Category: Announcements

In the past year as editor-in-chief of The Lion, I have had the chance to hear different voices from the student body and cover some of the events and issues impacting the Columbia community every single day. But with this, I also was exposed to a lot of the frustration and anger expressed towards the current campus publications.

Currently, there are four main publications that serve the community:

Columbia Spectator: “Offers news, arts, commentary, sports coverage, and photos from around campus and New York City, in conjunction with our blog, Spectrum, and our weekly arts and features magazine, The Eye.”

Bwog: “We post what you should have heard about as a member of the Columbia community, packaged with bad puns and coarse jokes.”

The Tab Columbia: “News Columbia students care about, in a style you actually want to read.”

The Lion: “The Lion’s goal is to create a platform to widen the circle of accepted discourse within the Columbia community.”

As publications, we have a clear goal: to help spread news to the community and to showcase the various ideas manifested by members of the Columbia community. Yet, at the same time, several publications have faced challenges doing that: either via the University or by how they’re run. As a result of unclear rules from the Activities Board at Columbia, the group tasked with approving new publications, and the desire to ensure that a publication is not forced to change content at the whim of the University, many of Columbia’s publications have chosen to stay independent.

Consequently, in order to maintain their sites and stay afloat, they resort to using a combination of clickbait titles and selectively choosing the content they choose to share — effectively shutting out voices and ideas in our community that deserve to be heard. A recent example of this was when Keenan Smith’s (CC ’18) A Seat At The Table, a piece about the experiences of Black women and Black queer folk at Columbia, was rejected by the Columbia Daily Spectator’s editorial staff for failing to be accessible to a “wider audience.” At a school where roughly 13% of student body identifies as Black/African-American, it’s concerning when publications do not deem even parts of this subgroup as wide enough to share a piece based on their experiences.

 

As a result of publications focusing on driving web traffic and getting advertisements, the entire experience is sub-par. This fixation on “What will get the most clicks?” or “What’s content that we can easily monetize?” causes many of the pieces you read from the main publications here to feel familiar — most likely because they are. And recently, some have become quite odd (looking at you, “Which Columbia Halal Cart Are You?” quiz and “My week eating just Koronet Pizza”)

And when it comes to news, publications have rushed to publish pieces in hopes of getting the web traffic for breaking news or failing to write in the correct tone for the gravity of the situation. Recently, The Lion experienced this when we initially published a report of a student death/incident in Broadway Hall and then refrained from updating the post with more information, leaving students and family members alike deeply concerned about their loved ones. While The Lion eventually rescinded the post after a board vote, we could and should have been more transparent with our readers. While we had an obligation and verified information about the incident, we should have waited until we were fully cleared to release all the details and names at once rather than leaving readers to search for information on their own.

Moreover, rather than scouting new voices, a lot of the writers we see published in Columbia’s publications are normally part of the same cohort of student writers and in many cases cover the same topic — mainly because those are the areas they have the most experience in. Case in point, in 2012, past Lion Writer, Stephen Snowder, went and compiled more than nine Spectator articles related to discourse and division. Expanding from these topics, by scrolling through past opinion pieces on all the publications, one will time and time again see posts relating to “fostering community at Columbia,” our love for the Columbia Dining and Public Safety staff (which I love and hope continues), leaked GroupMe screenshots from almost every group on campus, misquoting MLK and other leaders, and embracing change. And I will admit, these are all repeated articles that I still read and at times are good to see again. But where are the articles discussing the experiences of being a low-income student at Columbia, navigating life at this school while also working and having a family, adjusting from being a veteran to being a student, or ideas and experiences that you and I could not even begin to imagine?

But for all the flak Columbia’s publications get, they do a lot of great work. In particular, Spectator Staff Writer Larson Holt wrote an incredible piece detailing the tunnel system used by students with disabilities and many of the problems and dangers within them. Few of us think of the tunnels in our day-to-day lives let alone think of what it would be like to have to actually need to use them.

Likewise, Bwog has to be commended for its coverage on the Wrestling Team scandal that forced Columbia’s administration to hold students on the team accountable for the hateful, misogynistic speech that they shared. It also reminded us that even in our community, we need to still remind each other about being kind and respectful to one another.

The Tab during the past semester did an incredible job discussing some of the impressive students within the School of General Studies, a school that rarely is fairly represented within Columbia’s student publications. In particular, I was fascinated by writer Eugene Aiken’s interview with Leyla Martinez that discussed her life after incarceration and how she’s using her past experiences to improve the treatment of others after serving their time.

