T H E U N D E RG R A D UAT E M AG A Z I N E O F C O LU M B I A U N I V E R S I T Y, E S T. 1 8 9 0
THE BLUE AND WHITE Vol. XXII No. IV
Going Greek Examining the recent expansion of fraternities and sororities
Isolationism The fate of Spectatorâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s City News section Also Inside: Col
CHANNING PREND, CC ’17, Editor in Chief NIA BROWN, CC ’17, Managing Editor ANDREW LOSO, CC ’19, Publisher VIRGINIA FU, CC ’17, Senior Editor BEN SCHNEIDER, CC ’17, Senior Editor YASEMIN AKÇAGÜNER, BC ’17, Senior Editor CAROLINE HURLEY, CC ’19, Senior Editor ALEX SWANSON, CC ’18, Senior Editor AARON SU, CC ’19, Layout Editor ALEXA ECONOMACOS, CC ’18, Senior Illustrator
Staff Writers NICK KENSINGER, CC ’18 VIRGINIA AMBELIOTIS, BC ’19 NIKHIL DOMINIC, CC ’18 GENEVA HUTCHESON, BC ’17 LENA RUBIN, CC ’18 Contributors ELENA BURGER BC, ’18 CATHERINE PEIHAN SONG, CC ’19 IRINA TEVELEVA, CC ’17 JOSEPH MILHOLLAND, CC ’17 LUCY JAKUB, CC ’17 MIYA LEE, CC ’18 EMMA BOGLER, CC ’17 DANIEL SINGER, CC ’17 BRETON CARTER, BC ’17
Staff Illustrators NATHANIEL JAMESON, CC ’18 RACHEL CHIN, CC ’18 ZANE BHANSALI, CC ’17 Artists WALLACE KALKIN, BC ’18 ANNE SCOTTI, CC ’16 ALEX SWANSON, CC ’18 JOANNA ZOU, CC ’18 NATHANIEL JAMESON, CC ’18 JACK PIERSON, CC ’19 SARAH GALE, CC ’18 LANI ALLEN, CC ’18 KELLIE ZHAO, CC ’19 Social Media Manager AUBRI JUHASZ, BC ’18
THE BLUE AND WHITE Vol. XXII
FAMAM EXTENDIMUS FACTIS
4 Blue Book 6 Blue Notes 8 Campus Characters 12 Verily Veritas 26 M easure for Measure 34 Curio Columbiana 35 Campus G ossip
Nia Brown & Caroline Hurley Geneva Hutcheson
Features 10 At Two Swords’ Length Our monthly prose and cons 13 Take the A to Far Rockaway The Blue and White braves a sweaty subway car 16 Crossing the Border The decline of Spectator’s City News section 18 Columbia College Dictionary Campus lingo deciphered 20 R ise of Greek Life Looking into a recent trend in student life
24 M anhattan House A community for Native and indigenous students
25 In Mourning The last limb for Barnard’s beloved tree
28 Outside the Gates A conversation with Danny O’Donnell
“Warm Welcome” by Alexa Economacos
LETTER FROM THE EDITOR
It has become somewhat of a summer tradition for me to make a very ambitious to-do list (this year’s included learning to program in Java and reading War and Peace). Unsurprisingly, the summer is quickly coming to a close and I have accomplished next to nothing from my list. This is similar to how I feel about my Columbia experience. With the start of my senior year fast approaching, I can’t help but wonder: where has the time gone? To the Class of 2020, believe me, it will go by faster than you think. I’m sure you’re already nauseated by my nostalgia, so I’ll stop myself here. And to the freshmen (or, sorry, “first-years”) reading this, I’ll spare you the same trite advice about going to office hours and exploring new interests in college. But I do want to say this to you. It will take a while before you find your niche, and that’s fine. Some of you will join a fraternity or sorority (see p. 20), or maybe some of you will form a band that fuses hip hop and tap dance (see p. 9). But whether Columbia was your first choice or not (see p. 10), you determine your own happiness. I think the most important thing I can say to you though, is to try to engage with the local community and understand the power structures that we are complicit in by attending an Ivy League institution. This year, the first building on the Manhattanville campus will open. In view of this, we tried to look beyond the University gates by talking to local Assemblyman Danny O’Donnell (p. 28) and considering what the decline in the Spectator’s City News section says about our relationship to the neighborhood (p. 14). Columbia may seem like an impenetrable corporate machine at times, but we have a surprising amount of power as students. Don’t forget that. And finally, Class of 2020, good luck… — Channing Prend
TRANSACTIONS ARRIVALS Class of 2020 Wien Package Center The Roy and Diana Vagelos Education Center Turbo Coffee Roommates and their Audrey Hepburn posters
DEPARTURES Cannon’s Lerner Package Center The Reclining Figure Brad’s Maggie Magnolia
“Women’s studies classes rarely discuss men’s issues. And while many of these courses do touch upon male-centered topics like phallocentrism and masculinity, I’ve never heard the issues that affect men spoken about.”
– Toni Airaksinen, in her Spectator op-ed, “Columbia should offer a men’s studies course”
The Blue and White
Summer Internment For many, summer internships mean sitting at a computer trying to look productive. The less creative among us may be satisfied simply reading Gawker or editing pieces for a campus publication (Google Docs = productivity). For the intrepid, however, here are some of our more innovative solutions to cope with corporate boredom. PrezBored • Make a hair tutorial and send it to PrezBo • Write proposal to construct first inter-global center on Mars • Develop a training plan for the 5K Fun Run • Arrange a private Fireside Chat e #BoredAtWork • Get in a Twitter fight with a racist • Create a fake Twitter account for Suzanne Goldberg • Live tweet your Starbucks run • Propose to Ezra Koenig via Twitter e Monkey Business • Translate the works of Shakespeare into an ape language • Guard fried plantains from colobus monkeys
• Pick lice from the hair of the intern at the next cubicle • Make a sculpture out of office supplies e Film Reel • Draft script of all-female version of the A Team • Write Disney Channel fan fiction • Start a blog that reviews movie reviews • Make a YouTube channel dubbing over puppy videos e Brain Dead • Look at illustrations of cat neurons • Research the role of synapses in feline memory • Diagram the structural differences between a cat and human brain • Meow meow meow
POSTCARD FROM MORNINGSIDE
Postcard by Lani Allen
olumbia University is most well known among the Ivies for its infamous Core Curriculum. While kids at Brown can haphazardly choose any class, many students come to Columbia for the rigid requirements that supposedly bring eternal enlightenment and superior wisdom. Yet alongside the teachings of Homer and Machiavelli, students are also expected to suffer through the slightly less erudite tribulations of the swim test. Seventy-five meters using any stroke, doggie paddle included, the swim test is among the oldest of requirements at Columbia, predating even the Core (1919). In the early days of the swim test, students often took the plunge their first year. Nowadays, many wait until their senior spring, rounding up a couple of their best buds to jump in together. Swimming tests were once in vogue across the country, and up to a quarter of universities held the requirement; yet today only a few—Bryn Mawr, Cornell, Dartmouth, MIT, Swarthmore—have kept the tradition alive. At several schools, Harvard in particular, there persists a rumor that a wealthy woman whose son had perished on the Titanic donated money under the condition that all students learn to swim prior to gradu-
ation. At Columbia, the most amusing theory, and the one likely touted on your college tour, has it that one College president decided that since Columbia is on an island, in the unlikely event that Manhattan should sink, students must be able to gracefully swim across the Hudson or East River and casually avoid catastrophe. This myth goes on to explain the exemption of the requirement for SEAS students: any fast-acting engineering student could build a raft and escape unscathed. (In reality, SEAS faculty voted in May of 1992 to abolish the requirement due to its lack of “academic value.”) While the true origins remain quite murky, speculations continue to swirl. Forums on the subject, in keeping with Columbian traditions of rigorous intellectual inquiry, have incited such philosophical questions as, “What’s wrong with wearing a speedo?” — Breton Carter
hen I board the safety shuttle in front of 110 College Residence Hall it is nearly eleven on a cool May night. As the driver prepares to depart, two seniors jump out of a Gett and run to flag the shuttle down. They’re wearing black going-out dresses and stilettos, and I, in my mom jeans and fisherman sweater, immediately feel underdressed for our late night journey. The driver turns back to us, “Where am I dropping y’all off?” “Just 600,” one of the seniors calls back. She’s tipsy, and while she doesn’t slur her words, they roll off her tongue a little too loud for the crowded compartment. Suddenly, she begins to frantically search through her purse. “Shit,” she turns to the other senior, a blonde, also wearing a black body-con dress, “I left
Illustration by Alexa Economacos
The Blue and White
my phone in the cab.” The driver makes a U-turn, “don’t worry ladies, we’ll try and catch the cab.” But as we turn back on Broadway, the Gett disappears into a stream of near-identical black cars. “Sorry,” the driver turns back on route, “can you call the cab company?” The blonde dials the Gett headquarters from her phone and after a few minutes on hold, begins explaining to an operator that her friend has left her phone in the car. They are still on the line when we drop them off in front of 600 and the driver turns back to me: “Where are you heading honey?” “I am just riding the shuttle for a little while.” “Just riding?” she raises an eyebrow. “You can drop me back in front of 110 after we make the other stops. Does stuff like that happen often?” “No,” she pulls back into the road and starts up Broadway, “normally, I have the same regulars every night, students coming back from the library or campus.” “Do you talk much with them?” I scoot forward along the bench-style seat so that I can see her reflection in the rearview mirror. “Sometimes, mainly, I like to listen to talks, podcasts. I am really inspired by the students though.” “Oh, have you worked here long?” “No,” she says, already pulling into the stop in front of Cathedral Gardens (no one boards the shuttle here), “I like it though. I wanted something at night because I am an actress. It’s a lot better scene than bartending.” — Geneva Hutcheson
nal Warhol stills. The collection is maintained by Art Properties, which works in concert with art and art history students to restore and preserve, house and catalogue the pieces. The collection is almost exclusively gathered through donations as well as from commissions ordered by faculty members. These alumni gifts peaked during Columbia’s 150th and 200th anniversaries, when, most probably, aging alums thought back on their undergraduate years and were moved to dig a Renoir or two out of their attic to bestow upon their alma mater. It is through such alumni contributions that we have amassed one of America’s largest and most eclectic assemblage of art. Pieces range from Buddhist altarpieces, to Inupiat drawings and Rodin sculptures. The collection resides, unbelievably, below Avery Library, in a temperature and humidity sealed vault—a great treasure chest that remains locked to most students. It seems a shame that the collection should be relegated to a subsurface crypt, especially seeing as the function of the collection is a didactic one. Instead, we should be displaying our horde, exhibiting the great assets we have stored up, and we should be learning from them. Luckily for us current students, such an initiative is underway. The head of Art Properties, Roberto Ferrari, and the rest of his team, have launched a vast project to digitize the collection and afford students much greater access. The initiative will hopefully spearhead a new wave of object centered learning, a method Art Properties has helped foster before through specific visitations and periodical loanings. Indeed, our art has graced numerous museums, let alone classrooms. Let’s just hope the increased visibility does (or does not) lead to more statues in front of Butler lawn. — Alex Swanson
olumbia owns over ten-thousand pieces of art that range from ancient Chinese vases to origi-
Orientation 2016 Illustrations by Nathaniel Jameson and Alexa Economacos
Campus Characters You might not know the following figures—but you should. In Campus Characters, The Blue & White introduces you to a handful of Columbians who are up to interesting and extraordinary things and whose stories beg to be shared. This issue, we bring you two people who are as kind as they are well known. If you’d like to suggest a Campus Character, send us an email at email@example.com.
