In recent months, there have been a few student issues related to how resources are allocated to enhance the undergraduate experience. I have worked closely with student leaders to describe, in some detail, the processes that were used by the various offices and organizations involved to gather information, provide feedback, and make decisions. Answering questions posed by student leaders and relying on the student press and the councils of both Columbia College and SEAS to share information with their constituents, I have sought to keep students apprised of the progress being made on each of these topics.
Open dialogue in a community like ours is healthy and important. I value discussion at every level, but particularly where it relates to topics on community building and student services. Your ideas and opinions factor into the decisions that are made. Because there are ongoing conversations and questions around topics in student life, it is important for me to share with the CC and SEAS undergraduate community the information that I provided to various leadership groups.
Student Life Fee
The Student Life Fee supports many services and programs for students, including information technology, printing services, residential programming, student services and operations, career services, student activities, intercollegiate athletics, and physical education. A portion of the fee is given directly to the student councils of Columbia College and SEAS for distribution among the governing boards.
Details about the categories listed above and examples of how the Student Life Fee was distributed in the 2011-12 academic year are available online.
The decision not to release the financial breakdown of the student fees in past years was collectively made by the term bill committee. This committee is chaired by the provost and includes representatives from the Central Budget Office, Administrative and Student Services, Arts & Science, and the three undergraduate school deans. As a result of feedback from the student councils in 2008, a summary of how the fees were used is now given to the councils and student press every spring. In addition, I engage the council presidents each year to solicit their input, which I then take to the term bill committee. After reviewing the recommendations of the term bill committee, the University Trustees make the final decision.
After the councils requested the release of the student life fee this year, I once again brought the issue back to the provost and deans. Although similar requests had been made in the past, Provost Coatsworth, Deans Valentini and Goldfarb, and I felt that there were sound arguments for releasing the financial breakdown.
We hope the release of this information will help us continue discussions around how we can best enhance student services and programs.
Construction on 113th Street
Columbia acquired the brownstones—at 619, 621, and 623 West 113th Street between Broadway and Riverside Drive—from St. Hilda’s House convent in 2009. This is a space with program areas, dining facilities, and other wonderful features that give us a unique opportunity to create a new and different residential community.
Student Affairs held a Community Forum on the topic of the “Creation of a New Residence Hall” on Thursday, October 11, which, unfortunately, was not heavily attended. We will continue to solicit feedback from students groups on how to utilize the space through meetings with Residential Advisers, student councils, special interest communities, and other key leaders.
The goal is to have the space available for student housing beginning in fall 2013. Therefore, we will align the application process with the existing Special Interest Community housing application process: Applications are due by mid-December, with decisions made by February. Look for more information to be released in the coming weeks.
Brownstone Selection Process
There are currently three vacant brownstones on West 114th Street. Last year, a process was developed in order to fairly allocate the space in a way that strengthens student organizations and enhances student life. A Brownstone Review Committee was assembled with student and staff representation. Recommendations from the committee will factor into my final decision on space allocation.
Applications to serve on the review committee were open to all students. Only 21 students applied, and most of these 21 applicants were affiliated with Greek organizations. We selected students who would support a fair process and could set aside their own bias and group affiliations.
On July 24, applications for the brownstone selection process were released to the entire community with a submission deadline of October 5. Thirteen applications were submitted from the student community, and each application received careful consideration from the Brownstone Review Committee. After much dialogue and deliberation, a decision was made to extend an invitation to six organizations to return for the presentation phase of the review process.
The six organizations returning for the presentation phase include:
Each of these organizations presented their case on Friday, November 9. Applicants were asked specific questions regarding their anticipated plans for group sustainability, partnership with Residential Programs, group accountability, and anticipated communication with the surrounding community, among other questions.
Your involvement and feedback are much appreciated as we work together to serve the needs of our student community and enhance student life on campus. Your voice is an important one, and I look forward to our continued dialogue.
Kevin G. Shollenberger