 

This semester, The Lion began a new columnist initiative. When we first started the project, we pushed for people to make their columns unique — something that mattered to them that would leave others thinking. The results were fascinating. We had columnists doing everything from analyzing Columbia’s architecture to finding parallels between life at Columbia and neuroscience  to even juxtaposing love and relationships with international relations . Each of these columnists took topics important to them and made them accessible to everyone. And each week, I loved seeing these interactions as people became enamored with topics they never even imagined they would be interested in reading. It was cool to see that happening and to see the role publications play in fostering community here at Columbia.

As publications, we need to work harder to bring new ideas into view, to expose new ideas to the Columbia community and bring ideas we have never thought of or had to consider to center stage. When I joined The Lion, these were some of the ideas I wanted to pursue. As a computer science major, I realized that while I might not be a writer by trade, it was important to understand and expose different ideas in the community. And as editor-in-chief over the last year, I tried my hardest to get those voices out. From interviewing students anonymously who were too afraid to share their views publicly to trying to bring in members new to writing, I enjoyed getting to hear those views. Moreover, through The Lion’s open-submissions policy, I got to see people email asking us to cover a topic and eventually watching them go on to write passionate articles and op-eds on their own. They got to tell their story — and it was so inspiring and beautiful to get to interact with multiple pieces like that every single week.

But even with The Lion’s open-submission policy, I know that we still did not make it possible for every voice to be heard. From the lack of funding and being unable to reserve rooms due to lack of official ABC recognition, there were many cases where students not from Columbia College and Columbia Engineering were unable to attend our meetings because they did not have swipe access to the open meetings managing board members held in their own rooms. Likewise, as a newer publication, many people had not heard about our policies and thus never knew they could submit to The Lion. Or after being turned down by another campus publication, they thought their views weren’t worthy of being published. In the future, I hope that we will see this change and that student publications focus even more on bringing in new perspectives and that the administration works with the club boards to further increase funding to support and recognize publications engaging in these endeavors.

While I have loved my time leading The Lion as its editor-in-chief over the last year, it is time for someone else to lead and work on bringing in these new ideas. Even as publications work to keep web traffic, developing new spaces and forms to allow people to express themselves to the community is something that should be considered and explored. With that, I leave The Lion with an even better board now taking the wheel lead by Arlena McClenton (BC ’19) as editor-in-chief and Veronica Roach (CC ’20) serving as the new managing editor. These two women have shown a strong dedication to bringing new ideas into the spotlight and ensuring The Lion does its part in making sure every voice in this community is heard.

With a lot of concerns from various parts of our community after the recent U.S. Elections, I know there will be a plethora of voices and perspectives to be heard and shared in the coming months. I wish best of luck to the new managing board of The Columbia Lion. Parts of our community may feel hurt and excluded, but when we come together in solidarity, I know that there will be incredible things in our future —we just have to wait for it.

Signing off,

William Essilfie

Editor Emeritus, The Columbia Lion

In a recent email to the Barnard community, Provost Linda Bell addressed the fact that the union of the adjunct faculty at Barnard, who are currently in negotiation with the College, have decided on a strike deadline. She shared the College’s perspective on the proposals they have offered and informed the community that the College remains committed to fairness.

 

Dear Members of the Barnard Community,

This morning we learned that the bargaining committee for the Barnard Contingent Faculty Union (BCF)-UAW has set a strike deadline of February 21, 2017 if no contract agreement has been reached by that date. We are disappointed by this action given progress to date, but we continue to hope and trust that the strike deadline has been imposed to alert both the unit rank-and-file and the College administration of the urgency and intent to reach a fair and reasonable first contract. We remain fully committed to this effort, and our primary concern is, and it has always been, the efficacy of our academic program and the education we are able to offer our students.

I am happy to share that progress has been achieved on key economic and non-economic terms, and that even the bargaining committee’s own notice to its members acknowledges this progress. Moreover, the Union’s statement this morning accepts the College’s recommendation that a federal mediator be engaged in order to bring an independent viewpoint to the important issues that continue to divide us.

When I last wrote to you, on December 8, the Union had voted to empower its leadership to strike as necessary, despite our substantive economic proposal and ongoing negotiations that had yielded progress on key non-economic terms. Furthermore, the Union leadership waited until December 15 to make its first response to an economic proposal that had been on the table since August 2, and unilaterally cancelled a bargaining session set for December 22 only hours before it was to take place. The College has continued to come to each of the 27 bargaining sessions since February 2016 prepared and ready to negotiate in good faith. Since December 8, we have presented multiple substantive proposals that we believe can bring the sides closer, including two revisions to our wage offer and the introduction of new benefit terms.

Of the substantive issues that remain, one concerns the mechanisms for appointments and assignments (what the Union refers to as seniority), and the other, compensation. The College has broken new ground on both.

Over the past year, we have offered unprecedented notice regarding appointments, security in course load, raises in pay and improved access to benefits, including at our most recent bargaining session on January 20.

