The Lion


The Lion asked candidates questions about their campaigns to give us insight into their aspirations and motivations for running. Here is what Elise Fuller had to say:

Are you affiliated with a party, and if so, which one?

No, I am not running with a party. However, my campaign is called Fuller Representation

What position are you running for, and what motivated you to run for it?

I am running for Inclusion and Equity Rep because as a WOC at Columbia, I understand the importance of feeling heard and represented, especially in the administration. I feel that I can make strides in the areas of inclusion and diversity on campus and ensure that all marginalized groups know that someone is fighting for them. 

If elected, what would your goals be? How do you plan to achieve them? What is something you want to fix at Columbia? How would you plan to address it?

To tackle some of the issues at Columbia surrounding marginalized groups, I will focus on access, representation, and open discourse. Students should be focusing on class and enjoying all that this university has to offer, not worrying about where their next meal is coming from or how they will physically navigate campus. I plan to find more funding and a permanent space for the undergraduate Food Bank as well as support FLIP’s partnership with the Share Meals App. I want to set up a notification system that will let students know when certain elevators, entrances, or walkways are blocked so they can find alternative routes to class. I also want to redo the steep wheelchair ramps and talk to the administration about having discussion sections in classrooms that are accessible to everyone (ex. not on the 8th floor of Hamilton that has no wheelchair access). In regards to representation, I feel as though students have often been very vocal about what types of changes they want to see here to feel more included but I do not think that their ideas are always acted upon in a timely fashion. I intend to meet with as many of the marginalized groups on campus to hear their thoughts and see how I can fix them, particularly issues intersectionally affect different groups. Lastly, I look forward to setting up an email/Facebook page where students can contact me directly about their ideas. I want full transparency so that my peers can know what I’m doing and also hold me accountable.  

Any additional comments you would like to share with voters?

I will do everything in my power to provide you all with Fuller Representation. 

The Lion asked candidates to tell us about their campaigns to give us insight into their aspirations and motivations for running. Here is what some of the members of Grassroots Columbia had to say:

Cindy Liu

Are you affiliated with a party, and if so, which one?

We are Grassroots Columbia! Rui is running for Student Body President; Richard for VP Policy; Cindy for VP Campus Life.

What position are you running for, and what motivated you to run for it? 

I’m running for VP Campus Life because too many ideas and talented brains are not being implemented the way they should–whether due to bureaucracy, CCSC as a popularity contest, lack of funding, inadequate space, etc. My experience co-leading a formal petition for music performance space on-campus last semester (with over 1,000 signatures garnered) taught me much about working through every administrative loophole to accomplish a single goal, and I fully intend to carry the lessons I learned into helping every CC student feel as if his/her voice matters.

If elected, what would your goals be? How do you plan to actually achieve them?

  1. LGBTQ+ & POC advocacy: With the new open space in Lerner Hall designated for our LGBTQ+ & POC communities, we plan to ensure that its resources meet student needs to the fullest extent and that the administration follows through on their promise. I want to work closely with UEM, the administration, ABC, and the groups to whom the new space is dedicated to create a research spreadsheet of space usage throughout one semester, ensuring full transparency between UEM and the student groups.
  2. Space allocation for student groups: along a similar vein, though UEM’s/Facilities’ mantra is, “Columbia is a space-constrained campus and we are doing our best to maximize what we have,” I want to ensure every student group on campus obtains the best possible space for their programming and events. If a group is denied such space, it becomes a self-perpetuating cycle: the group’s members cannot program with the innovation and creativity they’d like, their allocation could decrease into the next year as a result of perceived “poor programming,” and they are less motivated as a result to express themselves fully. I want to sit down with/personally email every group’s e-board and ask them for the specific days/times per week their group requires space, and any end-of-semester bookings. Going into precalendaring for each semester, I hope to provide UEM with this comprehensive research so there is less conflict across groups in booking space.
  3. Preserving traditionIn the wake of the “abrupt restricting [of] the location of Orgo Night,” growing disillusionment plagues the Columbia undergraduate community that cherished student traditions are under threat. At a school that structures its otherwise-lacking school spirit around Orgo Night, the Tree Lighting Ceremony, Bacchanal, and primal scream, how can one expect to create community if such traditions are undermined? We will insist that any potential administrative changes to student-run and -loved traditions be firstly discussed and implemented with the four undergraduate student councils, the student group running the tradition, and the administration. This will provide the Columbia community with the transparency it deserves while maintaining what makes Columbia, Columbia.
  4. Disability Services: Columbia’s campus should be just as accessible to students with physical disabilities as it is accessible to students without physical disabilities. No student should be deprived of fundamental access to Columbia facilities. A few ideas: make accessibility information available in all CCSC emails about events; make event lines accessible; make sure important/prestigious campus events like World Leaders Forum are accessible; prioritize accessibility for student groups that specify it for their meeting spaces/times; make sure elevators are properly maintained.
  5. Mental Health: an integral part of Grassroots’ platform is addressing cutthroat campus stress culture and destigmatizing mental health through initiatives with student groups. Aside from those peers a student lives with, his/her immediate circle of friends, and classmates, the friends in their student groups are the ones with whom they spend the most time with on campus and alongside whom they pursue their passions. We hope to encourage groups to facilitate dialogue amongst themselves in their meetings and programming to promote inclusiveness 

