Opinion | Letters from the Editor

YIR 2013-14: The year in opinions

From September to May, the Opinion section has published (hopefully) thoughtful commentaries and passionate arguments on issues relevant to our readers. Here, we offer selections from columns, op-eds, and staff editorials that reflected debate on campus and in the community.

This page is part our 2013-14 Year in Review issue. To see the rest of the issue, click here

Columns in review 

Getting lost to find yourself 
My summer bubble soundly popped, and I wished there were pamphlets for those about to return to the real world. Made from stroke-able velvet or fake feline fur, there would be comfort in its touch. Before reading, you would bring it ticklingly to your face, chest, or whatever bodily region felt particularly aggrieved by the approaching real world. Depending on your nose’s inclination, it would smell of Cornish lavender, Lithuanian limes, or the oiliest of petrol stations. 
Richard Whiddington, CC ’15, is majoring in East Asian languages and cultures. He is a columnist for Spectator. 

New York, New York
New York is nothing if not a cliché. It’s nothing if not the brunt of your standard American joke or the tragic paradise that is both the object of lust and subject of hatred. It’s yellow cabs, the Empire State Building, long train rides, and frustrating commutes. It’s paying the high cost of living, eating at the best corner deli, and scrambling for a job. It’s “Gossip Girl” and it’s “Rent.”  
Ayelet Pearl, BC/JTS ’14, is a former columnist for Spectator. 

Discourse on discourse
I think in debates of identity—on race, on gender, on sexual orientation, and on class—one’s own identity should constantly be taken into question and considered. My issue is when one’s identity completely shuts one out, which, in my opinion, happens quite a bit.
Leo Schwartz, CC ’14, majoring in political science and Latin American studies. He is a columnist for Spectator.

Beginner’s mind, or in defense of teaching the days of the week
While we are not all so fortunate to have these rich associations triggered when reciting the alphabet, learning a new language does have a very compelling way of defamiliarizing even the most banal of words, stripping away the caked-on layers of linguistic habit to reveal a raw materiality that paves a path, giving traction to more complex conceptual and cultural constructions. Hence, through teaching the days of the week, I see the dry woodiness of Thursday morph into the rain-washed cement of jeudi, and my mind transports the experience to another level; it giddily skips along the semantic slippages fostered by these two syllables—“jeu di,” “je dis.” 
Loren Wolfe is a lecturer in the department of French at Barnard College. 

A pole in the ground 
“Yeah. I miss the days of Columbia football. Even if we didn’t win very much, the tradition was worth it. Watching those guys run out onto the field under the Saturday sun. Cheering on the occasional great play. It felt right,” the man said. 

The wind picked up, and some loose dirt swirled at his feet.
Walker Harrison, CC ’14, is majoring in creative writing and mathematics. He is a former columnist for Spectator. 

Growing up, seeking greatness, and living
Everything won’t be all right if we just day-dream about affectionate Hippogriffs, and we’ve long since given up wishing we had a Time-Turner to save us from homework. The pain of growing up is a distant echo of a larger pain: We’re human beings. We’re growing up, we’re changing, and ultimately, we are fragile and mortal.
Luke Foster, CC ’15, is majoring in English. He is a columnist for Spectator and president of the Veritas Forum. 

Levine must back housing first to help homeless
If Levine is going to support relief programs for the homeless of Morningside Heights and West Harlem, he should avoid wasting political capital in supporting a failed voucher program. Advantage did not go far enough to address the homelessness epidemic, and if Levine is truly an advocate for Housing First, we must urge him to stay the course and devote his full energy to pushing Housing First legislation through the housing committee. 
Chris Meyer, CC ’15, is majoring in history and political science. He is a columnist and a former deputy news editor for Spectator. 

Ski jumping over the gender gap
Women have maintained a majority in total undergraduate enrollment nationwide for decades. But if your answer to the question on authors was, “There can’t be many women in the Core, women didn’t write back then,” or something similar, think about that for a second.  
Abby Mitchell, CC ’14, is majoring in comparative literature and society. She is a columnist and a former arts and entertainment editor for Spectator. 

Let’s talk about student council
You don’t have to run for office or join campus media to understand student councils. You just have to pay a bit of attention to them. Hold them accountable for their actions, make sure that they are fulfilling their promises, but also acknowledge their efforts and learn about all the neat things you can do because of them. Or at least grab a bag of popcorn and watch the drama play out. With an invested student body, the council is bound to be stronger and more effective, and we do ourselves a disservice by not being an informed population. 
Alexandra Svokos, CC ’14,  is majoring in creative writing and economics. She is a columnist for Spectator and the former editor in chief of Bwog. 

