The Graduate Student Center Subcommittee of the Committee on Campus Planning and Physical Development Sez:

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The University Senate has unanimously recommended that PrezBo and The Trustees (playing at Music Hall of Williamsburg next week) consider creating an interim Graduate Student Center. And that incredibly sillily-named committee has ideas!

They argued that Columbia’s peer institutions have space dedicated to its graduate students and that such a space would increase a sense of community among grad students. Other reasons cited include a common space for grad students on the Morningside and Medical Center campuses, as well as new funds to build the center, and space to build it in.

The committee has suggested six possible locations for the Student Center: 538 W. 114th St, space within Earl Hall, former Psych library (Schermerhorn), former Chem library (Chandler), former Bio. Sciences library (Fairchild), former Physics library (Pupin).

On the ashes of Columbia’s natural sciences resources, a place for your TAs to talk about Kant and ask each other on dates to 1020 may blossom.

Here’s the full recommendation from the University Senate:

University Senate
Proposed: September 24, 2010
Adopted: September 24, 2010
Sense of the Columbia University Senate

Recommendation on a Graduate Student Center
Whereas, interdisciplinary interaction in an academic community is a key institutional priority for Columbia University, an idea broadly endorsed by faculty as crucial for comprehensive graduate education; and

Whereas, graduate students and postdoctorals have expressed a strong desire to strengthen the academic community via increased interdisciplinary interaction in formal and informal contexts; and

Whereas, existing facilities on both the Morningside and Medical campuses are unsuited to increasing interdisciplinary interaction or building an academic community among graduate students and postdoctorals; and

Whereas, graduate students and postdoctorals are the only academic constituency at Columbia University which do not have a dedicated space; and

Whereas, proposals for a Graduate Student Center have in the past been discouraged by the lack of space and funds, both of which are available at present; and

Whereas, a Graduate Student Center would enhance the quality and competitiveness of Columbia University’s Master’s, Ph.D., and postdoctoral programs relative to our peers, almost all of which already have such centers; and

Whereas, the Committee on Campus Planning and Physical Development has successfully executed its mandate to “advise the administration and the Trustees on faculty, student and staff concerns, priorities and particular projects” by producing the attached report on the rationale, needs, and feasibility of a Graduate Student Center.

Now, therefore, be it recommended that the University Senate endorses the conclusions of the report and respectfully recommends the President and Trustees of Columbia University to consider the creation of an interim Graduate Student Center, subject to space and fundraising considerations.

Campus Planning and Physical Development Committee
Student Affairs Committee

For more information, also check out the presentation to the senate plenary or the super official report.

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  1. Good luck

    We're still waiting for an undergraduate student center.

  2. Graduent Student

    likes this.

  3. nooooo  

    Chandler must be preserved as a building that no one outside of the chem department realizes exists!

  4. Unexpert Opinion

    Schermerhorn would be the most convenient location, but the old psych library always looked like it needed renovation.

  5. Clearly

    the biology, chemistry, and physics departments have no use for more lab space. Brilliant.

  6. IMHO  

    Bio, Chem, and Physics libraries are terrible locations for this.. they are buried deep, deep in their buildings.

    Psych is probably the most logical choice. It's very accessible, easy to find, plus Psych is getting TONS of lab space in the Jerome Greene Center of Mind Brain and Behavior.

  7. Anonymous

    According to yesterday's Senate meeting, the center would be for all graduate students and postdocs at Columbia.

    Plus, undergrads won't have to meet or take makeup exams with their ta's or graduate instructors in hallways anymore.

  8. CC '12  

    Bwog -

    I don't know what clueless smartass you assigned to write this, but seriously? Your snark is normally funny, but here it just seems... pointlessly vitriolic. I just gave the report a quick look and the grad students raise some good points. So what if you think "fuzzy wuzzy" feelings don't mean anything. A lot of people feel that it does. Come on, Bwog, you know you're better than that.

