Category: Politics

College is expensive, Columbia ridiculously so. Columbia is the most expensive school in the Ivy League and amongst the most expensive in the nation. Now, Columbia is very generous with financial aid, meeting 100% need for all students and not packaging student debt in its financial aid offering. However, student debt is still an option. In 2013, the WSJ reported that the average student loan at time of repayment was $12,500. If you end up like the 4.2% of college graduates unemployed as late as September of 2016, that’s a difficult debt to pay down, still so if you consider yourself underemployed at Starbucks.

Hillary Clinton, urged by a primary challenge by Bernie Sanders, wants to change this. The Democratic Platform wants to make public college debt-free, community college totally free, and current debt re-financeable. If accomplished, her plan theoretically would free up money for the consumer economy that otherwise would go to paying down interest, and it would make college as accessible as high school is today. Too bad she won’t get to enact this entire plan. Major legislation needs to get through Congress before it gets to the president’s desk, and for a variety of reasons, the House is probably going to stay Republican. She could change the executive’s interpretation of the law, a power often used by President Obama and widely criticized by anyone who believes the president should not have too much power. For that very reason, she probably couldn’t get away with too much without alerting the House. She could also, as she suggests, pressure states to cough up some of the funding necessary to make community college free and fund other parts of her agenda, but that was the same system the Affordable Care Act used, and Republican governors by-in-large revolted.

It doesn’t sound like this affects Columbia much if successful, given Columbia isn’t a public university nor does it host community colleges. But competition can play a role. With free and debt-free options available, many students that Columbia would otherwise recruit might prefer to use those free local options instead of expensive private schools which may not have an accurate picture of what 100% need means for them. Columbia would probably reach into its endowment and rest on its prestige to give more full scholarships, which also sounds like it shouldn’t be a problem, but of all the Ivy League universities, only Yale experienced positive endowment growth last year. A significant increase in financial aid to remain competitive may add to that concern, though not as much as it would for smaller private colleges.

This is the part where I describe the nominal Republican alternative, where the government gets out of the debt business and leaves student loans in the hands of the private sector. For people with good credit, this would be good news. Your interest rates wouldn’t be as low as an auto loan or mortgage, but because the banks trust you, they’ll feel safe loaning money at lower interest rates. People with no credit history, however, get stuck with the higher interest rates, and people with bad credit might not get a loan in the private sector at all. But, Donald Trump complicates everything, as he promised to cap presumably federal loan payments at 12.5% of income and forgive the rest after 15 years. That’s more generous than the current Democratic plan to cap payments at 10% but only forgive after 20 years. That also means it’s more expensive and doesn’t fit into the economic conservatism that normally characterizes the Republican Party and such a plan would have a hard time passing Congress, but Donald Trump would also have the executive branch and the same power of interpretation Obama enjoys today. In case you thought endowments would be safe here, though, Donald Trump also threatened to revoke tax-exempt status for endowments, which certainly isn’t winning him any fans in the administration.

Those are your options. No pressure.

This Op-Ed was written in response to Daniella Greenbaum’s “A color-coded right to speak” published in the Columbia Daily Spectator.

“Nothing in all the world is more dangerous than sincere ignorance.” – Martin Luther King

To respond to Daniella Greenbaum’s “A color-coded right to speak,” I want to first address the idea of a ‘colorblind’ society and then directly respond to her other two points, the first about the perceived racism of black women who are apprehensive about dating white men, and the second about the perceived racism of black students apprehensive about learning the foundations of slavery from white teachers.

