Category: Administration

Photo Courtesy of Trevor Rukwava
Meet Trevor. Trevor, originally CC’19, has been suspended from Columbia College for the upcoming 2016-2017 academic year. We sat down with him to learn more about his situation and to understand how Columbia works to help students facing adversity and where it needs improvements.
What is your intended major?
I have always wanted to be pre-med. I was planning on doing neuroscience and behavior. I kind of wanted to do engineering but my parents talked me out of it, saying there are no engineering jobs in Africa. I had this dream of making electric cars, and an airplane with an emergency parachute system which deploys out of the top of the plane—the engines will be detached from the plane for weight management. However, my poor performance in the past semester pretty much kills my chances of doing medicine. I was considering switching to political science, or something. Not that I would be able to make a viable career out of it in my home country. I really don’t know at this point, but I’m trying to figure that out. It would be great if I could become a neurosurgeon.
When did Columbia notify you of its intention to suspend you for the upcoming academic year?
On June 8, 2016, Dr. Lavinia Lorch—my academic advisor—emailed me telling me that my case was going to be reviewed the following day. She told me that I was at risk of suspension because of my grades. She asked me if there was any information I wanted the Board to know. I received the notification of my suspension from CSA [Center for Student Advising] on the 9th of June. I read both emails on the 9th, so I did not have time to provide Lavinia with the information she requested. I was also under the impression that she knew my whole story.
Why do you believe Columbia choose to suspend you for the upcoming year?
According to Lavinia, “A suspension is not a punitive measure but actually an opportunity for you to make up credits back home (at an accredited 4 year institution) so as to ensure that you will graduate in a timely manner.” I think Columbia (or Dr. Lorch, I do not really know who made the decision) wanted to “help” me by giving me a forced gap year of sorts, to handle my stuff. After much persuasion, Dr. Lorch convinced me to take a medical leave of absence—which I could return from at any time. I agreed to this because, I was having a rather tough time and wanted a break. I also thought it would be more convenient if I did the paperwork while I was in America, so I would not have to fly to and fro again. The fact that I was expecting a medical leave, made the suspension more confusing, since I could not really differentiate the two.
As for the actual intentions behind the suspension, I can only make assumptions. Perhaps they didn’t want me to fail again and have to be considered for academic suspension, ironically, or expulsion. I had an almost nonexistent work ethic and motivation because of my mental condition, because they probably assumed that allowing me to return would lead to another bad semester. I may not be allowed to progress to the following semester if I don’t complete enough credits. I only completed 3, from one class. I failed 2, and dropped another 2—in order to avoid failing them. It was bad. I guess Columbia doesn’t have room for subpar performance, so I had to go.
How transparent has Columbia been throughout this process?
Well, they gave a day’s heads up. They also told me explicitly that I was suspended, and that I needed to take a year of classes and reapply. They also cancelled my I-20, which made it very clear that I wasn’t coming back.
How will this potential suspension impact your academic and personal goals?
I do not think that I can do medicine anymore. Perhaps I wasn’t cut out for it? My parents won’t hear it however, and have pushed me to apply to other universities in southern Africa. I must become a doctor, they say. Since I cannot do it at Columbia, I should do it back home. They never really liked America, and would call frequently to ensure that I had not been shot by police. The recent news has only made my parents’ resolve stronger. I made my own way to Columbia, and America at large. If I give up on Columbia, then I’m essentially giving up on the United States. However, I told Lavinia this information, which is why she said, “credits back home.” I am pretty sure that if I get into one of the two universities in my country, I will not be permitted to go back to America. Time is of the essence! My parents rejected the notion of a medical leave when I got home, claiming that my mind would rot if I stayed at home. I understand where they are coming from. They don’t want me to become like my older brother who was expelled from university because of drug addiction. He has turned to a lot of antisocial behaviours to feed his habit, including gradually taking everything I own. I doubt that I will still be in possession of the laptop on which I am typing by the end of next month. My parents suspect him every time the house is robbed, and he has been caught red-handed a few times. There is a lot of drama, which I would really rather not be in the middle of.
I do not think I will be allowed to switch to the engineering school, because of the suspension. Perhaps I’m mistaken.
Politics is not really something one can talk about where I’m from, for a number of reasons that I can not talk about because of the reasons themselves. It’s rather cyclic.
Do you think Columbia’s current academic suspension processes are fair? If not, how do you think they should be improved?
I do not think that the suspension policies are fair. I was given a single strike-out opportunity, and I did not even know that that was the case. If getting kicked out of Columbia is that easy, they should at least warn you beforehand. I tried very hard to ask for help, but my depression and history made it difficult. I did not know how to ask for help. I didn’t think that I was worth helping—depression talk. Perhaps, I was suspended because I said that Columbia sucked, I really didn’t want to be there, I was having the worst time of my life, and I felt like nobody cared about me. I said these things because that was how I truly felt, and they were multiple cries for help. I strongly suspect that this depression talk made my advisor think that suspending me was a favor, and I don’t blame her. However, these “issues” started at home and being home triggers a lot of them. I don’t have a therapist here for whatever reason, and I just kind of absorb the things that come my way. My cousin’s sickness and death, for example.
I wish Columbia had given me more support during the semester. I only got disability services help at the end of the second semester. At which point, my grades were so bad that my professors practically told me not to bother writing finals.
Do you have any advice for other students who may be in your position? For those who are also fighting depression?
To other students fighting depression, it is hard. People don’t understand how hard it is. They may tell you to ‘man up’ or fix your issues. They may assume that the illness is just an attitude problem. It doesn’t make sense to them, why someone would want to kill themselves when everything is ‘fine’. They don’t know how much harder it is to get out of bed and get things done when you are questioning the value of your existence. For most of second semester, I told myself not to think. I drowned all of it out with music; some people use other coping mechanisms. But being at an institution like Columbia requires you to think, and learn, and perform; to jump through hoops. I thought people didn’t care even though I didn’t really give them a chance to care. It took too much energy, when all I wanted to accomplish each day was survival. People do care. They may not always show it, but people care. Appreciate every person in your life, and know that you matter. Your life matters.
As for suspension, don’t let it get you down. I don’t really know what to say, because this is a problem that I am yet to overcome.
Have you faced issues at Columbia in regards to mental health and/or threats of suspension? If you would be willing to talk about your story (anonymously or publicly), email us at team@columbialion.com.

