Friday, October 05, 2007

In Step with Expansion

In Step with Expansion
By Editorial Board

Despite the number of administration-sponsored publicity campaigns, many students still feel that they have little personal investment in the future of Manhattanville. As Columbia’s proposed expansion progresses, it is more and more important that student groups organize themselves to ensure that questions about the University’s responsibility to the community and how the new campus might serve undergraduate needs are addressed. The Columbia College Student Council Committee on Manhattanville Expansion has the potential to facilitate this type of productive discussion and must function as a true bridge between the student body and the administration, instead of merely acting as a spokesperson for the administration’s vision.

The CCSC’s committee claims this is a pivotal year for their group. But the fact that the two-year-old group only put on its first official event—an open house—last Wednesday indicates that the organization must move quicker if they hope to really affect the debate. It is vital that they organize themselves and begin putting on regular events like forums where students may pose questions to the administration. With each passing year, more and more decisions are made and the committee’s potential effects are diminished. If, like in the past, the committee spends most of the year organizing, they will lose much of their strength.

The first priority for the committee should be to educate and energize the student population regarding the importance of Columbia’s expansion into Manhattanville. Since the Manhattanville expansion will not be completed for more than 30 years, well past when the current student population graduates, this goal will require new and creative measures. They must recognize that their role is not just to educate students on the many issues that surround the debate, but they must make students care about the issue. It is not enough to glut students’ inboxes with information, but they must make efforts to engage students in the present and future issues. This is no small task and will require original events like campus art exhibits, poster campaigns around the University, and public events and exhibits that examine issues surrounding the expansion from both sides.

Furthermore, the committee must demonstrate their independence from the administration by inviting vocal community leaders to speak with student leaders. Rather than having panel discussions, the committee should sponsor less formal interaction between concerned students and community leaders. If the committee demonstrates their independence and credibility, more students will devote time to the issue. The time to affect change in Manhattanville is running out. The CCSC Committee on Expansion must position itself as a destination for student information on the proposed expansion. While it will be an enormous challenge for the committee to engage students on an issue that is so remote to all of us, it must be a guiding principle for the committee.

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