Author Archive

Jan

30

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Tag yourself, we’re the ‘Yes, this is data’

Bwog Science was active yesterday – while new writer Riya covered a film about autism, EIC Betsy Ladyzhets went to a visiting Yale professor’s talk on quantum computing. She has little knowledge of both quantum physics and computing, but was still inspired by Prof. Steven Girvin’s self-described miraculous solution to the problem of quantum computing error.

Quantum physics (i.e. the physics of atoms and subatomic particles) is full of paradoxes. Perhaps the most famous of these is Schrödinger’s cat, a thought experiment devised by Erwin Schrödinger in response to the concept of quantum superpositions. According to this principle, a quantum system such as a photon can exist in multiple states of energy at the same time – until it is observed by the outside world, when it will collapse into one of the possible superimposed states.

Schrödinger demonstrated why he found this principle ridiculous by constructing a feline analogy: imagine a cat is placed in a sealed chamber, along with a measurement device containing a small amount of a radioactive substance and a relay system linking this device to a vial of poisonous acid. An atom of this radioactive substance might decay, which would cause the relay system to shatter the vial, poisoning the cat. But with equal probability, the atom might not decay, in which case the vial would remain intact and the cat would remain alive. However, because the whole thing is inside a sealed container, nobody could know if the cat is dead or alive until they opened the box. In this analogy, the cat is a photon, technically existing in both dead and living states (0 and 1 states) until someone checks on it.

Steven Girvin a professor and vice provost at Yale who studies the quantum mechanics of large collections of atoms, started his talk on quantum computing yesterday by calling attention to paradoxes like that of Schrödinger’s cat. “Is quantum information carried by waves or by particles?” he asked. The audience (of, I gathered, almost entirely physics students), chucked as he announced the answer: “Yes.” Quantum mechanics has come a long way since Schrödinger metaphorically killed (and didn’t kill) a cat, but it hasn’t gotten any less difficult to wrap one’s head around.

What does any of this have to do with computers?

Jan

26

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Overseen in LeFrak

Happening in the World: In Russia, Vladimir Putin is basically running for president against himself, and seems poised for reelection on March 15. The Kremlin is struggling to make the campaign interesting, however; current organizations attempting to “generate buzz” include “I Really Like Putin!”, “For Putin!”, and “Putin Team.” (NYT)

Happening in the US: An Amtrak engineer in Washington state made a fatal mistake yesterday when he failed to sufficiently slow down before going around a curve. The train derailed at a bridge in DuPont, killing three people and injuring 62. (USA Today)

Happening in NYC: In October, 2017, Taylor Swift purchased a townhouse in Tribeca for $18 million. Now, Douglas Elliman, the brokerage firm that facilitated the sale, is suing her for skipping out on its $1 million commission. (Curbed NY)

Happening on Campus: The Black Theater Ensemble is holding auditions tonight and tomorrow night for its spring one act festival! This semester’s theme is “Black to the Future” (or, Afro-futurism). Find more information in their Facebook event.

Overseen: See right. We are all either entirely chill or not chill at all.

Plant of the day: Welwitschia mirabilis is a unique plant that is endemic to (i.e. is only native to) the Namib Desert. It consists of only two leaves, a stem base, and roots, yet can grow to over five feet tall and live up to 2,000 years, and draws all of its water from the desert’s fog. Two samples of this incredible plant currently live in the Barnard Greenhouse!

Photo via Bwog Staff

Jan

19

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img January 19, 20184:44 pmimg 2 Comments

You shall not pass (until you show your ID)

You’ve seen them. You’ve walked past them. You’ve talked to them, albeit briefly. The Public Safety officers who work the Barnard main gate have a hard life, sitting out in the cold for hours on end and bothering drunk students to show their IDs before they can get back to the quad. Betsy Ladyzhets imagines what an eight-hour shift might look like handling this tough job. Please note that Bwog does not condone underage drinking, Sudoku, or wearing flip flops in below-freezing weather.

9:55 pm

Time to start my shift! I’ve got two full cups of coffee, a bag of hand-warmers, and a book of Sudoku to pass the time. What could possibly go wrong?

