Tag: bollinger

If you watched the last presidential debate, you probably noticed that the first topic Chris Wallace pressed the candidates on was the Supreme Court. Control over the Supreme Court is always a contentious issue, but Justice Antonin Scalia’s death and the sudden Supreme Court vacancy has made the tension more much apparent.. Whoever wins this election will be tasked with appointing a new Justice and possibly two others, potentially changing the ideology of the majority of the Court for 25 years as Wallace put it. This has enormous repercussions for a host of issues from gun control to abortion, but I’m not here to talk about that. I’m here to talk about affirmative action.

As you might know, the Supreme Court upheld the inclusion of affirmative action in college admissions policies over the summer. In doing so, it said that since educational diversity is a valid goal for administrators, colleges and universities should have wide discretion in considering race in admissions policy. Since administrators cannot explicitly rely on a quota system, they consider race as part of holistic review. First-years probably remember hearing almost every college they applied to admit to using this policy. In short, holistic review means that admissions considers a wide range of factors when considering a student, including academics, extracurriculars, and diversity. It was this policy that was under threat before the Court this summer, and the same policy that current Columbia President, Lee C. Bollinger defended in 2003.

Your choices this election are rather stark. When the Court ruled over the summer, the traditional conservatives dissented, though not for stereotypical ‘Republicans don’t understand black people’ reasons. Justice Samuel Alito who wrote the dissent for the second Fisher v. University of Texas in Austin case articulates that affirmative action as practiced has “gone berserk” and helps affluent African-Americans more than Asian-Americans. This is interesting since the same petitioners behind that case are also advancing with another case against Harvard University centering around Asian-Americans. If Trump appoints two conservatives or centrist Justice Kennedy is persuaded by these arguments with one Trump appointee, affirmative action through holistic review is dead. Hillary Clinton, we can gander, probably will appoint justices that will affirm affirmative action, ensuring that even if Kennedy is swayed by conservative arguments, affirmative action will stay.

Look, we can have long lengthy debates over the value of affirmative action in colleges, but I don’t want to delve too deep into whether we should have affirmative action. What I will say is that throughout the country, one of the most prominent demands from activists has been an increase in diversity within the student body. Holistic review is the only way colleges can do that somewhat directly. Columbia might be able to produce similar effects by focusing on socioeconomic diversity within its large applicant pool. I imagine someone who cares about racial diversity would still want Columbia to be able to prioritize racial diversity instead of hoping the mechanics work out. But I also imagine people who want admissions to be fair and more predictable would prefer Columbia adopt standards that can be measured and scrutinized. Whatever your side, this debate will be decided by who controls the presidency and the Senate.  

Ufon’s mini-series, Columbia and the 2016 Election, will run through the November 8th Presidential Elections.

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Photo Courtesy Columbia Divest for Climate Change

For nearly 96 hours, students representing Columbia Divest for Climate Justice (CDCJ) have been occupying Low Library. Our message is simple: we will not leave until President Bollinger publicly recommends divestment from the top 200 publicly traded fossil fuel companies to the Board of Trustees. While CDCJ has been careful to broadcast our ask and our campaign as far as we can, we think it’s important to explain why exactly we’re doing this.

First, why divestment? It is immoral for Columbia to be actively invested in, and profiting off of, the destructive practices of the fossil fuel industry. Science shows that 80% of known fossil fuel reserves must stay in the ground in order to prevent the climate chaos that would wreak havoc on vulnerable communities around the world, but this can’t happen when the top 200 fossil fuel companies spent over $600 billion on exploring new reserves in 2012 alone. Fossil fuel companies are morally bankrupt–some, like Exxon, have been directly tied to climate change denialism and the discrediting of climate scientists, while others contribute millions to lawmakers to obstruct meaningful policy on climate action. Divestment is our way of taking a stand to revoke the social and political license of these companies, so that they can no longer interfere with our transition to a low-carbon, non-extractive economy. Divestment is our way of taking a stand for a safer and more just world.

Okay–but why now? CDCJ has been engaging the campus community and administration for three and a half years now. We’ve had countless meetings with President Bollinger, the Board of Trustees, and the Advisory Committee on Socially Responsible Investing (ACSRI). Bollinger has indicated to us privately that divestment wouldn’t hurt the endowment, and that divestment make sense when companies are engaged in highly immoral activities. What’s more, campus consensus is clear on divestment: we have over 2,000 petition signatures, 350 faculty endorsements, and a referendum reflecting support from 74% of Columbia College and SEAS students to prove it. So why haven’t we acted? Publicly, Bollinger has remained silent about divestment, and all that the Advisory Committee on Socially Responsible Investing has achieved has been a formal rejection of our divestment proposal and a recommendation that Columbia create yet another committee to deliberate on university responses to climate change. As President and a Trustee, Bollinger has the power to prioritize divestment, and we demand that he does so by standing against the destructive practices of the fossil fuel industry.

Through this civil disobedience, we are telling him that time has run out for the University to make this decision. We are not willing to wait any longer when climate justice, the well-being of future generations, and the well-being of communities around the world are at stake.

Nikita Perumal is a senior in the School of General Studies studying Human Rights and was a participant in the occupation of Low Library. Due to personal commitments, she had to voluntarily choose to leave the occupation. More information on this can be found here.

To respond to this piece, email submissions@columbialion.com