In an email sent out to the Columbia community earlier today, Columbia has announced that starting in a few weeks, Columbia ATMs will be switching from Citibank to a new system supported by Santander Banking.

The full message can be found below.

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Photo Courtesy Daniel Stone (CC ’16)

In a discussion with the University Senate last Friday, President Bollinger responded to comments about the proposed placement of Henry Moore’s “Reclining Woman” in front of Butler Library.  In his response, he emphasized that the University will refrain from installing the sculpture during the summer and will instead seek community feedback in the fall.

Details of his announcement can be found below from an email sent by Daniel Stone (CC ’16), one of the lead organizers to prevent the statue from being placed directly in front of the library. Through petitions, multiple op-eds, and interviews with the BBC, thousands of students and impartial spectators  have commented on what has become quite the controversial woman.

Dear petition signer,

I’m writing to give you an update on the status of the Henry Moore sculpture. Last Friday, President Bollinger publicly acknowledged the sculpture installation fiasco for the first time. At a meeting of the University Senate, he uncharacteristically apologized about how the decision had been handled. If we are to go by what he said, there will be some sort of formal process in the fall that involves community feedback.

I highly recommend reading Bollinger’s statement (below). Even as someone who has done a bit of research about Bollinger and his history, I found it surprising.
(Also, Spec really sucks for failing to cover this news. If you know people on Spec, tell them that.)

Best,

Daniel

President Bollinger’s  Statement (Emphasis Mine)

I want to say something about the Henry Moore sculpture. So this is a mistake. And I don’t mean a mistake in the actual outcome, I mean a mistake in the way the institution has functioned. It’s nobody’s fault except mine because my responsibility is everything, especially those things that don’t go right. I would describe this as a classic – and I don’t mean this to be derogative of anybody – but a classic kind of bureaucratic mistake, that is, everybody around the institution thinking they’re doing what they’re supposed to be doing, doing it in good faith and with enthusiasm, and we end up in a result where there has not been a sufficient collective thought process here and a decision making process that we are comfortable with.

So we put this on pause. We will have that process more and will figure out the right result. So it’s my responsibility. It is just the institution, one case I know of, tried never to let this happen, but somehow it happened and that’s where we are.

I’ll take questions in just a minute. Let me come back on this rather than take time today. I have to leave at two o’clock, I have a plane and we have a number of things. But I’ll try to give more on this in time. I just want to acknowledge that this is not the way – good faith, again, everybody acted well. A result that wasn’t sufficiently vetted through the University. I promise not to put up the Henry Moore sculpture during the summer while you’re all away. So summer powers does not include resolving this.

So, rest assured as you get through finals that this figure will not be gracing Butler anytime soon (at least not for the next four months).

Daniel Stone is a senior in Columbia College and was a former Managing Editor for the Columbia Lion.

Photo Courtesy CU Now Show

Have you seen the newest CU Now video? The video, released last night, features Shreyas Manohar (CC ’18) covering a gamut of issues alongside the Dean of Columbia College, James Valentini.

To better understand student reactions to the video, our team went out and polled students from a variety of academic years and backgrounds about their reactions to the new video. Check out what students said below.

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Courtesy of Barnard Dining

In an email sent to students earlier today, Dean Hinkson announced some major policy changes.