rew Johnston, CC ’17, is widely known as a “nice guy.” He’s not that “nice guy” who you needlessly promote to some inquiring acquaintance because you’re too awkward to admit you don’t know the kid, he’s not the “nice guy” who’s horridly bland but, you admit, harmless, and he’s certainly not the “nice guy” who is in actual fact a quintessential fuckboi you happen to be friends with and find yourself defending; no, he is the OG “nice guy,” the genuine and unpretentious sort that truly deserves the honorific. Perhaps it is this niceness that has led to Drew’s widespread fanclub and popularity, but Drew seems adamant that it is “via fencing that I’m known to a lot of people.” Being the only activity other than chess that Columbia has any talent in, Columbia Fencing boasts two recent NCAA titles and holds all fifteen in Columbia’s history. The NCAA, for Drew, “was amazing to watch..and cool to be a part of.” Unlike “volatile” normal college meets, which go to five as
opposed to fifteen points (it was via this format that the illustrious Drew beat the current world #1), winning the NCAA was a more “legit thing.” It remains his fondest fencing memory. But Drew goes on to tell me that “fencing eats your entire life.” He recalls one week last year that saw him fly to France and Toronto for international meets, before rushing back to New York for three back-to-back college meets, a lifestyle he described as “unsustainable,” much like his freshmen experience. “I think people would have a different impression of me if they met me freshmen year,” Drew tells me before promptly changing the subject. Widespread popularity often dawns with freshman mistakes so I figured there was a story or two. “I don’t think you can publish” was the answer to my continued prying. Whatever his past degeneracy, it certainly hasn’t tained Drew’s sharp mind. He tells me that he’s double majoring in Economics and Computer Science. This summer, Drew has worked at Deutsche Bank as a software engineer with plans to merge his two disciplines in later employment. “The good thing about doing econ and comp sci,” Drew explains, “is that banks are competing to hire you against tech companies that are like, ‘We love our employees, have some free lunch!,’ so they promise you paid overtime.” The conversation curves on. Rumors exist of a so-called Triangle Society around campus, of which Drew is an alleged member, and so of course I seize my chance. “And what of Triangle Society?” I ask. A born fencer, Drew’s eyes flash and he immediately takes guard: “I don’t know what you’re talking about,” he suavely ripostes. But not without allowing a wry smile to escape. Despite his many other commitments, Drew finds room in his life for activism. His chosen cause is the misrepresentation of pricing at Lion’s Head’s so-called “dollar beer” night. “It’s two dollars,” he
Illustration by Alexa Economacos
The Blue and White
begins to rant. “It’s a brilliant psychological maneuver, naming it “dollar beers” and then raising the price. I’ve been trying to develop the truth and call it “dollar dollar beer night or—” At this moment, a small child approaches our bench and unscrews a plastic egg in front of us to reveal some gravel shards he had stored inside. He then scampers off with a smile, leaving me and Drew with the egg and without any idea of what on earth had just occurred. “...Or maybe two dollar beer night,” Drew concludes. — Alex Swanson
found them to be so compatible, I assumed there must be other people who did too,” says Liberty (Libby) Styles, CC ’17, about her work fusing tap dance and hip hop. “I think we’re living in a time where jazz and hip hop are really bordering each other really closely – like with Kendrick’s new album...and tap is really rooted in the jazz tradition.” Libby is best known to the Columbia community as tap dancer, lead singer and partial namesake of the band Liberty Zoo, famous for opening for Big Sean at Bacchanal 2015. The origins of the group can be traced to the Columbia University Society of Hip-Hop cyphers, where Libby saw collaborator Jonah Hemphill, CC ’17, perform for the first time. Her excitement for those cyphers is palpable: “It still blows my mind,” she says, “I literally go there every time I can and catch flies in my mouth watching them freestyle.” Liberty Zoo started out as primarily improvisational, with Libby and her friends looping beats or playing music over which she and Jonah would sing, tap or rap. Then the group started writing their music down, killed it at Bacchanal, and spent the summer of 2015 performing at venues like the Knitting Factory and the Palisades before releasing their debut EP earlier this year. It’s tempting to contrast Libby’s vitality, ambition and spontaneity with the relative sleepiness of her home: a town in western Massachusetts with a population of 1,737. She chuckles while recalling how she drank “exclusively goat milk” for the first few years of her life. The rural surroundings forced her to “make her own fun”, which she says fostered a great deal of creativity (or as she phrases it, a sense of “mischief and adventure”) very early on in life. She formed
her first band in high school, which she describes as “an angsty teenager thing, sort of grungy folk.” Libby was the drummer, but in the absence of a drum set played trash cans instead. Improvisation and freestyling seem to be consistent themes in Libby’s life. The mischief and adventure she recalls from childhood never went away in college, and she quickly found a new group of co-conspirators at Potluck House. “Everybody’s so strange in Potluck,” she says with a smile, reminiscing about days spent exploring the tunnels, playing football in the snow or starting massage trains during subway parties. Without Potluck, she says, Liberty Zoo never would have formed—the spontaneous spirit of that community inspired the impromptu jam sessions that eventually grew into the band. Asked about her other pursuits, Libby takes on a more measured tone to discuss her interest in social justice and activism on campus. A major aim for her is to find ways to connect dance and music to broader social movements, which she sees as her responsibility as a musician. “It would be really cool to allow dance and music to open up spaces for other people to express themselves,” she says, adding that “education and dance and music can be empowering.” She’s already begun working on projects with a more socially conscious angle; her most recent musical project involves looped quotes from oral histories she took of Walmart workers when she participated in the Walmart Summer for Respect campaign in Ohio two years ago. Anything else? “I like being with people, I like hanging out… I think being a human being is my other pastime.” — Nikhil Dominic
Illustration by Joanna Zou
AT T W O S W O R D S ’ L E N G T H
Was Columbia F
irst choice? Columbia was the only choice! offensive, racially improbable roles in blockbuster The Dean, and also several brochures, said films (AHEM, Prince of Persia), killing a man and so. “The Greatest University in the Greatest City in dumping his body in the Hudson, or disappearing the World,” they said. As a high-strung high school- whimsically over the Pacific. Though I am a nervous er, I aspired to greatness. Was this a veiled putdown flyer and am only interested in doing some of these of NYU and SUNY, or an invitation to boldly misap- things, it was that vague yet aggressive promise of ply the transitive property, in which case the claim wild opportunity at Columbia that really sold me. would be that Columbia is the greatest university in From the Comment sections on Bwog I assured the world? Either way, the slogan was written and myself of how rigorously intellectual Columbia really repeated ad infinitum in the promotional materials, was, and how aligned we were in taste. It is cerso it’s probably true, or at least subject to litigation tainly not UCSB or a southern state school: no wild later down the road. sporting events confirmed to Buzzfeed said so. With a parhave actually ever happened (I ent who didn’t go to college at all, like football but am scared of we all knew it was up to me to keep vomit), no preponderance of us in the bourgeois. “But which Ivy creepy, extensively-loafered will I go for?” my 2013, prodigious frat boys. Our Greeks really are self pondered. I took the Buzzfeed just pretty Greek, steeped, as is quiz and I selected the rainbow the whole of the captive student pizza cat icon for all the answers. body, in the timeless wisdom But which dog? I picked the dog of the Classics. Just the kind of with the funny hair. Columbia, it knowledge I need to face this answered. I went back picked all perilous world. the answers at random. Columbia, It is all obvious. Buzzfeed whispered firmly. Columbia was the first and only All the stars said so. As an choice. But when I first realAquarius, I needed someplace with ized that I would, in fact, be going ffirmative some humidity. Rain, maybe, a blizto Columbia I suddenly had a few zard or two. A place where the pull doubts. Four years at the greatest By Nia Brown of Mars is undeniably weak. I am, university in the greatest city in the moreover, a shrewd person and I world, I thought. What if I wasn’t needed to escape the Sacramento suburbs in spec- great enough? What if there weren’t enough launtacular fashion; I needed a place with a wide selection dromats? When I met Obama at some swanky alumni of laundromats to cry in. As it was for Joan Didion, so event would he return my fist bump or sulk in the it would be for me. corner with Eric Holder? The meticulous research continued. Trust These questions kept me up at night. But each you can definitely not go wrong making your col- time these doubts occurred I extinguished them by lege decisions based entirely on who the alumni rereading the highly personal and specific congratuare: Barack Obama, Jake Gyllenhaal, Lucien Carr, latory assurances contained in my electronic accepAmelia Earhart. All these people have one thing in tance letter, along with the predictions from the day’s common: I have heard of them. And naturally, if I horoscope and weather reports for New York City: went to Columbia, I would be a red stone step closer Thunderstorms ahead, with a good chance of making to achieving the highest office in the land, landing friends in the military.w
Illustration by Kellie Zhao
The Blue and White
AT T W O S W O R D S ’ L E N G T H
your first choice? N
o, Columbia was not my first choice. In fact, let “Uh, why does the coffee you just spilled on my notes me rephrase that—hell fucking no, this place smell like bourbon?” These are the kind of people I sucks. It doesn’t really take an Ivy-League level of do not want to spend my college years with. intellect to see it, either. To its credit, Columbia has skyrocketed up First of all, the “diversity” is fake. It’s so the US News university rankings since President diverse, only a highly image-conscious admissions Bollinger ascended the throne. When the Prez startteam could have engineered it (hint: they did). And ed out in 2004, CU wasn’t even top 10, but shortly really, if this place really were so diverse, why would after his tenure began, so followed our rapid ascent. it be the case that everyone in my undergraduate conSo let me reiterate—Columbia was NOT my first sulting club hails from the same Westchester suburb choice, nor was it my second, or my third. Columbia as me? was my fourth choice. Or at least it was when I applied Columbia isn’t fun. People drink six nights a to college in the winter of 2013. This is up from when week at America’s #1 party school, seven if they’re it was my eleventh choice in 2004. (You would think not religious. The shuttering of Cannon’s will have that if they decided to keep PrezBo on, the rankliterally zero effect on social life here, because there ings climb would keep on keepin’ on as well. But it wasn’t any to begin with. I has been twelve years and bet you 2020s have never we’ve peaked at an embareven heard of Cannon’s, and rassing fourth place.) not because you just started, I remember how but because it simply wasn’t disappointed I was when I legendary enough. No, realized I would be going nerds are not “more fun,” to Columbia. Four years at nor do we “do it best” in fourth-best Col-LAMEManhattan. State schools bia, I thought. And everyare more fun. Period. thing I’ve experienced Speaking of state here only confirms that schools, we absolutely suck I was wrong to pick anyat sports. Like, we completely blow. thing less than the number one egative Forget day drinking at football school in the country. (Nevermind By Caroline Hurley games, unless you want to be alone, the fact that the number one school drunk cheering for the losing team. didn’t want me.) (I did get a lot of free stuff though.) After all, this isn’t what Worst of all, I’m getting a trash education here. college is supposed to be! I am appalled at how Classes (literally every class you will ever take here, Columbia lacks most of the timeless hallmarks of a from Principles of Corporate Finance to your Private Great university. Nobody here knows what tailgatEquity and Hedge Fund Investing Senior seminar) ing is, and I can’t tell if that is because there are no are full of self-righteous pricks—high school newspa- parking lots in Manhattan, or if Columbia just has the per editors, mock trial competitors, student govern- highest concentration of L7 weenies on the planet. I ment anythings, you know the type—people who sit suspect the latter. across from you in LitHum and utter things like, “I If this is what it’s like at the fourth best school, I agree with what you said but I am also kind of con- can only imagine how terrible it must be at the others. fused because I don’t remember Napoleon Bonaparte Oh well. Should have gone to Princeton, which, last I being a very prominent character in Lysistrata,” or checked, is still my first choice.w