10:12 pm

I try to start a Sudoku puzzle, but it’s honestly really hard. I scroll through Twitter for twenty minutes instead. Nobody seems to know what’s going on with the Kardashians, which is weird considering there’s an entire TV show about them.

10:36 pm

Bathroom break number one. Maybe I should’ve only had one cup of coffee instead of two.

11:04 pm

The gate into the quad closes at 11 pm. It always has closed at 11 pm, and always will close at 11 pm. The group of angry first-years to which I am politely explaining this information don’t seem too happy about it, but they eventually show me their IDs and stomp on through.

11:47 am

I try to work on a Sudoku puzzle, but whenever I get close to figuring out one of the boxes someone comes up to the gate and I need to check their IDs. Maybe this is a sign that I’m not meant for solving Sudoku puzzles. I’m meant for something greater. Or something involving much less math.

Two hours down, six to go

Jan

19

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img January 19, 20182:13 pmimg 0 Comments

Our former ESC Bureau Chief hard at work

Some Bwoggers cover theater events. Others write comedic shortforms. Still others conduct interviews with interesting students or dig deep into polarizing issues at Columbia. The best and bravest of us, though, are those who take on the ultimate challenge: covering student government.

Bwog has four Bureau Chiefs, one for each of the four undergraduate student councils (CCSC, SGA, ESC, and GSSC). These reporters attend weekly meetings of their respective councils, then describe the meetings in posts that go up on Bwog the next day. This can sometimes mean sticking with CCSC for three hours, parsing through polite debates between SGA and the Barnard administration, or explaining why Legos are just so important to Sid Perkins. Whatever the student councils are discussing, covering their meetings is a noble duty, bringing news of the slow progress of student government to the rest of Columbia. And being a Bureau Chief is an easy entry point both into writing for Bwog (because as long as you take good notes and write clearly, it’s hard to go wrong with student council coverage), and into the Columbia community at large (because you’ll learn a great deal about events and initiatives on campus through the position).

This semester, we have openings for two Bureau Chiefs: ESC (Engineering Student Council) and GSSC (General Studies Student Council). ESC meets on Monday evenings at 9:30 pm, and GSSC meets on Tuesday evenings at 8 pm. You don’t have to be a member of a school to cover their student council (our last ESC and GSSC Bureau Chiefs were both CC students, for example), although sometimes it helps.

No formal application is required for these positions; simply email editor@bwog.com with the student council you would like to cover and why you’re interested in the position. You should also attend our open meeting this Sunday to talk to our current CCSC and SGA Bureau Chiefs, ask questions, and learn more about the roles.

King of the Satow Room via Betsy Ladyzhets

Jan

18

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img January 18, 20183:30 pmimg 0 Comments

Always.

There are two things Bwog can never get enough of: green grapes, and Staff Writers. While Dailies are the backbone of our structure, Staff Writers are the backbone of our content – they pitch ideas for articles, attend events, and generally keep our creative juices flowing.

Staff Writers can be anyone from first-years looking to dip their toes in Columbia journalism to seniors who have a little too much free time their final semester, and anyone from art history majors procrastinating on reading about columns to biology majors who come up with weird conspiracy theories when they’re peering into microscopes for hours. Staff Writers are “required” to write ten posts per semester. This spring, Bwog is particularly hoping to recruit STEM-minded staffers, as we have big plans for expanding our science coverage – email science@bwog.com to learn more about those plans.

If you’re interested, come learn more about Bwog and bring your biggest, baddest pitches to our first open meeting of the semester this Sunday. Then, if you like what you see, fill out the application below.  Applications should be sent to editor@bwog.com by 11:59 pm on Friday, January 26 in the form of a Google doc or .PDF document titled “*First Name* App.”

About Bwog:

  • Tell us about one Bwog post you liked, one post you didn’t like, and why for both.
  • What is your favorite tag?
  • Come up with three sample post ideas that you would like to see on Bwog.
  • Draw Bwog.

About you:

  • Why do you want to join Bwog?
  • What do you think Bwog is?
  • You’re taking Bwog out on a date! What would you do? Where would you go?
  • What about Columbia might you be interested in writing about?
  • Send us a screenshot or list of the bookmarked Favorites on your browser.

