The Lion


Following up a previous email from Professor Goldberg, the University Provost has emailed students to make them aware of the Rules of University Conduct, likely related to recent protests of speakers invited to campus by CUCR.

In particular, he notes that students actively disrupting speakers are subject to being disciplined, confirming reports noted by Zack Abrams (CC ’21).

 

The full email can be found below.

Dear fellow members of the Columbia community:

 

As President Bollinger made clear in his Commencement Address last May, freedom of speech is a core value of our institution. The University is committed to defend the right of all the members of our community to exercise their right to invite, listen to, and challenge speakers whose views may be offensive and even hurtful to many of us. It is the duty of every member of the community to help preserve freedom of speech for all, including protesters.

 

This duty does not evaporate when the freedom we enjoy protects community members who invite speakers made famous by grotesquely unfounded and unethical attacks on people whose presence at Columbia, and in the surrounding Harlem community, contribute so much to the diversity that makes us great.

 

Two years ago, after broad consultation, the Columbia Board of Trustees adopted amended “Rules of University Conduct” to protect freedom of speech for invited speakers and their audiences, as well as for protesters. Since a number of controversial speakers are already scheduled to come to Columbia in the coming weeks and months, it may be helpful for members of the community, especially students, to keep the following points in mind.

 

  • It is a violation of the Rules of University Conduct to interrupt, shout down, or otherwise disrupt an event.
  • It is also a violation to obstruct the view of the speaker with banners or placards.
  • Individuals engaged in disruption will be asked to identify themselves by a Delegate or Public Safety Officer; it is an additional violation of the Rules to refuse to do so.
  • Delegates or Public Safety Officers will request that individuals stop disrupting (e.g., stop shouting, sit down, move to another location); individuals who fail to comply promptly with such a request may be subject to interim sanctions up to and including suspension by the Provost for the rest of the semester.
  • On receiving reports of a violation of the Rules of University Conduct, the Rules Administrator will investigate to determine whether a Rules violation may have occurred. The Rules Administrator may meet with students or others involved in a disruption to determine if an informal resolution is possible.
  • If informal resolution is not possible, the disciplinary process will continue with the Rules Administrator filing a formal complaint with the University Judicial Board. That Board will follow the procedures specified in the Rules of Conduct. Repeated violations of the Rules of Conduct will be subject to greater penalties.

 

More detailed information on University free speech policies and procedures is now available on the website of the Office of University Life.

 

John H. Coatsworth

Starting next week, late night package service will be available thanks to Columbia Mail’s new package offerings. Students will be able to send in a request by 3PM on the day their package arrives and request for it to be left in one of the 28 new lockers in the basement of Wien Hall. With this new option, students will be able to pick up their package after the Package Center closes meaning students with high priority items will not need to be stressed if they could not grab their package in time.

The full email can be found below:

Located on the lower level of Wien Hall, lockers will be available upon request starting Monday, October 16. How it works:

  • Lockers are accessible only when the Student Mail Center is closed.
  • Locker space is limited and so usage is prioritized for critical needs, such as:
    • medication (non-perishable only, lockers are not refrigerated)
    • time-sensitive materials (e.g. employment documents, identification)
    • items of high value (e.g. cell phone, laptop)
  • There are 28 lockers in total, the largest being 22x16x13.5 (LxWxH). Over-sized packages are not eligible for lockers.
  • To request a locker, students should reply to the email notification received when mail or a package has arrived.
  • Lockers cannot be reserved for mail or packages before they are received and processed at the Student Mail Center.
  • Students that are unable to reach high or bend down should indicate that a mid-level locker is needed.
  • The email request must be received by 3:00 p.m. the day the locker is needed in order to be considered.
  • By 5:00 p.m., Student Mail will send a confirmation email with a 6-digit pin to open the locker.
  • If the item is not picked up by 9:00 a.m. the following morning, the item will be removed from the locker and returned to the Student Mail Center for pick up. The student will not receive further email notifications.
Photo Courtesy of davemalloy.com

Fresh off starring in his other musical, Natasha, Pierre and the Great Comet of 1812, Dave Malloy, Brittain Ashford, and Gelsey Bell are currently performing in Malloy’s show Ghost Quartet. Performing with them is  Brent Arnold, who was not part of the Great Comet cast, but is just as talented.

