News | Student Life

Impact of Obama security not clear until recently

  • PACKED HOUSE | At a town hall meeting in Lerner Hall's Satow Room on Tuesday night, GS students discussed the University’s decision to reschedule GS Class Day.

The School of General Studies’ class day ceremony was not rescheduled until last Monday because the scale of the security measures needed for President Barack Obama’s visit to campus was not fully realized until a week earlier, University President Lee Bollinger said.

Students were outraged to learn that GS Class Day—originally scheduled for May 14, the same morning that Obama, CC ’83, will speak at Barnard’s commencement—was pushed up a day so as not to force GS graduates and their guests to pass through extensive security. Many students expressed concern that the move was announced just last week, when Obama was announced as commencement speaker on March 3.

“There’s a very simple reason why it came out now, because it wasn’t until the past week that the White House advance team was in a position to confirm what the full logistical impact would be across campus in order to make a fully informed decision about what could be done on that day,” Bollinger said on Friday.

“In light of the requirements of the president of the United States and his security, we had to enter into a new discussion with GS about what to do,” he said. “Remain in the same location but have the inconvenience, move to an alternative location on the same day at the same time but not as traditional as the South Lawn site, or change the day and move to Low Plaza. The choice was to do that.”

Last week, Reina de Beer, GS ’12, said that it was “very surprising and so sudden” that the change of date came so close to Class Day, considering the announcement that Obama would be speaking was made weeks before. Many students responded similarly.

“The Obama security would have had to know about the measures. It just seems odd,” de Beer said.

Some students have criticized Bollinger and other administrators’ response to the controversy, a sentiment Bollinger said he understands.

“I try to avoid vague statements that are in the area of public relations talk,” he said. “But, on the other hand, people have to understand that, a lot of times, there are considerations that just can’t be included in a public statement.”

The date was switched after it became evident that GS students and their families would have to arrive as early as 5:30 a.m. in order to go through the necessary security due to Obama’s appearance—even though they would not be able to stay for his speech.

Only Barnard graduates and six of their guests, plus a small selection of non-seniors at Barnard who win a lottery for extra tickets, will be able to attend the commencement and hear Obama speak. Bollinger has tried without success to have Obama speak for a broader audience at Columbia.

“We have tried since this was first announced, tried a number of possibilities,” he said. “At the moment, none has emerged as a serious possibility, but it is certainly not for lack of trying. We’ve been told that this is a very discrete visit—he’ll be here for a very specific period of time, and that’s the most one can do.”

The General Studies Student Council is working to hold a reception off-campus during the time of the original Class Day, to accommodate families who will not be able to attend the rescheduled ceremony. This weekend, the Columbia College Student Council, the Engineering Student Council, and Barnard’s Student Government Association announced that they would contribute $2,012 toward the reception.

The money will go toward “those graduates and their families who were not able to change their travel plans, pending further decisions about its funding from the administration,” a joint statement from the three councils said.

As of now, the four councils plan to fund the May 14 reception themselves because the administration has not yet established plans to do so.

Sammy Roth contributed reporting.

yasmin.gagne@columbiaspectator.com

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Anonymous posted on

“In light of the requirements of the president of the United States and his security, we had to enter into a new discussion with GS about what to do,” he said. “Remain in the same location but have the inconvenience, move to an alternative location on the same day at the same time but not as traditional as the South Lawn site, or change the day and move to Low Plaza. The choice was to do that.”
Or Barnard's commencement could be held at fucking Barnard.

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Anonymous posted on

As has been repeated a few times before, Barnard's commencement cannot be held at Barnard due to space and security requirements. It would be nice if you could avoid vitriol such as "fucking Barnard" when conveying your opinion.

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Metodi Lazarov posted on

I agree with you! After four years of hard school work we should have learned how to achieve the same level of impact one swear word carries but by using proper English. Yet think for a minute how do I feel, and all of my GS peers, when my family is very likely to not be able to reschedule their 13,000 miles trip and I will be walking and "celebrating" class day with watery eyes while your families and friends would passively listen to yet another political mambo-jumbo knowing that his speech is tailored to his campaign. Even the setup is perfect -- women only undergraduate college in NYC.

I hope President Obama would be sincere in his words, and I really hope he has put his speech himself but let's face it: elections are very soon, Republicans did all sorts of troubles with women rights issues, what a better move for Obama but to get mass media coverage and a rating booster for no cost to his campaign...he is sort of using you ladies! 