Those grapes were green before we de-saturated them for printing purposes, we swear via Betsy Ladyzhets

Jan

17

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img January 17, 201811:38 amimg 2 Comments

Become a Daily and receive nice comments like this one!

Daily Editors are the backbone of Bwog. They assemble our Bwoglines, they write our tags, they keep our site running when the rest of our staff is slacking. Without Dailies, we would be merely a group of forty students crammed around a table in Lerner, shouting dumb pitches at each other. And this semester, we need new people to fill these esteemed positions. (Exact number of new Dailies needed is TBD; it will be announced at Sunday’s meeting.)

Each Daily Editor is responsible for managing Bwog on one day each week. This includes sending out a lineup the night before, writing Bwoglines, announcements, and breaking news posts, editing and scheduling posts by staff writers, and cross-posting to Facebook and Twitter. Yes, it means you get to write the tags. Dailying is a great position in particular for first-years who haven’t yet sold their soul to any particular student group and are looking to get more involved at Columbia; through the position, you would learn a great deal about what’s happening on campus.

If you’re interested, fill out the application below and send it to editor@bwog.com by 11:59 pm on Friday, January 26 in the form of a Google doc or .PDF document titled “*First Name* App.” But before you do that, you might want to come check out our first open meeting this Sunday, January 21 at 9 pm in Lerner 510.

Here’s the application:

About Bwog:

  • Tell us about one Bwog post you liked, one post you didn’t like, and why for both.
  • What is your favorite tag?
  • Come up with three sample post ideas that you would like to see on Bwog.
  • Draw Bwog.

About you:

  • Why do you want to join Bwog?
  • What do you think Bwog is?
  • You’re taking Bwog out on a date! What would you do? Where would you go?
  • What about Columbia might you be interested in writing about?
  • Send us a screenshot of the open tabs on your browser.
  • What three days work best for you to Daily?

Poster via former Daily Betsy Ladyzhets

Jan

16

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img January 16, 201811:37 amimg 0 Comments

Roone is the most northern Broadway theater, right?

Are you invited to approximately 900 student productions on Facebook every semester? Do you spend chilly weekend mornings in midtown rushing Broadway shows? Have you ever read a Bwog arts review and thought, “Wow, I could do so much better?” If you answered yes to any of those questions, we have the position for you.

Bwog is currently seeking a new Arts Editor, to help us get more in touch with our artistic side. In the interest of improving our relationships with performing arts groups on campus, we’ve opened up applications beyond Bwog’s current staff and are hoping to find a new Arts Editor who is already connected to the performing arts community.  However, there are no requirements for the position; anyone with writing skills and an interest in the arts is welcome to apply.

The basic responsibilities of the Arts Editor are as follows:

  • Compiles Where Art Thou each week.
  • Responsible for editing arts posts and ensuring writers are properly covering those events.
  • Responsible for preparing writers for new or challenging arts posts and reviews, by providing examples, advice, and formatting help.
  • Fosters positive relationships with arts communities and initiatives.
  • Attends weekly staff meetings (Sundays at 9 pm in Lerner 510) and occasional editors meetings (also Sundays, at 8:30 pm in Lerner 510).
  • Stays sober enough during the Varsity Show to write a review afterwards.

The application is embedded below, and can also be found here. Applications are due at 11:59 pm on Friday, January 26, and should be sent to editor@bwog.com in the form of a Google doc or .PDF document titled “*First Name* App.”

Any questions can be directed to editor@bwog.com or asked in person at our first open meeting of the semester this coming Sunday, January 21.

Our favorite street via Public domain pictures

Dec

19

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img December 19, 20172:38 pmimg 0 Comments

Yesterday, Dr. William Harris, a Columbia professor of Greco-Roman history, retired, as was announced in an email to students in the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences. This retirement was part of the settlement of a sexual harassment lawsuit filed in October. An anonymous graduate student alleged that Dr. Harris repeatedly kissed and groped her, requested sexual intercourse, and disparaged her to other members of the department when she refused. She reported his behavior to colleagues and university officials, then sued the university when she was unsatisfied with the response she received. Several other students have since come forward with similar accusations against Dr. Harris.

