The Blog


Photo Courtesy of James Xue (SEAS ’17)

And we’re back! Hi folks! I apologize for my recent absence of posts; I was traveling and then what I like to refer to as the “election explosion of chaos” occurred. I know what you’re all thinking… “Great, another article on Trump”. But fear not! I promise to only mention our good ol’ president elect once.

Today I want to talk about a concept I’ve been wrestling with recently: the role of age in relationships. My findings would suggest that things do in fact get better with age, BUT our proclivity for conflict also increases, essentially just making relationships a gigantic pain in the ass. So, “you’re going to suffer… but you’re going to be happy about it.” (Please note that this is definitely a Harry Potter reference, and not some weird/kinky Fifty Shades of Grey bullshit.)

There is a tendency in today’s society to think that younger people are more reckless, ready to throw the first punch or spit the first insult. However, recent Conflict Resolution Researchers have disproved this stereotype. After examining 100,000… I repeat, 100,000 cases, throughout the years, these researchers came to the conclusion that “in general, as the age of leaders increases, they become more likely to both initiate and escalate militarized disputes.” Insert a worried glance towards our post-January, and every so wrinkly, future White House here.

While at first I found these conclusions profound, the more I thought about them in terms of dating, the more obvious they became. As a twenty year old, I can safely say that I have been in maybe one serious relationship conflict. And honestly, that makes complete sense. In comparison to an older dating pool, I simply don’t have as much time or experience, two very potent ammunitions for conflict. Basically, there is a lot more to be pissed off about the longer you’re around.

The researchers also found that “in personalist autocratic regimes… as the leader’s age increases, the relative risk of conflict declines relative to the rising risk of conflict associated with aging leaders in other types of regimes.” I think this conclusion is very suggestive of a certain phenomenon in the age-relationship rhetoric, i.e. the cougar. I must admit, while writing this I couldn’t get a picture of Putin dressed as a Mrs. Jones character, listening to “Forever Young” out of my mind.

After fighting for so many years, I think both the dictator and the cougar are just looking for some sweet simplicity in their lives (obviously using slightly different tactics to achieve this). While dating a younger partner is sometimes frowned upon, I think it provides an understandable reprieve from the war caused by time that inevitably surrounds the elder’s more typical relationships.

All that being said, I personally look forward to getting older. Not because I am looking forward to more conflict in my life, but because I think conflict so often yields growth. I am ready to fight, and consequently grow, my way into a relationship that is right for me. And hell, if that doesn’t work, I’ll start taking notes from Mrs. Jones or Madonna. The following link provides more information on the research I’ve discussed in this article.

“Sex and the City… and Deterrence” runs alternate Fridays. To contact the writer or submit a piece of your own, email submissions@columbialion.com

Remington Free/Senior Graphics Editor

In a letter submitted to Bwog late Thursday evening, the Columbia Wrestling Team has written an apology in response to the discovery of messages from the 2017 team member’s GroupMe that contained explicit, degrading content targeting various groups of people.

The full message can be found below:

To the Columbia community:

All of us apologize, without reservation or condition, to all members of the Columbia community for the creation and dissemination of the inappropriate, vulgar and hurtful text messages which have affected so many members of our community and the overall University. In particular, we apologize to our fellow students, the faculty members who teach us, and the campus administrators who work so hard on our behalf.

As a team, we want to make it clear to everyone that we understand the fact that these offensive text messages are inexcusable. These messages do not represent our core values as a program, our coaching staff or the athletics department. We sincerely apologize for the hurtful things that have been said, the damage done to relationships we hold dearly, and the harm this incident has done to Columbia University’s reputation and public image. We are truly very sorry.

We tremendously regret the harm that this has caused the Columbia athletics program; many members of the athletics family dedicate their time to make sure that all student-athletes represent the university in a positive light, and are active and productive members of the university community. We are sorry for betraying their trust and not being mindful of their strong example.

