Judging by the dominant rhetoric on campus, every semester seems to be another important period for student activism at Columbia. This body—Spectator’s editorial board—is perhaps more guilty than most on campus for encouraging student activism, regularly calling for student involvement in the University’s administrative policy-making and urging students to take ownership of campus life. Even still, we feel that administrative reaction to student input has taken on a different tone this semester.
While it is neither unusual nor unexpected for the rhetoric of student participation to perpetuate itself on a campus that still perceives its identity to be influenced by the student protests of spring 1968, fall 2012 has—at least in recent memory—seen significant progress for the student voice. In a long list of controversial and important issues on campus, students have pushed to have their opinions voiced and administrators have responded positively.
Among these issues are the administrative structuring of the Committee on Admissions and Financial Aid, the Frontiers of Science review process, coverage for abortions in Columbia’s insurance policy, funding and prioritization of the arts, Barnard’s fliering policy and its implications on free speech, brownstone allocation, and sorority recognition.
To its credit, Columbia’s administration has been prudently receptive to student input and generally seemed to give serious consideration to what students had to say. For example, following a debacle over student involvement in the Columbia College dean search process last semester, the University revised the School of Engineering and Applied Science dean search committee to include student representatives from the very beginning.
Revising the composition of the SEAS dean search committee is not an isolated example of administrative responsiveness this semester. For the most part, we have seen a pattern of students responding to controversy by demanding more involvement and the administration making an effort to accommodate. While the student-administrator relationship at Columbia is often portrayed as strained and adversarial, this semester has seen a welcome change to that perception.
If anything, responsive administrators should only encourage further student involvement. The experience of student action shaping Columbia’s campus this semester should promote a more fruitful discourse in the future. We look forward to being a part of it.
The Editorial Board
of the Columbia Daily Spectator
Virgilio Urbina Lazardi