College: An Elegy 
Brain fried on the same skillet / that leaves both eggs and seniors scrambled, / ambling from bar-wench to bookworm, / from drink to drivel, trying to make some sense of a / four-year period that gave as many mental cramps as / circular songs of minstrel / cycles flushed down our / throats by the ministers of culture until we enjoyed it: / the Hymn to Demeter, Beethoven’s Fifth / birthday party (followed promptly by his McKinsey interview).
Jake Goldwasser, CC ’14, is majoring in Middle Eastern, South Asian, and African studies. He is a columnist for Spectator. 

The importance of awe in academic progress
So if awe is an antagonist of listlessness—a way of provoking activism—then its cultivation should be especially valued in academia, where much of the world’s paradigm-shifting machinery is stocked. Nose-to-the-grindstone academics should pay diligent attention to the sort of storytelling employed by the likes of Cosmos.
Kevin Bi, CC ’15, is majoring in biochemistry. He is a columnist for Spectator and he serves as an executive board member of the Columbia University Wind Ensemble. 

Bursting Barnard’s sophomore housing bubble
A sweet 16 is a rite of passage signifying entry into adulthood, as is a bar or bat mitzvah. Graduating from high school is a rite of passage. Let me be clear about one thing: Being poorly informed about the housing selection process, going through the process, and then being denied housing despite painstaking attention to detail and research is not a rite of passage. It is, in fact, nothing but a major indication of Barnard Res Life’s inability to communicate effectively with students. 
Paulina Mangubat, BC ’17, has a prospective major in economics. She is a columnist for Spectator. 

The Canon in review 

Exploring, edibly
“You just pull its head open like this, and then you can suck its brains out.” I died a little inside that day. It was my first year of college, and I was at a Mardi Gras party that was serving gumbo and crawfish. I figured the gumbo out—spoon, mouth, cool, got it. But the crawfish was staring at me, and it had antennae.
Amanda Tien, CC ’14, is majoring in creative writing. She is the co-founder and editor in chief of Culinarian, a food magazine on campus. 

Interning in the coffee trenches
More broadly, is New York a wasteland where internships are the trenches, with bright-eyed students shipped off and plopped into the miasmic battlefield of “real life,” with clouds of profound disappointment choking dreams as effectively as mustard gas? Is the intern just trying to avoid disillusionment—the trench foot of quotidian life?
Esfandyar Batmanghelidj, CC ’14, is a former regular contributor to The Canon

Passport to another culture
The journey of cultural learning is different for everyone. Some people are innately curious. My journey immersed me in an environment where my attention was consumed by the roots of my culture. With time, this environment attracted my curiosity, and I learned about and eventually claimed back my heritage. It took me years to finally be able to call Japanese culture my own. 
Moeko Nakada, BC ’15, is majoring in psychology. She is the president of Columbia Japan Society. 

Create a separate class to explore women’s writing
Adding extra women to the Core constructs a false history—one where women were able to have their thoughts celebrated and held to the same standards as men. We don’t need to have women’s works lumped into a narrative of philosophical development from which their works were forcibly excluded or never had the chance to exist. The great women of history deserve their own narrative—one that is very different from that of the traditional Western canon.
Britt Fossum, CC ’16, is majoring in chemistry. She contributes regularly to The Canon

Staff editorials in review 

A hazy affair
A transparent process would enable us to have a more effective understanding of a taboo topic: hazing. The administration is pushing broader education and awareness of hazing among student groups this year, and the incident that triggered ZBT’s probation involved hazing. However, the University’s definition of hazing is extremely broad. If the definition is going to be broad, specific violations must be explained. 

A declaration of print-ependence 
When in the course of human events it becomes necessary to air our problems with the printing situation, a decent respect to the opinions of the Editorial Board requires that we should declare the causes which impel us to the complaint. We set them down here to state fully the extent of our grievances; let facts be submitted candidly. 

Divesting responsibly
We agree: Columbia’s investment in fossil fuel companies should be investigated. However, that is not to say we agree wholeheartedly with divestment. Divestment is not simply a matter of caring for the planet. The issue is more nuanced than the petition lets on. Fewer funds in fossil fuel companies might result in smaller endowment growth, which could very well reduce funding for environmental research.

