Jan

23

What IS Wrong, Columbia?

Written by

As we mentioned before, last night was CCSC’s kick-off 2012 event, “What’s Wrong, Columbia?” This morning, Kem Walker gave a more lyrical take of it. Now, Sarah Ngu and Maren Killackey bring some hard numbers to the table (which is good, because scientific truth is the only truth with any value).

Sunday night’s townhall was the first glimpse of the much-anticipated “revamping” of Council meetings, after last semester’s hubbub. Around 45 people sat in a big circle, a good portion of whom were non-Council. There was a contingent from the Occupy scene. People griped, and even Council members had meaningful ideas to put out there… although, of course, not everyone we elected to Council made it there.

People’s gripes, grouped:

  • Housing Facilities: 3
  • Classroom facilities: 2
  • Tech: 1
  • Ferris: 1
  • Administration: 7
  • Financial Aid: 2
  • Disabilities: 2
  • Transfer students: 1
  • Space: 3
  • Culture/Student body: 7
  • University swallowing college: 2

Housing Facilities

  • Carman bathroom are not regularly cleaned
  • McBain and Schapiro have really uneven heating

Classroom Facilities

  • Really old desks in math
  • Hamilton elevator too small and its such a crowded locale

Tech

  • “Why is our tech so bad? I mean, CUIT, SSOL, what the hell is that?”

Ferris Staircase

  • “I can’t walk up & down it without spilling my omlette”

Administration

  • Faculty does not have input into administrative decisions like fin aid & admissions
  • There is a lack of communication between diff. depts like Fin Aid & Academic Depts
  • Good resources do not have good outreach (CPS, Alice)

Lack of transparency in funding

  • Admin does not treat you as a holistic person but as broken up into “sections” like “health” or “career”

Financial Aid

  • CU didn’t come to any college fair in my low-income public school
  • Fin Aid didn’t tell me my summer work expectation until midway through the summer (and they nearly doubled it!)

Disabilities

  • Our buildings are not disabilities-compliant. (Ryan Mandelbaum relays story of a woman on a wheelchair who had to hobble down the stairs of Pupin for every class)

Transfer students

  • Lack of effort to make sure that transfer students transition well into community compared to NSOP

Culture/student body

  • Lack of interaction between different groups (i.e. cultural ones)
  • Over-dependence on study drugs
  • Neighbors don’t treat each other as neighbors; people rely on RA to intervene

Space

  • Existing spaces for hangouts (i.e. lounges) need refurbishment to be more welcoming
  • Student population has grown tremendously but there is a lack of space in housing and classrooms
  • Lack of “student-controlled” space to just hangout

CCE

  • Why so many finance postings

University

  • College feels drowned out in larger University, especially in expansion of Manhattanville which seems to mainly benefit grad schools

Funny

  • CU cares too much about its prestige and promotes an ‘imperial’ air (ie all the crowns)

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63 Comments

  1. Anonymous

    Ferris Staircase: “I can’t walk up & down it without spilling my omlette”

    LOL!

  2. Anonymous

    Please add: Bwog uses very difficult captcha system that sometimes requires hebrew and french characters.

  3. Anonymous  

    I don't mind the Ferris staircase. What I mind is the quality of food there.

  4. Anonymous  

    hamilton elevators ughhhhh

    • Um  

      "Hamilton elevator too small and its such a crowded locale"
      This isn't something that can actually be fixed. It's just an issue of how the building was originally constructed. Most of the original McKim, Mead, and White buildings have elevators of similar size (think Philosophy, Kent, Fayerweather, Avery, even Low Library). Replacing those elevators with larger ones would require gutting significant portions of neighboring offices/classrooms *all the way up the elevator shaft* as well as somehow magically making Narnia space for all those utility pipes which were designed to be housed next to the original shaft.

      tl;dr It's not feasible, almost all prewar buildings can't be renovated to have larger elevators, #SEASproblems
      I do, however, support replacing it with a faster elevator. Again, this too may be restricted by existing design specs.

  5. Anonymous  

    limited on campus job options for international students

  6. Anonymous  

    Great layout/reporting as usual, Sarah!

  7. Response from Cranky Guy

    "Carman bathroom are not regularly cleaned"

    Here's an idea, don't be slobs, you horny drunks!

