The University of Chicago’s Independent Student Newspaper since 1892

Chicago Maroon

The University of Chicago’s Independent Student Newspaper since 1892

Chicago Maroon

The University of Chicago’s Independent Student Newspaper since 1892

Chicago Maroon

2016 College Council Candidate Profiles

The Maroon reached out to College Council candidates to find out how they would use their position to improve the campus climate, where they stand on the recent divestment debate, and how they would increase transparency in SG. Here’s what they had to say..

Louisa Richardson-Deppe, Class of 2017

Campus Climate: Campus climate is not ideal: UChicago doesn’t effectively support many students, including (but not limited to) LGBTQ students, non-white students, students with disabilities, sexual assault survivors, and first generation & low-income students. The Committee on Sexual Assault Awareness and Prevention, which funded and organized Sexual Assault Awareness Month, is a great example of progress, but we need to put a lot more time, energy, and financial resources into supporting the students who need it most. A “good” campus climate is more possible when students feel that their University (and their Student Government) are working for, not against, them.

Divestment: I voted for the resolution because I do not want my school—a powerful financial institution—to invest in weapons manufacturing, thereby supporting and financing violence. I am also disturbed by the fact that UChicago did not divest in previous cases such as South Africa. I think SG can discuss these national and international topics, but that my work as a representative day-to-day is much more about serving students’ needs on campus, which can range from participating in the Committee on Sexual Assault Awareness and Prevention, supporting initiatives like the Uncommon Fund, and participating in conversations about how to provide more resources to low income students.

Transparency: Office hours are a start and something I’m hoping to make weekly or (at least) twice a month throughout all of next year, with a regular time & place so that anyone on campus knows about them and can use them as a resource. Meeting minutes are always taken by SG secretaries and are technically available to everyone, but the website has made it difficult for non-SG students to access minutes. I’d like to really improve access to any/all records of SG decisions, past and present, so that anyone can find the information about our votes quickly and easily.

Katherine Shen, Class of 2017

Campus Climate: I don’t think an individual can accurately gauge the campus climate given that different groups have differing experiences; it’s presumptuous to describe the “campus climate” in a few words as it can easily cut out the voices of some people. I am happy to work on issues and articulate the concerns that other students have voiced to me.

Divestment: Please refer to my comments during the meeting where the vote took place.

Transparency: Publish the minutes in a more up-to-date manner. Perhaps move towards having audio recordings of meetings.

Peggy Xu, Class of 2017

Campus Climate: There is still much work that needs to be done to enhance today’s campus climate, and SG has continued to push for positive developments to this end. This year, College Council voted to increase funding for Sexual Assault Awareness Week to expand it to a full month of programming. The release of the campus climate survey, moreover, has been a crucial step toward assessing and improving today’s campus climate. Looking forward, SG is responsible for making sure that university administration is held accountable for taking concrete actions in response to the results of this survey.

Divestment: I voted to divest from 10 companies that are complicit in human rights violations committed in the occupation of Palestine. I advocate for a university that invests its money in socially responsible ways, and believe that the University should have divested from apartheid in South Africa and should currently divest from fossil fuels. I also continue to strongly condemn anti-Semitism, as per the language of the College Council resolution, and to support the continued existence of a Jewish state as well as the Jewish right to self-determination.

Transparency: We are currently working on a new by-law that will improve SG transparency by unambiguously permitting constituents to photograph and record at College Council meetings. Our new College Council Office Hours has also been a great way to increase the accessibility and availability of Class Representatives to the wider campus community.

Adam Biesman, Class of 2018

Campus Climate: Campus climate is at the lowest it has been since I have been a student at the University of Chicago. I would promote programs that create dialogue, not simply education. As important as programs are about our language and actions, students at the University of Chicago are in an environment that encourages active discourse. I believe that SG funds should be used to create settings that are productive for discussions about emotional topics such as race, religion, and sexual assault.

Divestment: I am very opposed to the divestment resolution for multiple reasons. First, the divestment resolution attached itself to the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions movement which openly seeks to remove the right of Jewish self-determination and to delegitimize the existence of a Jewish state. Secondly, I do not believe it is the Student Government’s role to make decisions related to foreign policy or international law. I cannot support a resolution that directly targets any community on campus so harshly. Because the resolution is so controversial, it is impossible for SG to represent the entirety of the College through one vote.