We also apologize to our alumni and supporters, as we have let you down and have disrespected the entire collegiate wrestling community. We apologize to our coaches – for putting them in a difficult position and jeopardizing their professional careers and personal well-being, as these messages do not (and never has) represent them or their values whatsoever.

More importantly, we want all people who were insulted or felt threatened by the messages to know that we could not be more remorseful for the harm that this situation has caused. Our team aspires to be leaders on campus and in our community. We know that we must contribute to campus life in a way that makes everyone feel safe and celebrated regardless of our differences. We are disappointed in ourselves because members of our team stood by as bystanders as opposed to speaking out on behalf of those individuals and groups which were being talked about in such a negative and hostile manner. We will strive to do everything in our power to help everyone feel safe, accepted and valued as all members of the Columbia community should be.

We realize that what was done is extremely wrong. There is no excuse for this behavior. All of us have gained an entirely new perspective on how hurtful the comments made by members of our team truly are. These messages are not just words or playful jokes between teammates. This has been a wake-up call for our team. A culture change was obviously needed – and, rest assured, it will take place. We are prepared for any deserved repercussions from our actions.

Every member of this team has already learned – and will continue to learn – from this experience. We will do our best to contribute to pursuing social justice. We will continue to strive to represent our sport and school which we love with pride and integrity. We ask for your continued understanding, and pledge to be better contributors to the university community.

With respect and humility, we once again offer our sincerest apologies to all for our irresponsible behavior.

Remorsefully,

The members of the Columbia Wrestling team

 

The original letter can be found on Bwog’s website.

This Trump thing has really been bothering me. I do think he will end up doing a decent job as President, but I believe he is a careless human being. You have said that you don’t condone what he’s said, but take greater issue with Hillary’s actions. That is a position that I find to be completely sound and valid. What I cannot understand is how you admire and respect his character.

The first time this tension began to form in my mind was at the table with your mom, and and you were dismissing his remarks about how he’s treated women around him. The things that he’s bragging about doing — whether he’s done them or not — have been done to me time and time again, both by strangers and men that I know. It creates an atmosphere of fear, contempt and deep, unsettling discomfort. I expect to be harassed by a man at least four times every day. It’s been that way since I was 17 years old – being harassed by men twice and three times my age. I do not feel safe from sexual assault at any point in time. You were around to experience the pain, shock, and lingering trauma of a rape with me– I find it even more relevant that this was done at the hands of a man in a position of professional power over me. You were there to see how often I have to deal with these struggles. I am not an exception – this is a widespread problem. You have seen how pedestrian this rhetoric of men being able to get away with “harmless” actions and words is — how it’s an expectation to just accept it. You wouldn’t accept it. Surely, you wouldn’t accept anything that deeply bothers you and brings anxiety that makes you physically ill for the rest of your life. This has only been happening for a few years, and it’s going to keep happening for more than twenty. Because it’s “funny” and “harmless” and the transgressions themselves can elapse a span of mere seconds, it’s okay.

The fact that this is something that has affected my life so heavily and acutely during the time we’ve been together made it feel like you weren’t standing up for me and the millions of women that are expected to just take whatever treatment is dealt to them because to millions of men, this patronizing harassment is something to brag about and applaud. Then it began to dawn on me that perhaps, you don’t even think that this is a problem, let alone that it’s something that should and needs to change. That is a hard thing for me to accept for the rest of my life. It feels fundamentally important for this to be taken seriously. In essence, it was your joy for him that unsettled me. Please do not confuse this with you being joyful that the election resulted in his favor. It’s that you’re happy FOR HIM. That you are not merely complacent about this man being cast as a hero but that you are happy. That this isn’t something you’re accepting as a necessary decision for the country because no one has any idea what he actually wants to do with it. You like him, and that disgusts me. It makes me feel sick to think about it, which is why I’ve been trying to keep my distance the past few days.