What is something you want to fix at Columbia? How would you plan to address it?

Since I’ve explained in-detail many things we’d like to fix above, I’ll add something obvious and annoying: very few, if any, printing stations have staplers (that are filled), and not everyone has time to run to a nearby library or the Hartley Hospitality Desk before they need to submit a paper. We plan to securely knot working staplers to each CUIT printing station on the Morningside Campus.

Any additional comments you would like to share with voters?

The differences between Grassroots Columbia and the opposing two parties could not be more distinct. We believe in free CCSC events that benefit and enhance the entire Columbia community. We believe in increased funding to student organizations so that they can continue doing what they do best: improving the lives of students across campus. Mental health can only be improved from the bottom-up, which means empowering our clubs to have the funds to host the events that best express their missions.\

Richard Nederlander

1) Are you affiliated with a party, and if so, which one?

I am affiliated with Grassroots Columbia.

2) What position are you running for, and what motivated you to run for it? 

I am running for VP Policy because I have noticed a strong lack of cooperation and partnership between CCSC and student organizations on campus. I am currently the President of the Columbia Science Review, and during that time I have noticed that CCSC’s main (if only) connection to student organizations at large is how much money they allocate to ABC (Activities Board Committee). Unfortunately, this relationship between CCSC and ABC (which is a proxy for all student organizations) is fraught because ABC is always wary of losing its ever-shrinking allocation. Currently ABC only has $360,000 for over 150 clubs (which is continually growing). Furthermore, huge portions of that allocation go to a few clubs, and the rest go to clubs with huge travel expenses. That only leaves a small amount of money for clubs to host events and board bonding events that would contribute to campus life. With mental health a big issue on campus, I would say that in order to drastically improve campus culture, we must empower our student organizations. And that means increasing funding to ABC to at least $500,000. Student clubs would then be able to put on more events unique to their own identities that would naturally draw students to them. Furthermore, the money exists in CCSC. Much of this money, however, does not leave CCSC because it is allocated towards CCSC-events that either never happen or lead to very low turnout. A bad event is worse than no event, because the money could have gone to a club who could have presented a better event. This leads into something else I plan on implementing. For next semester, there will be a Columbia Carnival where CCSC works with all student organizations to host activities integral to their clubs’ identities on the Butler Lawns. Not only would this showcase all of the diverse talents and experiences on campus, but it would be free to all students (and would naturally draw a huge portion of the student body.) Overall, mental health is not something that can be corrected from the top. Rather, it must be addressed from the bottom-up. We need to empower student groups with the funding and resources necessary to create a strong campus culture.

3) If elected, what would your goals be? How do you plan to actually achieve them?

Another issue Grassroots Columbia plans to tackle, in addition to those mentioned by Cindy and Rui, is food insecurity. Currently, if you go to the CCSC website, you will find information on local food pantries and student-run efforts to make sure any student can find food when he or she needs it (CU Meal Share Facebook page). However, what is lacking is a CCSC-specific effort to addressing food insecurity. We plan on implementing such an effort by centralizing the word of such Facebook pages as CU Meal Share so that such information becomes widely available to the entire Columbia community. 

4) What is something you want to fix at Columbia? How would you plan to address it?