Transparency: While I believe that CC represents the legitimate voice of the College, it can only do so by not only upholding, but promoting transparency. Representatives must actively seek to display the work they are doing, whether it means having all meetings on the record or actively advertising some of the work that SG has accomplished. Therefore, I like the office hours that were recently implemented and would strive to make sure they are much more accessible and better advertised. This way, representatives can continue to learn about the specific requests of students and address the actions that they have already taken.

Chase Harrison, Class of 2018

Campus Climate: One major problem with the campus climate right now is the tension between Greek life and the rest of the student body. Greeks often feel misunderstood and underrepresented in student government. Conversely, SG has struggled to find agreeable ways to address problems with Greek life. As a member of Greek life deeply concerned about social justice issues, I think I would be an ideal person to serve as a liaison between these groups to find a way to allow Greek life to thrive safely on campus.

Divestment: I largely agree with The Maroon editorial that Israeli divestment was ultimately an inappropriate and distracting issue for SG. There are so many student life issues that SG needs to tackle, yet divestment, a mostly symbolic and divisive issue, seemed to simply cause friction on campus and distrust between SG and the student body. U of C Divest should have looked towards other avenues to achieve their goal.

Transparency: I think SG could do a better job communicating its agendas and meeting highlights through social media and emails to the student body. Broadly, I think having students from a wide swath of campus would increase transparency and awareness. As a student involved in Greek life, University Theater, the IOP, and several comedy organizations, I think I could do a lot to help various constituencies feel more connected to SG.

James Hilton, Class of 2018

Campus Climate: Campus climate is still a work in progress. Racism, classism, and a slew of other -isms still plague this place. Honestly, no matter how earnest our efforts may be, we will not eliminate them—they are facts of life. Of course, we should continue attempts to minimize their presence on campus. What we can also do is support the growth of niche communities to build a more comfortable campus. In SGFC, I learned about the importance of RSO funding and collaboration between RSOs. We have to promote and fund RSO endeavors and RSO collaborations more than we do now.

Divestment: On the moral level, I sympathize with any pursuit of justice. Personally, I see the campaign as peripheral to more salient campus concerns. The purpose of SG is to represent the student body and work toward the betterment of the UChicago community. The time and effort SG devoted to this issue could have been allocated to others where there would have been greater effect. As a SG official, I believe that once the issue was on the table for CC, the student body should have had the final word on it by means of a referendum.

Transparency: My time on SGFC and AnnAl has shown me that SG has been working toward more transparency with diligence. Continuing this momentum is crucial because a significant portion of the student body does not feel represented by SG. I, personally, may not be able to cause much improvement in this area for all of SG, but I will continue to hold myself to a high standard of integrity and do what I am able to resolve this disjunction. My actions in SG have been transparent since day one, and they will remain that way if I am elected to CC.

Elijah Wolter, Class of 2018

Campus Climate: Based off my personal experiences as a low-income student and the experiences of other students from marginalized backgrounds, it is clear that our university is still mired in racism, sexism, classism, ableism, and transphobia. Students are being deprived of the opportunity to succeed because they face harassment, exclusion and discrimination that is inadequately addressed, if at all, by the University. Through SG channels and other forms of action, we need to hold our university accountable to Title IX and the Americans with Disabilities Act, as well as work towards ensuring transparency and ending racist policing with regards to the UCPD.

Divestment: I do not think that the University should be invested in companies that actively contribute to human rights violations in the occupation of Palestine. I think there are also other companies and industries that the University should divest from, including private prisons and the fossil fuel industry. More generally, I am in favor of establishing a student oversight committee to monitor and advise where the University is putting its money and fighting for a more democratically governed university.

Transparency: I think that SG is already doing a lot now to operate transparently; the minutes to meetings are made available online and all of the meetings are open to the public. I think that there is progress to be made in developing opportunities for more students to be involved in putting forth initiatives and participating in committees that speak to their interests and concerns, as well as ensuring that those opportunities are being effectively communicated and facilitated. Additionally, if I’m elected Class Representative, I’ll start an e-mail listhost to talk about what I personally am doing as part of SG.

