Columbia College Student Council

January 26 Meeting Recap


CCSC members updated others on their travels during break and their work on council issues. Brief updates included pushing back the earliest time at which a fire drill can occur to 10:00am, setting agendas and dates for the UEM Student Events and CUIT Advisory Committees, the formation of a task force to reform Consent 101 (“Consent is Sexy”), work on a task force to extend the drop deadline for Columbia College, reaching out to student groups to investigate Public Safety’s interactions with student events, and planning a Wikithon for Wednesday, January 29th, to update


Spec Editorial

CCSC then addressed the recent editorial criticizing CCSC’s End of the Semester Report for Fall 2013. 2015 President Michael Li pointed to peer reports at Harvard, Yale, and other institutions that include descriptions of initiatives the student council president ultimately decided not to pursue and their explanations for the decisions. VP Communications Peter Bailinson addressed a number of ways the report can be improved for next year, including adding expected and actual attendance numbers to all CCSC events, a summary of what initiatives each class council plans to address next semester and ways to improve their practices, and brief evaluations of each CCSC event. Additionally, there was a discussion of organizing the report around issues rather than committees. VP Bailinson did point to the continued development of the report as a strength rather than a weakness. The Fall 2013 report was the third report published by CCSC, and each year CCSC has made an effort to make the report even more transparent and analytical. The Spectator editorial pointed out several ways to improve the report for next semester, and the Communications Committee will use them when producing the report for the Spring 2014 semester.



Next, CCSC divided into five small groups to discuss how the council operated last semester, what went well, and what are areas of improvement going forward. After a twenty-minute discussion, the groups reconvened and shared their findings.

Areas of strength were the first-year’s transition to council, and they thanked upperclassmen members of the council for the support they received. Representatives also pointed to the strength of assigning at-large representatives to certain areas of focus (academics, student services, etc.), which has allowed more diligent work to be carried out in those areas. The new advisory committees (CUIT, UEM Student Events Committee) were cited as positive areas for progress in the coming semester, and the End of the Semester Report was also seen as a way for class councils to compare their events to their fellow class councils and find ways to bring a diverse range of events to their respective constituent classes.

Many areas of improvement were also identified. Some councilmembers cited “elephants in the room,” and called on CCSC to directly address issues among its members to enhance council unity so that CCSC members can better rely on one another. Others called on CCSC to focus on issues rather than the council committee structure, and the ad-hoc committees (Consent 101, drop deadline) were cited as an exciting area of growth. Pre-Professional Representative Mary Joseph questioned the necessity for her position on council, as she felt that with both CCE and the many pre-professional groups on campus, there may not be enough content to warrant a position on council. The 2017 Class Council called on CCSC to use appointed members more effectively, and asked the executive board to better explain how they should be used in council events and initiatives. Communication between class councils and the executive board was also included as an area that can be improved. A number of initiatives were brought forward that CCSC can improve in the coming semester, including being more proactive in reaching out to student groups, finding new ways to maintain institutional knowledge on past CCSC initiatives, and increased diligence in setting time tables once CCSC has set its sights on a project. Lastly, 2016 President Ramis Wadood called on more class councils to use as a way to be reflective on class council events.

In summary, President Daphne Chen stated that she hoped to help soften the divides affecting council members, both among committees and individual members.


Sexual Assault Update:

CU Dems President Sejal Singh, University Senator Marc Heinrich, and 2017 Class Representative Abby Porter then presented updates on their work to increase transparency on the sexual assault adjudication process. Senator Heinrich traced the progress from the creation of the CU Dems’ petition last semester to meetings with the Office of Gender-Based Misconduct, Title IX coordinators and Dean Martinez, to a December meeting of the President’s Advisory Committee on Sexual Assault (PACSA), at which Senator Heinrich, Singh, and VP Policy Bob Sun presented their petition to a subcommittee. (Out of this meeting, the Provost last week sent out an email on a revamped Title IX website on Sexual Respect.) Additionally, an article in the B&W published last Wednesday has drawn even more attention to the issue, and brought a whole host of new questions to the campaign including why interviews with survivors are not recorded for later use and the ability of survivors to call off the hearing process.

Sejal and Heinrich have also helped form a coalition of student interested in reforming the sexual assault adjudication process, including representatives from CCSC, the University Senate, Student Worker Solidarity (SWS), Columbia Queer Alliance (CQA), and many other identity groups and individuals. They stated that they look forward to using this coalition as a force for action during their upcoming meetings with Dean Martinez and other administrators, as they call for transparency, dialogue, and action among students.

CCSC members communicated their desire to restore student confidence in the adjudication process, among accusations of incompetency and questioning decision-making among administrators. Other representatives asked for clarifying information regarding a survivor’s choice between reporting to Columbia or the NYPD, to which Singh stated that many survivors have reported a lack of understanding on the part of the police (disbelief of survivors, asking them what they were wearing to provoke a rape, etc.). Additionally, while the University’s claims to handle most cases within 60 days has been called into question, even an extended University process is likely much more timely than a drawn-out court case. Lastly, there is a lower threshold of evidence required in Columbia finding a defendant “responsible” than in the courts finding a defendant “guilty.” Singh and Heinrich stated their desire to know how often the survivor’s goals are met, as they are not currently taken into consideration in the hearing process.

2017 Representative Abby Porter also briefly updated CCSC on her task force to reform Consent 101 (“Consent is Sexy”). Representatives on the task force include stakeholders from CCSC, ESC, GSSC, SGA, CQA, the Title IX Team, and consent trainers from last year. Representative Porter is also planning meetings with Dean Martinez to discuss ideas for reform.