Opportunities to Participate in Academic and Student Affairs

Student rights and opportunities to participate in academic and student affairs policymaking

CSSW students have the right and opportunity to participate in academic and student affairs policymaking at both the School level and at the institutional university level.

As members of the Columbia University community, all School of Social Work students are expected to uphold the highest standards of integrity, civility, and respect. These core values are key components of the Columbia University experience and reflect the community’s expectations of its students. All university faculty, students, and staff are responsible for compliance with the Rules of University Conduct, the full text of which is available at https://universitylife.columbia.edu/cu-rules-of-conduct.

In all aspects of school activities, students are expected to adhere to the National Association of Social Workers Code of Ethics. It is the responsibility of the student to become acquainted with the Code.

The highest level of professionalism is expected when students are in the role of employee or intern (e.g., teaching assistant, graduate assistant, student casual) or student leader (e.g., Student Union, Caucus and/or Orientation Leader). A student must be in good academic and disciplinary standing while upholding good conduct as described above to hold these roles.

University Senate:

A CSSW student is elected to serve as a representative on the University Senate. The Senate is a University-wide policy-making body representing faculty, researchers, students, administration, administrative staff, librarians, and alumni. It makes policy on a range of issues that affect the entire University or more than one school. These include all general faculty and student affairs, most issues that fall under the responsibility of the central administration, all areas under the jurisdiction of any Senate committee, including educational programs and priorities, the budget, academic freedom and tenure, the conduct of research, the libraries, information technology, campus planning, and rules governing demonstrations.

The Senate has 108 voting seats, with 63 reserved for faculty, 24 for students, 6 for officers of research, 2 each for administrative staff, librarians, and alumni, and 9 for senior administration including the President, who chairs the monthly plenaries. Acts of the Senate under section 24 of Chapter II of the University Statutes become final on passage, except in those cases where Trustee concurrence is required in matters involving a change in budgetary appropriations, acquisition or disposition of real property, and contractual obligations of the University.

CSSW senators are elected to one-year terms. Each senator is expected to serve on at least one committee, participating fully in committee meetings and attending the monthly Senate plenary.

Since much of the Senate’s vital work is carried out in committee sessions, senators are expected to attend all meetings of their committee(s), and when this is not possible, should notify the Senate Office in advance. Committees meet monthly during fall and spring semesters, for a total of eight meetings over a year, with each meeting lasting one to two hours.

The 15 standing committees and three special committees of the University Senate are:

  • Executive Committee
  • Alumni Relations
  • Budget Review
  • Campus Planning and Physical Development of the University
  • Education
  • External Relations and Research Policy
  • Faculty Affairs, Academic Freedom, and Tenure
  • Honors and Prizes
  • Housing Policy
  • Information and Communications Technology
  • Libraries and Digital Resources
  • Research Officers
  • Rules of University Conduct
  • Senate Structure and Operations
  • Student Affairs Committee
  • Commission on the Status of Women
  • Commission on Elections
  • Commission on Diversity

Senators are permitted to send mass emails concerning Senate business to their constituencies using listservs provided by the Senate.

Student Union:

As specified in the CSSW Student Union Constitution, all social work graduate students are eligible to participate as members of the School of Social Work Student Union (SSWSU). The SSWSU shall be comprised of thirteen students closely representing the general student body of CSSW.

The SSWSU serves as the official, representative student council of CSSW and acts as an official liaison between the CSSW student body and the Administration. Its mission is to enhance the educational experience of the student body through fostering activities and consistent advocacy, and SSWSU is responsible for advocating on behalf of CSSW graduate students and their collective interests.

The Executive Board consists of: President, Vice President, Secretary, Treasurer, Community Liaison Officer, and Communications Officer.

Program Pathway representatives consist of: First-Year, Residential; Second-Year, Residential; Advanced Standing; 16-Month Program; Dual-Degree; Online Campus; Extended and Reduced Residency; 5-Term International Program and International Students; Special Programs: Accelerated Policy & Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT).

SSWSU policies describing students’ opportunities to participate in academic and student affairs policymaking include:

  • Executive Board meetings are weekly. An administrator from the Office of Student Life attends each SSWSU Board meeting.
  • Full SSWSU meetings (Executive Board and representatives) are monthly. An administrator from the Office of Student Life attends each SSWSU Board meeting.
  • All officers and representatives have the power to initiate motions at SSWSU meetings. Each representative has one vote.
  • Apart from serving on SSWSU, any member of the CSSW student body may propose a referendum.
  • There shall be a mandatory review of the constitution with the Executive Board and the Office of Student Life every two years.
  • Each representative shall serve as a voting member of the SSWSU.
  • Each voting member will have one vote.
  • For all issues except amending the SSWSU constitution, a quorum shall represent one-half (½) of the members of the SSWSU plus one (1). To amend the SSWSU constitution, a quorum shall represent two-thirds (⅔) of the members of the SSWSU. Amendments to the constitution shall be binding immediately upon passage at the meeting. All amendments to the constitution will be made in consultation with the Office Student Life.
  • Actions requiring a vote shall take place either via e-mail (sent to the SSWSU president and the Office of Student Life) or at any meeting at which a quorum is present. The Secretary shall record the votes and announce the outcome. If there is a conflict of interest for a board member in any particular vote, that board member will recuse themselves from the discussion and voting process. For all issues except amendments to the SSWSU Constitution, the vote must reach at least a simple majority.

CSSW Standing Committees:

Students may be elected to serve as a representative on one of several standing CSSW committees. They have the opportunity to provide voice and perspective of the student body throughout a number of processes and reviews of appropriate school-wide policies and procedures. CSSW students serve on the following policymaking committees:

  • ACP Division Committee
  • AGPP Division Committee
  • Admissions, Recruitment, and Financial Aid Committee
  • Curriculum Committee
  • Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Advisory Committee
  • Faculty Search Committee
  • Field Education Policy Committee
  • Policy Practice Division Committee
  • Writing Center Advisory Committee

The faculty and CSSW administration work together on implementation of the mission of the School and its strategic directions. Student representatives serve on all committees for which their participation is appropriate. Accordingly, responsibilities for governance are shared among the faculty as a whole, the administration of the School, and School committees that are populated by faculty, administrators, and students.

Curriculum and Standing Committee representatives provide the voice and perspective of CSSW students throughout the curriculum review process, as well as during reviews of various policies and procedures at the School.

Student representatives are asked to provide feedback, experiences, and perspectives of the student body as they pertain to the work of the committee. There may be committee-specific duties that are shared by the Committee Chair. Committees typically meet once a month on Mondays.