The Lion


Emily Nussbaum is a television critic for The New Yorker. With her analytic and sharp pieces of television criticism across various genres, Nussbaum has made an impressive name for herself. Since becoming The New Yorker’s television critic in 2011, Nussbaum has won two national awards, the National Magazine Award in 2014 and the Pulitzer Prize for Criticism in 2016. She has written about a multitude of TV shows including “Mad Men,” “Scandal,” and “Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt.” The Pulitzer Prize website characterizes Emily Nussbaum’s work as “television reviews written with an affection that never blunts the shrewdness of her analysis or the easy authority of her writing.”

President Lee C. Bollinger and Emily Nussbaum

President Lee C. Bollinger and 2016 Criticism Prize Winner Emily Nussbaum

I had the honor of interviewing Ms. Nussbaum in October. Nervously I asked Emily Nussbaum the first question I had prepared.

“Did you always know you wanted to write?”

Nonchalantly she responded, “Well I wrote in college.” She was a creative writing major at Oberlin College. She later did her master’s in poetry at NYU. “I always knew I wanted to write, just wasn’t sure how exactly, but I knew I wanted to write,” Nussbaum told me.

My next question proceeded naturally. “Did you ever imagine yourself as a television critic?”

“Not really,” Nussbaum replied. Emily Nussbaum went on to tell me she became very interested in television in the late 90s, when “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” aired. She told me that was a transformative time and a very transformative show. She filled her passion for television through various mediums. At Television Without Pity, she was involved (although distantly) in vehement debates and “wild” discussions that they held about television content. Nussbaum told me she would mostly write about academic issues while she pursed a graduate degree. She later got a job at Slate, but only wrote about TV when something truly interested her. She began to focus more on television at New York Magazine, where she was a writer and Culture Editor for seven years. From there, she went on to her current role, as the New Yorker’s television critic.

“Slowly television criticism has become a more respected arts medium,” Nussbaum told me as I asked how people reacted when they found out she was a television critic. Ms. Nussbaum said that at the turn of the century, with shows like “West Wing” and “The Wire,” television criticism became a more sought after enterprise.

I followed up the response with asking how she felt since winning the Pulitzer and what had changed. Nussbaum openly said, “I was more nervous than anything at first.” With increased visibility, Nussbaum told me, she felt her pieces were in more scrutiny. “After a couple more articles, however, I went back to my normal work,” Nussbaum added.

In recent years, television has been changing. Nussbaum reminded me, however, that television on Netflix or on cable was the same fundamentally.

“TV has changed, yes, but just the visual medium, TV remains TV.” Nussbaum qualified her response, saying that Netflix has provided different ways of viewing television, with the recent addition of the “binge watch” into our television culture, and these changes do come with required new forms of adjustment. These changes are not entirely unprecedented, she stated, as she brought to my attention the shift that DVR caused, as people could now suddenly record and pause shows, and thus alter the traditional viewing experience.

For those who might want to pursue a similar career as Nussbaum, I asked her if she had any advice to give to young people. Her response was quite simple, “Things are changing so much. I would recommend talking to an editor, and asking him/her how the current conditions are predicted to be for the specific field one wishes to pursue.” Nussbaum offered more of her knowledge, saying that one of the most important ways of moving up in journalism was developing strong relationship with editors. “Demonstrating your passion for the work you do is always important,” Nussbaum highlighted. She warned, though, to make sure one checks in to see what job opportunities may be available before becoming fixed to a specific career path.

As the interview was coming to a close, I threw out the last question.

“What is a piece that you are most proud of?”

Nussbaum responded confidently, “I wrote a piece about ‘Sex and the City’ that I really liked.” She went on to say that in this piece she explored how comedy could be held at the same level as drama. “It was more of a statement piece,” she mentioned. Alyssa Rosenberg of the Washington Post summarized this piece as, “an essay arguing that ‘Sex and the City’ was just as important as ‘The Sopranos’ in expanding the idea of what was possible on television.” Nussbaum discussed how pieces that challenge her and “don’t come natural” are her favorite work overall. Expanding on the question, Nussbaum said that work that created conversations and developed a relationship with her audience often offered the most satisfaction.

