Opinion | Op-eds

Is it really 'Our Blue'?

Like many of you, I recently watched the “Our Blue” video released by Columbia University’s four undergraduate student councils—a roughly two-minute spoonful of sugar they called a “celebration of what it means to be a Columbian.” And while I applaud and appreciate the hard work that went into making the video, I couldn’t help but feel disappointed—disappointed that what was supposed to be a student-produced video with a populist mission instead centered on a tired, top-down message that has been repeated ad infinitum by admissions directors, tour guides, and others generally attempting to sell the Columbia experience.

It’s been said over and over again, particularly to prospective students with innocent hearts and open minds, that we pride ourselves on our diversity, our location in New York City, and on our “we can do anything” attitude. I’m just surprised the video didn’t go with the full package deal and flaunt our Core Curriculum as well. 

Ultimately, we as Columbians don’t need to be sold on what we commit to daily. And here, I wanted something that went beyond that saccharine exterior we’ve all agreed to thoughtlessly stamp onto the deeply complex, sometimes dark, and oftentimes difficult experience that we as Columbians have throughout our time here. 

We have stories that go beyond the message that the “Our Blue” video portrayed—individual stories of loneliness, heartsickness, obsession, and struggle. We as a student body go far beyond the lighthearted, dreamy-eyed, and flatly optimistic portrayals that have become our stories to those wanting a quick peek inside the ivory tower of our lives.

I am asking for a rigorous re-examination of the stories we are telling, the stories we live, and the stories that we have not told. I am asking why we constantly retell the same stories—stories which promote a two-dimensional ideal and cover up the genuine dignity we earn. I am asking why we cannot confront the narratives that we hold inside ourselves, why we cannot remove the technicolor and inspirational music, why we cannot deal with the fact that our stories—the stories that have not been told—are beautifully flawed in perhaps the most human and natural of ways.

Our student councils were looking for “resonance”—a “spirit” that they hoped would strike a hidden chord from within ourselves and spur us onward, upward toward a larger transcendental body of proud individuals. And in response, I ask them not to look toward the heavens but toward us down below—to feature us in their videos, in their media, in their portrayals of us as we are. I ask them to be comfortable portraying us with honesty, depicting the noble silence of our own quiet vulnerability, knowing and understanding that what we’ve been through and the challenges we face ultimately shape us more deeply, more humanly, and more personally than any idealistic message ever could.

The author is a Columbia College senior majoring in economics and music. He is the director of the Columbia University Bach Society.

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

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Tour Guide Alum posted on

Tangentially relevant - it's worth mentioning that, unlike at other schools (including Barnard, incidentally) the URC tour guides are not given a script and are urged only to share their Columbia experience. Of course, the people who end up as tour guides come from the more enthusiastic set, but they are speaking about "their blue"

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Anonymous posted on

seemed more of an 'prospective students' video to me, nevertheless i thought it was well-made....

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Anonymous posted on

yes yes yes yes. Thank you.

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Austin posted on

Agreed - 100%.

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CC '14 posted on

I agree with the author, but we should also keep in mind that this was the first "Our Blue" video, and so one would expect it to start out with the more superficial. I wasn't so upset with the video because I didn't expect the first video in the series to delve deeply into individual stories...rather the first video is meant to just sort of introduce you to the campaign as a whole, intrigue you, and give you a tiny taste of what is to come. I wouldn't judge the whole project on this one video because I think it's meant to be more of an introduction rather than a summary.

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Anonymous posted on

It takes a real Student Leader to take cues from Chris Christie. That's the true spirit of Our Blue -- without compunction, our Student Leaders spent money to make an ad campaign starring themselves talking about how great they are. They just haven't learned to do it with finesse yet, but give them time.

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angry little man posted on

just about every quote in that video made me cringe.
"full of life" a culture centered around bragging about all nighters in butler is not full of life
"rich learning experience" am i the only one around here with shit professors?
"finding your passion" the core takes up at least 1 out of the first four semesters. far less time to explore different majors here than at other schools
"columbia is not insular" yeah we sometimes go to 1020
"you can do anything" unless our bullshit bureaocracy says no

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Why are you posted on

still here?

Seems like your bitch ass would be happier elsewhere...

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angry little man posted on

dat fancy degree doe...

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Hieranonymous Ivanovich Ishango Arithmetic Gurdjieff Bosch posted on

I loved those camera whooshes, though! So cinematic, made me feel like I was watching a Michael Bay movie. But it could use more inspirational music, also more CGI explosions.

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Som freshman tried that posted on

I think it was called Columbia Style?

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CCSC Member posted on

I will say that I quite frankly hated the video, and that not all members of student council were behind this video. If I had known that this was the content of the video, I would have tried to block it from seeing the light of day. Terrible depiction of the Columbia community, first of all. Why would the person(s) behind the video make one and only include student council members? Ugh. And the terrible acting? I mean, a girl sitting in the window sill and looking out of the window like that? COME ON. No. So, I will say this video doesn't speak for all members of CCSC. Just putting that out there.

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menckenman posted on

It would be virtually impossible to create a work whose mission was this, without engendering the expected critical angst-filled comments provided here.
Before you all jump on me as the next target of opportunity, first let me say that this reaction is absolutely normal and expected from any university population, and even more so from CU folks, whose rep for this is legendary. Not that there's anything wrong with that.
I leave you with a thought to ponder; are your issues and mental pain and shit professors and unresponsive admin and isolation any worse than your compatriots at Princeton, or Rutgers, or Clemson? Don't think so.

So give the people who made this a break, and provide some more positive and specific critique. BTW, did any of you actually think they would have constructed a deliberate obloquy given their mission?

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