Before I came to Columbia, I was an obese, theater-obsessed, socially awkward penguin. Now I’m fucking James Dean.
You see, it’s really easy to get in trouble at this school: Just act your age. If you partake in any teenage tomfoolery, you’re sure to find yourself detailing to Judicial Affairs and Community Standards, to residential advisors, or to Public Safety officers how you have been a very bad boy.
At this juncture, we’ve run the discourse ragged on Columbia’s War on Fun, a war so pointless you’d think Bush declared it. However, for those of you who were students two years ago, you may remember the giant snowball incident. A group of students, during one of those gigantic blizzards, constructed a snowball to match the size of the storm. Public Safety soon came and shut the festivities down, having the snowball plowed away. These students were not disturbing anybody nor were they under any sort of influence other than that of sheer joy. Is this incessant micro-managing and intrusion on the personal lives of students wholly necessary?
Another time, I witnessed an RA shut down a friend’s party due to noise violation. However, the RA made his rounds too early and, in fact, reported this noise complaint 30 minutes before one was allowed to, according to the “quiet hours” policy. When my friend informed the RA that he would lower the volume, but did not want to kick everyone out so early, the RA, in an overly-brash exercise of his duties, informed the student that he had called Public Safety and had also informed New York Police Department about this violation. This was probably horseshit, considering NYPD does not answer to: “Those damn kids are being too loud.”
You may notice I’m a very angry student. My irascibility, though, is not the product of any personal experience with this institution. Actually, I was inspired to write this article when I saw a perfectly able, young man become unwillingly thrust into an argument with a Public Safety officer. We were studying hard on the fifth floor of Lerner—by “studying,” I mean that he was attentively doing his work while I was munching away on BBQ chips, reveling gleefully in the genius that is South Park. Just then, an unnecessarily angry Public Safety officer dismounts his elevator.
“Building’s going to close in five minutes. You’ve got five minutes before this building closes! Get up! Come on,” states the officer.
“Okay, just—” the student barely utters before,
“Don’t go telling me what time it is. I said get up!” the officer hawked.
“I wasn’t going—”
“Don’t go fighting with me. You’ve got four minutes. You’re wasting my time!”
Defeated, the poor student turns to me, whimpering, “But, I wasn’t going to tell him anything. I was just going to ask what time the building re-opened.”
“I know, dude. They’re dicks. Accept it.” This is the only response I could elicit.
These incidents reflect how Columbia has a funny way of treating its students nowadays. We are just punks. What do twentysomethings know about the world, after all? The only thing Columbia expects from its students is that we keep our shoes polished, our noses clean, and their brochures glossy so the institution can recruit another set of young drones to do its bidding.
I am not entirely discontent with this school by any means. Being a Columbia student has allowed me opportunities not afforded to most young men my age. Columbia offers me substantial financial aid. I just wish that this university wouldn’t infringe on my personal life so often.
I have been in front of the Judicial Affairs and Community Standards board three times and counting merely for drunkenly speaking out against the stupidity of the system to administrators. You would think that the “drunkenly” part would be what they cared about. I assure you this is not the case. I have had to pen more letters of apology to the administration than love notes to potential suitors.
Yet, all the board can ever say to me is, “We’re confounded. Anyone we speak to says you’re a sweet kid who puts others way before himself. Why are you here?”
I don’t know, Columbia. Why don’t you tell me? I'm not a badass—Columbia just brands me as such.
The author is a Columbia College junior majoring in film studies and anthropology.
To respond to this op-ed, or to submit an op-ed, contact firstname.lastname@example.org.