Emily Nussbaum has been a trailblazer in her field, helping raise television criticism to prominence. Nussbaum is the second television critic in almost 28 years to have won the Pulitzer. Examples of her work can be found here.

As the new semester begins, The Lion will be spending some time in Uniquely Human on other people — how we interact with them, how they interact with us, and how those interactions shape our personality. This is the first column in our new series.

Columbia students spend a lot of time in elevators. Imagine – you step into an empty elevator on the top floor of a building. As you descend, one, two, even three people walk into the elevator, an experience so typical you hardly notice. But this time as they enter, something curious happens.

After walking in the elevator, each person faces the back instead of turning around to face the front doors. While one person doing this may go unnoticed, after two or three people perform this strange action you too turn around to face the back.

Although your instinct may be to resist that ending to the story, from its origin on Candid Camera in the 1950s, through multiple scientific studies the result is always the same — the majority of people will adopt the new social norm.

This action of changing your behavior to adapt to those around you is called social referencing, and for decades, its powerful sway over social activities has been confirmed in sociological and psychological studies. That people would adapt their behavior to their social situations is not itself revolutionary, although the extent to which people adopt ‘non-logical’ behaviors to fit in a new social norm can often be humorous.

The truly controversial idea is a much newer one, and comes out of modern neuroscience: not only do you change your external behaviors to adjust to a new social environment, your core personality adjusts to fit with a new social reality.

This brain re-wiring can perhaps paradoxically be best illustrated by when the system goes wrong. Have you ever flinched when you have seen someone get hit in a particularly painful location, or felt warm when you have seen two people hug? Now imagine if instead of experiencing a vague sense of those feelings, you physically felt every sensation you saw in someone else. Every touch is replicated on your arm, with every swallow you see you feel the food slither down your throat, and the pain of another sharply becomes your own.

This condition is called mirror-touch synesthesia, and it is one of the most common synesthesias –  an estimated 1.5% of the population experiences the world this way. While the physical aspects of this disorder are fascinating and deserve their own column, where it really gets interesting is in how synesthetes experience emotional reactions.

In a number of mirror-touch synesthetes, the act of seeing someone respond emotionally causes a mirrored emotional response. Because they can acutely feel the happiness, sadness, anguish of the people around them, it can become incredibly difficult for mirror-touch synesthetes to distinguish their own emotions from the emotions of those around them. They find themselves disappearing into others.

As is common in neuroscience, observing such an extreme example of a system going wrong teaches us about how the system should work under normal circumstances. One possible explanation comes from mirror neurons. Discovered a little over a decade ago in monkeys and recently in humans, mirror neurons are cells located in parts of the brain corresponding to sensation and motor activity.

Unlike other cells nearby, these special mirror neurons fire identically both when they are performing an activity, like processing touch or moving your arm, and when observing someone else do the same task. While the purpose of these neurons is still speculative, there is evidence of their role in subconscious mimicry, empathy, self-awareness, and even theory of mind.

Of course, when a typical human observes other people, they don’t acutely feel those external sensations in the same way. That is because there are other inhibitory neurons ‘downstream’ of the mirror neurons, which stop you from acting on their firing. It’s likely that in mirror-touch synesthetes, that ‘turn off’ signal does not get sent, or the original signal from mirror neurons is so strong that it cannot be turned off.

So while mirror neurons might allow us all to understand each other at low levels of activity, cranking their response up causes people to in some ways become other people. Mirror touch synesthetes brings a normally subconscious process to the surface, and they raise some interesting questions in the process.

If we’re somehow experiencing the actions and emotions of other people within our own minds on a subconscious level, do these ‘outside’ factors become a part of us? Do we correspondingly change parts of our core personalities in response? We will seek to explore these very questions in the next column.