Fire M. Dianne Murphy
This is about far more than a losing record, though. We’re also extremely concerned with the perception and role of athletics on campus. Our community values athletics as a part of the Core Curriculum: Students in Columbia College and the School of Engineering and Applied Science are required to complete two semesters of physical education. Murphy holds the title of “director of physical education,” but we find her commitment to undergraduates—particularly to those who do not play varsity sports—lacking.

Panhellenic sorority recruitment lacks financial transparency
The current policy of evasion and secrecy with regard to dues may be well-intentioned, but it is ultimately hypocritical and damaging—preventing PNMs from being fully informed is against the PNM Bill of Rights. Moreover, sweeping the reality of dues under the rug only creates problems in the future. For some prospective members, the cost of dues does not factor into the decision. For others, though, a difference of several hundred dollars can be utterly prohibitive. 

Conversation on sexual assault policy needs action
Moving forward, we expect the administration to hold itself accountable for making this painful conversation productive by taking real action. Whatever the first step is—whether it means sending out monthly updates on the progress they’re making, reforming Consent 101, making the Rape Crisis/Anti-Violence Support Center more easily accessible to non-Barnard students, or modifying and clarifying dean involvement in the judicial appeals process—it’s time for progress to be made.

Op-eds and letters in review  

Compulsory CPR
This spring, I relived a moment that will probably stay with me for the rest of my life. One year earlier, my first patient died on me. 

These memories are crystal clear. I can remember every action, every thought of that fateful hour, and, as such, I question each one. If I hooked up the AED faster, maybe my patient would have lived. If I ran faster, maybe my patient could have lived. If. If. If. If. 
Christopher Luccarelli, CC ’16, is a member of CU-EMS. 

Double-edged coin
Good news, everyone! The Associated Press has reported that Ivy League students shouldn’t worry too much about the potential debt they might accrue getting their prestigious education. But let’s talk about the actual “reporting” that was done by Philip Elliott and how many things he gets patently wrong about how (un)affordable an Ivy League education is. 
David Salazar, CC ’15, is the arts and entertainment editor for Spectator.

‘Getting’ a tragedy
As I slowly pronounced each name I read, I tried to keep my tone as stable as possible to mask the small pauses I needed to figure out how to say some of them. I’m certain I made more than a handful of mistakes in the process. … But as I write this reflection, I know that the essence of my grief lies not in the pronunciation mistakes of my tribute to the victims of September 11, but in the their absence, their inability to correct these mistakes.
Burhan Sandhu, CC ’16, is a former deputy graphics editor for Spectator. 

To drive out hatred 
The problem is not that Prabhjot was wrongly identified as a Muslim, but rather that our brothers and sisters in our New York City community failed to respect his differences. We must take the opportunity presented by this senseless act of violence as a positive driving force to eradicate the ignorance-driven hate that results in the oppression of those who are “different.” 
Mandeep Singh, CC ’15, is majoring in urban studies. He is the co-founder of Columbia University Sewa. Harmann Singh, CC ’16, is on the executive board of CU Sewa.  

Checking my privilege
Three summer months went by, and at the end I felt like I had accomplished nothing with my life. Three months of weekly grind with no beginning, no end, just output. Three months with nothing to show for it but a few esoteric skills, a fistful of dollars, and a block of text on my résumé. Three months of missed opportunities. I wish I’d done worse. I wish someone would have told me I’m not working fast enough, or even threatened to fire me. At least then I would’ve had reason to change something.
Max Beckhardt, CC ’15, is majoring in physics. He is a former opinion blogger for Spectrum. 

Respecting the concerns of the community
As we stated unequivocally at last month’s scoping meeting, we simply cannot even entertain the idea of this project moving forward until we are completely certain that there will be no adverse impacts on the health of the children of P.S. 163 or the residents of Park West Village. While we do not dispute that the older adults residing at JHL would be better served by a new, upgraded facility, the community is expressing valid concerns that require serious consideration. 
Melissa Mark-Viverito is the speaker of the New York City Council. Mark Levine is the District 7 City Council member. 

