Senior Wisdom: Tao Tan

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In a shockingly short span of time, the class of 2007 will shuffle off this undergraduate coil. What’s left for them to look forward to? Finals, Matthew Fox (of Speed Racer fame!), and Bwog’s Senior Wisdom series, which will introduce you to eleven seniors whom you may or may not have been lucky enough to meet. Today, meet Bwog’s curmudgeonly commenting MVP, Tao Tan.

Name: Tao Tan

Claims to fame: Transfer from SEAS, weird interest in Columbia history, wrote mildly psychotic and generally awful column in the Spec for a while, sucked into the capitalist corporatocracy early, responds to e-mails within five minutes, and present spammer and CPA of East Campus.

Preferred swim test stroke?

Kawasaki 800 SX-R.


What are three things you learned at Columbia?

1. The secret to good grades is treating every paper and assignment as an interdisciplinary study. If you have to write an economics paper, write a history paper disguised as an economics paper (“Central Banking at the House of Morgan: J.P. Morgan & Company from 1895-1907”). If you have to write a history paper, write an economics paper disguised as a history paper (“Financing an Empire: Banks, Bourses, and Capital Markets of the Roman Republic”). Who’s going to argue with you? On another note, you’re waiting until I turn in my last papers before publishing this, right?

2. The secret to getting irregular arrangements approved is persistence and submitting very, very, very long petitions and requests. If you wanted a, say, half-hour course overlap approved so badly that you would write three pages of dense prose justifying it, who’s going to say no? Or even read it?

3. I can’t stress enough the importance of getting to know and building relationships with the faculty. It sometimes seems that the University would like nothing more than each generation of CC and SEAS students to come through, fulfill the cookie-cutter requirements, and be shown the door with a pat on the back and an alumni donation envelope in hand. But getting to know and work with faculty one-on-one is one of the best ways to pursue your own interests, to have someone watch out for you, and to have an advocate in trying to do non-cookie-cutter things on the assembly line of a Columbia education.

Justify your existence in 30 words or less.

Some people try to stick it to The Man. I am The Man. Or more precisely, we are The Man.

What was your favorite controversy in your time at Columbia?

What bothers me about many controversies are the administration’s attempts to express the right platitudes to 1) please everyone, and 2) keep the media off their back — while refusing to take a firm and principled, if politically incorrect, stance on anything. A good friend of mine is working on his Ed.D. dissertation, a chapter of which is on the “dumbening” of University Presidents and Deans. In past decades, they used to be on the forefront of national issues and were regularly consulted on the positions they took. Now they are far more interested in keeping quiet and raising money. I think what happened in spring 2004 in response to the Fed cartoon and the affirmative action bake sale bothered me the most.

Which professor do you think would be the best kisser?

Umm… I would imagine that Lucy J. Hayner was pretty hot in her day.

What percentage of seniors do you think are virgins?

Who knows. 20%?

Would you rather permanently give up oral sex or cheese?

I hate cheese. Now if it was between oral sex and Vitamin Water on the other hand…

Days on Campus memory?

Ha! None, actually. I actually was admitted to SEAS off the waitlist about a month after Days on Campus. That Friday, I skipped school to visit CU and accepted on the spot.


Yes. I should have shorted the Shanghai Composite ETF on 26 February 2007, used the proceeds to take a leveraged long put position on the underlying index itself, exercised it the next day, and used the proceeds to cover my original short. Would have made a #*@&$)* killing. But I didn’t. Darn it.

No, seriously, I would have to admit that I sometimes regret pretty much checking out two years ago. I’m satisfied with the decisions I made, and Columbia’s not the typical college either, but who knows what “only-possible-in-college experiences” I missed.

If you’re burning for more class of 2007 profiles, check it: Frances Howorth, Josh Bolotsky, Jenni Oki, Seth Flaxman, Maria Baibakova, Karen Fu (scroll), David Chait (scroll), Dan Okin, Anthony Walker, Nick Klagge, Claire Lackner, Paul Sonne, Karina Garcia, and Sakib Khan.

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  1. ...  

    secrets secrets secrets.

    his hair is full of secrets.

  2. HA!  

    he missed the Shanghai Sneeze. fool.

  3. umm  

    all the links below are totally messed up.

  4. tao tan

    has no less than 4 BlackBerries

  5. tao tan  

    is made of BlackBerries.

  6. WRONG about papers!  

    I just wrote a science paper for an English class. I didn't do so hot.

  7. 20% virgin?

    I'm pretty sure the figure is close to 0%.