Ms. Greenbaum’s “A color-coded right to speak” represents her fundamental misunderstanding of the quotation she includes in her article since, first and foremost, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. never argued for a colorblind society. To judge someone “not by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character” means, quite literally, to not be racist. Dr. King was responding to anti-blackness in America. He was responding to a society that held one race superior and another inferior; a society in which the dominant status group – white Americans – ostracized and exploited black Americans. We still live in this society. The philosophy by which the dominant white power maintains its authority, and which Greenbaum espouses, has not faded. The concept of color-blindness existed long before Dr. King was born – color-blindness is simply the devaluation and minimization of racial identity, and the ascription of the reality and struggle of being a racial minority not to racism but to another cause. Throughout history, various parts of the white power structure have decided that this cause is cultural pathology – the idea that black Americans are on average poorer than white Americans, arrested more often, and commit ‘more’ crimes not because they face profound social exclusion and the burdens of discrimination in the labor-market, a stigma of criminality, and have historically been excluded from social welfare agencies and other public services, or because low-level criminality is a function of social strain, but rather because black Americans are inherently inferior and that black culture is inherently linked to criminality and poverty.

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Several days before the Nobel Prize Committee awarded this year’s Nobel Peace Prize to the current Colombia President Juan Manuel Santos, a referendum took place in Colombia that rejected the peace deal made by Santos and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC). This result put the Nobel Prize Committee in an awkward position, as the committee awarded Santos “for his resolute efforts to bring the country’s more than 50-year-long civil war to an end,” yet the millstone on the peace journey was just rejected by Colombia’s population. Though people rejected the peace deal mostly because they were unsatisfied with the conditions set in the peace deal, such as releasing FARC officers who are currently in custody, the rejection still reveals the immaturity of peace in Colombia and poses questions on Santos’ legitimacy of the award.

Besides the awkwardness from the referendum rejection, people also question whether Santos’ contribution is significant enough to receive the Nobel Peace Prize. The conflict between Colombia government and FARC could be traced back to 1960s, when the left-wing revolutionary force was established in the wave of communism in Latin America. The conflict was brutal and inhumane, and claimed the lives of more than twelve percent of Colombia population. However, due to the relieved tension between United States and Latin America countries, as well as the diminishing power of FARC that could no longer stand for more aggression, a peace deal seems to be inevitable to resolve the conflict that both parties could no longer support.

The Nobel Peace Prize endorses those who have “done the most or the best work for fraternity between nations, for the abolition or reduction of standing armies and for the holding and promotion of peace congresses,” yet it has been criticized for being too political. Some critics believe that the reasons for awarding is based on the contemporary significance, which makes the prize lack eternality. Current president Barack Obama has been awarded “for his extraordinary efforts to strengthen international diplomacy and cooperation between peoples” only nine months after his presidency, and it is doubtful how the committee could examine the effectiveness of his international diplomacy in such a short period of time, as the increasing tension in Syria and the rise of ISIS raise more questions of the legitimacy of his award.

A political Nobel Peace Prize does not endorse its original purpose, as it is supposed to endorse some higher stakes that go beyond contemporary politics. It should be more humanitarian, more cosmopolitan, and more inclusive. In terms of this year, the Syrian Civil Defense organization, which was nominated but not awarded, may have been a better choice, as the group continues humanitarian rescues in the most dangerous country with no assistance from other political groups. Getting rid of influences from politics and political norms is hard for the Nobel Peace Prize, but it is necessary to keep the prize’s eternal significance.

Perspectives of a Math Major runs alternate Wednesdays. To contact the author to submit a piece of your own, email submissions@columbialion.com.

Photo Courtesy of Alixx Lucas

Dear Donald,
sometimes I have to thank you

sometimes I have to thank you
for bringing them down
because you expose those who also wish to
bring them down

Dear Donald,
sometimes I have to thank you
for dismissing our pain
for laughing our pain
for stabbing our pain
because you expose those
who wish to do the same

Dear Donald,
your hands are far too small

far too small to carry the weight
of this country
far too small to hold the hand of a mother
whose son’s been shot in cold blood in the street

Dear Donald,
sometimes I have to thank you for reminding me
of this country’s ailment
constantly making natives feel like foreigners
consistently fighting to keep foreigners out

Dear Donald,
who are you protecting?
what are you protecting?

Are you protecting America?

“Make America Great Again”
When was America great?

Were we great when we defiled eachother?
Were we great when we persecuted eachother?
Were we great when we enslaved eachother?
Were we great when we fought eachother?
Were we great when we killed eachother?