The show, currently being performed at Next Door at NYTW is in an intimate space that brings all of the audience close to the chilling performance. In the performance I attended, Ben Stiller was sitting right behind me, reminding me once again of the wide range of people you will see while exploring New York City. The show is centered around a “haunted song cycle about love, death and whisky.” Indeed, during one of the songs, everyone in the audience is handed an actual shot of whisky to drink with the cast. As a result, many of the performances are 21+ (a few shows have specifically been allocated to be for all ages). Throughout the performance, the audience is transported across multiple centuries and characters and, at times, plunged into complete darkness as Malloy’s gorgeous, yet eery songs emanate throughout the small theater.  

As the show rushes towards an unknown ending, the audience is asked to participate by directly supplying the music for the show. While there are multiple articles online that go into much more depth about the plot, I definitely recommend going into the show having not listened to the songs or knowing the plot. With such an intimate setting, the experience when seen fresh is absolutely one not to miss.

While tickets to Ghost Quartet’s initial run are sold out, the run is being extended today, October 11, to include more showings, as announced by the NYTW via twitter yesterday.

As stated in their tweet, tickets will go on sale at noon here. For more information about the show, you can also check out the NYTW website here.

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.

For some students, today is the last day to drop a class without it appearing on your transcript. Still on the fence about whether to drop a class or two? Here’s some tips we’ve compiled from current upperclassmen about when to drop a course.

Your entire grade is the midterm and final. This is a recipe for disaster. We all think we’re going to study a week in advance and be super duper prepared for the exams, but everyone procrastinates. You’ll wait until the night before and all of a sudden realize half your grade’s on the line, and since there was no homework, you actually know nothing – seriously, don’t do this to yourself. Leave while you still can.

You have no friends who are taking the class. This is more of a gray area – you can either decide to make new friends (the horror!) or drop the class. There will come a time, usually around midnight the night before the first homework assignment is due, when you will sorely regret not having anyone to go to. It’s not a matter of if, it’s when – do yourself a favor and see what else is there.

 Your professor hasn’t cracked a joke in the first lecture. I’m not saying all professors have to be stand-up comedians all semester, but a professor that isn’t remotely interesting is going to make it very hard to go to lectures. If your professor hasn’t predicted attendance is going to nosedive, or told a joke at his/her expense, it’s only going to go downhill from there. Unless it’s a graduation requirement that you have to take this semester, leave.

Caveat: sometimes professors will try to lure you in with crafty jokes the first lecture, then head straight for Boresville – by this point in the semester, you should know if the class is all it’s cracked up to be.

Your professor interrupts him/herself mid-sentence. Anyone giving off the air of being senile or perhaps not quite all there should definitely be reconsidered. Disorganized lectures are the bane of any college student’s existence, resulting in notes that are half-finished and moving on to a random tangent. If you can’t follow the professor because they’re not speaking in fluid and/or full sentences, you’re pretty much doomed.

Addendum to the above: your professor speaks broken English/has an unintelligible accent. It’s not that we’re trying to be mean. Sometimes it’s genuinely impossible to understand the professor. Pull the ripcord on that one – it’s not going anywhere good.

Illustration by Laura Elizabeth Hand, CC’19

 

I’ve spent a lot of time in this column so far talking about studies carried out in humans, usually using techniques like fMRI, EEG, or PET scans. However, a lot of neuroscience research, my own included, happens in what we call ‘model organisms’, one of the most common being the humble mouse. In conversations about my research, I’ve frequently gotten a variant of this question: “Why are you working on mouse brains if you want to understand how humans work?”

Since  I’ll be covering research done in lots of non-human species this semester, I wanted to take a column to talk about why I believe it is necessary to use animals in neuroscience research, and what they can tell us about the brain that human studies cannot.

Basically, it comes down to two things: in mice you can investigate the brain more directly at a much smaller scale, and you have much more causal control over the conditions of your experiments. First, let’s talk about the matter of scale.

In humans, functional magnetic resonance imaging, or fMRI, was a massive breakthrough in neuroscience. To this day, it is considered the highest degree of spatial resolution possible to monitor real-time neural activity in living humans, except for the rare electrodes allowed by a neurosurgery patient. In humans, fMRI is as far as you can ‘zoom in’ on the behaving brain.