We would like to emphasize that Grassroots Columbia plans on improving campus culture without charging students for future CCSC events. Unlike the teams we are running against, we plan on hosting a free huge event that will likely draw much of the student body. It will be modeled after “Glass House Rocks,” but will take place outdoors on the Butler Lawns, and will be free to all students.

The Lion asked candidates questions about their campaigns to give us insight into their aspirations and motivations for running. Here is what John Avendano had to say:

Are you affiliated with a party, and if so, which one? What position are you running for, and what motivated you to run for it? 

I am running for President of CCSC 2018 with my party, #RALLY. I’m running for Senior Class president for a few reasons. Having served on CCSC this year as the 2018 VP, I gained valuable experience in learning how to take on policy initiatives, have effective meetings with administrators, and navigate the administrative bubble. Moreover, with the help of our class council, I’ve helped plan lots of fun giveaways (laptop stickers, hot chocolate/doughnuts) and worked food deliveries (grilled cheese deliveries our sophomore year)  that I think have, in the moment, caused temporary sighs of relief and moments of relaxation and happiness for many students in our class. I’m super passionate about trying to enable positive policy changes by personally meeting with administrators, but I also love partaking in campus life events and volunteering at them when I can. 

I know that another year on council would bring me another opportunity to keep working towards this type of positive change, but with even more efficiency. In addition to policy, collaboration with the other councils (ESC and GSSC 2018) would make it super easy to plan senior wide and senior exclusive events. We have one year left and I really know it’s gonna be a great one, and I’m motivated to do everything I can in terms of event planning, policy pushing, and overall, working hard to make sure we have a good time.

If elected, what would your goals be? How do you plan to actually achieve them?

1) Collaboration with the Mental Health Task Force to advocate for timely, reasonable improvements to CPS (one idea is the establishment of support groups for people with common illnesses) – scheduling monthly meetings with administrators from CPS (Dr. Eichler) to work towards slow, gradual changes and ensure constant input and ideas are being heard. 

2) Working with the financial aid office / possibly the Senior Fund to provide subsidized rates for Senior exclusive events, such as the Senior Gala, boat cruise, etc. I would hope to allot a certain number of tickets at each event to be provided at a reduced cost, and those who would want such tickets due to various reasons could fill out an anonymous form to be eligible. Ensuring that there is a biweekly event, exclusive to seniors, whether large or small (examples being t shirt giveaway or outside barbecue). Just want us to consistently be doing fun things for and with our class.

What is something you want to fix at Columbia? How would you plan to address it?

The stigmatization of mental health on campus is a problem that I’d love to address. Mental health will always be amongst the most paramount of topics at Columbia, and, with this, it should be something that is easy to talk about with people. Resources for addressing potential mental health issues should be well advertised.

My ultimate goal would be to establish a Project lets chapter at Columbia – “lets” standing for “let’s erase the stigma.” Project lets is a non profit organization that ultimately aims to provide a community for individuals who may even have the slight thought they suffer from a mental health illness. The chapter would provide for lets spaces on campus, which are essentially designated spaces with peer mental health advocates (trained peers) where people can go to seek counseling, participate in some form of body-based movement (i.e., yoga), relax and participate in some sort of fun activity (coloring, drawing, puzzles, etc.), and do this on a regular basis while preserving anonymity. Designating certain spaces on campus to be ‘lets’ spaces could certainly provide relief for those who may feel they have nowhere to go, and the benefit of it being peer led offers a nice alternative to people who prefer to be around someone they’d consider more of a friend as opposed to a professional that’s less relatable. Having applied for Columbia to have a lets chapter, and still waiting to hear back, I remain hopeful that I am able to bring lets to campus.

Any additional comments you would like to share with voters?

I think we bring a wide range of perspectives and a variety of leadership roles from different organizations on campus, whether that be through Athletics, the URC, CCSA or NSOP, to make it so that we have a firm feel of what the pulse on campus is like, and what our fellow students desire. We hope to work our hardest, if elected, to really rally for what both we and our friends and classmates alike believe in.

The Lion asked candidates to tell us about their campaigns to give us insight into their aspirations and motivations for running. Here is what some of the members of the Class of 2020 party LionHeart had to say:

Siddharth Singh

Are you affiliated with a party, and if so, which one?

LionHeart

What position are you running for, and what motivated you to run for it? 