Vittorio Grigolo in the title role and Isabel Leonard as Charlotte in Massenet’s Werther. Photo by Marty Sohl/Metropolitan Opera.

 

Valentine’s Day didn’t go so well? Did Ferris again disappoint? Don’t worry, Werther’s day was equally abysmal.

The Met opened this season’s production of Jules Massenet’s Werther on Thursday night. The Italian tenor Vittorio Grigolo stars in the title role and the American mezzo-soprano Isabel Leonard invigorates Charlotte, Werther’s love.

This production, led by Sir Richard Eyre, is mostly identical to the Met’s Werther of 2014. There is even one prominent holdover in the cast: David Bizic again gave a convincing performance as Albert, Charlotte’s husband. However, I noted small changes. For example, Werther in his opening nature aria does not address the looming statue of Charlotte’s deceased mother to as great of an extent. 

The dominant theme of nature’s attractive force is established in Werther’s entrance in Act 1. Here, Werther sings about the beauty of the brook, the coolness of the shade, and the vibrancy of the bursting flowers. His imploring hand movements and facial expressions convey his utter devotion to nature, reflecting wise choreography decisions by Sara Erde. Looming in the back and foreground are long, drooping branches and shadows of linden trees,  which connote nature’s omnipresent power.

Vittorio Grigolo in the title role of Massenet's Werther. Photo by Marty Sohl/Metropolitan Opera.

Vittorio Grigolo in the title role of Massenet’s Werther. Photo by Marty Sohl/Metropolitan Opera.

One of Massenet’s major plot defects is the establishment of Werther’s and Charlotte’s relationship. In the opera, Werther declares his love for Charlotte in Act 1’s clair de lune scene. Later, during Charlotte’s Act 3 letter episode, Werther implores her to remember their times spent together, “Here’s the harpsichord that sang of my joy and trembled with my pain as your voice joined in with mine.” The impression is that Werther and Charlotte completely fall for each other after only one meeting. While this is not uncommon in opera, it does not correspond with Goethe’s original text.

To reconcile the plot hiccup, the prelude could be repurposed. Instead of emphasizing the mother’s death, which feels out of place in context of the work’s focus, Werther and Charlotte could be shown making music at the harpsichord, laughing while playing silly games and crouching excitedly over books—mouthing words to each others’ eager ears. These scenes would occur behind a grey, translucent curtain—hinting at the memories of a blossoming love. In so doing, the Met would give more substance to the lovers’ devotion.

Yes, this addition would disrupt a sense of linear time. However, establishing their relationship is more important to the work than a preservation of a continuous narrative arc.

Eyre stages Acts 1 and 2 with receding, left-tilting rectangles. These outlines disorientate the viewer: Eyre wants his audience to feel Werther’s internal anguish. He achieves a similar effect with Werther’s chamber in Act 4, which looms over the preceding act’s library. Since it is a smaller, intimate space than the prior act’s, it conveys actual and psychological distance.

The choreography during the clair de lune scene effectively communicates Charlotte’s attempts to detach herself from Werther. Werther bends his whole body toward Charlotte, slowly bringing his hand to her shoulder. Charlotte keeps her back to him, afraid of his transformative, dark allure.

Vittorio Grigolo in the title role and Isabel Leonard as Charlotte in Massenet's Werther. Photo by Marty Sohl/Metropolitan Opera.

Vittorio Grigolo in the title role and Isabel Leonard as Charlotte in Massenet’s Werther. Photo by Marty Sohl/Metropolitan Opera.

Scenes like these make us empathize with Charlotte. Charlotte is tortured by love, torn between her love for Werther and the promise she made to her mother to marry Albert. Werther is oblivious to the conflict he is inflicting upon her. For instance, when she says she must honor her mother’s dying wish, Werther responds by expressing his desire to “keep these [her] eyes all to myself, this charming face, this adorable mouth,” – in essence completely ignoring her problems.