    "McBain and Schapiro have really uneven heating"

    They're called windows.

    "Really old desks in math"

    Just because it's old doesn't mean it's broken.

    "Hamilton elevator too small and its such a crowded locale"

    Fatty can't walk up 8 stories?

    “Why is our tech so bad? I mean, CUIT, SSOL, what the hell is that?”

    Believe me, there are worse tech setups out there. Cough cough Windows XP with IE 6 cough cough.

    “I can’t walk up & down it without spilling my omlette”

    Yeah, that whole building sucks. Know anybody willing to donate $90 million for a new one?

    "Faculty does not have input into administrative decisions like fin aid & admissions"

    It's called grades and letters of recommendation.

    "There is a lack of communication between diff. depts like Fin Aid & Academic Depts"

    Again, grades.

    "Good resources do not have good outreach (CPS, Alice)"

    Columbia is not here to hold your hand. You know where we are.

    "Admin does not treat you as a holistic person but as broken up into “sections” like “health” or “career”"

    Yeah, I totally want my doctor to advise me on my LitHum essay.

    "CU didn’t come to any college fair in my low-income public school"

    Do you know how many low-income public schools there are?!?!? And you do realize that *somebody* needs to pay for our need-blind policy.

    "Fin Aid didn’t tell me my summer work expectation until midway through the summer (and they nearly doubled it!)"

    The magic of loans and an off-campus job.

    "Our buildings are not disabilities-compliant."

    I assume that your friend went on a campus tour before coming here.

    "Lack of effort to make sure that transfer students transition well into community compared to NSOP"

    HA HA HA HA HA!!! NSOP builds community? LOL LOL LOL LOL 1!1

    "Lack of interaction between different groups (i.e. cultural ones)"

    Imagine there's no countries, It isn't hard to do, Nothing to kill or die for, And no religion too...

    "Over-dependence on study drugs"

    You're doing it wrong.

    "Neighbors don’t treat each other as neighbors; people rely on RA to intervene"

    That's the whole point of RA's.

    "Existing spaces for hangouts (i.e. lounges) need refurbishment to be more welcoming"

    Day 1: renovated lounge with cool stuff!
    Day 2: lounge trashed, cool furniture "borrowed" by floor residents (I'm looking at you, Wien)

    "Student population has grown tremendously but there is a lack of space in housing and classrooms"

    It's a crowded city. And we still meet the fire code.

    "Lack of “student-controlled” space to just hangout"

    Okay, we get it, like I said before, can you give us $90 million for a new building?

    "Why so many finance postings"

    Cause supply meets demand.

    "College feels drowned out in larger University, especially in expansion of Manhattanville which seems to mainly benefit grad schools"

    Undergraduates at Columbia: 8,103
    Everybody else: 20,118

    Deal with it.

    "CU cares too much about its prestige and promotes an ‘imperial’ air (ie all the crowns)"

    So?

    • ...  

      i have a few more to add...

      * going to class is sometimes inconvenient
      * there is a dearth of free beer on this campus
      * the free massage infrastructure could be improved. the massages that are available are only for 15 minutes and are fully clothed. i want my massages to be at least an hour long, by a trained new york state license massage therapist on a proper massage table.
      * why is the technology so bad on this campus? sometimes when i log into ssol it tells me that the classes i want are full.
      * 100 pages a week is not a true bottomless print quota, guys.
      * the staff at the butler media center are unbelievably rude, when i called them up and asked them to deliver caddyshack 2 to my room, they rudely refused.
      * the bodegas around here refuse to deliver beer and cigarettes

    • CC'11

      I'd do 4 years of college again any day of the week.

    • Agreed

      Excellent post by CrankyGuy! Hate to burst your bubble but why should Columbia focus just on undergrads? The university community is made up of so much more. If you take a look at "university rankings", much of that is formed by research and the patents that come from it, not from undergrad surveys. Strong research attracts top professors (many of whom come here to do research, not necessarily to teach), students with high test scores etc etc (another ranking criterion), and, of course, funding. There are many fine "teaching led", "undergraduate oriented" schools in the state, e.g.. Vassar, Williams, Sarah Lawrence, that are built around the undergraduate experience and that would undoubtedly address many of your concerns as students who are in a large research-led university. Seriously, you may be thinking differently in a few years - I was one of you just a couple of years back when I was a student in a university in Australia. Your feelings and thoughts are legitimate, but there's a bigger picture...

