Author: uau2002

This piece is in response to a piece published in “The Columbia Beacon,” which in turn was published in response to an op-ed in the “Columbia Daily Spectator.”

I hated showing my work in math class.

No, seriously, I hated it.

Take 3(4x +7) = 45. I’m sure all of you remember how to prove that this obviously is true. You have to rewrite the equation to distribute the 3 into 4x+7 to get 12x + 21 equals 45. Then, you have to subtract 21 from both sides to get 12x=24. And finally, you divide both sides by 12 to get the answer, x =2. This, again, being obvious, I would just write the answer, x=2. It wasn’t as if math stopped working if I didn’t write out the three steps on my homework along with the answer. The answer would always be two, so why did I have to waste what little energy I had on one of 46 questions I had every evening for homework?

That argument did not save me from losing points on my assignments in 7th grade.

While I love questions about how a government operates and how we justify government action much more than I loved my algebra proofs, I can see why it’s tedious. Sure, prosecutors should focus on true threats to the community and not otherwise law-abiding citizens, the executive branch in the modern era is given significant discretion on how to enforce legislation; it’s fine if the de facto result of prosecutorial discretion means that a certain group of people already determined as safe have some guarantee of safety; and amnesty through this understanding is not the worst thing that has happened to the American rule of law. But did saying any of that make it truer? Would not saying that make it falser? Life, like math, doesn’t change absent the work that went into it. And while proving these complex questions of political theory makes one a better debater, debating the validity of one’s life to everyone who asks is an exhausting exercise of existentialism.

So sure, Joey, we should show our work to the teacher. Maybe it should be in op-ed form, or The Lion, or re:claim, for the sake of posterity. But I think, to stay in math class a moment longer, Undocu is tired of algebra and wants to move on to Accelerated Multivariable Calculus, and would be happy to debate Accelerated Multivariable Calculus, but you insist on debating algebra, and there’s only so many times they can write x=2 before 800,000 pencils snap in unison. I think that’s what they mean by “reconstructed.” Most people don’t question the virtue of DACA recipients. Most Trump-reluctant Republicans prefer to look like they’re being helpful on the issue as is.

And I’m sure you could make a wonderful argument in Accelerated Multivariable Calculus without writing MS minus 13.


If you’d like to submit an op-ed to The Lion, email

If you watched the Presidential debate on November 1st, one of the issues raised was the question of Syria. From the greatest humanitarian disaster since World War II to the rise of a terrorist state, Syria seems to be the nexus of ills. Given the seriousness of the situation, politicians and military leaders are considering military action in Syria, from Hillary Clinton’s no fly zone to Donald Trump’s yet to be announced strategy to take down ISIS. For most of us, these are abstract things we discuss rhetorically when discussing American military strength. For over four hundred students, this is a well-lived reality. If you are veteran attending Columbia today, you probably served in either Iraq or Afghanistan, two of the longest wars in American history. You also have the privilege, like Vietnam veterans, of realizing that the public believes the war in Iraq was pointless and seeing those gains fall so easily to ISIS. After that, statistically, veterans tend to support candidates who don’t have a history of hawkishness, like Gary Johnson or Donald Trump.

On the bright side, when veterans return home, they rightly have an expectation that they will be treated with respect. They risk their lives for their country and their country should give back. One of the ways we as a nation rewarded their service was the GI Bill.  Passed during World War II, it gave veterans returning home assistance in paying for college and trade school tuition. We passed an extension to this to apply for veterans of engagements after 9/11. You would think this would be uncontroversial, but Donald Trump complicates everything. In May of this year, he said to CNN that he doesn’t support the GI Bill. While there was one time where the Republican Congress tried to shift funds from one GI Bill benefit to support other veterans programs, usually Republicans stop after suggesting the privatization of the Department of Veterans Affairs. For those unfamiliar, the Department of Veterans Affairs oversees the Veterans Health Administration which should handle healthcare once veterans get past the very deep backlog. If you are wondering, the VA’s website states “VA health care is NOT considered a health insurance plan” which one would need to not be forced to pay for Columbia’s insurance. This is all simple with the Democrats in that they have thrown their support behind the GI Bill and against privatization, but I honestly was surprised I was covering this difference at all. Usually serving veterans is bipartisan except for the tiny details. In 2015, nearly two-thirds of veterans opposed privatization of the VA in a bipartisan poll. If veterans have spoken, and we love them, why is this a debate?

Of course, I generalize. There are over 400 opinions on campus that are much more valuable than mine on these things. They can provide perspectives more grounded in reality than a first-year. But Republicans have touched the GI Bill before. If Donald Trump wins, they might change a few things here and there. That might affect people who attend this university, and therefore I felt that not saying when there is a significant difference on approaches would be a disservice, because those of us who haven’t gone to war still have to vote on Tuesday.

Ufon’s mini-series, Columbia and the 2016 Election, will run through the November 8th Presidential Elections.