Class President. During Freshman fall, my friend James Ritchie and I identified a number of problems experienced by our peers around campus. They all brought these to our attention regularly and both of us realised that it was soon our ambition to remedy these problems and serve our class to the best of our abilities. Having created LionHeart with James Ritchie, Danielle Resheff, Grant Pace and Astrid Walker-Stewart, we hope to represent our entire class by listening to feedback from students and hope that we will have another opportunity to do again. 

If elected, what would your goals be? How do you plan to actually achieve them?

We’ve identified 4 major platform points, that have been brought to our attention by members of the class and that we feel are achievable, we go into detail on how we hope to achieve them: 

1.Mental Health, 
-address underlying causes of stress culture in line with a preventative approach
-send out regular detailed updates on what CCSC has achieved regarding community health; 
-create greater incentives to attend CPS and other general mental health events; 
-produce more Stressbusters sessions – not just during midterms and finals season; 
-foster a more philanthropic atmosphere through events to give back to the community; 
-send weekly emails where we give shout-outs to members of the Class of 2020 who have done great things as well as a nominated person of the week and meme of the week;
-convey student concerns with mental health policy and CPS to the administration in tandem with the Mental Health Task Force 
-increase the number of puppy study breaks for students; 
– promote relevant stress-relieving apps which have been proven to positively impact our community’s mental health;

2. Building Community
– create new long-lasting traditions to serve the wider Columbia community (e.g. fun charity events, speed-dating, talent show, battle of the bands);
-Increase the number of affordable options for Class of 2020 apparel; 
-Be spontaneous! We can’t make the world work as we want it to, so when the opportunity comes for a fun event (great weather), we’re going to be ready to provide it for you!

3. Marginalized students 
– plan a number of events beginning with a celebration of the opening of the LGBTQ centre;
– continue to advocate for policies supporting LGBTQ students and students of color, as well as students of other marginalized identities (first-generation, low-income, international); 
– continue to improve resources for marginalized students in health services, financial aid, preprofessional advising, and more.

We are underwhelmed by the resources available to students with disabilities and would like to work with them to make Columbia a more welcoming place for all.

4. Networking and career Opportunities 
– advocate for more sophomore summer internship opportunities through working with CCE to improve Handshake powered by LionShare;
-provide you with regular updates on jobs specifically for sophomores available at CCE;
-coordinate study breaks with CCE so that we can have fun while pursuing career opportunities.

Finally, we would like to finalize our ongoing initiatives from this year. We are currently in the process of achieving subsidized MTA subway cards for students for academic, professional, and extracurricular purposes and ensuring availability of on-the-go breakfast items (along with more variety and value for your money!). LionHeart would like to continue our successful track record with our new platform for next year.

What is something you want to fix at Columbia? How would you plan to address it?

We’ve addressed the problems we’d like to fix in our platforms. All of us have now gained ample experience amongst administration, procedure and student council to know who the right contacts to approach are concerning specific changes. Having gained this knowledge over our tenure this year, any changes that we try to implement will be swifter and quicker. We also feel transparency is key amongst our class and we now intend to update the class regularly on our progress with our platform points. LionHeart also prides itself on its ability and awareness to adapt to emerging concerns on campus throughout the school year. 

Any additional comments you would like to share with voters?

We would like to encourage students to VOTE, be it for LionHeart or our opposition. We hope to see a large voter turnout because it is important that the students decide who they want to represent themselves, who they feel can make changes and who can improve there future years ahead at Columbia.

James Ritchie

Are you affiliated with a party, and if so, which one?

I am a member of the LionHeart party.

What position are you running for, and what motivated you to run for it? 

I am running to be Vice-President of the Class of 2020.  My primary motivation for running is based upon a ferocious sense of pride to represent my friends and peers in my class.  I am very thankful for the many ways that my classmates ameliorate, and contribute to, my daily life and I feel that the best way for me to give back is by serving them and advocating to the administration on their behalf.

If elected, what would your goals be? How do you plan to actually achieve them?

There are four primary points to our platform: mental health, building community, marginalised students, and networking opportunities.  I want to continue to work with the administration to address the stress culture which pervades the Columbia campus by making mental health measures preventative rather than simply palliative.  As a ticket we have several ideas for fun new traditions on campus which will help to foster a better community between the students.  I want to build on the success of the new LGBTQ centre by advocating for more access to space for students who feel marginalised on campus.  Finally I would like to work closely with the CCE to plan events which will demystify the internship process to relieve stress about finding jobs.

