Category: Barnard

Earlier today, the Barnard student body received an email about a wage increase for student workers. Here’s the full statement:

We are pleased to announce that Barnard College will be raising the minimum wage for student workers employed by the College to $15.00 per hour over the next three years.  The increase will be implemented incrementally: first to $12.00 per hour effective September 6, 2016; then to $13.50 effective September 5, 2017; and finally to $15.00 effective September 4, 2018.

By increasing the minimum wage to $12.00 per hour this year, we will positively affect nearly 70% of all student jobs on campus. Our multi-year commitment accelerates the timetable established in the recent law passed by the State of New York.

The College recognizes that New York City is an expensive place to live and study.  Our student employees make vital contributions to academic and co-curricular life on campus each and every day, and should be compensated fairly for their work.  We appreciate the passionate efforts of student advocates who helped put this issue on the agenda and engaged with us in productive discussions about wages and income inequality in general.  We look forward, as always, to continuing these discussions.

Sincerely,

Robert Goldberg
Chief Operating Officer

Avis Hinkson
Dean of the College

Two Columbia University students, Shreyas Vissapragada (CC) and Ankeeta Shah (BC), were named as winners of the Barry Goldwater Scholarship. Three other Columbia students were named as honorable mentions. They were Irene Zhang (CC), Kristy Choi (CC), and Sarah Yang (SEAS). The full listings for each student are listed below. You can check out the rest of the winners and honorable mentions on the Goldwater Scholars website.

Winners:

Ankeeta B Shah
Institution: Barnard College
Major(s): Biology, Computer Science
Career Goal: Ph.D. in Systems Biology. Conduct biomedical research and teach at the university level.

Shreyas Vissapragada
Institution: Columbia University
Major(s): Astrophysics, Computer science
Career Goal: Ph.D. in astronomy with a specialization in astrochemistry. Conduct interdisciplinary research on the chemistry of exoplanet formation and teach at the university level.

Honorable Mentions:

Irene P Zhang
Institution: Columbia University
Major(s): Physics
Career Goal: Ph.D. in Condensed Matter Physics. Conduct research in materials science and teach at the university level.

Kristy Choi
Institution: Columbia University
Major(s): Computer Science-Statistics
Career Goal: Ph.D. in Computational Biology. Develop new statistical tools to conduct data-driven research in biology and teach at the university level.

Sarah J Yang
Institution: Columbia University
Major(s): Chemical Engineering
Career Goal: Ph.D. in Bioengineering or Chemical Engineering. Conduct research in protein or metabolic engineering and teach at the university level.

 

This week, ColorCode was pleased to learn that Professor Kale revoked the Robocop competition and issued a full apology for the original assignment, which, as he writes, “failed to provide adequate context” for a data set laden with historical and political racial trauma. We appreciate Professor Kale’s explanation of the assignment’s intended impact––to lead students to interrogate the policy implications of ML classifiers trained on racist data––and hope that future assignments can convey this lesson with the clarity that this assignment lacked. We sincerely applaud Professor Kale’s timely and appropriate correction, and hope that all professors at Columbia can follow his example in responding to student concerns with empathy and accountability.

 

Since our last statement, some of our peers have questioned whether the assignment’s revocation has deprived the class of an ethics lesson in handling politically challenging data sets. Lessons should not come at the cost of direct harm to the most marginalized groups involved. While we agree with Professor Kale’s professed intentions in assigning the Robocop competition, we stand by our original assessment (with which Professor Kale himself has agreed): that the assignment in its original form could not have produced the intended pedagogical outcome and discussion on data responsibility in Machine Learning. And while this particular incident has been sufficiently redressed by Professor Kale himself, we think it’s important to locate the Robocop assignment in the context of a larger department and school that excludes and silences Black students and students of color. We are studying computer science in a department with few Black students and no Black faculty, in an engineering school that builds on a legacy of close collaboration with the U.S. military and NYPD, at a university that is gentrifying Harlem to build its newest science center. From casual remarks about our intelligence by classmates, TAs, and professors, to academic policies not intended to help the most marginalized of us succeed– these experiences contribute to an academic atmosphere that repeatedly dismisses and delegitimizes our pain by “intellectualizing” academic work with horrific, racist implications and impacts. Computer Science at Columbia is steeped in a history of racism that still persists today. Within this context, an assignment “welcoming” students to a “future” of “cyborg law enforcers” trained on racist, violently-collected data is inexcusable.