Despite Massenet’s labeling of the opera as a drame lyrique, hints of opéra comique surface. Sophie, Charlotte’s younger sister, twirls around the stage with a little origami bird – a light blossom intruding on the work’s dark aura. Anna Christy’s performance as Sophie exuded the necessary optimism, but her vibrato and voice presence were too great for the light, jovial role. And, Maurizio Muraro as Le Bailli, Charlotte’s father, brought a Santa Claus-like boisterousness to the role.

In the second act, Massenet plays a musical joke with the drunken characters Johann and Schmidt, who blasphemously sing their praises of Bacchus while outside a church. Spelled out – Johann, Schmidt, Bacchus (J.S.B.) – their tune sounds positively Bachian. These characters were enlivened with besotted revelry by Philip Cokorinos and Tony Stevenson.

Leonard imbued her Act 3 letter aria – “Va! Laisse couler mes larmes!” (Go! Let flow my tears!) – with the appropriate pathos. Each of her notes was conceived with careful thought, dripping with the despair of Charlotte’s streaming tears. Leonard understood that a trembling, vulnerable quality was needed here, not a powerful, confident bravado.

That being said, she still knew how to excite a powerful, Met-Opera-Hall-enveloping sound when she needed to. An example was her crescendoing line, “The emptiness is too great. Nothing can fill it (the heart)…” Here, Charlotte is overwhelmed by her love for Werther, longing for him to comfort her overflowing heart.

I wish Leonard’s diction was a little clearer in parts of her solo, especially when she sang high in her range. The upper register’s vowel-sounds sometimes sounded over-modified, which distorted their meaning.

Werther_5401-s

Isabel Leonard as Charlotte in Massenet’s Werther. Photo by Marty Sohl/Metropolitan Opera.

The saxophone obbligato during Charlotte’s aria did not express the meaning of the libretto. With its contrapuntal, legato line, the saxophone represents Charlotte’s undulating internal tears set against the outpouring of her external ones. To capture the solemn sentiment, faltering yet directionally-aware phrases veiled by a subtle vibrato are requisite. However, the saxophonist’s performance was too loud, without any vibrato, and strictly in time. I recognize that orchestral players are demanded to reach the back of the hall with good, quality sound, however, this sonic goal must always exude the correct character.

Despite the saxophonist’s decisions, the Met Orchestra, led by Edward Gardner, gave a stellar performance. During Charlotte and Werther’s dialogue in Act 2, I watched as Gardner carefully followed their accelerating movements, surging the orchestra to follow suit. Earlier in the same act, there appeared to be a slight synchronization problem with Albert’s solo, but it was quickly resolved.

The orchestral interlude between Acts 3 and 4 was dynamic: trombones, trumpets, and bassoons soared a foreboding, accented triplet figure, foreshadowing Werther’s impending demise. Here, the brass and woodwinds, even after well-over two hours of playing, remained pointed and energized.

Shortly after Charlotte’s tearful epistolary grief in Act 3, Werther storms on stage for his anticipated Christmas arrival. He beseeches Charlotte to remember their pleasant evenings together. Partly to assuage herself and partly to distract Werther, Charlotte gives him the Ossian poetry that he was translating. Grasping it in his hand, Werther begins his, “Pourquoi me réveiller,” aria.

“Pourquoi” was spectacular. Grigolo approached the phrasing – especially the repeated three-eighth-notes rhythmic unit – with an organic sense of time that vitalized his singing. Propelling from these eighth-note figures, Grigolo leaped to emotionally-gripping summits—pleading, shaking, desperately grabbing his audience’s hearts. His solo was rightfully met with an uninterrupted minute of enthusiastic applause and raucous bravos.

During his final bows, Grigolo ripped opened the top buttons of his blood-stained, satin shirt, gesturing with large, circular arm motions stemming from his heart and whirling toward us. Pink bouquets were tossed like footballs by an enraptured concert-goer in the front row.

Two tenor titans within three years for Massenet’s take on The Sorrows of Young Werther: The Met has a lot to be proud of.