A poignant plaque
Through the name “Columbia,” our university invokes a colonial heritage that resulted in the death of pre-existing indigenous societies. Christopher Columbus’ first boot-prints in this hemisphere initiated a long and tragic history of land theft, conquest, and genocide for First Nations in the Americas, as well as slavery and other forms of oppression. Nonetheless, pride in this heritage resounds from texts in the Core Curriculum and is iterated in campus architecture, beginning with the words “King’s College” that parade across the frieze of Low Library like so many triumphant Greek charioteers, and echoed everywhere in the King’s Crown logo.
Julian Noisecat, CC ’15, is majoring in history. He is the co-president of the Native American Council. 

Don’t destroy a national treasure
The Cathedral of Saint John the Divine is now considering its newest potential developer for the northernmost piece of property on its beautiful and historic Close on Amsterdam Avenue and West 113th Street. But this latest attempt to exploit rising real estate values in the neighborhood would be a huge monstrosity—shrouding the landmark cathedral’s façade and eaves, bringing hundreds of cars and trucks to the narrow streets surrounding it, and destroying the pastoral elegance that has defined the Close for more than 113 years.
Laura Friedman is the president of the Morningside Heights Historic District Committee. 

Letter to the editor: President Bollinger on athletics
In short, over the decade since I appointed Dianne Murphy, we have made enormous progress in the athletic department, and I am committed to continuing on this consistently upward trajectory. I am proud of our student athletes, and their continued success depends on the ever-growing support from all of us.
Lee Bollinger, Law ’71, is the University president. 

D is for depression
My name is Nazia Jannat, and I suffer from depression. I am 21 years old, a sister, a daughter, a friend, a leader, a poet, and a survivor. Every morning that I live to see is a previous night I know I did not overdose. Every heartbeat reminds me that there’s a pang of hope somewhere out there, and it’s beating pretty fucking loud! Every face I encounter I greet with a mask of cheerfulness, and yes, I’m tired of lying! Ask me how I am, and I’ll tell you I am not OK!
Nazia Jannat, BC ’14, is majoring in English. 

Bollinger: Speak up when we need to hear from you
President Bollinger, when I heard that you wrote a letter to Spectator, I was happy that you chose to come and address an issue in a student forum. Rather than send us an email or write us a press release, you chose to engage in conversation with us—in our space. But now that I’ve read your letter, I can’t help but feel that it was written to mollify someone who was offended by the editorial, like a supporter of Dr. Murphy or a trustee whose support we don’t want to lose. I think that even though you sent your letter to a newspaper run and read by students, we weren’t your true intended audience.
Daphne Chen, CC ’14, is majoring in English. She is the president of Columbia College Student Council. 

Why yellowface is racist
I’ve been racist for most of my life, and I think I still am. After all, we’ve been marinated in racism since childhood. And for that reason it is actually very hard not to be racist. It takes more than just being nice or having general goodwill. Because so many of the systems of thought we take for granted have racist constitutions, you have to spend time to understand these systems and then consciously undo them. You have to listen to people. And you have to work.
Wilfred Chan, CC ’13, is a former multimedia deputy for The Eye. 

Elevated morality
We have moralized the elevator. We’ve turned public transportation into a courthouse—where the good are self-affirmed and the bad are made to feel like they should take the elevator straight to hell. This is a problem, not only for the pain it causes, but also for what it says about us as a community. We’re passionately moralistic, which is great, but too often it’s in the wrong ways.
Mike Alvarez, CC ’17, is an associate opinion editor for Spectator. He lives on the 12th floor of John Jay.  

Proposed traffic changes  at 96th street are a much-needed step forward
The rash of pedestrian and cyclist deaths so early in the start of a new year and a new mayoral administration may well prove to be the tipping point in the fight for safer streets. The DOT responded swiftly to Community Board 7’s call for changes at 96th Street and Broadway, and the plan the agency has advanced is a significant step forward. But more can be done there, and much more is needed on most other streets in the city.
Ken Coughlin is a member of Manhattan’s Community Board 7. 

Is it really ‘Our Blue’?
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.
Kevin Lee, CC ’14, is majoring in economics and music. He is the director of the Columbia University Bach Society. 

Body positivity looks different for each person
I clearly did not wake up like this. There is liquid eyeliner on my eyes to create this cat eye, there is bronzer on my cheekbones to create the illusion that I have been in the sunlight, and there is fire-engine red lipstick on my lips to make me feel like Marilyn Monroe. But let me tell you, I feel fierce. I feel sexy. I feel unstoppable.
Paulina Pinsky, BC ’15, is majoring in American studies. 