On the issue of appointments and assignments, we believe strongly that the departments themselves should decide how best to maintain the integrity of the academic program and determine whether and how certain courses will be taught in any given semester. This same discretion has been our long-term practice and has been exercised in making assignments for all faculty. Both current and former department chairs have told us that they view this flexibility as crucial to the academic functioning of the College. We simply cannot and will not guarantee specific course assignments to individuals in perpetuity, as the Union has proposed, as this would compromise our academic mission and the superb quality of the education we offer our students.

However, in order to address the Union’s concern regarding job security, we have offered two measures that would increase individuals’ employment security in other ways that do not compromise our mission. First, we have offered to move to year-long appointments for all part-time faculty, an improvement over our current semester-by-semester appointment process. Thus, part-time faculty would receive more advance notice, more predictable schedules, and the ability to plan their full academic year. Second, in deference to the Union’s notion that seniority should increase employment security, we have also introduced a proposal to offer adjunct faculty who have served the College over time the guarantee of either longer-term appointments or separation pay in the event that they are not reassigned teaching. More details: https://barnard.edu/hr/bcf-uaw-negotiations/strike-faqs#appoint.

The College has twice modified its wage proposal since the Union’s response on December 15. Specifically, our latest proposal increases minimum course pay rates three times over four years and provides a 2 percent pay increase each year, beginning in fall 2017, for individuals making above the minimum course rate. More details: https://barnard.edu/hr/bcf-uaw-negotiations/strike-faqs#proposal. Under the College’s proposal, all adjunct faculty will be guaranteed improved economic terms throughout the life of the contract, and no unit member—even those earning well above the minimum per-course rate—will be negatively impacted. Furthermore, our proposed minimum rates are positioned to be competitive, and are significantly higher than minimum rates offered to adjunct faculty in many similar colleges and universities in New York City and in other high-cost areas in the United States.

In contrast, the Union’s proposal sets both minimum rates and benefit terms that are untenable. In the first year alone, the proposal would cost an incremental $3.3 million; it would force the College to make deep cuts to the annual budget that would adversely affect the academic program.

In addition to setting fair and equitable minimum wage rates, we have responded positively and demonstrably to the Union’s request that all unit faculty, including those working part-time, have the ability to participate in the College’s health insurance plan. For adjunct faculty teaching a half-time equivalent load or more (nine points or more in a given academic year), the College will contribute 50 percent of the contribution that it makes to full-time faculty. Adjunct faculty teaching less than 9 points in any given year would have the option to buy in to the College’s Plan A at their own personal cost.

The College has worked hard to bargain in good faith with the goal of ensuring our part-time and term faculty a fair and equitable contract that addresses their most important concerns. We are gratified that the Union has accepted our request for a federal mediator. We see the mediator role as a useful and time-honored resource for bridging remaining differences, and in so doing, serving our larger community. The process of mediation will take time. Should we find ourselves unable to reach a first contract by the February 21 strike deadline, and should the Union decide to strike, the College will continue to operate as normally as possible.

As has been the practice for the past year, I will continue to keep the community informed of our progress through written updates, as well as in-person meetings with faculty, staff, students and alumnae leaders. As always, please understand that our overarching goal remains a fair first contract that recognizes the talent and commitment of our contingent faculty, and that protects the vitality of the academic program and our core mission as an institution.

Sincerely,

Linda A Bell
Provost & Dean of the Faculty

Interested in promoting and participating in open discourse on campus?

Join The Lion, Columbia’s only open-submission publication accepting content (media, prose, etc.) from any Columbia student, affiliate, or alumnus. We’re looking for new writers, editors, techies, and anyone interested in helping amplify the unheard voices in the Columbia community and make life at Columbia easier.

Current members have done everything from meeting with actors from the breakout Broadway show Hamilton to discussing politics and journalism with top leadership at some of America’s biggest news publications. Members also have access to Lion exclusive events including talks with alumni, exclusive interviews, restaurant tastings, and information sessions with recruiters from Facebook, Google, the New York Times, and more! Hey, no one said discourse had to be boring.

On top of having something for everyone regardless of major, we strive to balance club needs with your mental health and academic needs. As one of the lowest-commitment publications on campus, you’ll be able to make visible impact while still maintaining work/life/club balance.

Current Opportunities:
Technology and Multimedia – Design tools and products that make life at Columbia easier
Journalism – Write content about campus life and foster open discourse.
Columnist – Get Your own column website and write around a set theme
Campus Outreach – Help us spread word about The Lion and our mission

Ready to submit an application?