Massenet’s Werther runs through March 9, with casting changes. The opera will be broadcast live March 4, at 1:00 PM, on WQXR 105.9FM. Information and ticket listings (including student and same-day rush tickets) can be found online at metopera.org

In an email to students earlier today, Columbia Housing has announced that all housing prices will be flattened to a single rate – $9,292 – beginning next year for all upper-class residence halls. With this change, students will no longer have to decide on a building based on its cost. The change is still pending approval from Columbia’s Board of Trustees, but is likely to be approved.

The Lion has reached out to Barnard Housing to see if they plan to adopt the same pricing structure.

The full email can be found below:

Dear Students,

In response to your feedback, we are happy to announce that Columbia Housing will be changing our rates to provide for a simpler and fairer cost structure, beginning with the 2017-18 Academic Year.

Following the model of our first-year residences, all upper-class residence halls will be one rate: $9,292.*

With this new rate structure, lottery and class standing become the only determining factors in selecting a residence hall. This will allow you to choose housing based on where and with whom you want to live, not what you can afford. Additionally, with the new rate, the majority of students who live in our residence halls will see a lower average housing cost over their four years at Columbia versus the previous system.

Visit the Columbia Housing website for more information about the new rate structureplanned renovations, or Room Selection. If you have additional questions or concerns, please contact our team at housing@columbia.edu.

Best Regards,

Joyce E. Jackson
Executive Director
Columbia Housing

*Please note that this is the anticipated 2017-18 rate. Final rates are subject to approval by the Board of Trustees in June.

Courtesy of Unsplash.com

This week, I told my friend I was going to make my next column about something even better than sex. To which she responded, “So… like…orgasms??” No, dear friend, no more blatantly risqué pieces… at least not this week.

This week’s column discusses self-love. Self-love is arguably better than sex. If you have self-love, technically, you really don’t need anything else. Realists who have studied International Relations would agree.

These realists believe that states are the main power players in international politics. They argue that the world is an anarchical system, in which no single authoritative power can enforce laws so as to protect one state from another. Realists believe states institute a “self-help” doctrine. This doctrine suggests that states rely on their own resources and capabilities to protect their own sovereignty, with the ultimate goal of survival or sovereignty.

I think people should be more like the states in realists’ theories. Simply put, we need to stop hating ourselves. If you hate yourself, you inevitably cannot protect yourself from the world you must reside in. Once you recognize your own resourcefulness and capabilities, you take your first steps towards implementing a “self-help” doctrine of sorts. Only in seeing and utilizing your own value can you survive external threats.

These external threats are undeniable constants of our every day life. Sometimes you are choked by the guilt at the bottom of an ice cream tub, or you wrestle with unprecedented loneliness that you just can’t quite satiate. Sometimes great loves come to an undesired end, blinding you with remorse. On the other hand… sometimes you are ahead of all of your assignments, or you are unashamedly doing nothing and enjoying the sweet reprieve of relaxation. Sometimes you find a jewel of a person who makes your cheeks hurt from grinning and is steadfast in their friendship, unable to be scared off by trivial anxieties.

However, in all of these examples, there is only one main character. That is a creative way of saying, no one is going to be able to experience these events in exactly the same way as you, and therefore no one is going to be able to protect you from them except yourself. Your only strategic move is to love yourself first. Focusing inward on your development will yield progress with time, inevitably giving you the strength to deal with the bullshit that surrounds you.

I know I sound cheesy, but let’s look back at our realist state model. Alliances break, economies crash, victories are won, and sometimes people learn how to get along. But states only survive because they work through their domestic problems first, and then begin to tackle their international ones. Colloquially: weak states usually get crushed in international politics. Sure, other actors influence an individual state’s development, but ultimately it boils down to that state’s innate ability to survive the unique circumstances it has been placed in.

Self-love, or self-help, or whatever you want to call it, is the beginning. It is the first defensive move in international politics, the first step towards survival, and the first step on the journey to progress.