Zander Cowan, Class of 2019

Campus Climate: I see the University of Chicago’s campus to be one full of potential for diversity, inclusion, and safety for all. However, in my observation, at times, especially in the past few quarters, many students, especially minority students, feel distanced from the campus community as a whole. I think the first step to a more inclusive and healthy campus climate is ensuring the safety of all students within Greek organizations as well as social settings on campus. Additionally, campus-wide initiatives like sporting events or a Mental Health Awareness Week, could help bring the student body together.

Divestment: The U.S. Congress is currently passing legislation that will prohibit trade with countries (and organizations) that have divestment policies. Both Republicans and Democrats, including Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton, and Bernie Sanders, find divestment from Israel to be extremely hateful, bigoted, and counterproductive to peace. Therefore, it is offensive to a large group of students (including myself) and nonsensical for the SG to make a one-sided decision like divestment. Bringing topics like this to SG is a blatant misuse of the purpose of SG—additionally, decisions like divestment further divides the student body and contributes to a hostile campus climate.

Transparency: Many ideas and topics discussed within SG are thought of purposefully on short and quiet notice. In fact, SG is run as a somewhat secretive entity that lacks in transparency and focuses on pet topics of a few radical members. I will ensure that SG meetings are allowed to be publicly recorded and meeting topics are communicated well in advance to allow for widespread input. Using social media to engage with the student body will make for better communication. I also will make sure that the interests of the entire Class of 2019 are brought before the SG.

Lily Grossbard, Class of 2019

Campus Climate: We need a campus that is far more concerned with student health —mental, physical, and sexual—than our current campus is. The reality is that Student Disability Services and Student Counseling are not equipped to handle the problems our student body is facing in this day and age. Furthermore, I think the attitudes around mental illness, physical disability, and sexual assault among the student body need to be changed significantly. Fortunately, I think that attitude is something that can be improved by appropriate outreach and education programs, which is definitely one small step in the right direction.

Divestment: While I don’t agree with every aspect of BDS (I want a two-state solution), as a Jewish woman, I believe the University has an obligation to divest from a moral standpoint. Our school’s mission is incompatible with the human rights violations in Israel. SG must advocate for a socially responsible investment committee (which many peer institutions have) that would make decisions about asset management based on student and faculty input.

Transparency: One very simple and immediate way would be to have College Council representatives post updates on the SG website about motions they intend to introduce, so that other students have a general direction of where CC is headed and can hold class reps accountable. Similarly, while meeting minutes are important, I think opt-in, biweekly bulleted updates released via email to respective classes would keep the student body informed without forcing them to arduously dig around for information. Finally, I would do my utmost to make as many meetings as possible open to the public, and open to recording.

George Kitsios, Class of 2019

Campus Climate: I think that the work the university has done the last two years to more accurately gauge student feedback on campus climate issues is a step in the right direction. This year’s campus climate survey should hopefully provide necessary insight for administrators to get a different perspective on a number of issues on campus. As far as my involvement on College Council goes, I intend on doing my best to promote a campus climate that is inclusive and welcoming, while fostering a strong relationship for the administration to open a dialogue with Greek organizations at UChicago.

Divestment: As a new member of the College Council given the unique opportunity to vote on the actual resolution calling for divestment, I ultimately voted to abstain. I don’t believe it is within the purview of the SG to take a position on a geopolitical issue that clearly doesn’t have an objective, widespread consensus by the student body. I approach my responsibilities as a representative irrespective of my personal political or ideological agenda, because I don’t believe I can speak to the political beliefs of every single undergraduate, nor should I. It’s not my place to tell you what you believe.

Transparency: During my short time on College Council, I’ve witnessed an irresponsible lack of transparency. Students deserve to be involved while decisions are being made – not after the fact. Consequently, a large part of my campaign is dedicated towards specific ways to increase SG transparency. I intend to make meeting minutes more accessible (beyond the depths of the SG website), create a Class of 2019 Facebook Page for weekly updates on SG progress, and develop new, innovative ways for direct involvement with the SG. Because communication can only be as effective as it is accessible to the student body.