The lawyer representing this anonymous student claimed that this retirement is a victory, as the New York Times reported. But it is in actuality more of a formality, as Dr. Harris stepped down from teaching and student advising on October 30, after news of the lawsuit became public.

In the email announcing Dr. Harris’ retirement, GSAS Deans David Madigan and Carlos Alonso wrote that they are “deeply committed to supporting all of [their] students, protecting them from harassment of any kind, and ensuring that [their] academic community is a safe and respectful place.” But these words ring hollow when one considers the fact that Dr. Harris “continued to spend time” in the history department offices in Fayerweather after he stepped down from teaching, yet did not face any consequences from Columbia, according to Kellen Heniford, a student of this department.

“I cannot overstate what a punch in the gut it has been – what kind of literal, visceral pain it has caused – to me and to other female students to have seen Richard Harris in the physical spaces of the [history] department over the past several months,” Heniford said.

Dr. Harris was teaching an undergraduate lecture course earlier this semester, and stepped down from it along with his other academic duties on October 30. He is listed in the Columbia directory as a professor in the history department, not a graduate-specific professor. However, undergrad students were not notified of Dr. Harris’ retirement, and were generally kept in the dark about the ongoing lawsuit.

UPDATE, 3:20 pm: We have received a statement from Olga Brudastova, a PhD student in Civil Engineering and GWC Bargaining Committee Member, on behalf of the GWC-UAW union. Brudastova wrote that the way in which Columbia has handled this case “further highlight the flaws in the existing system that so often fails to protect members of the Columbia community against sexual assault and harassment.” She also expressed that the graduate student union hopes to negotiate for “stronger protections and recourse against sexual harassment,” and will do so if Columbia recognizes their vote to unionize.

Read the email sent to GSAS students and the full statement from GWC-UAW after the jump

Dec

17

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img December 17, 20172:39 pmimg 7 Comments

Ben, Doug, and guests Gabby and Yasmeen recording an episode

When new EIC Betsy Ladyzhets learned about StarBites, an astrophysics podcast run by several space-minded Columbia undergrads, she knew she had to interview them for Bwog. StarBites was started by Douglas Grion, CC ‘20, Ben Hord, CC ‘18, Andy Tzanidakis, GS ‘18, and Brian Smallshaw, CC ‘19, but its episodes (all of which are now up on SoundCloud) feature several other members of the Columbia astrophysics department, discussing space-related topics from E.T. to women in STEM. In this interview, the podcast’s creators explain how they started StarBites, how episodes are put together, and their plans for future expansion.

Bwog: What is StarBites? Give me a short summary.

Ben Hord: It’s a podcast about space for people who love the cosmos,.

Doug Grion: It explains stuff about astronomy that we think is cool in a way that other people will be interested in it.

Andy Tzanidakis: We want to give the perspective that, as undergrad students in astronomy, we can explain things to other people that are maybe a bit simpler to understand, while also going in depth enough to make things interesting.

Brian Smallshaw: When we say “astrophysics,” it’s a pretty daunting subject for most people, but when you break it down subject to subject without the math, it’s pretty easy to understand. So, the podcast is a way for us to have fun and talk about stuff we like to talk about with each other, and also for us to show other people what those conversations are like and what we do.

Bemoaning the size of a Schapiro single, nearly burning down Pupin, and more after the jump

Dec

4

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img December 04, 20171:58 pmimg 1 Comments

This semester, a truly impressive number of fast-casual eateries have made their stake in Morningside Heights, many of them right on top of each other. First, Junzi Kitchen opened over the summer at 113th and Broadway, offering build-your-own Northern Chinese-style noodle bowls and (more recently) late nights with better booze than Mel’s. Then, Shake Shack opened its doors on 116th and Broadway just in time for NSOP, including a menu of local items such as “Heights Bites” and “Pie Oh My.” Then, about a month later, we began to see signs of a Panda Express on 111th and Broadway, as well as an H-mart at 110th. We wondered if these new East Asian eateries had something to do with the demise of Ollies, a Chinese restaurant that used to occupy Shake Shack’s current location.