Well, friends, it’s been a hell of a week. Last Thursday, I accidentally scheduled two super important meetings for the same time and had to reschedule. On Friday, I lost my wallet and found myself stranded at a downtown grocery store with bags of chicken I could no longer pay for. Add all that to the typical CU/BC student stress-level and I’m sure you can imagine how I was feeling on Sunday, when I finally sat down to watch my beloved Jane the Virgin.

[If you’re a fan of Jane’s (as well you should be) and have not yet watched the past two episodes, stop reading now. I repeat: MAJOR SPOILERS AHEAD.]

For those of you who did watch, though, you’ll know that last week, the evil writers of television’s smartest comedy killed off Michael, Jane’s beloved, wonderful, sweet, cute, all-around-amazing husband. They were married for all of a few months, after they finally got back together at the end of last season and he survived a gunshot to the chest. And then, this happened.

I waited for the next week’s episode to cast judgement. Despite my heartbreak (and I’m talking literal crying on the subway), I still had hope that Jane the Virgin’s smart, funny writers wouldn’t let me down. The show had always been a satire of a telenovela, so I figured they might use this plot twist in a satirical, funny way to revamp the show’s lighthearted nature. (Of course, this was after I read countless interviews with the producer which assured me Michael was actually dead, because for a long time I was really hoping this was all just some kind of sick joke).

So, last Sunday, I turned on my computer, hoping desperately for another lighthearted episode to put me in a better mood. But I was disappointed. Instead, it was three years later, and Jane suddenly had a new life with her son Mateo and her baby daddy Rafael. Michael was gone, Jane was fine, Mateo was fine, Rafael was fine– everyone was FREAKIN’ FINE. And here I was, staring at the screen helplessly, desperately crying for Michael to come on screen and remind everyone that it was NOT FINE. The show had lost its sweetest, most genuine character, and they thought they could just move on? Skip ahead three years as if their fans weren’t still reeling from the loss of their number one guy?

Now, maybe I’m a little bit more invested than your average TV watcher. From day one, I’d always been Team Michael (Rafael is hot and all, but he was no match for Michael’s love for Jane). He made me cry, he made me laugh, and he felt so genuine that I found myself falling in love with him too. I saw traits in him I see in the people I love in real life, and in the hilarious but non-believable satire that was Jane the Virgin, he often felt like the only real person on the show. He had faults, but they weren’t overly dramatic, like the embezzlement cases Rafael was swept up in, or the premise that Jane was accidentally artificially inseminated. Michael was a normal guy, desperately in love with a woman, living a normal life.

As I watched this week’s episode, my heart ached for the one vein of normalcy I had experienced in this show. I cried for Jane’s sorrow, but I also cried because I felt the show had lost something– and I fear it’s something they can never get back.

The Must-Binge List: This week, I encourage you to watch Amazon’s new original series, Z: The Beginning of Everything. It’s a show about F.Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald and their epic and completely insane love story. Christina Ricci is fantastic as Zelda– she’ll catch your ear with her electrifying Southern accent and hold your attention with her dazzling performance of the emotionally torn and conflicted woman who tried desperately to hold the attention of one of the greatest writers in our time. David Hoflin’s F. Scott has some trouble holding his own against Ricci, but when she’s on screen, who needs him anyway? Booze, dancing, and sexual exploits galore, this show is definitely worth your time. My grade: A-

 

 

In an email to the Barnard community earlier this morning, President Debora Spar announced that Barnard College and the Barnard Contingent Faculty-UAW have reached a tentative agreement. The full email is below:

Dear Barnard Community,

I am pleased to announce that Barnard College and the Barnard Contingent Faculty-UAW have reached a tentative agreement on a first contract that honors the contributions of our contingent faculty, offering generous increases in both wages and benefits, as well as greater job security. We will provide more details to the Community later today. I thank both of the negotiating teams for their time and effort over these many months, and congratulate them for reaching this important agreement.