  8. suggestion  

    hamilton: could we build a little "lounge" area with a vending machine and computers/printers in the building? a la lerner? bc when youre in between classes sometimes lerner is just too far away

  9. moral

    of this story—nothing changes, ever.

  10. Big Idea  

    I contest the point titled "Over-dependence on study drugs".

    Dextro-amphetamine's presence is emphasized on campus by people who speculate about its use and worry about curves, not by people who use it. People assume that, as a rule, dextro-amphetamine is purchased illegally or used as a "study drug". People fail to realize that some Columbia students actually have disorders affecting attention, and that while this is not a huge portion, neither is the portion of people using related medications without a prescription. The all-too-common perspective here, as with many populations who base their "knowledge" on media-sourced anecdotes instead of statistics and scientific data, is paranoia leading to a belief that most students at Columbia are using it and getting ahead. This is patently false.

  11. Anonymous  

    how about some f'ing band practice rooms

  12. hey girl  

    i just wanna know, are you just looking to hook up? or have a relationship? because i just want a sex buddy. would it be bad if i just asked this to you? if you would be ok with this, press thumbs up, otherwise thumbs down

  13. I don't know why  

    The "imperial air" comment is listed here under "funny". I am not the person who raised the point, nor do I agree with it entirely, but I was in the room and feel that the person who made that comment was being sincere. I don't think he/she would appreciate the comment being categorized in such a manner.

    • The crowns are not "imperial"  

      they are HISTORICAL. You *do* know that Columbia was originally King's College, right?

      • CC 2011 History Major

        And you do know it was named after King George, the imperial monarch of England don't you? King's College was a result of a colonial and imperial project. It's impressive that you can condescendingly cite history in an attempt to refute this obvious truism about Columbia, pretending that colonialism and intellectual hubris weren't central to the founding of this university. Not the mention the fact that after the revolution it was renamed after a serial mass murderer who was re-branded as a visionary intellectual discoverer. But Columbia can't be imperialist anymore right? We've made so much progress as a civilization since then right? We're liberal and going GLOBAL right?

  14. uh  

    #128: Not enough smart cute jewish/half jew girls in seas.

    - seas guy who likes cute jewish/half jew girls in seas.

  15. uhhh  

    why didn't the person in the wheelchair just use the elevator

  16. Anonymous

    I like all the crowns everywhere, very regal.

  17. Anonymous  

    A big problem I have is not being to use wireless everywhere on campus. Especially in Mudd, which is ironic, considering its an engineering building. I have also never been able to use wireless in the law school, on any device I own (tablet, laptop, or phone).

  18. Anonymous

    We need more TVs and lounges and benches so I can just sleep everywhere.

  19. poop  

    The biggest problem here is the administration. There are too many pencil-pushing do-nothing staffers, too many offices performing vague, redundant, or pointless functions, and not enough professors, researchers, or classrooms. Go into any office in Kent or Lerner or Low, and then ask yourself why we need to expand the campus. For more classroom space? We have the classroom space right here, but all of these erstwhile or potential classrooms are now occupied by eight or nine bureaucrats who are drawing full salary and benefits. Meanwhile, we are paying adjuncts and visiting professors hardly anything, and jettisoning them after four years, before they can receive tenure. What's more, the administration (which we've replaced our professors with) doesn't give a SHIT about us. If I paid $200,000 for a car, I'd be getting phone calls from the manager of the dealership once a month to make sure everything is running well. Instead, everybody - from the security guards to the upper officials - treats me like a non-person at best, and is openly rude to me at worst. I had a professor STOP COMING TO CLASS midway through freshman year, (i.e., about halfway through the Lit/Hum sequence) and when we complained to the office of the core, they told us that they were sorry, that they couldn't force the professor to come back - nor, apparently, replace him, as there were no free professors; we still took the final, six weeks later, having never gone over half the material. Maybe he was ill or had (recurrent) personal crises (unlikely; all throughout his absence, he was emailing us to organize make-up classes to which he never came). But someone ought to have stepped in and made sure that the class was taught, at least. Everything I've ever complained about has been handled the same way - "We can't do anything about it," even when that's clearly not the case.

