Special interest housing, mental health, and the first female dean of the School of Engineering and Applied Science are among the storylines to follow this year.
Special interest housing stirs up debate among student groups
- Last fall three brownstones on W. 114th Street were given to Alpha Chi Omega, Lambda Phi Epsilon, and Q House after the completion of a review process that involved 13 groups applying to live in the residences.
- The brownstones used to belong to Alpha Epsilon Pi, Pi Kappa Alpha, and Psi Upsilon, but the University kicked them out in March 2011 after several of their members were arrested for selling drugs.
- Then, in February, Alpha Epsilon Pi and Pi Kappa Alpha were selected to live in East Campus townhouses, and six other interest groups won space in the former convent brownstones on 113th Street and in a new space in Wallach Hall.
- That same month, the Greek Judicial Board voted to rescind Zeta Beta Tau’s charter and house after a hazing incident occurred in the fraternity's brownstone.
- The chapter appealed the sanctions, however, and then-Dean of Student Affairs Kevin Shollenberger reversed the decision, allowing ZBT to stay and keep its brownstone pending the completion of an action plan.
- Near the end of the semester, ZBT, which comprises much of the baseball team, held a party to celebrate baseball’s Ivy League Championship win. But this party violated the fraternity’s probation, which resulted in the loss of its brownstone, after all.
- Now the brownstone, located on W. 115th Street between Broadway and Riverside Drive, is being used for general housing.
Students drive discussions about mental health
- Several student suicides, along with the more trivial, but nonetheless telling, ranking of Columbia as number one “most stressful college”, have pushed mental health to the forefront over the last few years.
- Groups such as the Student Wellness Project, Active Minds, and Students of AMF have developed a strong presence on campus and aim to raise awareness of mental health and wellness issues.
- Last semester, the Columbia College Student Council passed a resolution to require all first-years to take all non-Core classes pass/D/fail for their first semester. The policy will need to be approved, however, by CC Dean James Valentini and the Committee on Instruction before going into effect and will not apply to the class of 2017.
- The Student Wellness Project also released a report in April that outlined three major recommendations for improving wellness, calling for a reform of the New Student Orientation Program, the implementation of the first semester pass/D/fail policy, and a restructuring and expansion of the oft-maligned Counseling and Psychological Services.
- Administrators expressed cautiously positive reactions to the report last semester, but whether the recommendations will affect tangible change remains to be seen.
First female SEAS dean set to take helm
- In July, Mary Cunningham Boyce, the former head of the department of mechanical engineering at Massachusetts Institute of Technology, began her tenure as dean of the School of Engineering and Applied Science.
- Boyce, the first ever female dean of SEAS, replaces Donald Goldfarb, who served as interim dean for a year. The previous dean, Feniosky Peña-Mora, resigned in July 2012 after a majority of SEAS professors issued him a no-confidence vote.
- In an interview with Spectator after her appointment in March, Boyce said she was hoping to boost global opportunities for SEAS students and promote interdisciplinary collaboration between faculty and administrators.
- Students, administrators, and faculty believe Boyce will bring a fresh perspective to SEAS, pointing to her accomplishments at MIT, her understanding of graduate versus undergraduate school issues, and the advantages of online coursework, a facet of the university that Columbia has been working to bolster.
- Once the fall semester begins, Boyce will work to get to know the faculty and student body, create her own vision for SEAS, and address some of the school’s biggest challenges, including its shortage of space and how to expand its global reach.
This article is part of Spectator's Orientation Issue. You can read the rest of the issue here.