Here’s a basic overview of new changes:

  • Barnard Students will have swipe access to JJ’s Place
  • Tuition is increasing
  • Housing prices are also increasing
  • Students will be able to swipe into Diana’s Second Floor Dining Room
  • Hewitt will be hiring a new Executive Chef
  • Barnard Housing to Open 6 Days before start of Spring Classes

The full email can be found below.

Dear Students,

We are writing to let you know that the Barnard Board of Trustees has approved the 2016-17 rates for tuition, fees, room, and board.  We know that any increase can be difficult for many of our families, so we wanted to take a moment to explain the details and our approach. We also want to make an exciting announcement about changes to the meal plan, and tell you about several key changes to our policy for winter break housing.

Tuition and Fees for 2016-2017

For the upcoming academic year, the total rate for tuition, fees, room and board will be $65,992—an increase of $3,251 from this year’s rates. This rise is directly related to societal increases in the cost of living and, for Barnard, reflects the growing costs associated with recruiting and retaining our faculty and staff, fully funding financial aid to maintain need blind admissions, implementing the new curriculum, and expanding a variety of services in response to student requests.

The breakdown of the total cost are as follows:

•       Tuition and the comprehensive fee will cost $50,394, including $48,614 for tuition and $1,780 for the comprehensive fee.

•       The price for multiple rooms will be $9,230 per year.  Rates for single rooms will be $10,712, and the rate for studio apartments will be $16,000.

•       The price for the Platinum plan (19 meals per week) is $6,368.

Meal Plan Changes

We are pleased to announce some exciting changes to the meal plan.  Over the past year or so, students have raised a number of concerns regarding access to dining facilities at Columbia, food quality, and operations during school breaks.  This past fall, SGA hosted a town hall focused on food services that identified, in a very constructive way, potential areas of improvement.  In response, we recently renegotiated our long-standing agreement with Aramark.  Under the new arrangement that will begin in fall of 2016:

•       The Diana Second Floor Dining Room will be open for meal swipes during dinner.

•       Barnard students will continue to have meal swipe access at John Jay and Ferris Booth.

•       For the first time, Barnard students will also have meal swipe access to JJ’s Place, adding a third Columbia location to our meal plan options.

•       This means that, in total, Barnard students will have meal swipe access at five locations on the Barnard and Columbia campuses: Hewitt, Diana, Ferris Booth, John Jay and JJ’s Place.

•       In addition, there will be a full-time, on-site Executive Chef at Hewitt who will be responsible for ensuring overall food quality and handling specific dietary needs of students as they arise.

We also know that some of our students deal with issues of food insecurity each and every day, which is unacceptable in a small and supportive community like ours. This is a difficult issue and together we need to be vigilant and proactive in understanding the magnitude of the problem on our campus and finding ways to fix it.  Currently, we plan to do the following:

•       Make meal services available whenever residence halls are open. Beginning this fall, students will have access to meal services on campus, either in Hewitt or Diana, during fall break, Thanksgiving break, spring break, and when residence halls open for the spring semester.
•       Change the structure of the convenience meal plan option by offering different combinations of meals and points that we encourage students living outside the quad to seriously consider.  Students will still be able to add meals and points in small increments throughout the year.

•       Work with Aramark, SGA, and other groups on campus to find additional ways of enhancing ongoing meal donation programs.

Winter Break Housing

Finally, we know that last year’s winter break housing policy was a cause of confusion and concern. We appreciate the thoughtful suggestions that SGA has made regarding how best to assist students during the holiday season.  Please know that while the College will continue to remain officially closed during the winter holiday season, we will make some important changes for next winter to accommodate student needs.

First, we will continue to keep Plimpton Hall open and available to students requiring housing during the break. Campus tour guides, varsity athletes, students with unsafe home situations, international students on Barnard financial aid, and students with academic responsibilities that must be completed on campus will all be eligible to stay in Plimpton during the break. The Office of Residential Life will implement an application process to review and respond to any requests for winter break housing, and will help students who do not already live in Plimpton to find an available room there.

Second, we will be opening the College’s residence halls earlier than we have in the past.  All residence halls will open to students on Wednesday, January 11, 2017 (six days before the start of classes), along with dining facilities, either at Hewitt or Diana Second Floor.  We will also open Health Services, in order to ensure that all students have access to services upon their return to campus after winter break.

We are confident that the combination of these measures—easier access to Plimpton for those who need it, and an earlier return for all students—will go a long way towards addressing the issues of food and housing insecurity among members of our community.

We hope that this gives you a clearer sense of the College’s plans for the coming year.  The costs of providing the best possible education for our students continue to rise, but we are committed to doing our best to keep the increase as modest as possible, to expand services in the areas of greatest need and, as always, to maintain Barnard’s long-standing devotion to excellence.

Sincerely,

Rob Goldberg, Chief Operating Officer
Avis Hinkson, Dean of the College