However, like with any technique, there are downsides to fMRI. While most popular science articles call fMRI results ‘neural activity,’ fMRI is actually measuring the amount of oxygen that the blood in your brain is using, which serves as a proxy for neural activity. In other words, the assumption is that the more oxygenated blood a brain region is going through, the more neurons are firing in that region.

The other huge issue with fMRI is scale. An fMRI scan is like a 3D video, and just like a movie has pixels, there’s the smallest possible unit of detection in fMRI – the voxel. Its name comes from a combination of the words ‘volume’ and ‘pixel,’and it essentially is a pixel, just in three dimensions. The highest current possible resolution of a single voxel averages the oxygenation of approximately 100,000 neurons over one second, which means that the activity of 100,000 cells is reduced to a uniform greyish box on the display.

While that’s a pretty small percentage compared to the ~80 billion neurons of the brain, an fMRI still can’t tell you what specific kinds of neurons are activating, or anything about the pattern of activity below a voxel scale. So how do we understand neural circuits at a more detailed level?

That’s where mice come in. Mouse brains have most of the major features of human brains – they even have a neocortex that is structured almost identically to our own. In mice, it is much easier to observe these smaller scales, which span from from single neurons to the simultaneous observation of thousands of neurons at a time.

Mice are particularly well-suited to this task because of the immense control an experimenter can have over a given experiment. Every aspect of a lab mouse’s life is regulated from birth to death, which is impossible to control for in human studies.

Beyond behavioral control, genetic techniques enable causal manipulations at a cellular level. Thousands of mouse strains have been specially made to manipulate the expression of particular genes, optogenetic techniques enable researchers to turn on or off specific neuronal populations during behavior, and two-photon imaging paired with calcium labeling lets us observe the activity of individual neurons in real time.

These advantages of experimental control and fine-scale observations are only possible in animal models. While mice have their disadvantages too, namely that without language behavioral motivations becomes difficult to interpret, their use clearly contributes to neuroscience overall. Discoveries in mouse models help guide human researchers to better theories, better treatments, and ultimately, a better understanding of ourselves.

 

Uniquely Human is written by Heather Macomber and runs every other Monday. To submit a comment/question or a piece of your own, email submissions@columbialion.com.

Sondra Radvanovsky in the title role and Joyce DiDonato as Adalgisa in Bellini’s “Norma.” Photo: Ken Howard/Metropolitan Opera

 

Monday was opening night at the Metropolitan Opera. The evening was a chance to be seen, to be heard, to be loud. Half-drunk, piss-colored prosecco glasses hovered through the Met lobby. Red-headed twins in matching green dresses pranced down the stairs. Muted elegance hid in an alcove, a sentry with a light-blue, fluffy overthrow. Folks met colleagues with half-hearted smiles, and lovers embraced joyously. Noise echoed throughout the space, filled with exclamations of “You…look superb”, clacks of skyscraper heels, Italian murmurs, Russian rumors, small talk on the summer weather. Press congregated in an impenetrable, baseball-diamond formation. A gaggle of photographers snapped ferociously.

Eventually, an unseen magnet dragged us from the velvety mulling spaces into the theater. The performance began promptly 20 minutes late with a rendition of the National Anthem. Maestro James Levine conducted. The audience largely did not sing along.

Of course, there was an opera to be had tonight: Vincenzo Bellini’s Norma (1831). For those who don’t know Norma, here is a quick summary:

Norma is a priestess in Gaul (think France) during Roman occupation. She had two kids with a Roman governor, Pollione, but now he’s seeing Adalgisa, another priestess. Adalgisa tells Norma about Pollione, which makes her (understandably) furious. Act 1 ends in a heave.

Norma considers killing her children—Hello Medea!—but draws her dagger away at the last moment. Adalgisa enters and Norma is apparently A-Okay with her and Pollione: she even suggests that they run off to Rome together. Adalgisa is aghast. She hopes to reconnect Norma and Pollione.

Segue to a rather boring male chorus. The Druids want to revolt. But it’s not time yet, says Norma’s dad Oroveso. Snooze.

