THROUGH TALIA ABRAHAMSON
Aiming to allay student fears of the pandemic, the Columbia College Student Council is developing a series of new proposals designed to improve college and campus life. While some ideas are pending administrative approval, CCSC hopes to improve its outlook on student life, which is inseparable from pandemic concerns this year.
At the second meeting of the academic year on September 19, the SBCC passed an internal reform to encourage members to accomplish even more project-based initiatives. With COVID-19 positivity rates making each week as unpredictable as the next – for example, causing a sudden return to the Zoom screen after an inaugural general meeting in person – representatives are formulating plans for the semester around this uncertainty.
“COVID is going to inform everything we are working on this semester and possibly this year,” said President Rads Mehta, CC ’22. “It’s not necessarily something that is parallel or separate. It really is part of everything.”
As the liaison between the Columbia College student body and administrators, CCSC strives to advocate for student concerns. One issue that many students have reported to SBCC is their confusion over how to take classes if they are quarantined, either because they have been found or have tested positive for COVID-19.
The confusion arises from the University’s policies for a return to face-to-face teaching. Columbia has a policy in place that “faculty members cannot decide to teach remotely if they have concerns about campus safety,” so many faculty have not implemented blended learning or classroom recordings on Zoom.
All members of the Columbia community who test positive for COVID-19 must self-isolate for at least ten days, regardless of their vaccination status. Undergraduates have isolated themselves in community dormitories of special interest and, according to CCSC, due to fears of overcrowding, Columbia has started temporarily housing students at the Beacon Hotel.
Students were asked to “work with their instructors to develop a plan to receive instructions” if they were to miss classes or classes due to COVID-19-related absences, including quarantine and isolation .
In a meeting with Dean of Academic Affairs Lisa Hollibaugh, Mehta learned that the University claims it is currently unable to offer a solution beyond this basis on a case-by-case basis due to the autonomy granted. to teachers in class.
“It was a little disappointing, just because we want to be able to reassure students that if you miss your course you won’t actually run out of material,” she said.
As a potential solution, CCSC is proposing a university-wide expansion of note-taking facilities, which are supported by disability services. Currently, Disabilities Services pays one student per class requested to provide anonymous grades, but CCSC hopes to nominate one student per class for as many classes as possible, in combination with classes that already have a designated grade-taker.
As of September 13, 116 affiliates have tested positive for COVID-19 either through symptomatic testing from campus medical services, asymptomatic testing at Lerner Hall, or outside testing sites. Although it remained at a “yellow” or low risk level, the University imposed a limit of 10 people at indoor gatherings and restricted access to the residence in recognition of the recently increased transmission of COVID-19 among students on campus.
The goal for CCSC and administrators, according to Vice President of Policy Krishna Menon, CC ’22, is to reach the “green” risk level with the fewest restrictions over the next two weeks. They are feeling the pressure to enjoy outdoor student life before the weather turns cold and cases of COVID-19 have an even greater potential to increase. The University was at “yellow” risk level since the start of the academic year.
“There is a lot of planning that depends on whether we are green by October,” Menon said. “I think it’s a reassurance that the numbers won’t skyrocket, we won’t see yellow, and we won’t go orange.”
Unlike the yellow level, the green level allows for a return to indoor meals and no capacity limits for academic, administrative, social and extracurricular gatherings. Achieving that level of security would not only bring the campus closer to pre-pandemic conditions, but would also help Mehta achieve her goal of imparting Columbia’s traditions and institutional knowledge to the elderly.
“There are a lot of people who run clubs who have never had the club experience in person,” Mehta said. “A lot of clubs lost a ton of members last year. A lot of clubs didn’t recruit members last year. And for me this fall semester is the last time for us to reorganize our clubs before. to lose the seniors, who are the only people who know what the culture of the club was like. “
Elsa Chung, CC ’23, vice president for campus life, said the CCSC had to cancel events, such as a singer-songwriter showcase called Fall Fest, due to the yellow status of the ‘university. In keeping with the restrictions on outdoor gatherings, she hopes instead to organize a “Lit Hum” night on October 7 from 5 to 8 p.m. for students who have taken literature and humanities classes virtually last year. The sections would meet in person, in three phases to reduce clutter, to solidify relationships between classmates.
“We try to focus on both optimism and realism, so we shift our attention to events that are more focused on a specific group of students,” Chung said. “We want campus life initiatives to provide that safety net as well as a great way to COVID-aware socialization on and around campus.”
Depending on the success of the Lit Hum night, the SBCC could replicate the event for contemporary civilization classes.
Chung leads the Community, Clubs and Traditions Working Group, which is one of the five working groups that make up the SBCC. The board passed a motion on Sept. 19 to dissolve its four major – campus life, politics, communications, and finance – into task forces, which include student welfare; Identity & Diversity; Communications; and Academics, Alum and Carrière, and an ad hoc committee on financial policy. Once the representatives of the SBCC are divided into working groups, they will undertake their own projects. Student Wellbeing, for example, plans to work with the Engineering Student Council, administrators and faculty members to develop preventative rather than reactionary resources for mental health.
“For communities, clubs and traditions, COVID and COVID policies are certainly going to be hugely considered as we want to make sure we follow all guidelines and keep the community safe,” Mehta said. “But at the same time, it’s also something that we want to revamp and make as strong as possible due to the loss of community during COVID. I would say COVID informs all of our decision-making and our vision. “
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