Cultural sensitivity and PC-ness substitute for examining real injustice
The sun-yellowed straw and plain white shirt evoke the Mexican countryside as much as they evoke abject poverty. It is the garb of the Mexican peasant, the proletariat, and the unwashed, voiceless masses whose assumed backwardness and simplicity set them up for easy ridicule. The image is understood as a hindrance to many Latinos, Mexican or not, who strive to better themselves and struggle to be taken seriously. 
Ricardo Alatorre, CC ’14, is majoring in mathematics and economics. 

What many men don’t understand about sexual assault
Sexual assault is subtle and complicated. It would do good for all of us to learn more about it. When I look at the statistics, and multiply the kind of anguish that I went through by the number of sexual assaults that are occurring on college campuses—one in four females, 10 percent of reports coming from males—I can barely contain my sadness at the unnecessary suffering. It has to stop. And in that, men have a fundamental role.
Erik Campano is a General Studies third-year in the pre-med post-bac program. He is a member of Columbia’s Coalition Against Sexual Violence. 

Barnard College commencement speaker alienates many in community
By choosing such a controversial figure, Barnard implies that students who take deep offense to this choice do not have valid concerns, and their beliefs do not matter. Choosing a speaker of such moral and political controversy seems to assume that the opposing minority will be shamed into silence for their beliefs and will take this decision more or less sitting down. Perhaps Barnard, in whatever calculus it is doing, does not care about offending and isolating students like me, families in attendance like mine, or beliefs like the ones I hold.
Kate Christensen, BC ’14, is majoring in political science. She is the president of the Columbia University College Republicans.  

President Spar weighs in on SJP banner removal
Traditionally, Barnard has allowed student groups to use the spaces on either side of the Barnard banner to promote upcoming events. It was never our intent to use that space to advocate for any political position or opinion. Yet, by Tuesday morning, it had become clear that this banner’s placement on the main building had inadvertently created the appearance of official Barnard endorsement. And once this perception was afoot on our campus and in our community, we felt compelled to remove the banner and to halt the hanging of all banners on this site.
Debora Spar is the president of Barnard College. 

SJP banner removal implicitly backs pro-Israel view
Regardless of their intent, by removing our banner, Barnard administrators gave the appearance of an agreement with these claims that our message is anti-Semitic. We can only assume that the Barnard administration condones the labeling of a call to stand for justice in Palestine as anti-Semitic, a stance that denies our community the possibility of any actual discussion around what constitutes anti-Semitic and racist language.
Shezza Abboushi Dallal, BC ’16, is majoring in history. Feride Eralp, CC ’14, is majoring in anthropology. They are both members of Columbia Students for Justice in Palestine. This op-ed was written on behalf of SJP. 

Bacchanal is not invitation for sexual harassment
Your drunkenness is not an excuse to grab my ass. Your drunkenness is not an excuse to assume all women want to have you grind up on them. Your drunkenness is not an excuse to grab my friend and start forcibly making out with her as she stands in line to buy halal. Your drunkenness is not an excuse to disrespect female bodies and demean our strength and intelligence.
Katie Best-Richmond, CC ’16, is majoring in visual arts. 

An open letter to President Bollinger and Provost Coatsworth
Hopper and Vance have each given more than 25 years of dedicated service to the department of sociomedical sciences, in which they have been central to the design and operation of certificate programs as well as Mailman’s core curriculum, and they taught and advised a huge number of master’s and doctoral students. Disrespecting long-standing members of the Columbia community with such summary dismissals is shocking to us, and it goes against the values that the University professes.
This op-ed was written by Rebecca Jordan-Young, Tow associate professor of women’s, gender and sexuality studies, and Brendan Hart, a Ph.D. candidate in sociomedical sciences, on behalf of students and colleagues of Vance and Hopper. 

Letter from the editors: Spectator’s new direction
We’re trying something new this year. Starting in the fall semester, the Columbia Daily Spectator will make its journalism—and its online presentation—the priority, publishing a weekly print product while bolstering its commitment to sharp, round-the-clock coverage of Columbia and the surrounding neighborhoods.
Abby Abrams, BC ’15, is majoring in English. She is the editor in chief of Spectator Steven Lau, CC ’15, is majoring in economics-math. He is the managing editor of Spectator. Michael Ouimette, CC ’16, is majoring in American history. He is the publisher of Spectator. 

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

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