  9. CC '12

    Seriously, tone down the vindictiveness a notch. I enjoyed your coverage of the Greene lounge plans. It looks like this will have even more of an impact on our campus - and plus, unlike Greene, it can benefit undegrads. One of my TAs last year had to hold office hours on a bench in a hallway because she had no space.

    • Eliza  (Bwog Staff)  

      Agreed! We thought that the name of the committee was very funny, but the idea for a graduate student center is not particularly funny (even though, yes, we allow ourselves to make fun of grad students). The fuzzy wuzzy line actually doesn't accurately reflect the purpose of the project, and I just edited it out. Otherwise I think it's pretty vitriol-free, but let me know if you have other concerns--

  10. Grad Student/Social Sciences

    Columbia's lack of a Grad Center leads to the fact that interdisciplinary research, which is the cutting edge of ALL disciplines, cannot happen because people don't get to talk to each other. All our ivy peers have it, our grads don't even have a space to write their dissertation! It would be very beneficial for undergrads too, their TA's could teach in a much better environment.

    For the first time Senate approves of a space dedicated to STUDENTS!!! I really don't understand why the writer of this piece would want to shoot his fellow students in the leg.

    And by the way, if you don't talk about Kant, you can't make any good argument that has a conceptually sound base. The writer obviously lacks the latter.

  11. grad

    Other grad centers have space for professional development and dissertation writing workshops. Now we can finally have space to study and meet with other students while these workshops are going on. The GSAS Center for Teaching and Learning will actually be a part of a center instead of just one person's office in Philosophy.

  12. Angry Undergrad  

    Other schools have things like this, but a lot of grad students are bitches. I'll support their needs for beer and community when they stop being self-important bitches and giving people bad grades just because they can (admittedly, this doesn't apply to everyone). It always feels like undergrads are lowest on the priority list at this school. But that's okay. They won't see a penny from me after I graduate

    • We're not all bad

      Not all grad students are bad! I teach Hum and would love to have a center where I could actually hold officer hours and talk to my students about grad school apps and writing assignments.

      • Angry Undergrad  

        True. I've had some wonderful Grad TA's and Instructors for Core and other classes, but some grade like they've got a perpetual chip on their shoulder. I agree that this Grad student center should probably happen, but it's tough to see your family's income go down and your financial aid get cut and then see the university spending money on everything except undergrads (or so it seems sometimes).

        • CC alum/SIPA student  

          First of all, the University isn't spending any money on anything yet. This is a recommendation to go forward, not a final decision.

          Second of all, you have no idea how lucky you are. When I came to CC in '05, my family's income was in that "pain zone" between getting grants and getting nothing. Before Kluge's gift, I had to take on $20K in loans (which I'm STILL carrying on top of my grad school loans). So the only person here with the attitude of entitlement and the chip on shoulder here looks like it's you.

          Stop being angry. Do you have any idea how high a priority CU is making undergrad fin aid?

          They are raising $400 mm for CC fin aid alone. And oh, $30 mm for GSAS financial aid. Look , I understand if you're "angry" for a variety of reasons, but making a blanket statement like "always feels like undergrads are lowest on the priority list at this school" and "see the university spending money on everything except undergrads (or so it seems sometimes)" is simply inaccurate. Your perception is simply wrong and isn't borne up by facts.

          • Angry Undergrad  

            This is all fine and good, asshole. All I know is that my family's ability to pay DROPPED. When this happens, you'd think my financial aid grant would rise or, at the very least, stay the same. Yet it DROPPED. I'm sorry your financial aid sucked back in the day, can't say I'm surprised, but it has no bearing on my situation. John Kluge was an amazing person, and I'm so grateful to him. But this university has a $6.5 billion (and now growing) endowment. You remember Frontiers, right? Let's do a back of the envelope calculation. 55,000 x 7100 undergrads (all of CC, SEAS, and GS) = 390.5 mil. I understand they can't spend all this money at once. I also understand that some students need it more than others. Yet clearly, something doesn't add up here. How much money was spent on legal fees to kick residents out of Harlem for the future Manhattanville campus? They could have easily paid for everybody to go here with the return they posted on their endowment (17%). I understand the university has long term goals, research, and all these other things to pay for, but as a potential future donor, I don't see any generosity in the way Columbia has treated me and my family.