Final scene. Norma learns that Pollione will stay with Adalgisa. She strikes the war gong three times, the Druids fire up a frenzy (torches!). The drama blusters to a close: Norma tries to get back with Pollione, he refuses, she decides to kill herself, Pollione joins her and they walk into the pyre together (How sweet!).

For this vocal masterclass disguised as an opera, a producer could simply put a white backdrop on the Met’s stage without too much injustice. That said, I thought the staging admirably captured Bellini’s late romantic aesthetic. Dark, disorientating pines and scattered, encroaching moonshine complemented the characters’ interactions.

Joyce DiDonato as Adalgisa in Bellini’s “Norma.” Photo: Ken Howard/Metropolitan Opera

As an audience member proclaimed at intermission, though, “people care mostly about the voices in this work.” Tenor Joseph Calleja (Pollione) was casual, reserved, despite the heady topic (love). He infused more devotion as his character was whirlpooled into the tragedy. Soprano Joyce DiDonato (Adalgisa) had a silvery tone when she sang high. Her acting felt spontaneous and intense. Sondra Radvanovsky (Norma) embodied tender, moving Romanticism in her famous aria, Casta Diva. Throughout the marathon, Radvanovsky executed rocket-powered scales, winding phrases, and dancing grace notes—markers of the bel canto style–with ease.

Although I haven’t seen it posited elsewhere, the bel canto singing style extends to instrumentalists at well. In Casta Diva I was impressed by the flutist’s phrasing and tone, which built a solid foundation for Radvanovsky. In an exposed clarinet and flute duet in the first act, the intonation was sparkling clean. Their effort created an appropriate holiness. Overall, the orchestra’s fortes just felt way too safe. More sound! (Please.)

Cadenzas—extended, solo passages usually for one or two musicians—allow singers to showcase their vocal prowess. Duet vocal cadenzas are especially difficult to execute because both singers must be perfectly synchronized in their tempo alterations and dynamic choices. Radvanovsky and DiDonato had to perform several of these duets. In the first act, their intonation suffered in their upper register. However, they solved the problem in the second act, summoning the pristine beauty of the bel canto style.

Although I have several reservations about the plot, one scene stands out for its drama. When the Druids find Pollione in their temple, they bring him to Norma to kill him. Instead, Norma tries to convince Pollione to return to her. He refuses; Norma indicates that she will kill Pollione’s lover. She recalls the Druids and announces that a guilty priestess shall burn on the pyre. They implore, “Who is she?” Norma hesitates. The Druids ask again, “Who is she?” Norma, “It is I.” The singers captured the tragedy of the moment with intense, palpable stillness. When the orchestra reentered on their soft sostenuto, the mood was solemn, desolate. Radvanovsky pleads and prays, her accepted devastation processes to its infernal . Here, I believe the production succeeded: the prolonged silence followed by the tragic orchestra created a poignant ping that made me empathize with Norma’s fate. Such pathos proves that a moving Norma is not just about the singers, rather how different operatic elements–orchestra, staging, choreography, ensemble–interact with each other. The experience can only be endured through a live performance.

 

Norma runs through December 16, with casting changes. The opera will be broadcast live October 7, at 1:00 PM, on WQXR 105.9 FM.

For anyone in MusicHum, this opera presents the perfect opportunity to see an archetype of bel canto. Tickets in the boonies aren’t as cheap as they once were: the best you can do is a $25 rush ticket the day of the performance on the Met’s website (rush tickets are cheaper than student tickets.). Information and ticket listings on metopera.org.

 

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Photo Courtesy of Columbia University.

Welcome back Columbia! From all of us at the Columbia Lion and from here at Uniquely Human, we hope all your summers were fruitful and relaxing. As we get back into the swing of classes, I wanted to write an update on the future of this column and what to expect going forward. First and foremost, Uniquely Human will be continuing its regular release schedule of every other Monday, starting today, so expect a new release two weeks from today.

As a neuroscience student here, I hear about all the impressive, exciting, and paradigm-shifting research coming out of Columbia labs. But no matter how interesting the research, many average Columbia students don’t know what’s coming out of their own institution. Scientists often only share their research in journals aimed solely at other scientists in their subfields. The most interesting conversations about neuroscience are ones that neuroscientists have with each other.

I want to change that.