Illustration by Alexa Economacos
V E R I LY V E R I TA S
TOLD BETWEEN PUFFS
In which our hero fiddles
.V. was dreaming a dream. In his dream he saw before his eyes a parade of cities, prancing and proud. Each city was an animal. Paris was a turtle drinking Chardonnay. Berlin was an inside out hedgehog, running very fast. Ningpo was a sea lion, bashful, suffering from the clap; she leaned in to croon a few sweet nothings in his ear. Snowy New York (in this dream) swooped in to flap her wings in Verily’s face—and refused to leave. “Fair beleaguered municipality, home and companion to me throughout all these sodden years, kindly desist from this detestable haranguing!” V.V. managed through a mouthful of feathers. Blind, sputtering, he nevertheless offered respectfully the crook of his index finger as a perch. The city instead coolly moved to peck his eyes out. The last sensation his body registered was that of a reptilian Jersey City slithering up the skin of his bare calf, the sudden contraction of its muscles a gorgeous shock. Verily’s screams broke out into the air-conditioned silence of his Waikiki hut. As his breathing slowed, the meaning of the dream unfurled in his pulsing consciousness. It was simple, splendid, even funny. V.V. did not need his analyst—an intransigent Brennerian who ended each of V.V.’s sessions with a patient description of the pseudopenis of the female hyena—to perceive its magnificent implications. Equally obvious to our hero was the course of action now required of him. In a pleasant daze, Verily shook off the tangle of his silk sheets and impatiently rifled through his drawers. It was only after some difficulty that he produced the desired articles: a book of matches won at the 1964 World’s Fair, a subway token purchased in that same era, and a tin can of pungent kerosene. He ordered his valet to ready the jet. When V.V. arrived at the museum, he found that it was as he remembered: sprawled before him
was the twinkling circuitry of a toy city. Not New York, but an idea of New York, the City’s painstaking re-imagining as something finite, solid, and combustible. It was a replica of the city V.V. had seen from the windows of his aircraft, from a long way away. (Across from him, in the tomb-like depths of outer space, V.V. could make out a pair of faces lit up by smartphones, conversing animatedly. “I’ve just started and I’m so behind! I know the blue one is the best but I’ve always had a thing for the electric bird, you know? How did you know which one to join?” “I took a Buzzfeed quiz.” “Oh!”) In the panorama itself two blinking planes flew across the sky on strings. Verily avoided staring too long at the model’s Eastern edge; he felt it would be rather like touching his own brain. Snaking along the outer boroughs until he was looking down one of Manhattan’s droll little coastlines, Verily lit a cigarette. He imagined dropping his burning fuse directly onto Columbia’s campus, imagined crackling flames lighting up a kerosene-slick Butler, John Jay, Alma Mater, and consuming, with damning speed, the whole engorged ruin of the faux-island borough he had once loved. (“But would you ever do the red one? Maybe I’m overthinking this but I don’t want to make decisions too fast! I’ll have to live with it forever.” “Liz, just pick a damn team. It’s not like it’s real life.”) A false dawn bloomed over the metropolis, stilling V.V.’s hand. He steeled himself for the task ahead, reciting under his breath, We only live, only suspire/consumed by fire or fire… Who then devised the torment? Night fell again but this time, V.V.’s heart felt different. He dropped his half-finished cigarette into the Hudson and walked out of the exhibit, out of the museum, into the real world. He met the sun’s sempiternal gaze with relief.w
The Blue and White
END OF THE LINE
Take the A to Far Rockaway The Blue and White goes to the beach By Geneva Hutcheson It is early July, and even at my 145th street stop the A train is packed with beachgoers: girls in high waisted shorts, their bikini top ties showing above the straps of their tank tops; guys in boardshorts and bro tanks toting coolers of PBR and Stella. The train’s spring break vibes only worsen as we rumble into Times Square—nearly everyone seems tan and happy (is this LA?). A few investment bankers stand awkwardly amongst the drunken beachgoers. Their leather suitcases bump against woven tote bags; their stiff shoes trample exposed toes; their dark trousers brush bare legs. By the time the train crosses over the marshlands—great planes of high water and thin green stems swaying back and forth as the train passes, shingled houses lining the water’s edge, looking like remnants of a desolate fisherman’s town—I am pressed between two frat boys blasting rap. They reek of cheap beer and sweat. The sunlight glints on the water and the metal bolts of the wooden track ahead. At the Broad Channel station there is a moment of confusion where nearly all the beachgoers exit the train searching for the shuttle. An MTA employee walks along the platform herding us back in, “The A is making shuttle stops.” In the chaos, I find myself seated in a different car. A flight attendant coming home from the airport glances up at me, “You heading to the beach?” “Yes,” (obviously—I am wearing a flimsy A-line dress over a black swimsuit). “You’re going to want to stay on ‘til the last stop, it’s better than the earlier beaches, less crowded—I’ll show you where to get off.” She continues rambling as we pull through the other stations. I watch as the other beachgoers begin to exit; soon the car is nearly empty. The train creaks into the last stop. The station, despite the glaring sunlight, looks like a graveyard of
abandoned subway cars. The tracks are above ground and epiphytes grow on the graffitied walls. The doors open, and stay open, no announcement, just silent anticipation of the final passengers’ exit. I contemplate whether I really want to get off here, but then the flight attendant comes up behind me, ushering me towards the turnstiles, pointing me in the direction of the beach (“straight up the road, can’t miss it”), and gesturing to an ice cream shop and a deli before heading the other way. I walk up the street, towards the water. Cheap plastic floaties and ironic bikini t-shirts hang in shop windows. Despite the disposable cups and cigarette butts littering the gutter, the street seems cleaner than those in Manhattan. As I reach the end of the road, a large expanse of dunes, thin wooden fences, and scantily clad twenty-somethings blasting Beyoncé stretches before me. Taking my place on the sand, I open my book, and promptly fall asleep. I wake to the waves brushing over my toes and the laughs of a young family running in and out with the tide. Dusting myself off, I begin the two hour journey back to Harlem.w
Illustration by Kellie Zhao
PUTTING THE CAMPUS IN CAMPUS MEDIA
Crossing the Border Examining the decline of Spectator’s City News section By Emma Bogler
here’s this old joke about American journalism and its stubborn unwillingness to be bothered by events outside this country’s borders. It goes like this: If you want to see a magic trick, pick up an American newspaper and watch the rest of the world disappear. For the most part, unfortunately, the same is true of Columbia. Nobody denies that life on this campus is busy and crushingly stressful. Half the time we barely have the energy to stagger to Westside for peanut butter and Easy Mac, let alone come to really know or care about the neighborhoods outside our gates. Until quite recently, however, it actually wasn’t that hard to get good, in-depth local news. This time two years ago, you could read three to five stories everyday about everything from city council elections to funding cuts for local homeless shelters in the City News section of the Spectator, Columbia’s independent student newspaper. If you were so inclined, you could do this five days a week, almost every week of the school year. Even a cursory visit to the Spectator’s website reveals that the above is no longer the case. The City News section didn’t publish a single story between December 3, 2015 and March 21, 2016. Two stories went up in the month of April but the section went dark again until June 4, when it published a short piece about the closing of a popular local bar. While the other subcategories of the Spectator’s News section (Academics, Administration, and Student Life) have carefully maintained digital archives, a click on “City” either displays an error or loads a blank page. So here’s the question: what the hell happened to Spec City News? Popping the Bubble The Columbia Daily Spectator hardly invented off-campus news coverage; the student-run papers at Penn, Yale, Princeton, Cornell, Brown and NYU (among many, many others) all have ‘local’ or ‘city’
sections. But take a closer look, and most of those stories focus either on the border between campus and the outside world, or on events occurring at state and federal levels. You might read a story about a break-in at a student’s off-campus house, or about a piece of proposed state or federal legislature that could nominally affect student life. What you wouldn’t see are stories about community outreach projects, absentee landlords, new charter schools being squeezed into already overcrowded public school buildings, luxury apartments banning rent-controlled tenants from using the building’s gym—stories the Spectator used to churn out every day. Of course, that kind of coverage is both timeand labor-intensive. Eva Kalikoff, BC ’16, who covered the Upper West Side as a Deputy News Editor for the Spectator in 2014, says she was in constant contact with city council members, community organizers, tenants’ associations, and other local figures as well as attending up to 4 meetings—town hall meetings, planning meetings, board meetings of all kinds—a week. All of which, she says, was necessary for “keeping a finger on the pulse,” of the neighborhood. Anyone who has ever been involved with the Spectator at any level knows that the paper asks a lot of its employees—or rather, its volunteers. Late nights, skipped lectures, and missed assignment deadlines are part of the job, no matter what section you work in, but City News is a cut above the rest in that respect. Even the newest reporters duck out of lectures to take phone calls from police representatives and community organizers, or stay up late tracking down planning documents from obscure corners of city government websites. Plus, the paper’s coverage zone is fairly large—from 96th Street up to 135th, between the river and Adam Clayton Powell— and reporters can spend hours crisscrossing it on foot, interviewing local business owners or stopping strangers in the street for a quote. Deborah Secular, BC ’17, who was a Deputy News Editor in 2014 and City News Editor in 2015