In November, we discovered that a Pret a Manger was coming in as well, taking up residence right between University Stationers and Morton Williams. This store managed to get its shit together faster than a senior writing their entire thesis in one week, and opened only two weeks later, with breakfast and lunch giveaways the day before its official opening that had students lining up along Broadway. (Also like a senior writing their entire thesis in one week, Pret seems to be suffering from doing too much too fast; a sign in the store’s window this morning announced that they are temporarily closed due to a lack of hot water.)

Panda Express opened the day before Pret’s “soft opening,” greeting us with a friendly panda mascot on our walks into campus from 110. We’re still waiting on more news from H-mart, which appears to be nearing completion.

We’ve always known that MoHi secretly wants to be the Upper East Side, but this semester’s openings have really cemented that this neighborhood is giving in to gentrification and letting the chains take over. However, we’re optimistic that our longtime faves, like Absolute, Tom’s, and Hungarian, will stay strong enough to give us at least some claim to originality. And we’re hopeful that, among all of these new casual restaurants, a dive bar will slide its way in – we’ve replaced Ollies and Deluxe, sure, but something still needs to replace Cannon’s.

See photos of the new stores after the jump

Nov

29

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img November 29, 20175:30 pmimg 0 Comments

Can you see the stars?

A few weeks ago, we developed @notbwog, a Twitter bot that imitates Bwog headlines through a randomized generator based on our actual Twitter. This past weekend, the bot tweeted a headline so hauntingly excellent, we knew we had to develop it into an actual post. Managing Editor Betsy Ladyzhets ran this headline through several more random generators, ten rounds of Google Translate, and a couple of dril-inspired conversation programs. The results… may surprise you.

It is a cold and terror-filled night. You sit in your dorm room, scrolling through Facebook and nursing a beer stolen from your roommate’s mini-fridge. It tastes of fizz and piss and something heavier, something that sits beneath your tongue like the air just before a storm.

The wifi goes out. You stare at your laptop for a moment – but Facebook is stuck, frozen on the same pane. Your little cousin frowning at an ice cream cone she has dropped into her lap. Her bright green dress stained with chocolate. You refresh, and the page goes white, then tells you something has gone wrong. You reach forward, hoping blindly to knock some sense into the machine, and send your beer flying. Yellow-brown spills over the sides of your desk and onto your roommate’s soft, white rug, as though the asshole who lives three doors down broke in and pissed, just for fun. That’s the story you’ll tell your roommate tomorrow.

Something has gone wrong.

Nov

28

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img November 28, 20173:32 pmimg 7 Comments

Pret getting ready for business

The Pret A Manger storefront next to Shake Shack has become increasingly developed over the past couple of weeks, since we discovered that this chain would be opening a store just off campus. And it appears that those renovations will be complete very soon: Pret will be opening this Friday, December 1, a representative told us earlier today.

The eatery has also planned a soft opening for this Thursday, November 30, with giveaways taking place from 8 to 10 am and from 11 am to 1 pm. What will they be giving away? How many of those mystery items will be available? Why the break from 10 to 11 am? We don’t know, but we’re excited to find out.

Photo via Bwog Staff

Nov

14

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img November 14, 20172:56 pmimg 30 Comments

Edited, 11/14/17, 7:46 pm to reflect further investigation.

Early last Friday, Bwog received an anonymous tip from a member of the Barnard/Columbia theater community. This student claimed that a member of the creative team sexually assaulted her in spring of 2016. Student theater leaders who chose the creative team knew of the assault before appointing this member. The member himself was unaware of the allegation until Friday. The tipster wrote that despite alerting the leaders who chose the creative team member that he had assaulted her, he appeared “set to stay in his role”, because the rest of the creative team said they could not forcibly remove him without a formal complaint and investigation by the university. She encouraged Bwog to warn other students, “especially women”, against getting involved with this year’s show.

Other members of the theater community both within and outside of Bwog confirmed the tipster’s story, stating that they knew of other instances of sexual harassment perpetrated by the creative team member. Later that day, after discussions between the Varsity Show creative team and other students in the theater community close to the tipster, the accused member stepped down from the team. A public announcement on this change was made via the Varsity Show’s Facebook page.

That night, we received a statement from the student who stepped down. He explained that he stepped down because he “didn’t want the shadows of these allegations to weigh on the rest of the team.” This student “disputed” the tipster’s account, yet stated that “the most important thing to acknowledge right now is that [the tipster’s] pain is real”, and that he was “committed to reevaluating [his] understanding of relationships and boundaries.”