To see our full platform follow this link:

https://docs.google.com/a/columbia.edu/document/d/1YI_iZEPRIKyxoWjHvzYWzDuDN7Ylj3WrfWvswBn1eyE/edit?usp=sharing

What is something you want to fix at Columbia? How would you plan to address it?

My primary goal were I to be elected as Vice-President would be to combat the Columbia stress culture – something that is of course much easier said than done.  However, I believe that by being persistent and frank with the administration, and through seeking consultation from experts who are unaffiliated with the university we can make strides in the right direction.  I want to destigmatize going to CPS and make discussions of mental health a non-taboo topic which everyone feels comfortable sharing their opinions on. 

Any additional comments you would like to share with voters?

It has been an absolute pleasure serving as Vice-President so far and I would be deeply honoured if you allowed me the opportunity to continue to work on your behalf bettering the Columbia community.

The Lion asked candidates to tell us about their campaigns to give us insight into their aspirations and motivations for running. Here is what Briley Lewis had to say:

My name is Briley Lewis – I’m a junior in Columbia college majoring in astrophysics, and I am running for Academic Affairs Representative (no party affiliation). I am running for academic affairs rep for two reasons mainly: 1. It is the position I currently hold on CCSC (I was elected this semester in a special election, because the previous rep graduated early) and I feel that I want/need more time to finish up the initiatives I have been working on and to start new ones. 2. I want to do this because I care about the community here, and I feel that I have experience and skills that can really make concrete changes for the better. Academics is the main reason why we’re all here, and it’s important that we as students have a voice in shaping our education.

My main goals are: 1. Mental health awareness and support, including coordinating opportunities for workshops and collaborations between CPS and student groups on campus and continuing the campus-wide discussion on this issue; 2. Expanding access to student research and unpaid internships, especially through reducing the Summer and Semester Work Contributions and/or expanding the Work Exemption Program; 3. Increasing access to faculty mentorship and streamlining the advising process, making it easier to find who can help students with a given academic/career situation. I know that to achieve these things I’ll need to work closely with many administrators and faculty, and I plan to do so. Many groups/offices on campus are trying to achieve these same goals as I, so instead of starting from the ground up I plan to work closely with them and work together (for example, Alice Health, the new working group on mental health, and of course CPS are working on initiatives already – it wouldn’t make sense to start from scratch, but instead help harness those resources and guide them in the direction students want). As far as research and the summer work contribution, I know that students and faculty alike are dealing with this issue, and harnessing that broad base of support for this initiative would help it become reality.

I am qualified, experienced, and passionate about both helping the Columbia community and about the importance of education in which the students have an active role in shaping their curriculum and experience. Over the past few years, I have served as president of BlueShift (the Columbia Astronomy Club) and more recently this semester I have been the Academic Affairs Rep on CCSC – these experiences have taught me a great deal about how to get things done here and how to navigate the bureaucracy, and also I have seen many different perspectives on the educational experience here at Columbia. I would be honored to have the opportunity to give back to my community in the capacity of this role on CCSC, and I promise to be committed, thorough, and responsive to the community in all I do as academic affairs representative if elected.

We sat down with Zachary Skypeck (CC’20), member of the heavyweight rowing team and current candidate for CCSC Alumni Affairs Representative.

What motivated you to run for this position?

All throughout high school I was very interested in becoming involved in student government but I had so many things going on that I just never really found time for it. Having been in leadership positions before in different clubs and athletics teams, I found that Columbia would be a good environment for me to capitalize upon my desire to be a leader and to become involved in student government.

If elected, what would your goals be?

My biggest goal would be to centralize a mentorship program that has easier accessibility than the ones we have in place right now. There’s Columbia College Women – that’s a big one. There’s a lot of easy pairing between women students and alumni. I would like to have a system like that for the entire student body, that would be the most important thing. I think that bringing all alumni into that would forge relationships and reconnect them to the school which could be beneficial in other ways.

What is something you want to fix at Columbia? How would you plan to address it?

As a student-athlete myself, I see all the time student-athlete alumni are very willing to help with internships and job opportunities once they’ve graduated, and we get emails all the time about different opportunities that are available. I don’t see that as much in the general student body, and I think that a better job could be done of making those connections. It’s the same thing as the mentorship program, making connections between alumni and students; and helping forge a path to success through the alumni network.