I love you very much, but I’m also deeply troubled by this tugging notion that you don’t grasp the magnitude of how certain things, which are completely within the realm of possibility to change, affect my life at the structural and systemic levels. I don’t know that you even know/acknowledge that they exist at the systemic and structural levels. Your comment that if you were raised in a low-income, inner city, high crime community, you would observe the unproductive behavior of your parents and the adults around you and work very hard to have a 4.0 to get a scholarship and go to college just illuminated how blind you could be to what it’s like to actually have those circumstances shape your life and opportunities. “Those people need to be shot,” you said.  They already get shot every day. It’s true that you can’t help someone that doesn’t want to help themselves, but society isn’t effectively and equally equipping people to help themselves. That is just a fact.

However, the rural poor, the urban poor, the profitization of prisons – I don’t know if these things matter to you at all, and it is entirely important to me and what I want to do with my life – purpose and instilling it in others. Do you want to do that or do you only want to blame them and resign yourself to the idea that these people are irredeemable and should live out the next ten, thirty, fifty years of their life wasting as something less than people?

I believe in God’s plan. For this country, for its citizens, for Donald Trump. I believe that the people who society is dismissing and discarding were created by God and are just as important as I am. I believe that every single human was designed with God’s hand and meticulous attention. I believe that anyone can lose their way and make a mess of their lives and the lives of the people around them. If someone is alive after that point of failure or mistake or evildoing, there will still be years of existence that can take the form of more good or more evil. Nevertheless, there will be more experiences – which are opportunities to grow. I believe that we are resilient creatures and that people can come back from anything.

These things have been weighing heavily on my mind because I love you so much and I do want to plan a future with you, but I’m only 20-years-old and my future is just beginning to take shape. The delay in expressing my feelings is due to my own anxiety – fear of bringing these feelings up and having you think that I see you as completely unsupportive of me. None of these issues are individual; they’re issues of idealism. You are the most understanding guy I know and you have strong opinions so I wanted to have mine formed in an organized manner. You take care of me so well and understand me as a human being. I love you so much.

Jacie Goudy is a third year student in Columbia College (2018) double majoring in History and Political Science. She is especially interested in the comparative study of social factors on the political economy between Eastern and Western societies.

 The Lion is the only campus publication with an open-submissions policy. To respond to this op-ed or to submit one of your own, email submissions@columbialion.com

On Wednesday morning, President Debora Spar released an email to the Barnard community about her plans to resign as Barnard’s president. The full email is below:

Dear All,

I am writing to let you know that earlier this morning I informed Barnard’s Board of Trustees of my intention to resign as President of the College, effective March 5, 2017.  Later that month, I will be moving down Broadway to become President and CEO of Lincoln Center.

As I’m sure you can imagine, this was a tough decision to make, and to announce. I love Barnard — its students, faculty, staff, and alumnae — and had fully intended to remain on campus until June of 2018, when my contract expires.  But this new role at Lincoln Center will give me an incredible opportunity to engage with the broader communities of New York City, and to think creatively about the future of one of our nation’s most precious assets:  the performing arts.

These are strange times to be embarking on such a big move.  Over the past days, I have been more impressed than ever by the importance of Barnard’s mission and the depth of this community’s commitment to women’s education, women’s empowerment, and social justice for all.  I have been deeply moved to hear our students’ concern for the world they are inheriting, and their determination to harness their energies to make it a better place. I am deeply grateful to my faculty and staff colleagues, who have rallied around our students and worked with them to explain an ever-more complicated and confusing environment.  I have been blessed to be part of this community for nine years, and to have learned from such an extraordinary group of people.

During my time at Barnard, I have had the great privilege of meeting and working with women who are truly of substance, and of grit. I have spoken with alumnae who served on battlefields and picket lines, and who led — in their own ages and ways — the fight for women’s rights.  I have read and heard the work of our incredible faculty, whose scholarship ranges from the forests of Papua New Guinea to the farthest reaches of the galaxy. And I have watched our students fight for what they believe to be true, and right, and important. All of these experiences have touched me in profound ways, forcing me to grapple with my own understanding of what it means to be a woman, and to live a life that matters. I am grateful to all of you who have both pushed me and supported me, and to everyone at the College who will continue to build Barnard’s legacy.

