The Blog


On July 12, CNN held a town hall in which everyday citizens asked questions of Speaker of the House Paul Ryan. Zak Marcone (CC’19) was one of those invited to ask a question. The Lion interviewed him about his experience challenging the Speaker’s decision to endorse the Republican Nominee for President, Donald Trump.

How did you get invited to the town hall? 

About two months ago, I was invited to a Ted Cruz town hall. I went to that one, but I didn’t get an opportunity to ask a question. Someone from CNN remembered me from the past town hall and sent me an email when the spot opened up for this one.

What question did you ask Paul Ryan?

It concerns me when the Republican leadership is supporting someone who is openly racist, has said Islamophobic statements, and wants to shut down our borders. How can you morally justify your support for this kind of candidate?

Even though attendees asked many questions at the town hall, a lot of publications (Huffington Post, Politicus USA, etc.) really noticed yours. Why do you think that is?

I guess it was because I wasn’t afraid to ask what was on everyone’s mind with Paul Ryan, specifically the moral issue of his support for Donald Trump. It is the elephant in the room and something that’s ignored, which he did when he answered my question. I think it’s also because I used the words “racist and Islamophobic” and he did not deny that Trump is those things in any way at all. I think that that was probably the main reason that it got so much attention.

How did you feel about confronting Ryan?

I wouldn’t call it a confrontation. I just couldn’t think of any answer for myself for why he would support Trump, and I wanted to see for myself how he would answer the question.

How do you feel about Paul Ryan’s answer to your question?

I wasn’t really expecting anything and I didn’t really get anything either. It was a last effort on my part to elicit some sort of moral compass from Paul Ryan and a larger, general stance from a Republican leader.

In your opinion, what options do young Republicans have if they don’t support Trump’s views but also don’t want to vote Democrat?

I would very strongly say that you have to vote for Hillary Clinton. I don’t think that there is a third party option unless you agree with Libertarian policy. I think if you’re a moderate Republican like me, you really need to vote for Hillary Clinton. Even though a lot of her policies are different than conservatives are looking for, the other option is  much much more dangerous. In a binary choice between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump, there’s only really one option, and that’s Hillary Clinton.

Does Trump’s choice of Mike Pence as a running mate alter your opinion about Trump as a candidate in any way? Why or why not?

I really didn’t think my opinion of Trump could get any worse. Well it did. Pence is a terrible person who clearly has deep prejudices against the LGBT community as well as other groups. This makes me even more disappointed in Paul Ryan for supporting him.

Photo Courtesy of James Xue (SEAS ’17)

“I’m bored.”

This is the cry of every student who finds themselves swimming in the ocean of free time that is summer vacation. As much fun as it is to sleep the mornings away, it gets old after the third week. So what exactly should you do with your newfound free time? Why not spend it becoming acquainted with a subject you’ve never tackled before? Never fear if you didn’t apply for summer classes. There are plenty of quality learning resources available if you have a computer and internet access. The following resources are primarily video-based, though some include outside exercises and quizzes that you can use as supplementary materials. 

CourseWorld (Free)

What do you do when you want to learn about a topic but Wikipedia isn’t good enough? CourseWorld is a not-for-profit online resource committed to giving a quality liberal arts education to anyone who wants it. The instructional videos, mostly curated from YouTube, cover everything from religion to freelance writing. If you’re looking to learn about a specific topic, say Korean literature, this is the place for you. The site allows you to make an account and queue up your videos for later viewing if you’d like. It’s easy to search for the videos you’re looking for based on a keyword, and the site includes courses, or a related series of videos, for most subjects. The site draws primarily from documentaries, lectures, and discussion panels. 

Coursera (Free, starting at $49 for course certificate)

Miss the hallowed halls of Columbia and wish you were still in class? Coursera can help. The website offers massive open online courses, or MOOCs from universities like Stanford, Yale, Princeton, and our fair Columbia. They’re completely free, and you can take as much (or as little) from the courses as you’d like, as instructors don’t give students grades. Coursera’s courses are true blue college courses, which means it carries the workload of a college course. Keep that in mind before you sign up to take ten of them at the same time. It might be hard to motivate yourself to stay inside and watch videos when the pleasant weather of summer beckons from outside.

Compared to CourseWorld, it might be a little more challenging to wade through Coursera courses if you’re looking for specific information. On the other hand, by the end of the course, you’ll be a verified mini-expert. Also, when you sign up for a course, you can sign up for a special track that will award you a certificate at the end of the course. This special certificate track costs money, but there are scholarships available. The site offers everything from computer programming courses to foreign language. You must make an account to view videos, and Coursera takes its honor code pretty seriously. 

Lynda ($25 a month, free for Columbia/Barnard students)

Want to up your internship game? Lynda is a site that offers a multitude of courses in business and technical skills, all taught by industry experts. You can choose to watch videos independently, or if you’d like, you can choose to be on a “learning path” that will give you the skills of a certain occupation once you’ve finished all the videos. Examples include how to become an project manager and how to become an iOS app developer, though there are many others. The material here isn’t usually as engaging as the material on the other two sites, though Lynda is the only website to offer courses on “soft” skills like leadership. When you finish a course, you can post an acknowledgement of this fact directly on your LinkedIn profile. You have to make an account to view videos. You can access Columbia’s Lynda portal here.  

Fight the summer brain drain with these three online resources. Each site draws its strength from the particular method it uses to teach you and you can pick the best site depending on your individual needs. Just remember: you can can always learn, even in the summer.