 

We therefore point to the Robocop incident as evidence that massive reform is needed within the department to support Black students and other students of color, low income students, and other marginalized people in STEM. Professor Kale’s swift response gives us a lot of hope that change can happen here at Columbia. We will continue to hold professors, departments, and the university accountable to the impact of their academic work. We join Mobilized African Diaspora in demanding greater academic support for marginalized students of color, especially the hiring of Black faculty in Computer Science and SEAS. We also ask that SEAS as a whole reaffirm its commitment to its most marginalized students by expanding course offerings on research ethics and incorporating requirements in African American Studies and Ethnic Studies. We ask this with the recognition that technical knowledge is dangerous without an analysis of race and power. Finally, we urge current professors to build on pedagogy and research that is explicitly anti-racist and anti-oppressive, that gives students the opportunity to work on projects that uplift and liberate communities of color and other marginalized people.

 

We thank the following groups for their explicit support (running list). Please reach out to colorcodeboard@gmail.com if your organization would like to co-sign:

National Society of Black Engineers– Columbia

The Lion

No Red Tape

Students for Justice in Palestine

Divest Barnard

Photo Courtesy Bradley Davison (CC ’17)

NOTE:

A few days ago, the ColorCode team posted a response in regard to a “RoboCop” assignment assigned to students in Professor Satyen Kale’s Machine Learning (COMS 4771) course. In response Professor Kale wrote a response on his website, which can be found here. In order to make sure that both ColorCode and the Professor’s views are visible to interested parties, we have shared his piece below:

The original task description (“Robocop”) was regrettably written in a highly offensive manner. It was not our intention to suggest that imitating the “SQF” practices (or any racially-prejudiced practices) in the future is desirable in any way. In fact, the made-up setting for the task in a fictitious, dystopian future was meant to be an ironic indicator of precisely the opposite sentiment. We are strongly against practices such as SQF. While the primary intention for the task was purely pedagogical—to give students exposure to using machine learning techniques in practice—we acknowledge that not providing proper context for the task was poor judgement on our part, and we sincerely apologize for that.

Two original motivations for using this data set were (i) to illustrate the difficulties in developing any kind of “predictive policing” tool (which already exist today), and (ii) to assess how predictive modeling could help shed light on this past decision-making. For instance, at the coarsest level, it is evident that very few of the cases where a subject is stopped actually lead to an arrest; this raises the question why the stops should have been made in the first place. Moreover, if it is difficult to predict the arrest decision from the features describing the circumstance, then it may suggest that there is some unrecorded aspect of the circumstance that drives the decision; such a finding could have policy implications.

There are critical aspects of the data set that make it highly inappropriate for use in developing any kind of predictive policing tool. First, the data only reflects the arrest decisions of past police officers, which are decidedly not what one would want to imitate. Second, even if the arrest decisions (i.e., labels) in the data set were appropriately modified (thereby altering the conditional distribution of the label given the features), the set of the cases there may only be representative of suspects that past police officers chose to stop, necessarily introducing biases into the distribution.

We originally thought that these challenging aspects of the data set would be of interest to the class. However, our formulation of the task was in poor taste and failed to provide adequate context. Because we can only objectively evaluate the predictive modeling aspects of the project that are independent of the context of the data set, we have decided to change the data set to one that is completely unrelated to the SQF data set.

A link to the Professor Kale’s original posting on his website can be found here. To respond to this piece or submit an op-ed of your own, email submissions@columbialion.com

Earlier this week, the Bacchanal Committee officially announced that Rae Sremmurd, Marian Hill, and Bibi Bourelly will be performing at this year’s Bacchanal.

Tickets to Bacchanal 2016 are available for the performance on April 2nd. As previously announced, EVELINE will also be featured during this year’s show.

We will update this post with more information as it becomes available.