After the Lion Credit Union Initiative and the sandwich ambassador ballot initiatives passed overwhelmingly during Columbia College Student Council's elections last week, the students who spearheaded each project are deciding their next moves.
LCUI members said that the ballot initiative will help them show the National Credit Union Administration that they have strong student support when they apply to become a recognized credit union. Meanwhile, the students behind the sandwich ambassador initiative are discussing with CCSC ways to implement the somewhat satirical position.
The sandwich ambassador, endorsed by 88 percent of CCSC voters, would be responsible for fostering relationships between CCSC and local businesses to reduce the cost of food for students. While some students said the ballot initiative itself read like a satirical take on legislative efforts, proponents of the ballot argue that it is actually grounded in serious concerns regarding food prices in the area.
“Everybody likes to laugh about the sandwich ambassador, and how we're making CCSC less serious, but in reality it's a position that should be taken pretty seriously,” Sean Augustine-Obi, CC '16 and editor of The Lion, said. The Lion, a campus blog, came up with the idea and primarily pushed the initiative.
“There are people on campus who do have issues with a lot of the prices in New York, who come from lower-income families, and the duties of the sandwich ambassador would be to reach out to students and to reach out to local vendors and to make sure that their needs are met, so that students have fair prices,” Augustine-Obi added.
Columbia College University Senator Jared Odessky, CC '15, said that the resolution can encourage discussions about socioeconomic class on campus and in the city.
“I think it can raise discussions of affordability,” Odessky said. “Some students don't have to worry about that, but we do have students that do. ... We never really have a specialized voice in the room to actually remind us that class is an issue we face on this campus that we don't really talk about.”
Local businesses like Chipotle already have student representatives who meet with campus organizations and provide students with discounts, but both Odessky and Augustine-Obi said that the sandwich ambassador will proactively reach out to businesses about prices.
“I think that it's a great opportunity, both in a limited scope for having a liaison to small businesses for students. We have campus ambassadors that businesses employ—often Columbia students—that offer on behalf of the businesses,” Odessky said. “But we don't have an outward-facing position.”
Along with working to provide students with discounts, the sandwich ambassador will also deliver a “State of the Sandwich” speech every semester. The speech, Augustine-Obi said, will be a more accessible way for the student council to reach out to students.
“The whole idea of putting it out on College Walk instead of in the Satow Room would be a way of bringing the council to the students,” he said. “And a way to show the student body can hold its members for student council accountable.”
Odessky said that the Sandwich Ambassador initiative is a successful example of how students can communicate with councils through ballot initiatives.
“I think that ballot initiatives are kind of the perfect tool for deciding how student council is supposed to look,” he said. “So I think that the sandwich ambassador just kind of shows more student involvement in council process—not just deciding what goes on in the room, but something that the entire student body actually decides, or enough students decide is very important.”
Student support was also important to the LCUI, which aims to form a student-run bank on campus. The credit union was approved by 86 percent of CCSC voters last week.
LCUI President Jared Greene, CC '16, said one of the credit union's next steps is to gain support from graduate schools, starting with a presentation at the Business School on Thursday.
“Once we really solidify our field of membership we need to show that there is community support and that is included in our field of membership,” LCUI Vice President of Business Development Phantila Phataraprasit, CC '16, said.
The credit union distributed a survey to all undergraduates to get a better idea of how students would use the credit union.
Greene said that, based off survey responses from undergraduates, students are primarily interested in financing student loans, building credit, international and domestic wire transfers, and online banking—all of which are services that he said the credit union would try to provide.
“Something I wanted to do when coming to Columbia is leave a lasting impact, and I felt that this is one of the best ways because we're starting up an institution that will hopefully run for years and years, helping students with their financial problems,” LCUI Associate for Business Development David Hao, SEAS '17, said.
Elizabeth Sedran contributed reporting.
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