Any additional comments you would like to share with voters?

“A vote for me is a vote for the people!”

Remember to vote in the CCSC elections! Voting begins April 19th.

Photo by James Xue (SEAS ’17)

Beginning today, sophomores in CC and SEAS can start signing up for classes on SSOL, which you’ve hopefully already imported from Vergil at this point. While you might think you have thin pickings since both rising seniors and juniors have already picked their classes, don’t be afraid, sophomores. You’re still ahead of the first-years who don’t get to register until NSOP. (Remember those times?)

Just because you’ve risen to sophomore status does not mean you necessarily know what courses you should/want to take. If you’re still unsure, we have a LionGuide to help you with that.

And may the waitlist be ever in your favor.

Photo courtesy of Startup Stock Photos.

Starting this morning (or afternoon if the course selection gods did not hear your prayers), rising juniors in CC and SEAS can begin registering for classes on SSOL. (Don’t forget to import your classes from Vergil first, though!)

With majors now officially declared, hopefully it will be easy for you all to select your courses. However, if you’re still unsure of what classes you want to take, we have a LionGuide to help you with that.

If you don’t need help because you’ve had your whole schedule planned out since you got here, congratulations and don’t let a waitlist stop you from achieving your schedule dreams.

In other news, rising sophomores who also had registration times listed for tomorrow will unfortunately have to wait another day to finalize their schedules. This is according to this year’s ESC Class of 2020 President, Ria Garg, who posted the following message in the Class of 2020 Facebook page:

There was an error on SSOL, Rising sophomore’s registration date is Wednesday, April 19th, NOT April 18th.

Your registration time will be the same as what was listed under the registration time of the 18th.

****EDIT: so we believe in order to change the date of registration, the registrar had to rerun programs that determined registration times. So whatever registration time displayed on SSOL for you, we believe is your final registration time.
Hopefully nothing changes

~ESC 2020

While this may be annoying for rising sophomores, it means less registration competition for rising juniors, which is something rising sophomores will undoubtedly be thankful for a year from now.

 

Updated: 4/18/19, 3:48 PM

Photo courtesy of Joan Marcus

There’s something fun brewing down on 52nd street. Opening April 17th, “Groundhog Day” is creating a comical storm on Broadway in the August Wilson theater. Based off the the 1993 movie, the show has been adopted into a two act musical with music and lyrics by Tim Minchin (known for his working in writing the music for Matilda).

Andy Karl as Phil Connors. Photo by Joan Marcus.

Andy Karl as Phil Connors. Photo by Joan Marcus.

For those who have not seen the show, Groundhog Day centers around a shallow, arrogant weatherman named Phil Connor, played by Andy Karl. Connor, known for his weather reports, is once again sent to Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania to cover the annual Groundhog Day event. Frustrated and disillusioned with being sent to a small town to report on a holiday that directly contradicts his own profession, Connor makes his disdain for being sent to report on the holiday abundantly clear. He irritably storms around the town, ignoring those around him and dismissing his cameraman and assistant producer Rita as they record

that the groundhog saw its shadow, meaning there’ll be six more weeks of winter. Later that day, he finally gets excited again — about leaving back for “anywhere but [Punxsutawney].” However, both weather and the local police overshadow his plans as the storm he predicted would not hit the town ends up dousing the small town with a heavy helping of snow and closing down all the roads and highways. Despite his best attempts to leave the town (portrayed with a miniature van circling around the stage), he is forced to spend one more night in little old Punxsutawney.

The cast of Groundhog Day. Photo by Joan Marcus.

The cast of Groundhog Day. Photo by Joan Marcus.

Upon waking up, however, Connor is confused as everyone in the town seems to be talking about Groundhog Day, even when it should be the next day. As he quickly realizes, he’s stuck in a loop — every morning he wakes up in the same bed and breakfast on Groundhog Day.

Throughout the show, Karl perfectly portrays Connor. As the days keep on repeating (marked with characters repeating lines and scenes happening again and again), even the audience can feel his frustration. Even when Connor goes to quite drastic measures to end the cycle, he fails. Eventually, Connor learns to use his “curse” for a greater good — he starts trying to improve the lives of others and is forced to finally think about those around him. Like he says in the show, no one realizes “how deep my shallowness goes.” But as his character develops, we see a new side of him as he learns to focus on being a better person and lifting up those around him — even if they won’t remember it the next day.