            Calling me entitled cuts me deep. I don't consider myself entitled. I simply want to be treated fairly. I want this university to deliver on its promise of making a world-class education affordable to all students. Right now, it simply isn't.

            Thanks for allowing me that catharsis, and good luck with your IPA studies.

          • CC alum/SIPA student  

            You just dropped about 7 spots on everyone's "maturity" list.

            1. After being showing that your baseless claim that CU places undergrads last on their priority list is patently false (in fact, CU is raising $400 mm for College undergrads alone as opposed to $30 mm for GSAS and geez, $25 mm for SIPA), you resort to calling me an "asshole"
            2. Everything is clearly about you. Never mind that this project is something by and for graduate students and nobody ever suggested raiding the CC finaid endowment to pay for it. No, even though it has nothing to do with you (except it might allow you to have office hours in a nicer environment with your TAs), all you care about is you. You slam it because it doesn't result in you getting more money.
            3. Even with this "me me me me me its all about meeeeeeee!" shtick, you are somehow upset when I call out your "entitled" attitude for what it is. I could tell you the sob story of when my dad lost his small business and had to sell his storefront in '08 to get me through the last year of college, but I won't.
            4. You clearly have no freakin' idea how endowments work. I will give you a small primer. Endowments have both "restricted" (meaning, legally, they can only be used for a specific purpose, such as a professor's salary or a scholarship) and "unrestricted" funds (meaning they can be used for anything). Unrestricted funds far, far outweigh restricted funds. That means that even if the endowment grows 30%, if most of the funds are restricted, that doesn't mean you can use the entire 30% growth.

            Second, the endowment payout ratio is between 3-5%. This is for financial stability and stewardship purposes. Yes, last year the endowment gained 17%. But if we were to spend at that ratio every year 1) the endowment would never grow, and 2) in a bad year like 2008-2009 (when the endowment FELL by 17%), we would shrink the endowment, which would make future payouts (including, yes, your precious financial aid package) impossible.
            5. In spite of 1) simple, blunt math, 2) the reality of the economic situation, 3) hordes of people in other schools way worse off than you, all you can think of "me me me me me me meeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee!!! COLUMBIA OWES ME AN EDUCATION!!!"

          • sorry,

            You sound awfully whiny for someone who's accusing someone else of being a whiner. I don't think that being frustrated about the sacrifices that you and your family have had to make in order to pay for tuition at a great university that you worked hard to get admitted to, in the hopes of furthering an education that you take seriously, equates to "entitlement." It's almost a perverse misuse of the term. Believing that a great education should be as accessible as possible-- while it may have no relation whatsoever to the facts of the issue at hand-- is hardly the defining mark of a sense of selfish privilege. Rightly or wrongly, -- and probably wrongly-- it is easy to feel marginalized in a place like this, and I believe that is what the "angry undergrad" was expressing. Congratulations. You probably made him feel more marginalized.

          • CC alum/SIPA student  

            Sorry, meant to say restricted funds far outweigh unrestricted funds. Sorry.

          • CC alum/SIPA student  

            Oh, and before I forget, to paraphase your statement:

            "I’m sorry your financial aid sucked for you personally, can’t say I’m surprised, but it has no bearing on the proposal for the Graduate Student Center."

            This Bwog post and proposal has nothing to do with undergrad financial aid. You just hijacked it to use as a soapbox and whinefest (and admitted as much with your "thanks for this catharsis" piece). And when it's pointed out to you that College financial aid actually TOPS university fundraising priorities, all you do is get even more defensive ("it has no bearing on my situation") and more self-centered. Because it's all about you. Some of us are honestly trying to leave Columbia in better shape than when and where we found it. Looks like all you're trying to do is benefit yourself as far and as much as possible.