This is your university, and this research is mostly paid for with your tax dollars. I think you have a right to understand what discoveries in neuroscience are coming out of Columbia, and how they may affect your lives in fascinating and surprising ways.

I believe the best kind of science happens when it’s in communication with the public. In these tumultuous times, now more than ever it’s critical that everyone knows what valuable contributions neuroscientists are making to how we understand ourselves. I think these kinds of conversations are most interesting when they’re had across disciplinary lines – with other scientists, with writers, philosophers, artists – and you, reader, have a worthy perspective to contribute.

So this semester we’ll be thematically shifting our focus away from our series on education and the brain. In its place, I’ll be reviewing the latest and greatest discoveries coming out of Columbia neuroscience using straightforward language, hopefully humorous analogies, and with an eye for the big picture implications. When possible, I’ll be interviewing researchers directly to get the best information directly from the researchers to you.

As always, the contents of this column are mostly dependent on what I want to write, which means not every column will be about Columbia neuroscience discoveries; there will be stories relating neuroscience to both campus and worldwide events.

As always I am happy to take requests. This is only a column in conversation when I can hear your voice. If you have questions that you want answered from a neuroscientific point of view, I’ll do my best to answer them. I can’t wait to share this amazing research with you all, and I hope to see you here next week for our first true installment in our series.

Uniquely Human is written by Heather Macomber and runs every other Monday. To submit a comment/question or a piece of your own, email submissions@columbialion.com.

Noticed in the early afternoon yesterday, students have discovered a new website titled “Fuck Spec“, a  website that currently has only one article. Said article is a copy of an op-ed posted by Meghan Brophy in the Columbia Daily Spectator entitled “Don’t just be a spectator” and includes annotated comments mostly criticizing and trivializing points made in the article. Brophy, a sophomore at Barnard, responded to the website criticizing her piece by posting a meme in the columbia buy sell memes Facebook group.

Brophy post regarding the FuckSpec website.

 

Advertisements have also been spotted throughout campus promoting the website.

A flyer spotted announcing the “grand opening” of Fuck Spec.

While many commenters suspected the site to be created by Bwog, known for its Fuck Spec stickers,  a writer from their team confirmed to The Lion that they are in fact not the owners of the website. A search by our team also found that the domain is in fact not owned by Bwog.

 

Know who the creator(s) of Fuck Spec are? Send in a tip by emailing us at submissions@columbialion.com

 

Photo Courtesy of Matthew Murphy


Hal Prince has undoubtedly influenced the world of Broadway, inspiring others to pursue careers in the theatre industry. When entering the theatre, the expectation was that the show, in the process of highlighting Prince’s works, would using meaning

The Prince of Broadway celebrates sixteen shows that the legendary Hal Prince directed, and as the musical states, some of them were flops and some were successes, but all of them, he believed, were creatively daring and meaningful. Thus, it was up to the audience’s discretion for this show if they agreed with his direction of this somewhat-seeming self-serving musical, and with the statement aforementioned, some of the performances were flops and some were major successes.

Tony Yazbeck in Follies. Photo by Matthew Murphy.

For instance, Tony Yazbeck truly shined throughout all numbers he was in, most notably in “The Right Girl” from the musical Follies. His exquisite tap dancing followed by his intense acting sent the crowd roaring for more of his excellence. And that wasn’t the only star performance by Mr. Yazbeck. Even from his first spotlight on the Friedman theatre, one could tell by his poise that he would shine in every performance that he was staged in, success or flop.

However, with many successes, there are usually some flops tagged along. In this showcase of a musical, there were clearly some weaker moments. For example, pretty much every time the eponymous “Hal Prince” would narrate in the transitions between each performance, the delivery fell flat. It was almost to the point of cringeworthy between musicals that we were anticipating when the dialogue would end in exchange with the performances of yesteryear.

Overall, whether you are a Broadway aficionado wanting to relive some of the glories of the Great White Way or a newcomer wanting to delve deeper into the greats of the past, the Prince of Broadway is a wonderful showcase of brilliant performance and a pleasant night at the theatre.

Prince of Broadway is part of the Manhattan Theatre Club which offers a program called “30 Under 30” where anyone under the age of 30 can qualify for $30 rush tickets. Click here for more information.