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PUTTING THE CAMPUS IN CAMPUS MEDIA actually says that when she was a deputy, “[her] ankles hurt all the time [from] walking around in the cold.” Despite the hardships involved (or perhaps because of them, as is commonly the case at Columbia), past City News writers and editors were proud to be a part of the section. Kalikoff says she was first drawn to Spec City because of how seriously its members took their work. “Spectator felt to me… like an institution that people really valued,” she says, precisely because “it kept the campus in touch with what was happening around the community.” Likewise, Secular calls her time with City News “the most meaningful thing I’ve done in college.” Columbia (not) Daily Spectator In April 2014, Spectator staff were called to an all-hands meeting at the paper’s offices where the paper’s then-Managing Board—Managing Editor Steven Lau, Editor-in-Chief Abby Abrams, and Publisher Michael Ouimette—announced the end of daily print production, effective within a few weeks. Content would henceforth be published directly to the Spectator’s website, along with a weekly print edition that would feature new articles alongside pieces posted online earlier in the week. The Eye, Spectator’s weekly literary magazine, which published themed issues of fiction and poetry alongside carefully reported long-form pieces, would go entirely digital. To put it mildly, the decision was controversial. Spec was the first of the Ivy League dailies to cut daily print, and while many saw the move as bold but necessary for adaptation to an increasingly digital media climate, others were not so sure. Harper’s publisher and Spectator trustee John MacArthur, CC ’78, not only quit the paper’s Board but argued, in an email to fellow trustees obtained by New York Magazine, that “killing the daily paper is a foolish mistake from both a financial and philosophical standpoint.” Likewise, the atmosphere in the Spectator offices was sharply divided. On the one hand, there was hope and enthu-
siasm. No more desperately trying to fill print space so the paper wouldn’t have to run (another) half- or full-page ad. Under “new Spec,” writers would be free to invest their time in longer, more investigative pieces instead. On the other hand, Kalikoff says she felt “dread and lack of control” when she heard the news. The paper’s staff felt betrayed by how out of the blue the announcement had come, Kalikoff says. The very core of the Spectator’s identity as an organization changed overnight as the result of a decision made at the very highest levels of management. The paper’s staff—the people who actually saw their bylines print every day of the week—were not consulted. “The atmosphere changed hugely,” at that point, says Kalikoff. “I suddenly felt no stake in my own future as a journalist.” Web-First The future of journalism itself is still uncertain; everyone understands that it will be digital, but nobody can quite agree on the details. Business models explored by larger, for-profit organizations are either unfeasible or undesirable to outfits like
Illustration by Rachel Chin
PUTTING THE CAMPUS IN CAMPUS MEDIA the Spectator. Putting content behind a firewall, for media in a broad sense is that it’s all about clickexample, would yield laughably bad results given the bait and views,” says Kalikoff. When Spectator went noted unwillingness of college students to pay for online, “City News became the least sexy section, for sure.” anything, ever. Still, someone’s got to pay the bills. The Spectator is a not-for-profit organization; it receives Turning a Profit no funding from the University, relying on an inIt would be hard to deny that certain coverhouse business department to keep the lights on and age areas, storylines, and narratives aren’t more the servers running. Spec leadership cited declining revenue from profitable to a news organization than others. The print advertising as a major factor in the decision debate playing out at Spectator—and in newspaper to go digital. While the paper ended 2013 with offices across the world—is whether profit is really $180,000 in ad revenue according to a recent inter- an accurate metric of what things are worth doing. As the production of public nal report, it expected only service journalism becomes $108,000 from a full print “One of the things we’re more and more at odds with run in 2014. The new digital model brought in $120,000 learning about online media a paper’s twin objectives of cutting costs and providing in 2014, greater than the in a broad sense is that it’s all consumers with a product forecast from a print-only volume but still falling far short about clickbait and views,” says that is attractive to them, sections like Spectator’s City of print revenue in previous Kalikoff. When Spectator went News are more and more years. In order to make up the online, “City News became the imperiled. But at what cost? difference, the paper’s busileast sexy section, for sure.” Columbia has long ness arm has focused aggresbeen regarded as a gentrifysively on conferences and ing influence on the neighweb-based apps marketed to Columbia students. Events like the Columbia borhoods surrounding it. The University’s recent Women’s Leadership Summit bring in cash through expansion into Manhattanville, the neighborhood ticket sales, but the revenue streams from apps like immediately to the north of the Morningside campus, Eat@CU—which provides reviews of and rewards at has thrown this tension into new relief. As the new campus opens its doors this fall and the University local restaurants—are slightly less clear. Much like church and state, the business congratulates itself on a job well done, local residents and editorial aspects of most journalistic opera- and businesses will continue to grapple with rent tions are supposed to remain separate. Still, hikes and increased police presence. Kalikoff argues that the Columbia student changes in a paper’s business model often translate to changes in the scope or focus of its cover- body has a duty to engage with our complicity in this age. To that end, the Spectator’s new digital bent process, and that City News, by giving voice to local has ushered in what former City News Editor residents, has the power to shed new light on issues Christian Zhang calls “the ‘web-first’ mentality.” that may be talked about on campus but not lived. Brad Taylor, a member of Manhattan’s Being ‘web-first’ means using analytics— quantitative data on clicks, pageviews, and the amount Community Board 9, says he considers the Spectator of time a reader spends on a given page—to tailor an important vehicle for educating Morningside coverage towards certain target demographics. The Heights residents on community events and proColumbia Daily Spectator’s core readership is (natu- cesses. Taylor, who used to pick up print copies of the rally) composed of Columbia students, and Spectator Spectator from local businesses and who has been in leadership has assumed (probably correctly) that the regular contact with Spectator reporters in the past, average Columbia student is more likely to click on an says that contact has all but died out in the last year. “I used to get a sense that there was one or two article with direct pertinence to daily life on campus. “One of the things we’re learning about online people covering us [CB9], but now I have no idea,” he
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PUTTING THE CAMPUS IN CAMPUS MEDIA says. “I don’t really have any names anymore.” opment that now stands to the north of the Cathedral Likewise, former Community Board 7 Chair of St. John the Divine, the New York Times didn’t and current CB7 member Mark Diller, CC ’80, says cover the protests directly. Instead, it published an he received frequent calls and emails from Spectator article days later that made heavy reference to the staffers until about a year ago. Like Taylor, Diller Spectator’s coverage of the event. believes that the loss of city coverage cuts both ways: students lose a chance to learn about and appreciate A in’t Over Yet the neighborhoods, and the community loses a sense of connection with the University. Despite its inactivity in the past year, the According to Secular, city news coverage is City News section is still at least nominally existent. all too easy to overlook and undervalue. “The thing Although the Spectator declined to officially comabout city news is that it educates you as you go,” ment for this piece and although no one currently she says. “If you’ve never walked around [the neigh- occupies the position of City News Editor, there are borhood], you’re not going to think it’s important at least two people—judging from the bylines on the because you’ve never even last few City stories—who seen it.” are interested in local cov“I think university students Diller agrees: “I think erage. university students might might find something of value All of which is to say, find something of value in it’s not over yet. understanding the real com- in understanding the real comAccording to former plexity of our neighborhood, City News Editor Christian plexity of our neighborhood, which doesn’t seem that comZhang, CC ’16, the paper’s which doesn’t seem that com- coverage, scope and focus plex if all you do is walk down Broadway.” plex if all you do is walk down depend largely on its leaderKalikoff, Secular, ship at a given point in time. Broadway.” Diller, and Taylor all feel “[While] the number of that narrow coverage leads people who were interested to a narrow worldview. The in reporting on and editing Spectator’s decision to bet everything on campus city stories decreased last year relative to previous news and hang City out to dry is essentially an argu- years, you can see trends like that over the past 10, 15 ment that the world outside our gates does not, for all years in many other parts of [the paper].” intents and purposes, exist. The message is that if the The Spectator rolls over its personnel yearly, Spectator does not feel the need to concern itself with opening up positions to applicants in a process called neighborhood goings-on, then neither should we. “turkeyshoots” at the end of every fall semester. It’s “The danger if this situation persists is... the not altogether implausible to imagine that the end of erasure of the community,” says Secular. 2016 could see a new City News editor and a renewed “When you say that reporting on bike lanes City section. Although past staffers like Zhang worry isn’t important, what does that say? It says that stu- about the loss of institutional knowledge—a reportdents never leave campus. When you say that afford- er’s mental rolodex of sources and their relevance able housing isn’t important, what are you saying?” to various storylines covered by the paper—it seems Students aren’t the only ones losing out either. that lapsed relationships with contacts like Diller and Spec City News filled an important niche in the wider Taylor would be relatively easy to renew. news ecosystem of Manhattan, producing stories Secular, the last person to hold the title of City that would almost certainly have been overlooked by News Editor, is similarly optimistic—up to a point. larger news outlets. In fact, some of Spectator’s stories “I’m still here for another year; I know all this stuff actually caused those larger outlets to sit up and take that I can still tell people. The link is still here— note of events happening right under their noses. For for one more year—to a time when the section was example, in April of 2014, when a group of federal strong,” she says. and state politicians joined forces with local advocacy “After that, though, if it’s still nonexistent, it’s groups to protest the controversial residential devel- really lost.”w
2016-2017 Supplement to the Columbia College Dictionary Brooklyn, n. An amorphous location that for some reason connotes coolness. “If a Columbia student goes to Brooklyn but doesn’t tell anyone about it or document it heavily via social media, did it really happen?” Butcaf, n. A nice environment to enjoy overpriced, acidic Blue Java coffee and pretentious conversation with your hand-rolled-cigarette-smoking, Doc-wearing, Marxist friends. “Do you want to go to Butcaf later to talk about Hegel and dismantling the patriarchy?” CAVA, n., v. 1. Mode of transportation to St. Luke’s Hospital, especially for inebriated freshman. “I’m fine, don’t call CAVA!” *falls down stairs* 2. The act of getting so drunk that one needs medical attention. “My parents are gonna kill me if I get CAVAed again this semester.