            Every year, when I give to the College and work as a Class Agent to raise monies from my class for College financial aid, I'd like to think it goes to better people than your. Evidently, I'm wrong.

          • Angry Undergrad  

            Dude, I'm sorry about your dad's business. I hope things are better now.

            Let me first make it clear that I fully support this Grad center proposal. Also, I didn't make this about my supposed "entitlement" and financial aid, you did. It's interesting that you call me out on a one-word ad hominem attack and then launch paragraphs of it at me (plus a nice paralepsis). Correct me if I'm wrong, but I believe your general attitude is "well, my financial aid sucked and my family went through some fucked up shit when I was in the College, so therefore everybody should be happy with whatever they get and anybody who opens their mouth about it is some sort of egotistical, self-centered, asshole." You're of course entitled to your opinion, but that doesn't make it fair or right. You're right that Columbia raises the most for undergrad financial aid. You've successfully shifted my view from "pretty much just undergrads get fucked over" to "everyone gets fucked over." I just don't see how you can honestly say that this university does everything it possibly can to make sure its students can attend without undue financial hardship on their families.

          • CC alum/SIPA student  

            Great that you support the Grad student center. So do I. Maybe now you can shut up and stop harping about how little financial aid you get now and how sooooooo unfair it is and how terrible Columbia is and how it doesn't try hard enough to raise the money and how the alums are soooooooo stingy and never give. Because you were the one that started the rant on finaid on a post about a graduate student center, not me.

            It makes me and the legions of CC alums who are Class Agents and try to raise money on a volunteer basis to help those who come after us feel just a tad underappreciated. Just a tad.

          • ehhh

            Come on people! If anyone is reading this, what was objectionable about that comment? Seriously? People here really seem to make up their minds in herds.

          • ehhh

            (was referring to the comment before).

        • Anonymous


  13. Luis Carlos Santos  

    Finally we will have our own center where we can have meetings, mixers, and just a good time. It's investments like these that will keep sustaining and driving even greater improvements for the GSAS.

  14. Grad Student

    This is long overdue

  15. Graduate Student '15  

    I strongly support this; it's long overdue. I'm a graduate student here in the humanities, and it's very difficult even to get to know people in neighboring disciplines. You'd be surprised how little interaction there often is even between graduate students in related departments like History, French, English, Religion, etc., because there is simply no forum in which people can reliably cross paths or casually socialize. In addition, the need for more graduate designated study space (like the carrels on the 6th floor of Butler) is very much needed, and hopefully a center like this would provide more such space.

  16. Question

    1) Then what's the thing in Philosophy hall?

    2) Why not wait 3-4 years when the Business School is scheduled to vacate Morningside for Manhattanville? Uris, for all its ugliness, is smack dab in the center of upper campus. Despite all the financial question marks, I'd bet CBS is one of the few divisions to have money stashed away for their new facilities (unlike, say, SoA.)

    3) Seriously though, you can have a graduate student center when we have an undergraduate student center. Lerner is a conference center with student functionality a secondary consideration. Having seen student unions at other schools, Lerner is a shit piss poor imitation. Considering that the building was purpose-built only a decade ago, that fact that so many functions weren't properly accommodated at the outset is an embarrassment. Bernard Tschumi wasted millions of dollars on a vanity project that no one but he and his architectural cognoscenti think is worth a damn. /rant

    • Anonymous

      1. 301 Phil is the Graduate Faculties Lounge, it is the space of GSAS administrators, if you look at the report, it is rarely open for graduate students due to events and it is never open after 5pm or weekends. The Center for teaching and learning operates out of it and many departments hold their events there.
      2. We have been waiting too long. There is available space, if only for a temporary space. Then we new space opens up, the center can reexamine if there is a better space/new space to move.
      3. The undergrad center is Lerner, you may complain about the architecture, but at least it is a space that undergrads can meet, reserve rooms, etc. Grads don't have anything. I understand that you might not like Lerner, but a graduate student center doesn't do anything but benefit Columbia. If you were a grad student, you would want a space for meeting peers, holding office hours and being able to complete your dissertation.

