To the deans and administrators of Columbia University:
This will not be the first time you hear from a student about Bacchanal. I am sure it will not be the last. I will readily admit that my outrage is somewhat personal: I am roommates with one of the board members of Bacchanal and have watched her put her heart and soul into planning the event. Though I am not usually the type to write angry letters, I will be sending an email to each and every one of you. You may not ever read it, but I have to do something to express my frustration.
You are making a mistake.
More accurately, you have already made a huge mistake and are on the brink of making another. Your decision to cancel fall Bacchanal and put spring Bacchanal “under review” was shortsighted. At best, it was an ineffective gesture that did not address the problem of sexual assault; at worst, it exploited the issue to cover a controversial decision.
Your decision to not communicate adequately or efficiently with the groups responsible for planning both fall and spring Bacchanal is symptomatic of ubiquitous communication issues at Columbia. Your decision to waste $55,000 in student life fees is a blatant insult to the student body, even if the funds are being covered. Your decision to rationalize the cancellation by citing “safety concerns associated with … sexual assault” is the most reprehensible of all.
If you are going to cancel Bacchanal because of sexual assault concerns, then you might want to consider canceling Glass House Rocks, or Night Market, or any other event that a large percentage of the student population could potentially attend and at which students could potentially be inebriated. Any similar event on a college campus could lead to sexual assaults, but here is the critical part: sexual assault can happen at any time, anywhere, to anyone.
No student would argue that sexual assaults could never occur at Bacchanal. But no one I’ve talked with thinks that canceling Bacchanal is a satisfactory solution. The cancellation will not truly prevent sexual assaults. Instead, it will only inflame the underlying structural issues with administrative proceedings that have sparked so much student frustration.
This issue is not about me or any one student. Rather, it is about the administration’s decision to shortsightedly cancel what could have been an enjoyable community event on Columbia’s campus and a wonderful surprise to students returning from the summer break. More importantly, it is about hiding the decision behind the guise of addressing sexual assault.
And that is a mistake.
Deans and administrators of Columbia, do not make the same mistake by canceling spring Bacchanal.
The author is a School of Engineering and Applied Science senior majoring in computer science.
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