CCSC elections, n. A metaphor for the Columbia experience: freshman fall class representative elections are akin to a gladiator gauntlet as dozens of former high school student council presidents compete based on NSOP recognition; by senior year the entire class council runs unopposed. “My life won’t be complete unless I win the CCSC election for freshman class rep.” or “What are we going to do if no one runs in the CCSC election for senior class rep?” Consulting, n. The inevitable career path of Columbia undergraduates, fraternity brothers and directionless Art History majors alike. “I’m going to work at a consulting firm for two years after graduation, just while I figure out what I want to do with my life.” Flex, n. Fake money on your CUID that allows you to buy anything from questionable Cafe East sushi to Nuss bagels. Notably, Flex cannot be used to purchase alcohol or tobacco products. “I hope my parents don’t notice that I added more Flex to my account.” Global Core, n. Two required classes that totally make up for the Eurocentric, racist, sexist, imperialist biases in the rest of the Core Curriculum. “Wow, I didn’t realize that any other cultures or civilizations besides the Greeks and Romans contributed anything to modern society until I took a Global Core.” Going off that, v. phr. A transitional phrase used in class discussions, usu-
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ally followed by a trivial and unrelated observation. Used to achieve requisite participation points. “Going off that, the ideology that Rousseau subscribes to is indicative of the inherent nature of the human condition.” H am Del, n. A sandwich shop best described by its own modest tagline: “Absolutely Fine Food.” A frequent stop on the walk from 1020 to EC. If you want to be really original, order a Lewinsky. “Will you pleeeeease stop at HamDel with me???!!” or “How have I already used up my HamDel gold card? Well at least I get a free sandwich.” I feel like, v. phr. An entirely superfluous phrase added to the beginning of a sentence in order to give the speaker time to haphazardly compile a halfway decent thought. “I feel like the author draws on Hellenic philosophy but applies it to his contemporary context.” Iliad, n. 1. Homer’s famous epic poem that details the climax of the Trojan War. “So much of the beauty in the Iliad is lost in the English translation. You haven’t read Homer, until you’ve read him in the original Ancient Greek.” 2. A helpful tag instantly marking all freshman, only a viable means of identification during the month of September and finals week. “I’m so worried that I won’t be able to tell the difference between the Iliad and the Odyssey on the passage IDs!” Morton Williams, n. A subpar supermarket, what Morton Williams lacks in quality, decor, and price, it makes up for in convenience. Also: Morton, MoWill, or MoWillie. “Can you stop at MoWill on your way back from Butler and pick up a few pints of ice cream?” SEE-U, n. The Summer Ecosystem Experiences for Undergraduates is a Columbia funded study abroad program that sends nearly biweekly email advertisements to all students in the spring. An option that seems increasingly viable towards the end of the semester as the desperate search for a summer
internship comes to a head. “Dear [insert name], The SEE-U program provides undergraduate students of all majors with a global understanding of ecology and environmental sustainability.” Suzanne Goldberg, n. Executive Vice President of University Life, Rules Administrator, Herbert and Doris Wechsler Clinical Professor of Law, Director of the Center for Gender and Sexuality Law, and Spectrum blogger. One has to wonder, what can’t this woman do? Oh, that’s right, competently handle sexual assault cases. “I broke the CU Rules of Conduct, and Rules Administrator Suzanne Goldberg decided that my case would be adjudicated. But I was worried that the person collecting my testimony, Suzanne Goldberg, may have a conflict of interest, so I appealed to Suzanne Goldberg in the Office of Student Life.” Urban NY, n. A lottery that gives students tickets to cultural events around the city, allowing them to give off the perception that they often get off campus and take advantage of the city. “I got tickets to Hamilton through Urban NY! This is so exciting, I’m gonna get so many likes on my Instagram of the playbill!” Varsity Show, n. Columbia’s oldest performing arts tradition, as those involved will surely remind you. By the appraisal of upperclassmen somehow the show is never as good as it was in previous years. Also: VShow or Veesh. “Did you know that Rodgers and Hammerstein are Veesh alumni?” — compiled by Channing Prend
The Rise of Greek Life The perfect storm behind the titanic change in student life By Ben Schneider
never expected to be part of a sorority because I did think it was antifeminist,” Blair Wilson, CC ’18, and a member of Kappa Alpha Theta, told Jessica Bennett of the New York Times in an April article entitled, “When a Feminist Pledges a Sorority.” Bennett spends much of the piece dealing with the tension between popular perceptions of Greek life, which, in Times reading circles, tend to mirror Wilson’s pre-conceptions, and the apparently hyperprogressive atmosphere in the Theta house, where “words like ‘safe space,’ ‘hegemonic masculinity’ and ‘intersectionality’ roll off these women’s tongues. Whether or not Bennett is accurate in her assessment of Theta, or Ivy League sororities in general, her observations highlight the indisputable fact that Greek life is a far more significant force on Columbia’s campus than it has ever been before. According to Spectator there were approximately 550 people in Inter-Greek Council (IGC) in the fall of 2006, including Panhellenic Council (PHC), Inter-Fraternity Council (IFC) and Multicultural Greek Council (MGC). By the fall of 2010, there were more than 1,000 members in the three councils. In the 2015-2016 academic year there were approximately 1,800 people in Greek life, according to Jazmyn Pulley, Associate Director of Fraternity and Sorority Life. Pulley estimates that of the 1,800 Greeks at Columbia, approximately 1,000 are in PHC, a little over 700 are in IFC, and 50 to 75 are MGC. (The numbers aren’t exact because each chapter keeps its own membership statistics, while numbers for IFC and MGC houses are somewhat more vague because they don’t have a formal recruitment process like PHC.) The 1,300 student growth in enrollment at CC, SEAS, and GS since 2006 (over 700 of whom are in GS, the least represented school in Greek Life) doesn’t come close to accounting for this three fold increase, which can reasonably be described as the most significant change in student life at Columbia in recent memory.
The War on Fun Historically, the relative availability of social spaces on campus, the magnetic pull of the City, and the countercultural leanings of the student body kept fraternities and sororities on the fringes of life at Columbia. While the latter two factors have remained relatively constant, the availability of social spaces on campus has noticeably decreased, due to concerted efforts on the part of the university. This process, which was all the rage in campus media from about 2006 to 2010, was deemed the “War on Fun” by The Blue and White’s Managing Editor, Katy Reedy, CC ’09. During these years, the administration aggressively sought to prevent underage drinking and other unsafe behaviors, which had the perhaps unintended side-effect of decreasing social opportunities for students. At the time, Columbia’s talking heads drew a connection between the increased enforcement and the beginning of Cristen Kromm’s tenure as Dean of Student Life. Reedy speculated that the university was circling its wagons against potential lawsuits and bad PR. Whatever the reason, RAs were suddenly expected to diligently enforce all of Columbia’s written policies. “There was definitely an emphasis on adherence to protocol,” an anonymous RA told Reedy. The Office of Residential Life “emphasized how the policies contribute to a better community, which you can believe or not depending on your views.” According to Columbia Department of Safety’s annual report, the university went from ten disciplinary incidents for alcohol in 2005 to sixty-one in 2006, and from eight to twenty incidents for drugs. Parties in Ruggles and EC, which had previously gone untouched by the long arm of the Office of Student Life, were suddenly being broken up due to a previously unheard of ban on all students drinking in suite common rooms, which were technically considered “public spaces.” Before the War, Bacchanal committee was the only club allowed to purchase alcohol, and would
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GREEK DRAMA throw parties on and off campus in addition to its flagship event. It lost its ability to purchase alcohol during this period, and then stopped throwing parties. Lerner Party Space, which did, in fact, play host to parties, became much more heavily policed by Public Safety, who enforced strict two drink limits on students who were of age, ultimately discouraging people from using the space at all. Rumors began to swirl in an environment Reedy likened to the Cold War. Some believed the administration trolled Facebook in order to break up parties before they had even begun, through Dean Kromm’s spectral account. Others speculated that RAs were expected to fill disciplinary quotas, or that the university provided ID scanners to local bars. The paranoia reached a fever pitch in December of 2009, when an anonymous poster (a double agent, perhaps) left a comment on Bwog alleging that Postcrypt Coffeehouse, a half-century old free folk music concert series in the basement of St. Paul’s, casually served alcohol to minors. After numerous meetings with administrators and foreboding headlines in Spectator, the group chose to stop selling beer, rather than hire a prohibitively expensive private security guard as the university demanded. Greek organizations felt the pinch too, facing more frequent shutdowns and inspections. However, they remained the safest spaces (at least with regard to disciplinary consequences) for underage students to socialize and drink. In the spring of 2011, after a long and contentious process that included a collegewide poll, Barnard SGA voted to grant Greek organizations stage-two recognition, which gave IGC access to SGA funds. The council used these funds to deal with the “unmanageable” number of rushees at PHC’s four chapters. In the fall of 2012, Alpha Omicron Pi and Gamma Phi Beta—which was founded at Barnard in 1897—accepted invitations to colonize (yes, that’s the proper term) chapters at Columbia. Meanwhile, fraternities used their growing influence to affect advantageous school policy changes. In the fall of 2009, the university revised its so called “Lerner Hall Policy,” which required fraternities to register parties ten days in advance, and mandated that “proctors” from outside of the Greek community monitor all events. The new rules allowed houses to register parties five days in advance, and permitted brothers trained in alcohol safety and risk management by the Alice! Health Promotion Program to act as monitors. In addition, fraternities
won the right to have parties every night of NSOP. Unsurprisingly, the changes were a boon to Greek life. “I would call the ‘War on Fun’ a myth,” IFC co-president David Salant, CC ’10, told Spectator in a December 2009 article. “At least, in fraternity life we have never had more flexibility, coordination and communication with the university.” “Much More A ll-E ncompassing Like That”
