.
Academic Affairs Representative
We endorse Nikhil Mehta, SEAS ’22, for academic affairs representative. Mehta plans to work with the University to address the inequities that students have faced over the past year, such as professors not implementing equitable policies, like allowing asynchronous exams, in light of the pandemic. In the future, Mehta also plans to better distribute finals so that students are not stuck with multiple exams on one day, to increase data transparency collected by the University regarding course and professor evaluations, and to make professor reviews accessible to the student body. Notably, Mehta plans on addressing faculty microaggressions and pursuing ambitious plans to create the best academic experience possible for students. We believe that Mehta is well prepared to create the best learning environment possible.
Health Services Representative
We endorse Lori Luo, SEAS ’23, for health services representative. We believe her experience as the current health services representative, combined with her experience as a member of the Columbia University Emergency Medical Services team, qualifies her for the position. Luo sees prioritizing mental health as one of the most critical aspects of her role. In addressing mental health, Luo plans to work with Columbia to ensure resources are also available in times of crisis, to educate students on how to access help, and to ameliorate any stigma that may surround accessing mental health services. Luo’s plans include expanding Go Ask Alice! and working with Columbia to make sure the University is well-informed of the problems affecting the student body.
Luo additionally plans to address physical health among students by creating a manual that explains how to use Columbia Health and to help students understand their insurance plans—as a member of the Columbia University Emergency Medical Services, she wants no student to worry about the cost of their health care, especially during an acute health crisis.
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