Sincerely,

Debora Spar

Update 2/18/17, 3:46pm:

President Spar has sent another email to the Barnard community with an update on the terms of the union contract. The full text is as follows:

Dear Members of the Barnard Community,

Barnard is pleased to have reached a tentative agreement with the Barnard Contingent Faculty Union (BCF)-UAW that reflects our deep respect for the union members’ significant contribution to our community. In keeping with our core goals of bargaining respectfully and in good faith, celebrating the contributions of our contingent faculty, and preserving the integrity of our academic programs, we have reached an honorable agreement that that both negotiation teams can celebrate.

When formally ratified by the union, this agreement will push forward substantive changes in wages, benefits, and job security for adjunct faculty that recognize their commitment to our students:

  • Wages. We will boost the minimum wage for adjunct professors to $7,000 per three-point course and increase it to $10,000 over the next five years—a sizable wage increase in total for the majority of adjunct professors. Barnard’s per-course wages are now among the best in New York City, and among elite, urban colleges and universities nationally.
  • Healthcare. With our new healthcare agreement, Barnard is among the few colleges in the nation to offer access to healthcare to all its part-time adjuncts, as well as College-contributed subsidies to those teaching a specified number of courses.  Beginning in the first year of the new contract, adjunct faculty teaching half-time or more will be eligible for a College-subsidized plan at a rate equivalent to one-half of the subsidy provided to our full-time faculty. By the third year of the contract, and in the interest of providing a subsidized option to greater numbers of adjunct faculty, this same subsidy will apply to those faculty teaching one-third of a full-time course load or more.
  • Job Security. Barnard has addressed the union’s concerns around job security by providing multi-year appointments or severance pay to adjunct faculty with longer terms of service. This approach supports job security in a way that does not compromise our discretion in course selection and hiring, and that preserves the integrity of our academic program.

For further details about the contract, visit https://barnard.edu/hr/bcf-uaw-negotiations/contract.

We greatly appreciate the outpouring of support and input from different groups, including the assistance of federal mediation, in achieving a fair deal for BCF-UAW members. Barnard looks forward to building an even stronger partnership with our contingent faculty to the benefit of our students, the academic program, and the community that defines us.

Sincerely,

Debora Spar
President

 

 

A few hours ago, President Bollinger sent an email about how the university is handling President Trump’s recent immigration executive order. The full text of his email is below:

Dear fellow members of the Columbia community:

Over the past two weeks, we have been working with several other academic institutions (sixteen, including all Ivy League universities) on an amicus brief that was filed today in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of New York challenging the Executive Order regarding immigrants from seven designated countries and refugees.  Among other things, the brief asserts that “safety and security concerns can be addressed in a manner that is consistent with the values America has always stood for, including the free flow of ideas and people across borders and the welcoming of immigrants to our universities.”  There will be more to say in the days ahead.  

Sincerely,

Lee C. Bollinger

Last Wednesday, President Bollinger held one of his semesterly Fireside Chats, during which he invites Columbia students to his home and answers any questions they may have. This fireside chat seemed especially heavy with recent events like the student deaths on campus and the now-defunct presidential executive order banning immigrants from seven predominantly Muslim countries. Students also raised questions about Columbia’s Graduate Student Union, the potential to pay tuition based on number of credit hours taken, the lack of space on Columbia’s campus, and the possibility of divesting from fossil fuels.

While President Bollinger answered every question asked of him respectfully and calmly (in some cases cracking jokes and in others, deferring to more specialized administrators), some of his answers didn’t seem to hold any weight. For example, in light of the recent student deaths on campus, he started the chat by saying that he valued mental health and encouraged students to use the resources available to them. Later, when a student asked about the potential to pay per credit hour (to lighten the financial burden for seniors who need a few more credits to complete their degree), President Bollinger responded that it’s the student’s choice to decide the number of credits to take a semester. This response seemed to ignore the fact that a lot of work and stress comes with an heavy course load, and the student might choose a lighter load because it’s what they can handle. He also shifted the conversation to one about Columbia’s financial aid, effectively dismissing the credit hours idea.