If all 4 schools were supportive of each other I feel the right thing to do was to voice out our position to the administration that we don't want Obama this year because his people show lack of professionalism when they clearly knew the setup of the campus and all security measures needed. It was not that long when Hilary Clinton spoke on Barnard's class day. The $2,012 offered by the student councils coalition is actually a joke and not going to be enough even to rent the tends let alone some graduation-style reception for graduates and family members.

As a GS senior I feel let down by the president of my Alma Mater, President Bollinger, and surprisingly by President Spar whom until last Monday I respected very strongly. In my opinion they both supported Obama's visit hoping for something in return... .

Thankfully we have Dean Awn, and the amazing team of deans from DoS office, Dean of Academic Support and GS staff who put aside highly prioritized tasks to help every graduate as much as they can on very personal and individual level. Thank you all, you have been amazing every time, all the time!

And to all fellow graduates from Barnard, CC, SEAS -- CONGRATULATIONS! We make Columbia University one of the top schools in the world and this is our celebration, be blessed and successful!

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Anonymous posted on

How about instead of latching on to semantics you pay attention to the point that is being made here.

It's not a space issue. It's a justice issue.

The fair option here would have been for Barnard to hold their commencement somewhere else. I don't care where. If the only option was Barnard campus, and there was not enough space, well then I guess less people would be able to attend the ceremony.

I wonder how that feels?

The point is that your benefit causes someone else's injury. Barnard students should be just as outraged as the rest of us. And hearing another dismissive comment about "space and security concerns" is exactly the kind of thing that exasperates us to the point of resorting to "vitriol."

Sorry if that fucking offends your virgin ears.

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Anonymous posted on

How about YOU pay attention to the fact that both administrations royally fucked up and Barnard is no more culpable in this mess than Prezbo and his admins are? It's been apparent for nearly two months that the Barnard commencement would be hosted on the Columbia campus, and the decision to accomodate Obama at the expense of GS' commencement isn't being made by Barnard, that's for sure.

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Anonymous posted on

wouldn't it have been a win win situation if POTUS, Barnard and GS were to agree that Barnard and GS would combine their Class Day's at the same location, same place, same time with POTUS giving his speech to both Columbia insitutions?  Surely Mr. Obama wouldn't mind that, and neither would Barnard nor GS?  SM Shaw 

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Anonymous posted on

It's understandable that the administration found itself in an un-called crisis. What's so annoying is that they lacked the imagination to solve the problem looking for such solutions as this one. On the other hand, we must acknowledge that any such solution would have found detractors. In this case, why not including CC and SEAS? Still, since BC and GS are smaller it might have been feasible.

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Anonymous posted on

Read again Obama wants a "very discrete visit." He wants to speak to woman exclusively and get a nice picture to use as a campaign piece.

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Anonymous posted on

This is not Barnard's fault.  They don't have the space, and they almost always have their Commencement over here.  We shouldn't turn on each other, particularly not now when we've all managed to come together against this issue.  The problem, I think, is that some idiot on Bollinger's "Commencement Committee" forgot to tell the Secret Service that there was another event scheduled before the President's arrival.  They probably just thought to mention it last week, at which point the Secret Service pointed out the obvious and Prezbo and the administration started running around like chickens with their heads cut off.

I think the telling point, the thing we should be angry about at this point, is that the man still refuses to apologize.  Take the blame and say sorry, dipshit.  It's what we pay you the big bucks for.

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Anonymous posted on

this would make sense if it weren't for the fact that columbia is not at all inexperienced in hosting world leaders.  i dunno, it seems to me that the most sensible approach would have been to reschedule barnard's class day to a day when there were no major events on campus.  it would have made life much easier for the secret service and the university, and it wouldn't have been a slight towards any other schools.  moreover, while it may have presented an inconvenience for some barnard students, given the lead time when it was first announced and the general excitement surrounding having a sitting president speak at class day, i really doubt anyone would have minded.

instead, we have the situation we have today.

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Anonymous posted on

You realize that you can't just reschedule a speaking engagement with the POTUS right? 

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Anonymous posted on

Columbia comes out this whole commencement thing very bruised--thanks, Mr. President for your kindness toward your alma mater!!

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Anonymous posted on

Spec, it was clear to ME all along.  Is everyone else dumber then me?  I guess so!

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Anonymous posted on

Thanks so much for interviewing Bollinger on this issue, Yasmin! Just a point of clarification - the GSSC e-board had a meeting with the GS Dean of Students Office and they informed us they are making plans for a reception on the 14th for Seniors and their families. While the plans have not been finalized, something is being done by GS deans to make this right, and the amazing support from the other undergraduate schools has been the catalyst in this, to be sure. :)

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Anonymous posted on

Prez Bo is a dick.

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Anonymous posted on

Bull shit

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