Andy Karl and Barrett Doss in Groundhog Day. Photo by Joan Marcus.

Andy Karl and Barrett Doss in Groundhog Day. Photo by Joan Marcus.

Likewise, his associate producer and later love interest Rita Hanson (played by Barrett Doss) is equally as splendid. Not willing to give into just any love interest coming her way, Hanson plays a strong woman who knows what she wants and refuses to settle for less. Hanson tells Connor, “You’re the lucky one–you get to try new things everyday,” when he tells her that he is stuck in a loop. It makes the audience think about what they would do if they could do anything without the consequences of facing tomorrow and the aftermath of a bad decision. Yet, sometimes you want to move forward in life, no matter the regrets you have. Time is a theme that the audience can’t seem to escape while watching the show: it leaves us with lingering questions about our own choices and how we use our time. Focusing too much on success or the future can make us ignore enjoying and contributing to the present.

“Groundhog Day” is a special show. Within two and a half hours, the audience watches the characters grapple with insecurities, rejection, love, and more in a show that is brilliantly hilarious and equally thought-provoking. With its mix of upbeat songs and an incredible story, this is a show that everyone should run and see. As Rita Hanson sings in the middle of Act II, “If I had my time again, I would do it all the same,” and when it comes to whether I would go back to see this show again, I’d have to agree.

Tickets to Groundhog Day can be purchased from here. The show also maintains a daily lottery for those interested in winning discounted tickets.

Renée Fleming as the Marschallin in Strauss's Der Rosenkavalier. Photo by Ken Howard/Metropolitan Opera.

Renée Fleming as the Marschallin in Strauss’s Der Rosenkavalier. Photo by Ken Howard/Metropolitan Opera.

“So beautiful,” whispered a captivated concertgoer behind me. Normally, any talking—or sound for that matter—is hurriedly and aggressively shushed by a “serious” audience member at the Met. Renée Fleming, however, seemed to provoke an admissible exception.

Fleming’s whirlwind return to the Met Opera’s season premiere of Der Rosenkavalier (music by Richard Strauss, libretto by Hugo von Hofmannsthal) electrified the opera community. Last week, Fleming scared many by announcing that she would soon be leaving the opera stage. Fleming has since nixed the retirement idea, but the effect of the buzz was obvious: fans came in large numbers just in case this would be the last time that they could do so. In attendance as well were some of Fleming’s collaborators, who have sung with her over the years–coming to support her previously-presumed last run at the Met.

Fleming, for her part, plays the Marschallin: a middle-aged member of the Viennese aristocracy who sighs in anguish over the cruelness of aging. Fleming knows—and loves—the role. In her first solo at the end of Act 1, Fleming smartly addressed the silver rose—a symbol of youth and forthcoming happiness—with an imploring, wistful tone quality. Shortly after, her sweet, yet innerly despairing voice seized the audience’s empathy.

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Renée Fleming as the Marschallin in Strauss’s Der Rosenkavalier. Photo by Ken Howard/Metropolitan Opera.

However, notwithstanding the positive aspects of Fleming’s work tonight, I do prefer her 2010 performance of the same role (Columbia faculty and students can find it through CLIO under the keyword “Met Opera on Demand”). In that performance, she lived the Marschallin: solemn tears slowly streamed down her face at the end of the “Mein schöner Schatz” duet in Act 1. Her phrasing and sepulchral tone made for an unforgettable moment.

Tonight’s conductor, Sebastian Weigle, again chose problematic tempos. The prelude, for example, was much too fast. Here, the music is declarative, demonstrative—overly confident and grandiose. Yet, Weigle seemed incredibly anxious, gesturing with extremely quick circular motions (so fast that his arms were just a blur to my eyes). By taking a quicker tempo, the music sounded too hectic and lost its appropriate gusto.

Weigle made a similarly poor decision in the last minutes of Act 3. Here, silvery chords in the high strings, winds, and percussion flutter downward. The descent should be reflective—it is the end of the opera!—and ethereal. However, it felt tossed-off, illy cared for–herky-jerky and uneven. I recognize that I was critical of Weigle’s lethargic tempo decisions for Fidelio, yet here he seems to have gone in the opposite direction. I do admit however, that future runs of the production might produce better results.