The Lion is the only Columbia publication with an open-submissions policy. To respond to this piece or to submit one of your own, email

Free speech, like most rights in the United States Constitution, haven’t always been guaranteed. While this concept is the first thing to appear in the Bill of Rights, seven years after the First Amendment was ratified, Founding Father and second president John Adams passed the Sedition Act which suppressed “false” criticism of the government reportedly to address potential unrest spurred by the French government. The modern perception of freedom of speech came into being in the 20th century through a series of court decisions. I point this out because that is how most rights come to be: not by declaration, but by pressure from petitioners that stood firm against the tide of the status quo. Likewise, free speech on  college campuses evolved similarly to free speech across the nation. In 1754, the constituents of Columbia College committed themselves to a similar principle, religious liberty. By 1968, however, Columbia was in the middle of quelling civil unrest from its student population. Today, President Lee C. Bollinger has founded a center for the First Amendment and has defended freedom of speech as a principle on college campuses. However, if  that was the end of the story, I wouldn’t have an article.

Freedom of speech is one of the most contentious issues on college campuses today. Civil libertarians argue that colleges have departed from the notion so many of them aspire to. They argue that the use of speech codes  and bias response teams by certain colleges have created a chilling effect on speech, but that’s not where criticism stops. They say that in an ironic twist, it seems that students are the ones supporting a drawback in robust debate, citing numerous examples of students demanding their classmates disinvite speakers and self-censor if their intended speech deviates from the liberal norm. This social limitation on speech is generally referred to as political correctness, and the Republicans have railed against it, stating in their party platform, “colleges, universities, and trade schools must not infringe on their freedom of speech and association in the name of political correctness.”

However, this development did not grow in a vacuum. This modern debate over freedom of speech is intertwined with protests against colleges for what protestors described as harboring a racist environment. All of those protests you heard about in 2015 didn’t happen after one incident, they happened after thousands of incidents, many unreported or not dealt with. Progressives argue that when people counter by saying protesters are suppressing freedom of expression, what they really are saying is that they are reacting to being called out for racism and sexism and homophobia instead of making college a hospitable place to learn. As the Democrats put it in their platform, “while freedom of expression is a fundamental constitutional principle, we must condemn hate speech that creates a fertile climate for violence.”

This series has been about how the national election will affect Columbia and that’s important here as well. The Obama administration’s enforcement of Title IX has arguably made colleges more eager to launch investigations into speech that ostensibly constituted sexual harassment and a Trump administration would conceivably cut back on Title IX and a Clinton administration would continue on as usual. However, this is not just about policy policy. Freedom of speech in principle exists to foster fair debate on issues by allowing all sides to be heard and respected. Civil libertarians believe that student censorship and the overwhelming liberal bias in academia is harmful to that mission while progressives believe that a history of bias against women, queer people, and people of color make it so that those people feel uncomfortable speaking out within that system. Both critiques cannot be addressed effectively by policy. But that doesn’t mean they can’t be addressed at all. Obama and the White House have used the media to influence opinion on the ground, whether through the bully pulpit to pass the Affordable Care Act or through initiatives like the It’s on Us campaign to combat sexual assault. While Obama coming out for freedom of speech in his Howard commencement speech didn’t end the debate, the president has power  in affecting public opinion on an issue, and in that way, it still matters.

That being said, Hillary Clinton is of the Democratic Party and therefore is expected to follow the status quo, though libertarians fear her willingness to block ISIS from the internet may be a sign for more restrictions to come. Donald Trump will probably continue coarsening the political discourse even if he’s not elected. But a word of caution: Donald Trump has made a point of saying that he will sue everyone who says something bad about him, from newspapers to women accusing him of assault. If that sounds strangely familiar, it’s because that is punishing “false” criticism of the government. He doesn’t seem to have a grasp on why libel is so hard to prosecute in the United States, and it’s not quite clear that he’s figured that out yet. He might be electable for other reasons, and he might start a cultural moment where conservatives can return to the academy loud and proud. That development wouldn’t be on principle. It’s your choice in the end whether you’re comfortable with that or four more years of Democratic policy, but for something that would critical for any cultural candidate to address, Trump should try to be better.

Ufon’s mini-series, Columbia and the 2016 Election, will run through the November 8th Presidential Elections.

The Lion is the only Columbia publication with an open-submissions policy. To respond to this piece or to submit one of your own, email

Back in Summer 2015, Donald Trump rode down the escalator to announce his Presidential  campaign. In the same speech, he accused the Mexican government of dumping criminals and rapists on the other side of the border. Immigration, for better or for worse, has become a signature issue of this election cycle. More specifically, there is an intense debate over what to do with the 11 million undocumented immigrants already in this country. The Obama administration has attracted the ire from Democratic Hispanic groups by deporting more than 2.5 million people, but in June of 2012, President Obama signed an executive order, Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, which allowed undocumented immigrants who arrived before their 16th birthday, have lived in the country since 2007, and were under the age of 31 as of June 2012, to stay in this country through renewable two-year permits.