Qudsiyyah Shariyf, Class of 2019

Campus Climate: I believe there is much to be done to improve the campus climate. Many students feel alienated and even unsafe on this campus, and I think SG can do concrete things to combat the fractured sense of community on campus. With the completion of the Campus Climate Survey, SG can continue to meet with administrators and hold them accountable to allocating more resources into doing something about the results of the survey.

Divestment: It’s problematic that student tuition dollars are being funneled into companies that are complicit in human rights violations. I support the student call for the University to divest from companies that aide in human rights violations in the occupied lands. Additionally, the resolution was not a call to divest from companies active in Israel— 8 of the 10 companies were American. I voted on the basis of human rights advocacy, as proposed by the student body; I did not vote based on any political stance. In fact, by continuing to invest in these companies, we continue to politicize our University.

Transparency: As a current College Council representative I have worked to implement College Council Office Hours, a program that’s sole aim is to make College Council representatives accessible to the student body. Additionally, I have worked with the Co-Directors of Communication to make the SG website more accessible. In the future, I plan on continuing to sustain these projects and I have established a personal blog (, which will serve as a regularly updated publication of my personal views on issues brought to SG.

Michael Sitver, Class of 2019

Campus Climate: Our campus climate is much better than it’s been, but we can make it better. I have some ideas of my own, but more important to me are student ideas. I look forward to reading the latest campus climate survey results to see exactly where students stand. We need to continue to invest in diversity, safety, and free speech, but we must also invest more in making our campus a pleasant place, and that starts with the little things. We need better dining options (particularly for diners with special dietary needs), a better printing service, and better SG-sponsored activities.

Divestment: When UofCDivest entered our campus this quarter, I was one of the first to stand against it. It’s toxic to our campus climate and it goes against everything our University stands for—free speech, diversity, and open discourse.

More broadly, it’s not the College Council’s role or right to make political statements for the entire student body. The College Council’s only role is to make life better for students of the college. With that in mind, I would vote against any resolution that attempts to do so, and lobby other council members to do the same. No exceptions.

Transparency: A few weeks ago I was attacked at an open CC meeting for openly recording it. Every student’s right to information on their school has been seriously disrespected in recent weeks. That’s why I’m running. If elected, I will pass open meetings rules requiring that CC meetings and votes be publicly recorded. No exceptions. Our student government also has a sizable budget—student money—and finding out where much of that money goes is impossible. CC Members have taken advantage of this secrecy to direct significant funds to their own RSOs. I’ll make our budget available and easily searchable, so that students can see exactly where their money goes. I also plan to fight for a judicial branch to enforce our Constitution. Representatives continue to neglect the rules, because there’s no body to enforce them. There’s no accountability. That needs to change.

Paul Soltys, Class of 2019

Campus Climate: I believe the campus climate is, on the whole, very good. Many people I’ve talked to have been happy with the friends they’ve made, the interactions they’ve had with peers, and how they fit in as a member of the community. However, there’s always room for improvement, and I’ve heard stories from friends who haven’t felt safe or accepted on campus. On Council, the focus should be on making O-week present the campus culture we want first years to buy into, and on improving awareness of resources and not just awareness of issues the majority of students already know about.

Divestment: Divestment is more complex than 100 words allows, but I will try anyway. The issue of Israel and Palestine is very complex, and as a foreign policy issue is something outside of our Council’s purview. Even disregarding this, the way divestment was passed here had many problems. Two amendments intended to assuage the concerns of those who found the resolution anti-Semitic or too radical were rejected, no formal speaking time was given to anti-divestment groups, and the resolution ignored the financial impracticalities of what it proposed. Divestment lacked transparency, and in the end accomplished nothing but a worse campus climate.

Transparency: Student Government’s transparency hinges on making sure that its debates and actions are fully public, and that students can easily learn what is happening in SG. There has been some controversy over the meeting minutes from just a few weeks ago, and as someone present at that meeting, it was clear that some important parts of the meeting were dropped from the minutes. Setting stronger, clearer rules when it comes to making sure SG meetings are recorded properly is essential.

Editor’s Note: Lily Grossbard is a an Associate Viewpoints Editor. Jake Mansoor, Alice Kallman, Michael Meng, Megha Bhattacharya, Elizabeth Ortiz, and Mahi Senthilkumar did not respond to The Maroon’s inquiry.

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