Although the accused student did not want his allegations to weigh on the rest of the Varsity Show team, in the minds of many members of the Columbia theater community, this issue is far from over. Several other theater organizations have been putting pressure on both the Varsity Show and CUPAL (the Columbia University Performing Arts League) to reconsider community guidelines regarding sexual respect. CUPAL is not a an advisory or governing board for performance groups, merely an umbrella organization that facilitates discussion between groups and helps to advise and advocate for these groups. Students in the theater community tend to view CUPAL as an organization with a great deal of power, however, particularly in this situation, as several integral members of the Varsity Show team are also closely tied to CUPAL.

On Monday, CUPAL has announced that it will be creating community guidelines; a town hall will be held this weekend with members of the CUPAL board, as well as its member organizations to discuss these guidelines. We reached out to CUPAL leadership for a statement, and were told that they will not be releasing a statement at this time.

The incident has also inspired many student groups in the performing arts community to create or revise similar guidelines.

Read the full tips we received from the alleged survivor and perpetrator after the jump

Nov

1

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img November 01, 201711:30 amimg 3 Comments

Solidarity

Spending time in Columbia spaces as a Barnard student can often be intimidating and stressful, but we can always manage to find guys who make us feel as though we belong. Senior staffer Betsy Ladyzhets explains the phenomenon of the “Columbia Boys I Trust” list.

This past Sunday, as I considered the events of the previous night, I came to an important revelation: there were two guys I needed to add to my “Columbia Boys I Trust” list.

The “Columbia Boys I Trust” list isn’t an official document by any means. It’s not taped to a notebook, stuck on my fridge with a magnet, or even hidden in a secret file in the bowels of my computer. The list is all internal. I believe that if I wrote it down, it would somehow become less genuine, or at least lose its natural ability to grow without me consciously realizing it.

The list began some time around the end of my freshman year, when I realized that there were two guy friends whom I could always count on to swipe me into JJ’s (this was, for you underclassmen, back when Barnard students couldn’t swipe themselves into JJ’s at all). My friendship with these two people extended beyond access to fried food, of course; I could also count on them to laugh at my terrible jokes, let me rant to them about how frustrated I was by my First-Year Seminar, and listen to me read aloud from the comment sections of my fan fiction. A JJ’s swipe was important, but more important were the conversations we had inside JJ’s – conversations that made me feel as though I belonged there.

But this isn’t an isolated phenomenon…

Oct

10

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img October 10, 20174:21 pmimg 3 Comments

Maggie 2 proudly standing in her sister’s place on planting day last spring

Bwog has done lecturehops, peoplehops, clubhops, and roomhops, but this is our first time “hopping” an entity far greater than ourselves: the Barnard magnolia tree. But wait, you might ask – didn’t that tree die last year? In fact, while Maggie’s main body may be gone, her spirit and her genetic material live on. Senior staffer Betsy Ladyzhets talked to Greenhouse manager Nick Gershberg, who gave her all of the leafy details.

Almost two years ago, the Barnard campus stood still as Maggie, our beloved magnolia tree, was uprooted from her home in front of Lehman Hall, hoisted into the air with a forklift, and moved 30 feet to the left. Although administrators and horticulturists alike were optimistic that the tree would survive the move, the ensuing winter proved fatal. Maggie was pronounced dead that following summer, and the campus mourned the loss of one of its greatest hallmarks (and best crying spot).

However, what many Barnard students don’t know is, the magnolia was never entirely dead. Before the move took place, student workers at the Arthur Ross Greenhouse, led by Greenhouse Manager Nick Gershberg, took five cuttings of the tree. Two of those cuttings grew into saplings that are full clones of Maggie; one of them was planted on the Diana lawn last spring, and the other lives in the greenhouse.

“Whenever you move a large tree, even a tree substantially stronger than [the Barnard magnolia], there’s always a chance that it might not make it,” Nick explained to me yesterday. “The administrators who were responsible for its move decided that it might be a good idea to take some cuttings as a fail-safe.”

What does Maggie’s future look like?

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