While the War on Fun occasionally slips back into the campus zeitgeist, these days it has become something of an unspoken fact of life at Columbia. The most recent reports from the Department of Public Safety make the numbers from a decade ago look like a bacchanalian paradise: 106 incidents of disciplinary action for alcohol in 2015, and 153 for drugs. It’s hard to believe students are drinking twice as much as they did before Vampire Weekend had graduated, or doing seven and a half times the amount of drugs. These statistics have been compounded by the dearth of viable social spaces on campus—no more organic beer at Postcrypt Coffeehouse, no more Bacchanal Committee open parties, and no more halfway-decent events in Lerner Party Space. On most weekend nights, an underclassman desiring a drink or two in the company of more than ten or twelve people has two options: take a chance with the fickle bouncers at Mel’s or 1020 (R.I.P. Cannons), or go to a frat party. For many of the Greeks I spoke to, meeting new people and having more opportunities to socialize was a major reason for joining a house. Despite the fact that Columbia students tend to be involved in a large number of extracurriculars, many clubs lack the social component that Greek life provides. “I have some organizations that are really important to me,” said Sally Lindsay, CC ’17, the co-president of Design for America and a member of Theta, “but they don’t function on the weekends all the time.” Clubs are usually focused on specific projects and objectives, and on a campus full of diligent workers, groups may not prioritize getting together just for fun. Additionally, clubs, by their definition, are composed of people with shared interests, and more than likely, shared outlooks. This is also frequently the case among students of the same major, who
GREEK DRAMA spend much of their time studying together. It can be hard to break out of these self-reinforcing bubbles, Rebecca Ohaeri, CC ’18, and a member of Alpha Chi Omega, told me. “A lot of times at Columbia the people you know are the people you live with and the people you go to class with... so a lot of times they have similar perspectives on things.” Ohaeri and other Greeks I spoke to were pleasantly surprised at the diversity they discovered during the rush process. Zach McNeal, CC ’19, and a member of Sigma Phi Epsilon, believes that Greek life is “less exclusive” than it was in the past. “When I thought about Ivy League fraternities before I got to school I thought they would all have incredibly similar people, either a special interest or a team. Now I feel like fraternities are much more allencompassing than something like that.” While fraternities and sororities remain exclusive in that they select members based on arbitrary and opaque criteria, and some fraternities are in fact dominated by a sports team, the changing demographics of the student body and the system’s overall growth have inevitably increased the diversity of Greek Life. While IFC and PHC are often interested in becoming bigger and more heterogeneous, MGC organizations are specifically focused on creating spaces for people of similar backgrounds and interests. Although MGC houses make up less than five percent of Greek life, they too have experienced growth in recent years, according to David Jimenez,
CC ’17 and the president of Phi Eta Alpha, a Latino fraternity with a focus on Pan-Americanism. With ten members, his house is one of the larger MGC organizations. But being in such an intimate, familial environment is part of the appeal of MGC, Jimenez said. Even before joining, “there were people who were genuinely interested in my well-being and making sure that as people of color and minorities on campus we support each other a little bit because sometimes the resources are a little bit harder to find.” MGC houses tend to be more closely linked to one another, as well as their sibling chapters in the New York area, which creates a larger sense of community. “I don’t think [PHC and IFC] organizations interact with off-campus chapters as much,” Jimenez speculated. Still, across the councils, there seems to be a surprisingly symbiotic relationship between Greek life and the unique opportunities New York City affords. “It’s a M arketing Strategy ” Despite being primarily social organizations, Greek houses can help facilitate the Type A lifestyle that Columbia and the City are infamous for. Having a packed schedule is a virtue unto itself, Natasha Przedborski, BC ’17, and a member of Sigma Delta Tau, observed. “Everyone always wants to be busy here, and sororities give you extra stuff to do... My friends will be like, it’s dope you have mixers every weekend, and I’m like yeah, they’re not fun, but at least it’s something I can do.” Although some of the upperclassmen I spoke to mentioned they were tired of frat parties, they still appreciate having options. In addition to providing a wider menu of social opportunities, going Greek is also widely thought to improve one’s career prospects. This was the very first factor Pulley cited when I asked her why Greek life had become so much more popular in recent years. “Columbia students work really hard when they’re here, and they want to have a great job when they leave, so the network that comes with the alumni is huge.” Internship hand-offs, Principles of Econ study guides, and alumni mixers have a powerful and famil-
Illustration by Nathaniel Jameson
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GREEK DRAMA iar allure for a student body that is well trained in ladder climbing. Greek organizations have learned to play up this strength, emphasizing the resources of the City of New York, with its seemingly endless supply of recently graduated big brothers and sisters. It also appears that all of those consulting internships have started to leave a mark on the organizations themselves. Not only do Greek organizations help their members succeed in business, they themselves have found success by acting more like businesses. “It’s a marketing strategy,” McNeal said of SigEp’s recruiting process. “How can we get really cool kids to join our organization? How can we expand what we have?... I think there are a lot of organizations on campus that have a similar strategy.” “The FOMO Becomes, Like, R eal, or Whatever” In the past, the popularity of Greek life rose and fell in tandem with its representations in popular media. Most notably, the 1978 film “Animal House” presided over a substantial boost in Greek participation nationwide, albeit “not a positive boost,” according to Pulley. Although the “Neighbors” franchise stands out as a recent depiction of Greek life on the big screen, smaller screens seem to have had a much larger influence on popular perceptions of the system. The dramatic increase in Columbia’s Greek population happens to correlate to the widespread adoption of smartphones and social media. These innovations have given Greek organizations the opportunity to shape their own media narratives. As a sophomore deciding whether to join a house, Facebook was one of Ohaeri’s main avenues of research. “As a person who wasn’t in Greek life previously, the only reason I knew about it was because I would see posts on Facebook saying, we did this, or I know this and this and this person.” Ohaeri’s initial means of encountering the Greek system is far from unique. Today’s underclassmen may have begun following the exploits of their Greek friends and siblings on Snapchat, Instagram and Facebook as early as middle school. Inevitably, these curated images convey an aura of popularity, fun, and sexiness that may not necessarily reflect the reality. “The way that the culture is portrayed is
incredibly appealing,” McNeal, who is from Texas, said of all the photos he saw in high school of Gulf Shores, Alabama, where hundreds of Southern houses go to party during spring break, all decked out in their letters. Although the scene at Columbia isn’t quite as conspicuous, it still makes for some tantalizing images, according to McNeal. “Going on trips to New Orleans or Mexico, taking retreats to rural Connecticut or Upstate New York, parties in the backyard where there are two hundred kids, having cool shirts that people design and awesome events with decoration and stuff—it presents really good photo opportunities.” When broadcast on social media, these picture-perfect moments become public declarations of coolness for those who were there, and salt in the wounds of those who weren’t invited. Exclusion has never been more garish. Luckily, there is a way to feel included once more: rush! “Because of social media, you never want to be missing out on stuff,” Przedborski said. “And the F.O.M.O. becomes, like, real, or whatever. I think that’s what the young people say these days. And there’s this idea that you should be at every party, and in the minds of some, that’s always associated with Greek life.” Even on one of the nation’s most progressive campus, Greek life’s exclusivity, its dubious gender politics (which deserves its own article or three), and its historical associations with racism and other forms of oppression can be easily overlooked. Generally speaking, college students want to be social and they want to be well-liked. If there’s a fun event happening on campus, no one wants to miss out. At Columbia and ever more schools like it, Greek life is by far the easiest way to fulfill these very normal desires. And yet, at Wesleyan, Middlebury, and quite possibly Harvard, Greek life as we know it is in the process of being abolished. These contradictory developments reflect the vocabulary of the medium upon which this Greek drama is unfolding. Does the system need to be disrupted, as indicated by a 2007 study that found fraternity members are three times more likely to commit sexual assault than non-members? Or can it be optimized, as evinced by Jessica Bennett’s utopian 2016 article? Whatever becomes of the Greek system, it serves as a timely reminder that our institutions are only as righteous as the ethos in which they exist.w
ROOM AND BOARD
Manhattan House Learning about the special interest community for Native and indigenous students By Virginia Ambeliotis
ost Columbia students have never heard of Manhattan House, one of the Special Interest Communities located in SIC House. Formed in 2012 by the Native American Council as a community for indigenous students, the house is named in recognition of the Lenni Lenape, the first people to inhabit the island of Manhattan. Because the residence—a floor on 619 West 113th Street—is SIC Housing, it is not under the full jurisdiction of Native and indigenous groups. Nevertheless, Manhattan House plays an important role in fostering pride in Native identity, spreading awareness of indigenous issues, and mediating relations between Native communities and the University. Three doubles, nine singles, four bathrooms and a common area make up the residence, which is open to Native and indigenous students and allies. A majority of occupants identify as indigenous and hail from the Americas or the Pacific Islands. “It’s a very freeing space,” Elsa Hoover, CC ’17 says. Hoover is Algonquin Anishinaabe Canada First Nations and has lived in the house for a year and a half. She explains that while indigenous students come from different backgrounds, many have similar values and experiences. For starters, the communities residents hail from are often rural and tightly
knit, so enrolling in a large urban university like Columbia can be a big transition. Then there are other challenges. In academic settings, especially Core classes, indigenous students can encounter “materials [that] directly challenge their humanity.” Hoover says she knows a resident who was asked to debate whether indigenous people had souls—on the negative side. Classmates occasionally offer remarks like “I thought Native people were all dead. I didn’t even know you existed.” For many indigenous students at Columbia, Manhattan House provides a much-needed break from these types of stresses. Organizations such as the Chicanx Caucus, Columbia Mentoring Initiative and the Native American Council frequently convene in the common room, whose walls are adorned with donated art and flags of residents’ respective nations. Beating circles, traditional arts and NACflix (screenings put on by NAC) are also hosted there. Ironically, many Native and indigenous Columbia students who might be interested in living in the residence face institutional and financial barriers to access. Housing is open to Columbia College and SEAS students only—Barnard, G.S. and graduate students are not eligible to apply—and because fees range on the expensive side ($10,120 this year), many Native students can’t afford to live there. When Manhattan House has spots it can’t fill, Housing places transfer students in them. Because these students aren’t screened according to their interest in the residence’s objectives, problems sometimes emerge. Hoover recalls incidents involving students “using racist language” or making other residents answer ignorant questions, but she mentions that other transfer assignments have worked out well. To maintain inclusivity in the face of these obstacles, residents remain focused on spreading awareness about Manhattan House’s mission and the peoples the residence aims to serve. “Because it’s not a well-known community and the indigenous community is perceived as very small, we have a lot of freshmen who don't know about us at all,” Hoover explains. “Manhattan House exists to rectify that.”w
