Tag: community

As the Columbia University College Republicans prepare to host Tommy Robinson, a speaker known for his inflammatory remarks for a talk about “Europe and mass immigration,” Professor Goldberg, the head of University Life, has emailed students explaining the University’s rationale for allowing speakers such as Robinson.

The full email can be found below:

Dear Students,

There is much in the news about contentious speakers on campuses around the country, including our own. And while some students welcome these debates, others raise serious concerns about the negative impact of white supremacists and others who express hostile and derogatory views on race, religion and gender. These kinds of messages, as you know, contradict Columbia’s core commitment to the value of all members of our community and to diversity among our students, faculty and staff, as President Bollinger has often made clear.

Against this backdrop, here’s an abbreviated explanation of why the University allows student organizations to invite speakers whose views conflict so directly with our institutional values:  It is foundational to Columbia’s learning and teaching missions that we allow for the contestation of ideas. This includes expression of ideas that are deeply unpopular, offensive to many in our community, contrary to research-based understandings, and antagonistic to University tenets.

Without this policy, the University would be in a position of deciding which views our community should hear and which it should not. Perhaps needless to say, there is often not consensus about when speakers cross the line into being impermissible. Having University officials decide which ideas outside speakers can express on campus also poses serious risks to academic freedom.

Still, when white supremacist, anti-Muslim and similar speakers come to campus, Columbia has an important responsibility to make clear our values:  that we reject those views and maintain our commitment to fostering a vibrant community founded on the fundamental dignity and worth of all of our members, as our nondiscrimination statement provides. We also support research, teaching and other opportunities for community members and the public to learn more about the deep flaws in these speakers’ views. And our Rules of University Conduct, while protecting these speakers’ right to speak without disruption, also strongly protect protesters in expressing their views.

In the coming weeks, you will have opportunities to participate in campus conversations and also learn more about these issues, including at Awakening Our Democracy: Free Speech on Campus on November 1 (register here). If you have additional ideas for how we might strengthen our efforts to reject the messages of these speakers, short of barring student organizations from inviting them to campus, I welcome your sharing them.

Yours truly,

Professor Suzanne B. Goldberg
Executive Vice President for University Life
Herbert and Doris Wechsler Clinical Professor of Law

In addition to tonight’s talk, several students groups are hosting alternate events from Columbia University Democrats to various direct protests of the event.

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 the aftermath of President Trump’s election and inauguration, we asked Columbia students how they felt about the next four years. Here’s what they had to say:

 

I still haven’t really fleshed out my ideas, and it will be difficult to truly see how the election affects me until Trump’s presidency gets underway, but at the moment I’m looking at myself and I recognize I’ve enjoyed pretty much every benefit of society: I’m a well-off white male, hardly a target of misogyny or racism, so this result doesn’t affect me, existentially so, like it does my transgender classmate or Hispanic brother-in-law. But it still feels…wrong. And surreal. Yeah, it feels wrong and surreal that half the country aligns themselves with a man who represents the antithesis of many values I stand for and more importantly, the nightmares of millions of people who now how to live in fear. These people, as it is too often forgot, are HUMAN BEINGS and ought to be treated and respected as such, yet their ability to live without fear of harassment and prejudice and racism and sexism has taken a backseat to the specter of an America that becomes less great with every graffitied swastika and bigoted Facebook post.
-Bennett Smith, CC’20

 

 I think that, over the past eight years of Obama’s presidency, progressives have become somewhat complacent, not realizing that the progress we’ve made over the years is far from permanent. I think the election was really a wake-up call for liberals, and shows that, over the next four years, we’re going to have to work hard to overcome our own divisions to protect the gains we’ve made and promote a forward-thinking future. While a figure as contentious as Donald Trump has the potential to sow division, I hope that, over the next four years, progressives can reach out to those who disagree with us to understand where they’re coming from, why they believe what they believe, and whether we can find any common ground. That doesn’t have to happen in the halls of congress or the streets of NYC—it can happen right here on campus, where I think a commitment to empathy, even when uncomfortable, will serve us all well in the long-run.
-Arman Azad, CC’20

 

With the election of Donald Trump, the United States has a special chance to make much needed and unique changes. We’ve elected a man that will always put this nation and its citizens before all else. No party or ideology will come first, the partisan deadlock in Washington will come loose, and government will once again start working for the people. The days of empty rhetoric have passed. The era of real action has arrived. The next four years shine brightly ahead with the promise of new jobs, infrastructure, and investment fueled by reduced taxation and regulation and a renewed sense of faith in and love for this country. The path to a stronger, prouder, brighter America for all Americans, no matter how they identify or where they come from, is clearly set before us. With President Trump in the White House, guided as always by the invisible but all powerful grace of God, no citizen of this mighty land need worry that our Great Nation is in the right hands.
-Dante Mazza, CC ’19

 

As someone whose family still lives in a former USSR country, I’m not optimistic for the next four years given Mr. Trump’s ties to Russia. Trump’s indications that he won’t necessarily fulfill NATO obligations are a threat not to be taken lightly or brushed under the rug as he takes office. Having been in Latvia during the election made it quite clear to me who wanted what: the Latvians overwhelmingly supported Hillary despite being traditionally more conservative, while the ethnically Russian Latvian citizens were pro-Trump. On this front as well as all others, I can only say that the best case scenario is one in which he accomplishes nothing over the next four years.
Molly Mittler, BC ’19