    My point is, college is not a resalable good like a house; it's not an investment, but an astronomically expensive service that is notoriously difficult to opt out of (ask a transfer student). We, Columbia College, are paying the budgets of all the other schools at Columbia with our tuition (except maybe Barnard). We're one school out of many in the same way that New York City is just one town out of many in the state of New York. Is it hopelessly crass to come in and say that we deserve better because we pay more? Yes, but it's also true. I want better value for my money. Let's start hiring professors left and right. It's not like we don't have the money, and the academic jobs market is a horrorshow - why aren't we investing in our academic future, while improving the lives of our desperate grad students? Why isn't our student-to-faculty ratio lower? Why isn't Principles of Econ taught like Lit Hum - 12 students to a section, with occasional large-scale lectures for the whole course? Surely we could have enough professors to abolish the large lecture altogether.

    It seems to me that we're missing an opportunity. In a shitty economy, we're sitting on billions - and we're spending it on real estate acquisitions and expansion of our bureaucracy. Which is shitty.

    • Anonymous  

      cool story bro, tell it again

      But really. you made some good points. Just condense. Nobody is going to read that entire thing.

    • The Admin  

      "We, Columbia College, are paying the budgets of all the other schools at Columbia with our tuition (except maybe Barnard)."
      Absolutely not true.

      "Why isn’t Principles of Econ taught like Lit Hum – 12 students to a section, with occasional large-scale lectures for the whole course?"
      Why did you choose to attend college at research university instead of a liberal arts college?

    • Ummm...  

      If all your grad-student professors have been good, you need to take a moment to realize how lucky you are. Hiring more grad students is NOT the answer. I learned more from the 300-person Principles lectures than I have in almost any class I have taken at Columbia. Meanwhile, UW? Godawful grad-student professor who treated us like sh**, and her writing was worse than mine. CC? Miserable. My professor didn't know anything about the material and I can honestly say I walked out having learned absolutely nothing. Lit Hum I got lucky-- I had a tenured full professor who was brilliant and I learned a ton from her. This is not to say that all tenured professors are good teachers (to the contrary in fact...) but I have yet to have a grad student professor who actually taught me something valuable.

    • Reality

      Once some of you begin moving on to grad school (and out of the "the college should be the core of the university" bubble), you may find that the University does put a lot of resources into the college. Most MA students are not funded and have to pay 50k a year out of their own pockets - much of this is used to fund undergraduate tuition. A lot of graduate students feel divorced from the campus community because it's almost exclusively catered to undergraduates (clubs, societies, housing, etc.). They don't even have a graduate student center like what students in peer schools do. And all these online resources (e.g. BWOG, Culpa, and even stuff in the Spectator) are all primarily undergrad-orientated. Graduate education and research is what gives any leading university its reputation, and it's only common sense to want to create the space to achieve that. With reputation come star professors, bigger endowments etc etc that may benefit undergrads. It's all about investment for the future and creating the space that we are so starved of. Yes, Columbia isn't perfect, but assuming that the College pays "the budget of all the other schools" is a tremendous exaggeration - CC is one of the more generous undergrad schools around, and anyway, the administration doesn't cover the fact that it is an expensive school. There are many other good schools in the US to which applicants can apply/could have applied. Yes, CC is an integral part of the campus and gives it its "spirit", but remember that a research-led (as opposed to teaching-led) university's purpose is expand research at the highest levels.

  20. FWIW  

    While perhaps on the surface Manhattanville appears only to support the grad schools, its purpose is largely to open up the spaces those grad schools currently occupy in Morningside for undergraduate use.

    more space in Manhattanville = more space in Morningside.

    • maybe  

      that remains to be seen. Most of the space that is opened up will be going to faculty and lab space. That is not a bad thing at all - it just means that undergraduates are not, as a given, getting to benefit directly from that space. Additionally, the methods of earmarking that space for undergraduate is very difficult to accomplish due to the Senate rules which dictate that sort of thing and that undergraduates only have a handful of votes out of over 100 senators.

  21. Tracy

    I agree with the really old desks in math. They are really uncomfortable! It can be hard to focus on learning for the whole class.

  22. wow  

    this post is so much better than Kem's. actually readable.

  23. adsf

    Ugh. I feel dumber for having read that.

    You sound like that NYU student who made the news recently.

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