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Lion Guides: Columbia Glossary

Welcome to Columbia, new students! As you get acclimated to this new environment, here’s a guide to some of the acronyms used here on campus.



Student Services OnLine. This is where you do everything official as a student: register for classes, review your degree audit, cry (out of sadness OR joy) over grades, add money to your Flex account, check financial aid, and pretty much everything else. It’s kind of important.


This student run ambulance service doesn’t call themselves CAVA anymore (now it’s CU EMS), but the name has stuck. Expect to see these responders-in-training every time someone passes out at a party. Known for taking students with alcohol poisoning across the street to St. Luke’s hospital. The ambulance service is free, but the hospital bill is not.


The nickname of Columbia President Lee Bollinger. You will know him by his always amazing haircut.

Flex/Dining Dollars

Two types of Columbia “fake” money that you can use in the neighborhood. Dining dollars are strictly for food and are tax-free. Flex is for laundry and grocery purchases, and is taxable, but can be charged to your student loans. Some students who abuse Flex receive a rude awakening upon graduating.


Columbia Outdoor Orientation Program. That outdoor/camping thing tons of freshmen do before NSOP when they defecate together and it changes their lives. Expect never to stop hearing about this phenomenon.


Northwest corner building, where the engineering library and Joe’s Coffee is located.


Current Dean of Columbia College, James Valentini

Varsity Show

An annual, student-produced musical that lampoons Columbia University

Orgo Night

A bi-annual stand-up comedy routine put on by the Columbia University Marching Band. The event takes place in Butler Library on the eve of the Organic Chemistry final.

Knox Hall

The building on 122nd street between Broadway and Claremont avenue that does not appear on most University maps. Knox is home base for the MESAAS department, so if you’re taking anything related to the Middle East, Africa, or South Asia, enjoy the walk!


Columbia College Student Council, the student government body for the College


Engineering Student Council, the student government body for the engineering school


You should be able to figure this out by now.


Student Government Association of Barnard College, Barnard’s student government


The people who give your club money out of the Student Life Fee.


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