 

The election of this president is emblematic of a bigger issue that encompasses racism, sexism, and xenophobia. The policies that his cabinet and his nominees have stated or even hinted at will transcend those barriers of effect. Donald Trump is obviously different from previous presidents. While the war on drugs destroyed the lives of black people, and while presidential silence on the AIDS crisis echoed the apathy for the death of so many, Trump’s policies will also affect the base that so eagerly voted for him. While I may lose the critical benefits awarded to me by a party that is at least trying, benefits that made many of us apathetic to the horrors that could so easily come from our complacency with the system, the one solace that may possibly console me is that the ignorant, the angry, and the misinformed which so eagerly voted for a demagogue will feel the repercussions of these next four years too. But, in the words of Dylan Thomas, we will not go gentle into that good night. The best of us will pull the country forward kicking and screaming like we have done so many times before. We will work to protect the rights of women, and the rights of minorities, and the rights of those less fortunate through marches, protests, sit-ins, and in the most important way of all, by voting in 2018 and 2020.
-Rafael Ortiz, CC’19

 

The inauguration of Trump makes me uncertain as an immigrant, a black person and a woman. Insecure of how emboldened racists and sexists feel right now with such a man as president for the next four years. I literally have four years before I complete my undergrad and I have never been this involved in American politics because this time it directly affects me. It is definitely interesting to watch how the years will unfold.
-Cynthia Welinga, BC’ 20



I find it disheartening and appalling that many have been defending this presidential outcome as democracy. Though President Trump was elected democratically, the notion of democracy, itself, has been lost. We are dangerously close, if not there already, to a state of tyranny upholding its ways in a veil of democratic values. We, as a nation, have fought hard for the past eight years to reestablish a sense of democracy, equal values and unity within the people. This election puts all we have fought for at risk. “We will not be divided” seems to be a popular response to the election, and I stand by it. However, the division which we must understand is that of the people and the sovereign. Our 45th President does not have interest in his people, but in our nations wealth. A businessman is not fit for president because his interest lies in the acquisition of property and not the well being of his people. He will bring forth this division which we are so strongly trying to avoid. He will bring upon us violence. These are dark times for us all. The misconstrued understanding of anarchy is not to go to war, but to reestablish equality. We must stand strong and fight against this formation of fascism and tyranny.
-Petros Gourgouris, CC’17

 

Although Trump’s message smacked too much of his campaign rhetoric and lacked unity, the inauguration was remarkable. Simultaneously in Gambia, a political transition also took place. But that one only happened because an international coalition forced a tyrant to step down; and it is for that reason–the reliability of the American government and sensibility of the American people–that I’m cautiously optimistic for the next administration.
-Blake Mueller, CC’18

 

Although I am disappointed with the outcome of the election, and the direction the Trump administration seems to be setting out for itself, I take heart in what President Obama said before leaving office. All Americans work together to bring about positive change. This is not a power reserved for one man. That being said, there are many people Trump’s administration affects far more intimately than myself, both in proposed policies and the culture it promotes. It falls on all of us to stand united to protect each other’s rights and liberties. I am hopeful we will do so moving forward. The millions at women’s marches across the world are evidence of our resolve to fight for one another.
-Scott Aronin, CC’15

 

To me, this inauguration represents the culmination of a political strategy of divisive racial discourse, fear mongering, and manipulation of basic facts that has ultimately put a party in power that unabashedly does the bidding of the rich elites of our country while concurrently tricking millions of poor citizens to vote for them. Never before has someone served as president who is the sole embodiment of a rich, white, privileged class who is the enemy of a robust, prosperous, and diverse middle and lower class, and who has continuosly served to divide the American populace and has weakened us as a nation. Reading about the gutting of basic rights in this country such as health care for tens of millions is heartbreaking, but it gives me hope that Columbians and young people across the country and world are not content to allow Donald Trump to systematically strip us of our power and our voice. For the next four years I know that Columbians will be on the front lines of the fight to protect our future from those in the American government who seek to destroy it .
-Adam Buford, CC’19

 

I think we’re going to learn a very hard lesson about idolatry in politics. One we should have learned before.
-Mae Graham, CC’18
If you’d like to submit a piece to the Lion, please email submissions@thecolumbialion.com.
Photo by Aaron Appelle (CC '18)

Photo by Aaron Appelle (SEAS ’18)

Welcome to Columbia!  On behalf of everyone here, The Lion team would like to be one of the first to congratulate you for your achievements and welcome you to the Columbia community.

As you prepare for your arrival, our team went out and polled students from a variety of academic years and backgrounds in a series of upcoming posts asking them questions about Columbia that they wish they knew before arriving on campus. Our goal for this series is to provide you with an accurate understanding of what to expect when you join us on campus.

In this community editorial, we asked students: “What are things you wished you knew about Columbia before arriving?”

*Note: We chose not to edit these quotes nor filter out “problematic” ones. The Lion does not endorse any of these, but hopes to show initial thoughts of current students and alumni.

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A confession: I have been complicit in the encouragement of self-censorship and the silencing of unpopular ideas on Columbia’s campus. One particular incident a few weeks ago has made it clear to me, however, that I can no longer stay quiet on this front. Silence is violence, after all.

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