“Make America Great Again”
you say

I’m not interested in that America

But
Dear Donald,
sometimes I have to thank you for reminding me of what America is
who it protects
what it protects
and all that needs to change

Alixx is a junior in Columbia College studying Neuroscience.

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

The Sexual Respect Initiative runs through October which is Relationship Violence Awareness Month, so it’s important we cover sexual assault. We’ve gone a long way since the 90s where there wasn’t a unified definition of sexual assault across the University. Yes, I know, this is absolutely bizarre, but it speaks to what was many times an insufficient system of addressing sexual assault during the same time period where America got tough on “super-predators” and drug crime. This has started to change in this new millennium, and one of the forefronts of that change has been on college campuses.

In April of 2011, the Office of Civil Rights of the Department of Education (OCR) released a guidance letter which stated that “sexual harassment of students, which includes acts of sexual violence, is a form of sex discrimination prohibited by Title IX” and importantly that, “Title IX requires the school to take immediate action to eliminate the harassment, prevent its recurrence, and address its effects.” This is critical because schools found to be in violation of Title IX are at risk of losing federal funding, otherwise known as the Pell Grants, work-study funds, and research grants that a lot of colleges value. In response to this and increasing attention towards sexual harassment and assault in this decade, colleges have revised on-campus disciplinary proceedings to be more in line with the desires of the Obama administration, and by any indication, this doesn’t seem to be a one shot deal. The Democratic Party, in its party platform stated that they “will provide comprehensive support to survivors, and ensure a fair process for all on-campus disciplinary proceedings and in the criminal justice system.”

However, some would inquire what a “fair process” looks like. For as long as this has been an issue, the OCR has come under fire from some civil-rights advocates for using the threat of Title IX to develop processes unfair to defendants. Namely, the Foundation of Individual Rights in Education has criticized OCR’s insistence that campus proceedings be determined on a preponderance of the evidence standard, its expansive definition of sexual harassment, and in New York, the standard of affirmative consent pushed by a Democratic state government. Of five years of OCR investigations revolving around Title IX, very few have actually ruled in favor of defendants, and when they did, it was for blatantly violating written disciplinary as mandated by the OCR. Assuming Hillary Clinton’s administration would be a continuation of Obama’s, there’s no discernable reason why she would stray from the currently criticized course.

Do you have a choice on this issue? Perhaps. The Republican Platform gives us the following: “The Administration’s distortion of Title IX to micromanage the way colleges and universities deal with allegations of abuse contravenes our country’s legal traditions and must be halted before it further muddles this complex issue and prevents the proper authorities from investigating and prosecuting sexual assault effectively with due process.” This sounds like genuine concern for a lot of the issues FIRE is trying to address, but here, the messenger is compromised. This is the party, after all, of Donald Trump, who advocated in Hofstra University for the continuation of stop and frisk, a police tactic whose application was ruled unconstitutional by a judge. This is the same Donald Trump who said of bombing suspect Ahmad Khan Rahami’s receival of legal testimony “His case will go through the various court systems for years and in the end, people will forget and his punishment will not be what it once would have been. What a sad situation. We must have speedy but fair trials and we must deliver a just and very harsh punishment to these people.” This is the same Donald Trump who refused to apologize for his behavior towards the Central Park Five, who he accused of raping a woman after authorities found the actual rapist and gave the five men settlement money. One must ask if Donald Trump is as concerned about due process on college campuses as the Republican Party Platform says it is, then why isn’t he concerned about due process anywhere else? This is on top of the release of a tape where Donald Trump bragged about using his star power to grope women, the latest in a string of anecdotes where Trump was described as a misogynistic harassment machine. Is it possible for someone who has repeated sexually harassed women to appoint people responsible for tackling it?

In summary, one can assume a vote for Hillary this November means more of the same, investigations into universities and strongly worded requests to change. One could assume a vote for Trump would be for a different course, but whether that course is towards due-process, law and order, or more of the 90s is anyone’s guess.

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 submissions@columbialion.com