Here’s where it matters. Every year, high schoolers, potential transfers, and non-traditional students across the world apply to attend Columbia University. We have the biggest international population of any American university, but the vast majority of admissions are still from the United States. If you apply as a domestic student, Columbia considers your application need-blind and meets 100% of financial need. The same isn’t true for international students. If accepted, Columbia will meet 100% need, but it reserves the right to be need-aware when considering your application. This doesn’t necessarily mean international students don’t get aid, as Columbia hands out $11,000,000 in financial aid to international students, but it does mean that your ability to pay tuition may play a role into whether Columbia accepts you. And this is an important distinction, because students who are not citizens or permanent residents of the United States and who do not have refugee visas are considered international. If you’re wondering at this point, yes, this means undocumented immigrants are international applicants, even if they are approved for DACA. The median income for an undocumented immigrant family rests at $36,000, very comfortably below the $70,000+ sticker price of Columbia undergraduate education. So it’s reasonable to assume that under holistic review, there are some high-achieving, low-income students in this country who because of their lack of documents might lose out on a spot at this university.

Looking forward towards 2017, if Hillary Clinton wins, it probably won’t be with an agreeable Congress. This would mean that she would probably continue to enforce DACA through the executive branch until a miracle in the House or 2020. However, a Trump victory would come with a compliant Congress for at least two years. Even with a Democratic filibuster, Trump can just retract DACA with an executive order and deport any and all undocumented immigrants, including childhood arrivals. In this, for an undocumented applicant, this election doesn’t change what your application looks like to Columbia. But, shouldn’t it? If you are attending school in this country, isn’t your experience inherently domestic, unlike an education experience outside the US? Is it unfair to other Hispanic students who did get into this country legally to change this policy? Feel free to destroy the comment section over that debate but remember that getting a spot at any college, especially Columbia, are small already. Questions of fairness touch on the anxiety of trying to get ahead in our society which for one that promotes meritocracy seems to rely a lot on luck. It is unlikely that admitting undocumented immigrants domestically would decrease your chances of getting in any more than Columbia receiving new applications from every student in a school one year. The argument that this is a zero-sum game is a tangent. The argument that people should have a chance to prove themselves isn’t.  

Ufon’s mini-series, Columbia and the 2016 Election, will run through the November 8th Presidential Elections.

The Lion is the only Columbia publication with an open-submissions policy. To respond to this piece or to submit one of your own, email

Photo courtesy of James Xue (SEAS ’17)

Marijuana, or as NSOP would discuss it, that thing we think some of you might do so here’s our number; don’t get caught. Despite the war on drugs that pledged to keep children clean from the harmful effects of weed, the drug has a lot of users ranging from celebrities to presidents. Therefore, a lot of people wonder why weed is still illegal. There’s no evidence that marijuana is any more dangerous than alcohol and tobacco, both legal products, and the push to illegalize the drug drove incarceration rates through the roof, especially for people of color. Throughout the country, states individually have started to legalize marijuana, first medically, but now for recreational use. Democrats on a national level want to push in this direction, stating that “because of conflicting federal and state laws concerning marijuana, we encourage the federal government to remove marijuana from the list of “Schedule 1″ federal controlled substances and to appropriately regulate it, providing a reasoned pathway for future legalization.” That if true is major, especially if a Clinton administration interprets the law in that way.

It still may mean you can’t smoke on campus.

As I already stated, some states have legalized marijuana for recreational use, which should theoretically make it legal to smoke on campus. However, the Obama administration didn’t change federal law, it simply declined to crack down on states that decided to legalize the drug. But colleges are mandated to engage in drug-prevention programming to receive federal funds. As long as marijuana is deemed a dangerous drug by the federal government, colleges cannot let you smoke regardless of a state referendum. Hillary may change this, but Wikileaks says she’s not thrilled with the idea, so if New York legalizes recreational marijuana, which it hasn’t, you would still have to walk past 110th Street. Oh, and the Republicans want to end this confusing patchwork of state legalization, and Donald Trump only supports medical marijuana. It’s hard to cover the status quo. For people waiting for weed to be legal to smoke, you’ll have a long wait under the Republicans. At the least with the Democrats you only need to wait until New York State allows you to. That’s not happening in New York State because we have no referendum mechanism and the state government on this issue doesn’t seem to want to move quickly. There’s one other hurdle to you smoking pot consequence-free, Columbia.

Unless the President or New York State mandated marijuana be legal on every campus, Columbia could become a smoke-free campus, not unlike a dry campus for alcohol. They may have many reasons to do this, from wanting to attract conservative parents to continuing the War on Fun, but the fact is they could. This goes into an important caveat for a lot of issues I’ve talked about before; just because the executive says something doesn’t mean your fight is over. Even with the threat of losing federal funds looming over like Damocles’ sword, No Red Tape would argue Title IX has yet to force Columbia to treat sexual assault seriously. If you actually want to use marijuana in your dorm without worrying about RAs writing you up, if and when the national government or New York State end their bans, you’ll probably need to press the issue, perhaps for the rest of your college experience. However, we don’t get to that step without legalization, and that will largely depend on who wins the upcoming Presidential election.

Ufon’s mini-series, Columbia and the 2016 Election, will run through the November 8th Presidential Elections.

The Lion is the only Columbia publication with an open-submissions policy. To respond to this piece or to submit one of your own, email