University Senator

Name: Samuel Ackerman 

Bio: My name is Sam Ackerman, I am a Junior studying Political Science.  Over the past year, I have served on both the Student Health Advisory and Insurance Committees. In these capacities, I have advocated for policies such as expanding gatekeeper training and increasing benefits in the Columbia student insurance plan.  As Senator, I would continue working to solve health issues as well as issues of space access, transparency, and student-faculty culture.  My ideas include creating a for-credit student-to-student tutoring program, expanding year-round South Field access, exempting students with more than two midterms from a third midterm, and increasing faculty diversity.

Platform: Reducing Stress Culture

1. Through Student Affairs Committee, pass mandate that students with three or more midterms in a 24-hour period be allowed to reschedule at least one midterm.
2. Create a system on Canvas (the Courseworks replacement) that allows students who have previously taken a class to tutor students currently enrolled in the same class. In addition, students who previously took a class and opt into tutoring should receive one point of credit for their services.
3. Negotiate a deal with Uber to provide undergraduates a 50% discount on rides. Currently, the University of Southern California gives their undergrads a free Uber credit to encourage them to explore the city. For many Columbia students, paying for non-public transportation is an excessive burden that prevents these students from engaging in many aspects of city social life.
4. Require Gatekeeper training for Presidents of ABC and SGB clubs.

For these initiatives, I would work with the Student Affairs Committee, CUIT, Office of the Provost, and Office of University Life.

Increasing Space Access

1. Designate times from Thursday to Sunday where both South fields are open.
2. Advocate for shortening the period during the school year where tarp covers almost every green space on campus.
3. Ensure a smooth implementation of the newly designated Lerner Hall spaces for the LGBTQ community, and communities of color on campus. I would recommend a task force comprised of students from the communities utilizing the new Lerner space and the administrators integral to implementation.

As Senator, I would work with Columbia Facilities and Facilities Executive Vice President David Greenberg.

Improving Administrative Transparency

1. In campus sexual assault hearings, codify the right for survivors to be allowed to audio record the proceedings to ensure there is an objective source for reviewing the proceedings.
2. Make public faculty diversity statistics that include data segmented by race and ethnicity.

Strengthening the Student-to-Faculty Community

1. Ensure that faculty teaching seminar-style classes provide at least one opportunity per semester for students to meet with the faculty member in a non-academic setting.
2. Mandate increases in faculty diversity for new faculty hires including people of color and women.
3. Create a network of faculty-to-student mentoring. This mentorship would stretch beyond coursework, and be geared towards life advice.
4. Require two hours of office hours each week for every professor who teaches an undergraduate class.
5. Make amount of time devoted to students in any capacity outside of class a component in tenure evaluations for professors

To accomplish these goals, I would work under the Senate Education Committee in conjunction with the Office of the Provost and Senate Commission on Diversity.

My platform addresses issues affecting diverse communities on campus. All of the goals and the policy ideas associated with them, reflect my desire to build a more cohesive Columbia community at Columbia; one where students feel like the administration, the faculty, and the Columbia bureaucracy as a whole understand the unique burdens of the Columbia experience, and accommodate student needs.

Name: Omar Khan 

Bio: Omar Khan is a Junior in Columbia College majoring in Middle Eastern, South Asian and African Studies and minoring in Chemistry. On campus, he has served as the Secretary General for the Columbia Model UN Conference and Exposition, and as the Vice President of Club Zamana and United Against Inequity in Disease. He wants to go into public health policy and is interested in the intersection of race, health, and politics. He likes cats but is unfortunately allergic to them.


Mental Health Advocacy
Working to address mental health issues on campus requires a multifaceted approach and an acknowledgement of how different identities are disproportionately affected not represented in student government and leadership positions. There are many broader reforms I’d like to see implemented. For example, I would support current Senate initiatives concerning Lerner—it is important that the Students of Color lounge and LGBTQ center are being implemented, but I would also push to see Lerner become accessible 24/7, as students need a space that isn’t their library open 24 hours. I would also work with Columbia Psychological Services to understand how I can work with them and the central administration, and to advocate for CPS to expand drop-in hours for students.

