April 27, 2001
Fewer major student-driven issues shaped the Senate agenda in 2000–2001 than in 1999-2000, and so the Student Caucus had less direct effect on the Senate’s agenda than it did last year. However, the Caucus has been active on several fronts and expects to bring proposed action to the Senate next fall on at least two areas of interest. The Caucus this year focused on several projects, discussed below.
Promoting student representation on Senate and University bodies and communication between the Administration and students
The Caucus was outspoken this year in ensuring that key bodies--such as the Senate ad hoc committees on Fathom.com and digital learning, and the Presidential Search Committee--should have appropriate student representation. The Caucus remains of the opinion that students are not sufficiently consulted regarding significant decisions taken by the University, and that greater communication from Low Library to students would clear up many misunderstandings students have about administration decisions and assist them in making constructive contributions to improving the University of which we are all a part. The Caucus congratulates President Rupp and Deans Galil and Quigley on their March 2001 speeches to the undergraduates of the University, and urges the deans of the graduate schools to follow suit, and to make such occurrences regular practice.
Initiating coordinated action with student councils across campus
As the sole representative body that brings together all Columbia students, the Caucus resolved to undertake a role as coordinator of connections among the various school-based student councils at Columbia. The Caucus held three meetings with the presidents of the student councils from the several schools of the University this year.
--The first meeting with the presidents, in February, discussed general issues that the various councils faced and strove to identify areas of common interest in which cooperative action would be useful.
--The second meeting, in March, discussed the search for the new president of the University, and ways in which the search committee should incorporate student input into this important decision.
--The most recent meeting, in April 2001, was a discussion about the topic of campus expansion, including issues of the level of student input that should go into long-term strategic decisions about campus space, the difficulties that students on the Health Sciences campus face as a result of their separation from the Morningside Campus, and political concerns regarding the surrounding communities. The second and third meetings produced letters to the trustees and administration, respectively, on the issues discussed.
--Another meeting, to begin a conversation on how graduate/undergraduate and Morningside/Health Sciences divisions might be bridged, was scheduled for late May, and the group determined that these meetings were indeed productive and that the Student Caucus should take the lead in coordinating more such meetings next year. Senator Jocelyn Songco has been instrumental in organizing these meetings.
Working with student activist groups
The Student Caucus continued its role of assisting and advising student groups on issues they wished to bring to the attention of the administration and the Senate. To this end, the Caucus has met with groups regarding the state of the Center for the Study of Race and Ethnicity, the Columbia ACLU, the Columbia Dual Degree Student Association, and the Students for Sensible Drug Policy.
Working with a coalition of dual-degree graduate students on issues specific to their experiences across schools. In conjunction with a subcommittee of the Education Committee, the Caucus has held frequent conversations with dual-degree students and is working with them toward proposed Senate action. The Caucus is currently developing resolutions that would seek to have the University study ways to improve the promotion and administration of these programs, and to provide dual-degree students with the intraschool infrastructure that they crucially need. Senators Alex Oberweger and Jocelyn Songco have played a major role in this action.
Revising the internal practices of the Caucus
The Caucus has undertaken a consideration of its current practices with a view to improving student senators’ effectiveness within the Senate, and the Caucus’s effectiveness within the Senate and the University. As a result, we will institute new practices aimed at improving student senator attendance at committee meetings, orienting new senators, and developing the committee’s Senate agenda. Senators Marni Hall, Roosevelt Montas, Brian London, and Jocelyn Songco assisted in this effort.
Rohit T. Aggarwala (GSAS-Social Sciences)