Illustration by Rachel Chin
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A D O R AT I O N O F T H E M A G G I E
In Mourning Reflecting on the fate of Barnard’s beloved magnolia tree By Geneva Hutcheson
n the late summer rain, Maggie’s branches hang, skeletal. Blue tape tethers her to the ground and a square border of wooden posts and more blue tape cuts her off from Lehman Lawn. There are no late flowers on her branches—nor on the ground, but some carcassed leaf buds tremble, tenuously, in the crooks of her boughs. The ground below her—normally covered by a mosaic carpet of fuschia leaves—is now a barren expanse. This June, Barnard students received a construction update with the news that beloved magnolia tree Maggie may be on her last limb. A feature of the campus for sixty years, she was moved in November to accommodate the new Teaching and Learning Center. With Maggie’s death imminent, decades of alumni are mourning the loss of the symbolic tree. Barnard’s campus and students’ Instagrams will never look the same again. Last year, before a team of poorly-trained arborists tore Maggie’s roots from the ground, sacrificing her delicate root hairs in favor of speed, a professor, who requested to remain anonymous, commented, “She’s going to die soon anyway. The soil has compacted over her roots. She was only a Home Depot magnolia.” And, though we love Maggie, she is “only a Home Depot magnolia.” Another faculty member says that though Maggie will almost certainly die from the traumatic move (if she would not have already died from her suffocated roots), “this is a good opportunity to replace Maggie with something special.” Maggie the Magnolia represents a rare moment of respite in our stressful lives. Yes, our constant trampling and sitting on her roots nearly killed her, but like the velveteen rabbit, she was loved to pieces. Maggie’s blossoms in spring indicated a movement towards summer, that the dark of the long winter hours in Butler had ended, and that reprieve had begun to approach. Breaking open a leaf bud, I find that though they had not come to fruition, the buds were not nearly as dry as I had suspected. A thin layer of green tissue flourished deep in the capsules. So, perhaps there
is hope for Maggie. If Maggie can survive through the summer heat and into winter without the benefit of her root system, she may bloom again some spring. And if Maggie passes, a possibility for which we must be prepared, with our love, she will have far outlived the life expected of a “Home Depot magnolia.” The careless treatment of Maggie suggests a greater change in the university: a movement towards the new and modern and a slight edging away from tradition. Though the university has necessarily changed throughout its history, between the new Barnard Library (which will really be a technology center with a glass facade), the Manhattanville campus, and the Global Centers, Columbia has become increasingly focused on the external world rather than our own self-involved traditions. Perhaps lost amidst the varied commentary on Maggie’s move and predictions of her death is Maggie’s own voice. She offers a wry and lucid take on her Twitter account @BCMagnoliaTree, from which she live tweeted her move: “the crane represents the phallus, penetrating the female space of Nature while spectators perform a scopophilic act akin to the male gaze.”w
Illustration by Alex Swanson
At What Point Does The House Become The Museum?
The unnecessary way Back home, pearled and humid nights On the longshore Back to beaded string of houses with yellow hare’s eyes snapped open, pacing the Length of olympic-sized kitchens The question about why i don’t call any more Exact verbs too much for my smoke-heavy mouth Listen: the sand has always been here Pressed into our hairlines Eyes stretched wide & sun-fasted Lord and savior bless this mattress Filmy with ocean-dry The knee-cap sized medusas Evaporating under the sun as you In your borrowed bathing suit Shovel the coastline into open graves and palaces — Eleonor Botoman
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Not knowing myself : I can know what occupies me, at least : which tenants : and their character : and how : and what shape : and what crevices : and what negative space : and what blood is left blue : dark : and unsucked : and what tissue : supple : and pulsing: (cracked and poured : out : it all spills : unboiled yolk : paper towels and clorox : for the kitchen tiles : shaking you : awake : and your density : and my sweat : and your sweat : and my weightlessness) And blame not myself : if I do not know you : and blame not your tissue : nor your own : strange tenants : but the strangeness of knowing : and the distance from strangeness : to knowing : and our weak legs : and our appointments. â&#x20AC;&#x201D; Lena Rubin
T H E C O N V E R S AT I O N
Outside the Gates A conversation with Danny O’Donnell By Channing Prend Since 2002, Danny O’Donnell has represented the 69 th State Assembly District, which extends from the mid-80s up to 125th Street on the west side of Manhattan. As the first openly gay Assemblymember, O’Donnell has promoted progressive legislation including the Marriage Equality Act and the state’s first anti-bullying law. A Morningside Heights resident for more than 25 years, O’Donnell has seen the neighborhood change considerably. Blue and White editor-inchief Channing Prend, CC ’17, sat down with O’Donnell at his District Office on 104th Street to talk about local politics, the Manhattanville expansion, drunk Columbia students, and Rosie O’Donnell. The Blue and White: Were you surprised to be contacted for an interview by a Columbia publication?
B&W: Did you always want to be a politician?
B&W: What sorts of things do they ask you about?
DO: I went to law school and became a public defender, so I worked as a criminal defense attorney for several years. Then I opened up a law practice on the west side of Manhattan after I had moved to the neighborhood in the ’90s. Soon after that I started getting involved in the local democratic club. Then I was appointed to Community Board 9, where I served for several years. And then I ran for the state assembly in 2002.
DO: Well some of them are interested in discussing the political system more broadly, and then the Spectator is more interested in local issues.
B&W: So you said that you have lived in the neighborhood since the ’90s. What brought you to Morningside Heights specifically?
Danny O’Donnell: No it happens to me all the time. I generally say yes. B&W: Really? Mostly from the Spectator? DO: The Spectator but there are other ones too.
DO: I knew that I wanted to live north of 96th Street on the west side of Manhattan because in contrast to other places it was ethnically, religiously, and economically diverse. Broadway from 96th to 125th is like the great equalizer. Everyone interacts. Everyone rides the 1 train. At the time the realtor asked me if I was crazy because this was not considered a desirable neighborhood back then. But it’s the kind of neighborhood that I wanted to live in so I found an apartment on 111th Street and I still live there. B&W: What are some of the challenges of serving a district that is so racially and socioeconomically diverse? DO: Well I represent two of the largest housing projects in the entire city, Grant Houses and Douglass Houses. Then I also represent Central Park West, which is among the highest rent district in America.
Illustration by Lani Allen
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T H E C O N V E R S AT I O N So I need to be aware of those competing needs and be responsive to them. When it comes to public housing, they need an influx of capital, they need an improvement of quality of life. People on Central Park West don’t need their quality of life improved, but they do need to feel that they have someone they can reach out to. It comes down to communication. I have a staff of people who attend meetings all over the district. We try really hard to let people know that we’re here and available to listen.
to see my relationship as equal they would have to see my relationship. So I brought my now husband John everywhere. He was there when the votes were taken. He was in the room. And that was very important because people had to see him and see us in the context of a relationship to understand why we’re fundamentally the same.
B&W: I know that you were very involved in the Marriage Equality Act. Can you talk about the process of getting that bill passed?
DO: Exactly, by publicly displaying my relationship with John, I transformed the issue into a personal one. It wasn’t just about the right of marriage but it was about me, which I think made it harder for my colleagues to say no. And we passed the bill three times before the Senate finally passed it and it became law in 2011. It’s much easier to think badly of and vote badly for people when you don’t have to look them in the eye while you’re doing it. If gay people make up 10% of the population then there should be 15 openly gay assembly members, but there’s not. There’s 4 of us. We’ve made progress, but more progress has to be made.
DO: In 2004, my second year in office, I was asked by my friend who is a lawyer to be a plaintiff in the marriage lawsuit in New York. So John and I became 1 of I think 32 couples who sued the city of New York for a marriage license. That case went to the court of appeals. We lost in a 5 to 43 decision. Then in 2007, Eliot Spitzer was elected governor and he sent a bill to the assembly in April. I expressed interest, so the Speaker gave me the bill and then I went about the process of getting the votes with Deborah Glick. When I got the bill in April 2007 I believe 24 of the 150 members were in favor. We had a lot of work to do, so I engaged fully in the campaign, sending letters to my colleagues with polling data, going to Albany with charts showing where the vote count was. We put the bill on the floor in June and we got 85 votes. In just a two months from April to June we went from 24 to 85 votes. That’s unheard of in Albany. It usually doesn’t work that way. B&W: So how did you accomplish it? DO: I threatened some people, I flirted with some people. I told a Republican that he was the best looking man in Albany and he owed it to the gays to vote yes. But I think the most important thing was increasing visibility. B&W: What do you mean by that? DO: I had colleagues that said to me in 2007 that they didn’t know any gay people. What do you not leave your house? They did know gay people, they just didn’t know that they were gay. So one of the things that I realized was that if my colleagues were
B&W: So it was very important that you had a personal stake in the outcome?
B&W: What did it mean to you to finally get married after having such a large role in getting the bill passed? DO: I invited all the members of the Senate and Assembly who voted yes to my wedding and they all came. So I had a wedding with 450 people. You should look up the vows column from the Times because it was quite an event. The Governor was there. B&W: I’m sorry but I can’t resist asking this. I was reading a profile of you that came out when the marriage bill was passed and it said that Rosie O’Donnell is your sister. Is that true? DO: Everyone seems to be very fascinated by this. When I got elected it was covered in People, which obviously is not your average thing for a local assembly member. One time Bloomberg, who was mayor of the city then, walked up to me at an event and said “I didn’t know Rosie was your sister. Why didn’t you tell me?” and I was like, “I don’t know Mr. Mayor, it never came up.” So yes, she’s my younger sister.
T H E C O N V E R S AT I O N B&W: Thank you for indulging me. Now if we could transition to talking about Columbia. The campus makes up a pretty big part of the district that you serve. Has that affected your role as assemblyman in any way?
want more money. But that’s not Columbia’s raison d’etre. And I think they have an obligation to keep those spaces occupied. B&W: Who in the administration are you normally dealing with?