Supporting Students of Color
Issues affecting students of color are inextricably linked to issues of mental
health. I would work to diversify the CPS offerings for drop-in hours, and
work with cultural groups who better understand what structural support
their constituencies need.

Support for LGBTQ Students
LGBTQ students face identity-based issues that often require staff with
specific training. With the LGBTQ Center approved, I would focus on
increasing staff to support Chris Woods and the Center, in both the Office
of Multicultural Affairs and CPS.

Support Low-Income Students
For many students from low-income backgrounds, college life, especially in
New York City, comes with new costs and pressures that Columbia could do
more to alleviate. I would work to ensure that Columbia offers programming
to give students more support on navigating budget concerns and expands
grant options for unpaid internships.

Fossil Fuel Divest
For the past five years, Columbia Divest for Climate Justice has fought continuously for the divestment of fossil fuels. A referendum in 2013 showed 73.7% of respondents supporting fossil fuel divestment. They have received widespread support among faculty, students, and organizations on campus, and while they have seen some success as Columbia has divested from thermal coal, their proposal has been rejected by the Advisory Committee on Socially Responsible Investing. I would actively advocate on behalf of CDCJ within the Senate, and look at other smaller-scale divestment proposals to develop for the ACSRI, like sands divestment or divestment from the Phillips Company (owners of the Dakota Access Pipeline). I’d like to spend my term in the Senate normalizing the conversation around full fossil fuel divestment in the Senate and push for the Senate’s Student Affairs Committee to support the proposal, reflecting the broad student support that the 2013 referendum evidenced.

Supporting the Manhattanville Community
In exchange for Columbia’s development of the Manhattanville campus, Columbia has signed the West Harlem Community Benefits Agreement. This agreement, and the expansion plan, have been controversial, and as Columbia students we are ultimately a part of a university which has irreversibly changed the landscape of the surrounding neighborhood (now neighborhoods) and displaced many original residents. As a Senator, I would advocate on behalf of the Manhattanville community so that the Senate holds the administration accountable for supporting the Upper Manhattan community.


Name: Alfredo Dominguez

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Bio: Alfred Dominguez is a sophomore in Columbia College studying Ethnicity and Race Studies with concentrations in Sociology and education. He was raised in a town in the Southeast of Houston called Pasadena. He is the proud of two Mexican immigrants. He spends most of his non-Butler time on campus working with student groups like Questbridge and FLIP in hopes of bettering the First-Generation, Low-income Columbia student experience. He plans on working for an educational non-profit after he graduates from Columbia.

Platform: A much more detailed platform will be included on my website! I will use this space to outline, center the three most important part of my platform. Mental health has become the number one issue at Columbia, and for good reason. Our community was rocked by the recent waves of suicide and it is clear that something must be done to better campus-wide mental health. The Student affairs community has already created a steering group that will work with the Jed foundation to evaluate how the university needs to address the issues of mental health on campus. Hence, my focus as a University Senator would be ensure that the voices of Columbia’s most marginalized communities, who are disproportionately affected by mental health, are brought to the conversation on how to better mental health on campus. The initiative I would center in these conversations would be increasing the diversity of the CPS staff. Me and every other student of color or first-generation student who wanted to have their CPS staff member to be a person of color or a first-generation would have to wait even longer than normal to receive help. This wait time could be up to half of the semester, which is a ridiculous amount of time to have to wait to receive help.

Even though sexual violence has remained a big issue in campus, it does not seem that there has been effective reform. It would difficult to convince the university to allocate more funds, but we can take a comprehensive look at the programs we have now and how we can improve them. For example, there was an SVR requirement during NSOP, but it was very light and played down how big of an issue sexual violence is on campus. Hence as University Senator, I will take a look an extensive look at these programs, and bring in the voices of groups like No Red Tape to center the experience of survivors in the process of reform.
Community Service is a lacking part of the Columbia experience. Many of us acknowledge and criticize Columbia for its negative impact on the Harlem community, but few of us spend a lot of time trying to help the community. That is largely in part to the fact that many students just do not have the time to spend looking for community service opportunities. Hence, I will want to work with SGB and ABC, the umbrella organizations that contain almost all students groups, to incentivize all student groups to have more service events. These incentives would be given in the form of increased budget allocation.