Opinion | Op-eds

Breaking up with Columbia

I think I’ve been dumped. She just moved on so quickly—the only reminders of her fleeting presence were the crumbling remains of my heart and the salty tearstains across my cheeks. During orientation, she offered me gourmet lobster and freshly grilled salmon; now she barely spares me a second glance as I force down suspicious lumps of meat and grease in John Jay Dining Hall. She used to hold my hand as I navigated the menacing depths of the concrete jungle; now, she leaves me to fend for myself. She walked me through classes and accepted my subpar academic performance because she realized I was just a fledgling first-year, trying to find my place. But now, she seems to expect that I navigate the maze of this school’s bureaucracy on my own. I am the ex-girlfriend of Columbia University.

It’s the inevitable second-semester betrayal that all first-years are forced to face. The rejection would have been easier to swallow if Columbia had at least never pretended to care, never offered that tantalizing morsel of love and affection during our glorious first few months, instead of heartlessly snatching it away. 

Everything just seemed to be going so well. During orientation, we were treated like kings and queens, offered gourmet meals and given adventures throughout the city that never sleeps. We were given some of the best student housing options in all of New York City, all to help us fall even more in love with this school. We were seduced by an image painted by the administration—one of a University bursting with school spirit, genuine love for its students, and opportunities that were unparalleled by any other school. But then, Columbia began to phase out. 

It started slowly. First, there was a slow decline in quality at the dining halls as we transitioned from the freshly grilled steak to John Jay mystery meats. Then came the classes. Professors forced us to navigate the bureaucracy of Columbia on our own. Without a proper introduction, finding our way was difficult, and we cursed Columbia’s full classes and blundered through unfamiliar websites like CourseWorks. But we never truly realized our deteriorating place in Columbia until we began thinking about sophomore housing and realized that the rat-infested, decrepit interiors of McBain were most likely going to be our home to come. Columbia courted us, seduced us, and then dumped us. But worse, before she dumped us, she cheated on us. 

She moved on to the class of 2018, a new group of fresh-faced, young upstarts, naïvely excited to begin a relationship with a school that will ultimately break their hearts. When they soon innocently tramp through the campus gates, Columbia will entice this next generation with the same façade and propaganda of community and love that bound the rest of us. And who can blame them? 

Ultimately, Columbia is too focused on courting prospective and new students and not focused enough on loving the students that actually call it home. I am not ungrateful—I recognize the academic opportunities that Columbia and New York City provide. However, while these opportunities are unparalleled, they will never bring the intense passion and whirlwind of emotions that we all find ourselves thrown into during the first few weeks here. 

The days of our honeymoon period are over, and we find ourselves more jaded and cynical toward the school of our dreams. We were seduced by the glory, the beauty, and the superiority of Columbia, but now all we can see is the maze of bureaucracy, the subpar food, and the peeling paint that is hidden by a posh exterior. 

At the end of the day, I’d just like to say one thing: Columbia, I miss you, but I can’t take you back. 

The author is a Columbia College first-year with a prospective major in biology and a prospective concentration in economics. 

To respond to this op-ed, or to submit an op-ed, contact opinion@columbiaspectator.com 

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Parent posted on

I hope Dean Valentini reads this and responds to this.

As a parent of a Columbia student, a parent that pays $60k a year to Columbia, something must be done to improve sophmore housing. This must be done ASAP.
Mc Bain is a disgrace.

Columbia College and SEAS need strong Deans to change the culture of Columbia to a college that treats its undergrads with more care.

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Anonymous posted on

The experience of McBain is one of the most genuine Columbia traditions. I agree that the Columbia a first-year experiences during NSOP and the first month here is not the same Columbia you will inevitably be a part of, but it's also not any other college. Columbia post-Freshman Fall is University everywhere. No one forces McBain, jadedness, or any other negative on you, especially after freshman year. Apply to be an RA or live in the LLC or SIC housing, don't buy a meal plan next year and cook good food for yourself, utilize CSA, upperclassmen, your RA, the SCs, or any of the other billion resources you have at your disposal to navigate the inevitable unsureness that accompanies new experiences. No one and nothing keeps you from using your Friday or Saturday to get on the train and explore the multitude of free and discounted museums and attractions you have access. You have 6 more semesters, each unique in the new and continuing things you'll partake in during them. Don't let a bad semester or a bit of confusion change your mind on Columbia. She hasn't broken up with you, she's just a bit more complicated than the stereotype you formed in your head about her for the first 17 years of her life. All Universities are.

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Anonymous posted on

I'm inherently opposed to the idea that living in a bad dorm room should be "genuine Columbia tradition". I get that all universities may be like this, but that doesn't mean we don't all deserve better.

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Anonymous posted on

Holy crap the privilege here... No matter if you're used to being treated like royalty, you need to grow up. John Jay is one of the best college cafeterias you'll find anywhere, and nobody thinks the meat is mysterious. You have no one to blame for your poor performance in class except yourself. They're plenty of people here who came from less rigorous or prestigious high schools and you know what? They work their buts off and consistently outscore people like you for a reason. McBain is getting renovated this summer, and some floors already have been. If you aren't grateful to be here, to experience all the opportunities Columbia has to offer, nobody will miss your constant complaints when you're gone.

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Are you kidding me? posted on

Wow, I'm amazed by how much you misread this article. The position presented is simply that there is a drastic shift in the way students are treated after NSOP right when they arrive and the way they are treated afterwards. Whatever your opinion of the food in John Jay, it is undeniable that the food provided during our first weeks here was significantly better.

And what part of the article mentioned or even suggested anything about poor academic performance in class? Stop reading things into articles based on your own experience. Just because you may not have worked hard and done well in classes, doesn't mean that the author of this piece did poorly as well.

This isn't a matter of privilege or arrogance. As the article states, "I am not ungrateful—I recognize the academic opportunities that Columbia and New York City provide. However, while these opportunities are unparalleled, they will never bring the intense passion and whirlwind of emotions that we all find ourselves thrown into during the first few weeks here."

There is a difference between a snobby attitude and honest recognition that Columbia does treat its students differently after their first week here. Get off your high horse and recognize that just because someone recognizes flaws in your precious school, doesn't mean they don't work hard, deserve to be here, and appreciate everything the school does in fact offer.

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I agree -- this article was misread posted on

I tend to agree with both the author and this comment. This article explains the rather unanticipated treatment post-NSOP for a freshman. During the first week and somewhat of the second, upperclassmen and CSA guided us in our transition to college, yet the dynamics of classes (as opposed to high school), using SSOL and Courseworks were not explained. We had to figure it out ourselves or from our peers: I learned about the existence of Courseworks through a floor mate.

Of course we understand the opportunities we have here, as opposed to other universities. It just feels like the university quickly shifted its intentions without considering the student body.

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Anonymous posted on

Everyone has a right to their opinion. As someone who actually comes from one of the "less rigorous" high schools you speak of, I actually agree with the writer. There is nothing wrong with her comparison of NSOP to the rest of the school year. Also, if you do not know a person, try not to assume they are used to being treated like royalty. The writer also clearly stated that she is grateful to be here. Columbia is an amazing school but it is not perfect. No school is.

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GS14 posted on

Gourmet lobster and freshly grilled salmon? Wow. Columbia never even pretended to give a damn about me. According to this article, I guess I should feel lucky.

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