The Met orchestra impressed me —as it routinely does—with its stamina. In the middle of the third act, I heard a clarinetist–presumably either Inn-Hyuck Cho or Anton Rist–flawlessly execute a rapid lick that flickered between the clarion and altissimo registers. The passage was followed by a sustained, pianissimo high note. Both of these sections are incredibly difficult to play when with fresh energy. They’re almost a miracle after two and a half hours of continuous music.

Robert Carsen, the producer of the Met’s new take on Der Rosenkavalier, replaces the dusty, Beauty-and-the-Beast-esque setting with a bawdy production set when the opera was written (1911). Topless prostitutes pursue and are pursued by lustful Viennese men; Octavian, the Marschallin’s young lover, grabs his partner’s behind (what a great way to say, “Welcome back, Renée!”); and Sophie, Octavian’s new love, carelessly dances across one of her father’s howitzer (oddly placed in the living room of their modern palace).

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The playfulness of Octavian–performed by Elīna Garanča–and the Marschallin–sung by Renée Fleming–on display in Act 1. Photo by Ken Howard/Metropolitan Opera.

Admittedly, I was skeptical when I learned about Carsen’s decision to set the third act in a brothel. Typically, it is staged in an inn, a “house of ill repute.” However, the text—the same one used for the inn setting—actually translates well in the new environs: it is believable that Sophie’s dad Faninal calls Octavian, who is disguised as Mariandel, a slut and it makes sense that Octavian assumes a baser dialect as a working-class Viennese woman (some funny lines include “Whad’ya mean?” and “I ain’t gonna drink no wine.”)

The one aspect of the brothel that felt most uncomfortable, however, was the onstage jazz quartet. Prostitutes pantomimed and synchronized fake playing on the clarinet, saxophone, double bass, and accordion. Not only was their supposed music not like the orchestra’s actual performance, but also the quartet implied 1920s Europe more than the 1910s. The production had a 1920s feel to it elsewhere as well, Octavian’s flapper-like costume in Act 1 being another example.  

I found Carsen’s incorporation of the Zeitgeist—especially Freudian ideas—rather compelling. When Sophie sings about her upcoming marriage, dreamlike clones of Sophie and her groom-to-be waltz behind her. Sophie is bathed in a yellow spotlight—the light of the real world—while the dancers behind her are enveloped in purple—a hue of the inner, thought world. Carsen’s decision illustrates how an individual’s inner thoughts and desires are experienced as real, even while awake.

Elīna Garanča as Octavian and Erin Morley as Sophie in Strauss's Der Rosenkavalier swear their love for each other in front of an imposing howitzer. Photo by Ken Howard/Metropolitan Opera.

Elīna Garanča as Octavian and Erin Morley as Sophie in Strauss’s Der Rosenkavalier swear their love for each other in front of an imposing howitzer. Photo by Ken Howard/Metropolitan Opera.

Although this was seemingly The Renée Fleming Show, there are, of course, more singers in Der Rosenkavalier. Elīna Garanča as Octavian embodied the wide range of conflicting emotions of her character. At the end of the last act, Octavian is caught between the Marschallin and Sophie, unsure of who he should turn to. Here, Garanča’s expressions and voice illustrated Octavian’s distress well.

Erin Morley as Sophie sounded quite warm in the upper register, especially when she built up toward it. Unfortunately, she was sometimes overpowered by the orchestra, especially during a fast, staccato passage in Act 2. Overall, I found that her diction was unintelligible at times, but balance could be to blame.

Günther Groissböck–a holdover from Fidelio–swaggered with pride, aggression, and self-absorption as the predatorial Baron Ochs. In Act 2, he engaged with Sophie in a vocal battle of sorts, his crescendoing vocal presence overpowering his soon-to-be wife (who he caustically likened to an “unbroken foal”). The Ochs is easily one of the easiest-to-hate characters in opera.

But the night was Fleming’s. At curtain call, the audience enthusiastically expressed joy for her return and relief for her operatic stay. It was her voice—combined with the prowess of the Met orchestra—that led my fellow concertgoer to exclaim, “So beautiful.” It is for these cherished musical moments that we go to the opera and for which you should let yourself come too.

Strauss’s Der Rosenkavalier runs through May 13, with casting changes. The opera will be broadcast live May 13, at 12:30 PM, on WQXR 105.9 FM. Information and ticket listings (including student and same-day rush tickets) can be found online at metopera.org.