Candidates for General Studies Student Council emphasized the need for greater student outreach and better communication between GS and the larger Columbia community at a debate Tuesday.
Current council members said this is the first time in recent memory where there are multiple candidates running for all the positions.
About 40 students attended the debates, and candidates said that the sizable turnout was indicative of greater student involvement in the election process.
The three candidates for GSSC president mostly stuck to campaign rhetoric instead of specific proposals. Community Services Representative Robbie LeDesma, GS, said he wanted to make the council more accessible by publicizing resources designed to help GS students.
“Here at GS we're a proud bunch of do-it-yourselfers,” he said. LeDesma plans to outline specific goals with the larger community and identify ways in which GSSC can work more closely with the administration.
Joseph Giovanni Ramos, GS and current vice president of student events, said he hopes to improve efficiency in the way GSSC is run.
“My favorite thing in the whole world is efficiency—things working how they should, when they should,” he said. He said he sees the role of president as “the ultimate mediator” and a centralized leader for other GS student leaders.
Hannah Germond, GS and current first-year class president, said she would like to restructure the format of GSSC meetings. If elected president, Germond said she would move audience questions to the beginning to make meetings more appealing to the public and give council members a better sense of community issues.
Meetings would also include a presidential address summarizing current GSSC actions at the beginning of each meeting, to give the audience context.
All three candidates stressed the importance of reaching out to new students during New Student Orientation Program and placing a continuous emphasis on resources such as the new peer advising network and the Dean of Students office.
The candidates for vice president of policy said they want to improve student services. Michael Christie, GS, said he wanted to improve the accessibility of mental health services.
“There's a gap between those who need mental help and are considering seeking it, and those walking in the door,” he said. Edgardo Martinez, GS and current first-year class vice president, said he wants to focus on a peer mentoring program to make advising more accessible to students, because the deans are busy and potentially more intimidating, he said.
Both candidates also talked up the need for better communication between students and the administration, saying that to create effective change they have to work as one community rather than two competing ones.
Ari Platt, GS and current vice president of communications, is also running for vice president of policy but was unable to attend the debates. While the turnout for the debates was big, a substantial portion of the audience consisted of current GSSC members.
Nonetheless, after the debate, LeDesma said, “This is the best turnout I've ever seen. More students are becoming actively involved.”
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An earlier version of this article quoted the girlfriend of one of the candidates without such a disclosure. The quotation has been removed from the story.