When an Iranian GS student shared her hopes to see her son in Iran after 16 years apart, only for them to be dashed after the president’s executive order, President Bollinger wasn’t able to say what would happen to the student’s student visa after her final year at Columbia. “I wanted to make the United States my home, and I have doubt about that happening now,” she said tearfully. Instead, he focused on the now and said that Columbia was offering lawyers pro bono to anyone who needed legal help.

He also outlined the reasons behind the university contesting the recent Graduate Student Union vote, citing past legal cases involving student unions and “a number of behaviors by the union that were inappropriate [that] could have affected the outcome of the election.”

As for campus space, President Bollinger said that the administration wants to keep spaces inclusive and is “looking for venues to have more space where students can get together and support each other.” He also hinted at making John Jay open for more hours, even after JJ’s Place reopens.

Lastly, President Bollinger answered questions about the endowment and fossil fuels. “In general,” he said, “the policies of all universities in the modern era have been that we’re not going to use the endowment as a means of implementing our social choices. . . Research, expanding knowledge, conveying knowledge to the next generation: that’s what we do and we’re trying to get money to support that. That’s the general view, and I think that’s the right policy.” As a counterexample to this statement, he brought up apartheid in South Africa, but said that using the endowment for social change was otherwise “pretty rare.” He said that the policy was being looked over by a committee of students, faculty, and trustees and that we’d see “decisions in the next three to six months.”

In an email sent out yesterday, Provost Linda Bell welcomed Jennifer Green as the new Dean of the Barnard Library and Academic Information Services. You can read the full email below.

 

Dear Barnard Community,

I am delighted to announce that Jennifer Green will be joining Barnard as Dean of the Barnard Library and Academic Information Services (BLAIS), beginning on Monday, March 6th. Jen comes to the College after eleven years as a data librarian at the University of Michigan Libraries, where she was the Head of Science, Engineering, and the Clark Library for Maps, Government Information and Data, as well as the Director of Research Data Services. At Michigan, she spearheaded the creation of numerous services and spaces, including a library-wide research data service and institutional data repository, and the conception and implementation of the Clark Library, Michigan’s first new library in nearly two decades.

Prior to the University of Michigan, Jen served as Public Services Librarian at Grinnell College, where she brought her skill and ingenuity to several digital initiatives. She earned her M.L.I.S. from the University of Texas, Austin in 1995 and her B.A. in Art History from Trinity University, San Antonio in 1991.

Working closely with me, Jen will oversee the relocation of the Barnard library to our new teaching and learning center in Fall 2018. She will also build on the College’s relationships with faculty, students, alumnae, and colleagues at the Columbia University Libraries to promote innovation across disciplines. Jen will be working at the forefront of advancements in the acquisition, dissemination, and preservation of knowledge, and her technological experience and creativity will nourish both new and existing library resources.

I want to take this opportunity to express my sincere thanks to Alexis Seeley, who served as Interim Director of BLAIS during this transition. Alexis did an extraordinary job managing the library and IMATS, and I am proud to announce her promotion to a new position, Associate Dean of BLAIS and the Digital Commons, beginning March 6th. In this role, Alexis will build on her excellent work as Interim Director, during which she coordinated a multi-stage plan for relocation and deepened the quality of the library’s contributions to campus. Before serving as Interim Director, Alexis used her extensive knowledge of educational technology to transform and expand Barnard’s media services during her years as Associate Dean for Teaching Research and Technology and Manager of Instructional Media.

I know that Jen, along with Alexis, will lead the library into a new era of innovation and growth, and we will certainly benefit from their varied skills and collective years of experience. Of course, I would also like to thank the search committee, chaired by Peter Balsam, and the entire library staff. They were all instrumental in this successful transition.

Please join me in congratulating Alexis and welcoming Jen to Barnard.

My very best,
Provost Linda Bell