      • Question

        So why isn't the solution to negotiate a "buy-in" of Lerner so what graduate students have the same reservation and access rights?

        Also, in response to the person who linked to Yale as an example above - lol. Yale spends between 40-100 million dollars renovating *each* of its 12 undergraduate residential colleges (each of which has substantially more amenities for student life than anything you'll find here) and budgeted $600 million for two new ones. They're in a different budgetary league than us. We may have a bigger endowment than some peer schools, but we have so many students overall that we're actually relatively "poor" on a per student basis.

        • Anonymous

          Good question. That proposal was looked at a few years ago:

          I think it died on two points.

          1. Grad students don't want to use Lerner for the same reasons that undergrads don't want grads in "their" space. Do you want to run into your TA in space that you think is for you and your community? When you were in HS, did you want to run into your teacher at the supermarket? Grad students felt the same.
          2. Lerner 6 (at that time) was in the middle of a massive, internecine battle between many, many of the undergrad departments (your Student Affairs people won in the end, I think), and the last thing GSAS wanted to do was wade into that battle.

          Keep those questions coming, but I do think we looked at lots and lots of past possible solutions.

        • join a zoning commission  

          "So why isn’t the solution to negotiate a “buy-in” of Lerner so what graduate students have the same reservation and access rights?"

          So the solution to massive overuse of space originally intended to serve a certain group of people (undergrads) is to have external groups pay money for it? That's brilliant; who says gentrification can't inside Columbia's campus as well!

        • Other grad centers

          Even CUNY has a graduate student center (the Robert Gilleece Center). It isn't about endowment, it is about allocating funds and dedicated space.

    • Anonymous

      Business School won't leave Uris till the 2017-2020 timeframe now...

  17. ICM

    This needs to happen before I graduate. Social events don't work for everybody. This type of space will allow for a more casual atmosphere in which one may meet and hang out with others.

  18. ...  

    some enterprising graduate student should just start a casual talk email list. cugradtalk or something. would probably do more to build community than any room with a microwave, six computers and dingy not quite work yet not quite play space ever would.

  19. grad student  

    Graduate students would probably be happier people (and happier drunks) if they had somewhere to discuss Kant besides 1020.

    I am a Core instructor who holds office hours on benches outside my building or in the hallway depending on the season. This really sucks. I want space to work and meet with my students.

  20. VIsiting Scholar from Penn

    Columbia desperately needs and deserves a grad center. I was a fellow at the Penn Grad Center and not only did I make friends there but I also met people working on similar topics to my research who are in different departments. Some of us who met through the grad center even formed a conference panel together. Columbia definitely needs this!

  21. Graduate Student  

    I am strongly in support of a Graduate Student Center. It will provide a much-needed community space for students who in many cases do not have any dedicated space for TA office hours and are often living in small apartments with 1 to 2 other students. All of the other ivies have graduate student centers and they are in areas with drastically lower population densities and larger living spaces. This space could also ease the minds of many prospective graduate students who may be daunted by the prospect of moving to NY.

  22. GSAS Student  

    Much needed and long overdue.

  23. Graduate

    Finally!! Columbia please make us proud to be grad students here! When I found out what kind of centers Princeton and Harvard have I felt quite ashamed... Columbia grad students need more "quiet study areas". In 5 years here, I was never given an office not even a carrel! Columbia should respect its grad students...

  24. Graduate Student

    I am entirely in favor of this. It is a little bizarre being up here in Washington Heights with little or no communication or interaction with graduate students in the Morningside Campus. It leads me to feel like I am not part of the Columbia academic community, and am more of a satellite. A center would definitely lead to more interdisciplinary cross pollination, and I think it would be to everybody's benefit.

  25. Anonymous  

    Finally! This is a great way to connect the graduate student population. I've felt so isolated these past few years.....

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