DO: Well, before Manhattanville plans were finalized, I spent a lot of time fighting with Columbia DO: Maxine Griffith [Executive Vice President for about their expansion. We have a big problem in this Government and Community Affairs]. It used to be community with over-expansion of institutions. I Robert Kasdin too, but he left the school. think the Cathedral should be renamed St. John the Developer not St. John the Divine. They are a real B&W: Have you met President Bollinger? estate developer posing as a church. One of the reasons I moved here was the beautiful balance between DO: Yes I’ve had private meetings with him in the rich and poor and black and white. When you tip that course of time as Assemblyman. He’s a very smart man. Lovely wife. balance, it creates a lot of problems. Teacher’s College B&W: Is Columbia involved built that property up on 122nd Street for example. “When you construct a monstrous in any policy decisions at When you construct a building and fill it with transient the state level? monstrous building and fill it with transient peo- people, you change the balance in DO: No. Most of the things that Columbia would weigh ple, you change the balthe community.” in on like rezoning hapance in the community. pens at the city level. Nothing personal to you, but when you graduate from Columbia are you going to stay and live in the B&W: Can you talk a bit more about the neighborhood and become a resident? Maybe you are, Manhattanville expansion? Have you seen the narrabut the reality is that every year there’s a new group of tive change over time? students moving in and you need to balance that with longtime residents. So it’s hard. I’m in constant com- DO: I’m not a city councilman, but I try to fight munication with the University though. In fact I met expansion and over-density to the degree that I can. I certainly think it’s overdue for Morningside with Columbia administrators just yesterday. Heights to be designated a historic district and the B&W: In terms of the personal dealings with the largest impediment has always been the opposition of administration, what sorts of things do you discuss? the University. When they acquired Manhattanville it relieved some of the pressure to try to squeeze What for example, did you discuss yesterday? everything into their current campus. They used to DO: I discussed the problem with the lack of filling complain that they have the smallest square foot per their retail spaces. If you walk up Broadway in the student ratio of any Ivy League institution or someColumbia area there’s a whole bunch of vacant store- thing like that, but four years earlier they raised they fronts. That’s also true with non-Columbia buildings raised their undergraduate student population by 25 of course, but the non-Columbia buildings are out percent. We all have to live here and interact and get for profit. Columbia has an obligation to its staff and along. But there needs to be a balance. faculty, to its students as well as to its neighbors to make sure that services are available that the com- B&W: Do you think there are going to be a lot of chalmunity needs. It has a negative effect on the overall lenges with the opening of the first Manhattanville quality of life when storefronts like Ricky’s are left campus buildings this fall? vacant for two years. There’s no justifiable reason for that. A for-profit landlord might do that because they DO: No I don’t, because there’s not a lot of resi-
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T H E C O N V E R S AT I O N dential impact around them other than directly to Manhattanville Houses across the street. I hope that they do a better job than they have done in engaging with those neighbors and improving their quality of life. I think the bigger challenges are going to come in the years after the buildings open and we see that impact grow. B&W: What are some of the ways that you think the university could better engage with the community? DO: Universities have a high density of really intelligent people, so they are equipped to help solve some problems in the community. One of the problems is the 1 train makes a lot of noise when it comes out of the ground at 120th Street and then goes back underground at 135th Street. Using 21st century engineering and science there must be some mechanisms to reduce that noise. That’s just an example of something I’ve suggested to the university. It would be a way to use the minds they have to benefit the community. Maybe when they open up the new campus it’ll be in their own interest to reduce that noise. B&W: How do you think the neighborhood is going to change once the campus opens? DO: I think there’s going to be a greater integration of above and below 125th Street. When I first moved here, people didn’t go north of 125th Street. That’s changed now. With the expansion north will come new businesses to serve that new community. B&W: What are some of the other ways that you’ve seen the neighborhood change in general since you moved here in the 90s? DO: Better restaurants, and more expensive restaurants. People are willing to come here from downtown which used to not be the case. The other people living on my floor are in rent-stabilized units and
they have all lived there since the 60s. They call me the new kid. I’ve lived there for 25 years. Even amidst change there is still a core group of long-term residents who have made this neighborhood home and they need to be able to stay here and survive here. B&W: Do you think that, aside from Manhattanville, the way the university interacts with the community has changed? DO: There used to be a more hostile relationship. Columbia used to acquire apartment buildings and try to evict long-term residents and tenants. I’m happy to report in my tenure, they have not done that. I hope it stays that way. Long-term tenants should be allowed to stay here even if they live in Columbia buildings. B&W: What is something that you wish current Columbia students did differently? DO: I wish they engaged with the neighborhood to a greater extent. They can be rather loud and unapproachable though. 20 somethings always seem to travel in packs. I do see them out at restaurants, at the Heights, V&T, but I wish they saw more of the neighborhood. I understand that most of you don’t even travel south of 110th Street. B&W: Do you have constituents from the community that complain about Columbia students? DO: Yes sometimes about drinking and loud noises at 1 in the morning on the weekends. But that’s to be expected when you live in a community with a lot of university students. They also bring life and safety. I’d rather walk around at 2 in the morning near Columbia because I’m likely to encounter college students on the street. It provides a degree of safety. Even if sometimes they’re a little, or very, inebriated.w
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pparently Obama wrote for a student publication when he was at Columbia (who knows which Blue and White staffer is the future POTUS). Reprinted here are excerpts from one of his articles called “Breaking the War Mentality” from the March 10, 1983 issue of the Sundial, a now defunct weekly news magazine. Most students at Columbia do not have first hand knowledge of war. Military violence has been a vicarious experience, channeled into our minds through television, film, and print. The more sensitive among us struggle to extrapolate experiences of war from our everyday experience, discussing the latest mortality statistics from Guatemala, sensitizing ourselves to our parents’ wartime memories, or incorporating into our framework of reality as depicted by a Mailer or a Coppola. But the taste of war—the sounds and chill, the dead bodies—are remote and far removed. We know that wars have occurred, will occur, are occurring, but bringing such experience down into our hearts, and taking continual, tangible steps to prevent war, becomes a difficult task. Two groups on campus, Arms Race Alternatives (ARA) and Students Against Militarism (SAM), work within these mental limits to foster awareness and practical action necessary to counter the growing threat of war. Though the emphasis of the two groups differ, they share an aversion to current government policy. These groups, visualizing the possibilities of destruction and grasping the tendencies of distorted national priorities, are throwing their weight into shifting America off the dead-end track. “Most people my age remember well the airraid drills in school, under the desk with our heads tucked between our legs. Older people, they remember the Cuban Missile Crisis. I think these kinds of things left an indelible mark on our souls, so we’re more apt to be concerned,” says Don Kent, assistant director of programs and student activities at Earl Hall Center. Along with the community Volunteer Service Center, ARA has been Don’s primary concern, coordinating various working groups of faculty,
students, and staff members, while simultaneously seeking the ever elusive funding for programs. With the flowering of the nuclear Freeze movement, and particularly the June 12 rally in Central Park, however, student participation has expanded. One wonders whether this upsurge stems from young people’s penchant for the latest ‘happenings’, or from growing awareness of the consequences of nuclear holocaust. ARA maintains a mailing list of 500 persons and Kent estimates that approximately half of the active members are students. Although he feels that continuity is provided by the faculty and staff members, student attendance at ARA sponsored events—in particular a November 11 convocation on the nuclear threat—reveals a deep reservoir of concern. “I think students on this campus like to think of themselves as sophisticated, and don’t appreciate small vision. So they tend to come out more for the events: they do not want to just fold leaflets.” Perhaps the essential goodness of humanity is an arguable proposition, but by observing the SAM meeting last Thursday night, with its solid turnout and enthusiasm, one might be persuaded that the manifestations of our better instincts can at least match the bad ones. Indeed, the most pervasive malady of the collegiate system specifically, and the American experience generally, is that elaborate patterns of knowledge and theory have been disembodied from individual choices and government policy. What the members of ARA and SAM try to do is infuse what they have learned about the current situation, bring the words of that formidable roster on the face of Butler Library, names like Thoreau, Jefferson, and Whitman, to bear on the twisted logic of which we are today a part.w
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CAMPUS GOSSIP FOREIGN RELATIONS The wife of a former ambassador to Singapore does media relations for Columbia. She is responsible for international and domestic coverage of the World Leaders Forum. e Columbia dropout Mohimanul Alam Bhuiya joined ISIS, before fleeing after 5 months and becoming an informant for the FBI. Bhuiya gave a tell-all interview with NBC News in May. COLONIZING The Trump Campaign is looking for interns on Lionshare. Campaign was initially spelled incorrectly in the job listing (“campain”). e The Columbia Club is currently negotiating with the Princeton Club over their shared Midtown space. The Princeton Club sent an email to all Columbia Club members (who are automatically Princeton Club members) asking them to stay with the Princeton Club even if the Columbia Club leaves. CLASS CLOWN In a recent Reddit AMA, Jerry Seinfeld alluded to his ambitions to teach a college course in comedy. Seinfeld said, “George Stephanopoulos actually got me wound up enough at one point that we were going to contact, I think his name was Lee Bollinger, the president of Columbia, and we were gonna go in there, and I was going to teach a course on comedy.” Seinfeld may not be aware of how difficult it is to get an audience with Bollinger. e Med students have nicknamed the new Medical and Graduate Education building, the Roy and Diana Vagelos Education Center, “the Vag.” Barnard students are reportedly unhappy that the building was
not constructed on their campus. BEHIND THE TIMES From the 1940s through the 1960s, incoming students at several Ivy League and Seven Sister Colleges including Yale, Harvard, Wellesley (and presumably Columbia) were photographed nude with metal pins to their backs. This bizarre practice was ostensibly a way of testing posture but was in fact part of a eugenics and social Darwinism inspired project led by Columbia researcher William Herbert Sheldon. e Real human skulls are available to be checked out at Columbia’s Augustus C. Long Health Sciences library. FOR BETA OR WORSE Beta has a cat, and a dog. It seems the Beta Brownstone is a true Animal House. e Small child on Broadway pointing to International: “Mom, let’s go there!” (Apparently, the child also indicated he was planning on rushing Beta). IN PRINT PrezBo wrote a recent piece in the Harvard Law Review about the importance of affirmative action in which he remarks, “t is difficult to understand the complexity of race in America.” e “Mark Rudd” and “alanhaber” have both left comments on recently graduated CDCJ organizer Iliana Salazar-Dodge’s Re:claim op-ed, “Why I’m Occupying a Building at Columbia: Love, Power, and Climate Justice.” “Mark Rudd” emphasized the importance of strategic planning when building social movements.w
E AT I N â&#x20AC;&#x2122; G O O D I N T H E N E I G H B O R H O O D
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