  8. stan

    stan tan is the man, not tao

  9. nomad  

    few people are able to annoy you within three seconds of meeting them. in that sense, tao tan IS the MAN. seriously, he is one of the most annoying people i met on this campus.

    • another man  

      precisely. few people in the world are as obnoxious or as arrogant as tao tan.

      he'll probably fit right in on the trading floor at whichever bank he's going to work for. but when he hits 40 he still won't have any real friends.

  10. tokenism  

    your list of senior profiles...some of them aren't profiles of the person but limited to their role as assassins commish or post-minuteman voice of reason or such...

  11. 20%?

    20% of seniors = tao tan + his giant ego.

  12. So...

    basically Tao Tan is the real life American Psycho?

  13. F11  

    bankers get way more attention than they deserve. i don't hate them or think of them as "evil" people but they are not as smart as most people (who don't know what bankers do) think. of course some of them are wicked smart, but banking in general is not one that smart people self-select into. and some bankers are smart AND interesting, but i don't know if tao is either of those. so bwog, i don't know who thought it would be a good idea to put him up here. you could throw a stone out the window and hit somebody more interesting than tao.

  14. hmm  

    How does one become entitled to be part of this 'senior wisdom' series? I'm confused about the selection process. some (presidents/valedictorian) make sense...others...huh?

  15. larry king  

    someone needs to tell tao tan that his three piece suits and suspenders age him by about 80 years. he's so obnoxious.

  16. officially...  

    tao tan = The Biggest Douche in the Universe

  17. taotan  

    seems perfectly nice to me. at least he isn't a hypocrit who is all like "omg i love on the road freedom yeah liberty" and then goes and dies in morgan-stanley and buys an suv.

    • .....  

      uh, whatever tao tan.

      • 24...  

        24= "omg i love on the road freedom yeah liberty" + Banker + SUV buyer......

        I mean, it is true that he stands for something and stands for it unabashedly. That certainly is more than most people can say for themselves. It is respectable even if those principles aren't exactly the best or most popular in our social environment.

        And no, I am neither Tao Tan nor Poster 23.

  18. wtf  

    principles? i have principles. and by my own principles i'm going into investment banking too.

    tao tan has NO principles. he doesn't stand for ANYTHING other than his own ego. which means he's a dick to everyone he thinks is inferior to him, and he sucks the cock of everyone who he thinks he can exploit to his own benefit.

    • and you would  

      know this (both that you have principles and tao tan doesn't) how?

    • Yep  

      He has no principles. One day he's an engineer, then he's a historian, then he's a wannabe lawyer, then he's a corporate type? Does he have his own persona or does he simply identify himself with whatever group he deems prestigious at the moment?

      • Cam  

        " One day he's an engineer, then he's a historian, then he's a wannabe lawyer, then he's a corporate type?"

        And what on earth is wrong with that? Some of us still don't know what we want to be when we grow up! This makes us indecisive, maybe, but unprincipled? Since when does any student have to declare their ALLEGIANCE to a given field?

        And what makes you think that anyone who picks 'historian' does it for the prestige? Actually, except for 'corporate type' (which is debatable, but last I checked is not a major offered here) none of those are easy paths. I wouldn't know the guy from Adam, but I'm offended that my own waffling between academic disciplines makes me unprincipled - or somehow lacking in identity. The hell?

    • someguy  

      Principles? Principles are as out of fashion as ethics. Grow up and get over it.

  19. tao sucks

    and yet he's not on the phi beta list for all his asskissing.

  20. haha  

    waitlisted to SEAS...!!!

  21. Tao  

    is brilliant. At the very least don't bad-mouth him... we'll all probably end up working for him some day.

  22. good god  

    people on this love to be anonymous assholes. lighten up.

  23. well

    Tao can be incredibly entertaining in small doses. Overexposure can be harmful.

  24. hmmm  

    sounds like everyone on this fucking campus.

  25. ....  

    09 F9 11 02 9D 74 E3 5B D8 41 56 C5 63 56 88 C0

    google it

  26. Just wanted to say  

    I think Tao Tan is a great guy.

  27. mk2227

    Tao's not as much of an asshole as he makes people think he is. It's an image he cultivates. He can be as genuine as the next guy when he wants to. (And yes, I consider him a friend.)

  28. taomao  

    if he is not an asshole but cultivates that as an image (whatever that means) that makes him stupid AND an asshole, doesn't it?

  29. taopaokungpao

    I work as a dominatrix around wall street and tao is one of our most valued ________________.

  30. to be honest  

    Tao is one of those people I'm fond of. I don't think half the people commenting on this post even know who he is.

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