Join The Lion: https://goo.gl/forms/rADDFC5GS6szkuRx1

Apply for a Lion Columnist position: https://goo.gl/forms/Kcs666M7GSfmXAbm1

Interested in learning more?
Attend our Spring 2017 information session: Location and Time TBD

Today, Provost John H. Coatsworth sent out the following email to Columbia in regards to “Responding to Post-Election Issues and Concerns”. In particular, he reaffirmed the University’s plans to protect students and guaranteed increased financial aid for undocumented students who may lose work permits due to policies proposed by President-elect Donald Trump during his presidential campaign. The full email can be read below:

Dear fellow members of the Columbia community:

The presidential election has prompted intense concern for the values we hold dear and for members of our community who are apprehensive about what the future holds. Some of this concern is focused on possible changes to immigration laws and to the federal enforcement of those laws. Some is due to possible changes elsewhere in federal law and policy. Reports of bias crimes and harassment occurring since the election are also deeply disturbing, particularly so when those who feel threatened are part of a community like ours, committed to tolerance and reason.

President Bollinger has asked me to work with the University administration and our community to develop a response to these concerns. I am writing to share information about relevant policies and our plans for ensuring that every person at Columbia feels safe, is able to proceed unimpeded with their studies and their work, and understands beyond question that Columbia’s dedication to inclusion and diversity is and will remain unwavering.

First, the University will neither allow immigration officials on our campuses without a warrant, nor share information on the immigration status of undocumented students with those officials unless required by subpoena or court order, or authorized by a student. Moreover, New York City continues to be a sanctuary city, with special protections for undocumented immigrants, and Mayor de Blasio recently affirmed that local law enforcement officials will continue to operate consistent with that commitment.

If the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrival (DACA) policy is terminated or substantially curtailed and students with DACA status lose the right to work, the University pledges to expand the financial aid and other support we make available to undocumented students, regardless of their immigration status. It is of the utmost importance that federal policies and laws do not derail the education of students whose enrollment at Columbia and other colleges or universities is made possible by DACA. We subscribe to the view of the Association of American Universities that “DACA should be upheld, continued and expanded,” and we will continue to express that commitment in the future.

To provide additional support, the Office of University Life is hosting a series of small-group, private information sessions specifically for undocumented students in our community, including DACA recipients, to offer support and guidance regarding possible changes in the law. Affected students can contact the Office directly for more information. Separately, our International Students and Scholars Office (ISSO) is scheduling information sessions and is prepared to provide assistance via its telephone helplines to any of our international students with questions or concerns. For more information about resources, support, and reporting options regarding discrimination and harassment, please visit the Office of University Life website.

The commitments outlined above emerge from values that define what we stand for and who we are as a University community. Indeed, Columbia College and the School of Engineering and Applied Science have amplified their commitment to undocumented undergraduate students pursuing their first degrees by continuing to meet their full financial aid needs as has long been our policy and also by treating applications of undocumented students no differently than those of students who are U.S. citizens or permanent residents. The experience of undocumented students at the College and Columbia Engineering, from the time they first seek admission through their graduation, will not be burdened in any way by their undocumented status.

This is a moment for us to bear in mind how important it is to protect all who study and teach in our community and to defend the institution and the values it embodies.

Sincerely,

John H. Coatsworth

Photo by Luke Haubenstock (CC ’20)

Many students of color on this campus are hurt and scared as a result of the Election results last night. Last night, hundreds of students came out to Low Plaza in solidarity and to cope with what was for them a frightening reality. In a tip we received from anonymous source, the Provost has granted Professors the ability to move exams this week at their discretion. If you’re feeling stressed or in need of someone to talk to, please reach out to your community or some of the sources below:

1. CPS # : 212-854-2878, know that you can request to see someone who shares aspects of your identity (PoC, woman, queer folk)

2. Nightline #: 212-857-7777 is staffed by trained students and available from 10PM to 3AM every day of the week.

3. Mujeres, Proud Colors, Sister Circle, and Men of Color Alliance will be hosting a space in the IRC tonight from 7-9pm. (The IRC is not wheelchair accessible.)

4. University Life will be hosting a space in the Law School Case Lounge in Jerome Greene Hall 7th floor from 5-7pm.

5. Broadway Presbyterian Church (on corner of 114th and Broadway) is hosting a sanctuary all day for those that need some quiet space, and a prayer from 12:10-12:30 pm.

6. Chicanx Caucus will have their usual space open tonight in replacement of their General Body meeting. It will be a reflection/healing space for anyone that needs it. The event is from 9-10PM tonight in Hamilton 516.

If you are interested in writing about your thoughts on this situation or talking with someone, The Lion team is available via email or Facebook Messenger. We can help with writing op-eds, reviewing poetry, helping with photo essays, comments, or any form you want to express yourself through.

Stay safe and stay united, Columbia.

The Lion is the only Columbia publication with an open-submissions policy. To submit a piece (of any length or form), email submissions@columbialion.com.