As I prepare to depart next semester, I realize that there is a great deal happening on campus.  None of this work will stop, or change in any meaningful ways.  Construction on our new teaching and learning center is well underway, and the project is still slated for completion in August of 2018.  Our capital campaign, The Bold Standard, is on track to reach its ambitious and unprecedented goal.  The Task Force on Divestment and Sustainability is about to complete its recommendations for the Board’s Committee on Investments, and the Task Force on Diversity and Inclusion will be presenting its findings at the start of the new year.  I will be staying on until the March meeting of the Board of Trustees, which will enable me to work with the Board on both of these crucial issues.

I will also work closely with the Board to ensure a smooth and seamless transition. The intention is to announce an interim president shortly, and then to begin planning for a full-fledged presidential search. Jolyne Caruso-Fitzgerald, Chair of the Board of Trustees, will work with faculty, staff, and trustees to designate a search committee and collect input from all constituencies on campus.  She will announce further details of these plans shortly. In the meantime, the College is lucky to have a stellar senior staff in place, and I know that each of my colleagues on the President’s Council will continue to lead their areas with the wisdom and professionalism they bring to their jobs each day.

It has been my honor, and my pleasure, to serve as Barnard’s president.  The College is a special place, and its mission has never been more important than it is today.  Last week, at one of the desserts I host for seniors, a group of young women stayed on for a while, sitting in my living room and discussing how they could organize in the wake of the election to fight for climate change, and reproductive rights, and the social justice they want to see.  I was sad when they left, feeling their pain and knowing that this dessert — one of my favorite events — would be one of the last I would host.  But I was also grateful, proud, and hopeful.  Barnard students are extraordinary.  Barnard’s commitment to research, to scholarship, to teaching and mentoring, is unparalleled.  And our community will continue to shape and change the world.  Thank you for allowing me to be part of it.

Sincerely,

Debora Spar
President

Correction (11/16) : A previous version of this article misspelled President Spar’s first name. Her first name is Debora not Deborah. The Lion regrets this error.

Andrew Gelman is a professor of statistics and political science and the director of the Applied Statistics Center at Columbia. A student of math and physics at MIT, he developed an interest in statistics as a college senior and has gone on to become a leading educator and blogger in the field. His work has focused particularly on American politics, including research on the ability to predict elections, the power of the individual voter, and the benefits of redistricting. He blogs at andrewgelman.com.

In your blog, you regularly call out and discuss statistical misinterpretation and deception. What are some important statistical lies being propagated now?
The biggest lie, I think, is that certainty is easy to attain using routine methods.  This is a lie that many people tell to themselves.  As the saying goes, the first step in fooling others is to fool yourself.
You’ve described your successful projects as endeavors aimed at “big fat targets”, such as voting patterns and election incumbency. What targets interest you most now?
In political science I’ve lately been interested in studying polarization and the role of social groups.  We’ve been thinking a lot about what we call the social penumbra, which is the set of people connected to a group.  For example, the number of gays in America is about the same as the number of Muslims in America, but, in surveys, a lot more people report having a close friend or family member who is gay, than report the same of a Muslim.  Two groups that have approximately the same size, have much different penumbras.
What larger statistical questions, in general, will emerge in coming years?
At one extreme, there’s been lots of difficult statistical work on integration of large streams of data, for problems ranging from internet marketing to self-driving cars.  At the other extreme, lots of decisions are still being made based on whether a comparison is “statistically significant.” To consider one application area:  there’s lots of talk about personalized medicine based on each person’s genome; but new medical therapies are still being evaluated using crude between-person experiments.  How can this be?  If we can barely come to a consensus about what works in medicine, or what are the effects of different diets, how can we hope to design individualized therapies?  In many areas of applications, we need more local and relevant data and less reliance on statistical significance.

Know a student, staff, or faculty member that we should interview next? Let us know by sending a note to submissions@columbialion.com. Interested in conducting interviews on behalf of The Lion? Email operations@columbialion.com to join the team.