Senior Wisdom: Renée Kraiem
See: field notes

See: field notes

Another lovely Bwogger shares their Wisdom. If you’ve ever needed some guidance on sunburns, free sweatshirts, or the day after Bacchanal, Renée Kraiem is the woman to talk to.

Name, School, Major: Renée Kraiem, BC ‘14, English

Claim to fame: More famous for getting outed on Bwog than working for it, apparently.

Where are you going? Literally nowhere. I’ll be finishing up credits next fall under a conditional mandate from my parents that I participate in absolutely nothing extra­curricular and make at least what looks like an attempt to become gainfully employed.

What are 3 things you learned at Columbia and would like to share with the Class of 2018?

1. Send a follow­up email. During NSOP I signed up to get updates for how to get involved with The Varsity Show, and, after never receiving any of said updates, wrote it off as a place to get involved. Through a series of happy accidents I ended up the Stage Manager of the 119th Annual Varsity Show, which gave me a family here and changed the way I think about myself and my career. If only I’d sent a follow­up email, maybe I’d have three sweatshirts instead of two.

Tell us more!

Senior Wisdom: Peter Sterne

Peter Sterne

Another former Bwogger is here to spread their Wisdom: Peter Sterne, who once told the New York Times that “The nice thing is if the world does end tonight, we don’t have to take our finals tomorrow.”

Name, Hometown, School, Major: Peter Sterne, Greenwich, CT, Columbia College, Anthropology

Claim to fame: I was one of Bwog’s managing editors. I hopped lectures, discovered that hammocks are anti-colonial, and briefly turned Bwog into a radio show. I can also tell you who pays interns.

Where are you going? To Connecticut for a few weeks until I find a sublet in the city, and then back to the city to do journalism.

What are 3 things you learned at Columbia and would like to share with the Class of 2018?

1) It’s good to be critical, but not self-critical. One of the great things about Columbians is that they think critically about, well, everything. From CC discussions to Bwog comments to Spec op-eds and protests on College Walk, Columbians like to think question and problematize the world. But when that criticism turns inward, it can become toxic and paralyzing. You should interrogate your privileges and examine your choices, but don’t let that turn into self-hate. Just be confident in yourself. Of course, you don’t want to overboard and become entitled, believing that people deserve to talk to you or sleep with you just because you’re nice and you go to Columbia and you’ll wait all night for them next to Alma Mater… But do be confident in yourself.

Teach me how to be, Peter!

Senior Wisdom: Conor Skelding
Conor Skelding

Conor Skelding

Future journalists listen up. This next Senior Wisdom is from Conor Skelding, famous in the journalistic community for his baby blues.

Name, Hometown, School, Major: Conor Skelding, River Forest, IL, Columbia College, English

Claim to fame: Published all sorts of stuff (at Bwog and The Blue and White for 3.5 years, at the Lion for 0.5.). Preserved institutional memory by reviving WikiCU. Led COÖP trips.

Where are you going? Continuing to cover City Hall for Capital New York.

What are 3 things you learned at Columbia and would like to share with the Class of 2018?

1. It’s as important to be for something as against something. (I’m not saying, “Don’t judge,” “Don’t be a hater,” or, “It’s all relative.” There is plenty to be against. I’m only saying that it is as important to build up the good as tear down evil.)

2. If you become highly involved in “the Columbia community,” it can be a fun sandbox to play in—only remember that it is a sandbox. There are, campus politicians (both administrators and students), campus news media, lots of scandals, etc., so it’s easy to get wrapped up in Morningside Heights. But a big shot on campus is not a world-historical figure. Remember that there is a city out there.

Advice to future campus reporters?

Senior Wisdom: Raphaëlle Debenedetti
Raph, living the life

Raph, living the life

Up next for a Senior Wisdom, we have another of Bwog’s own: Raphaëlle Debenedetti, mastermind behind one-thousand-and-twenty.

Name, School, Major, Hometown: Raph(aëlle) Deben(edetti), Columbia College, Philosophy & Political Theory. Go to answer since Fall 2010: “I’m a French-American from London.”

Claim to fame: (Failed to have) Made One Thousand and Twenty (1,020) a thing. If the 1(,0)20th Varsity Show has a line about it, that counts as a thing, right?

Where are you going? Right now, to Hamdel to get coconut water and ask Saoul for a Lewinsky. Later, to relocate in another Columbia (DC) and work in anti-corruption law. Much later, wherever my feet take me.

What are 3 things you learned at Columbia and would like to share with the Class of 2018?

It’s hard not to be cheesy for this one (that’s what she said…when she answered the “oral sex or cheese” question!)

1) Life is like a game of Chess.

You win some, you lose some. And if you aren’t loosing, you need a new opponent. Learn from your defeats as much as from your victories. With time you will know how to make each move count. Speaking of which, go talk to Ademar and Moise, the two incredible human beings who play chess in front of Orens. I promise you, it’s worth it.

But I’m waiting for a joke about change…

Senior Wisdom: Alexandra Svokos

For our final wave of Senior Wisdoms, we’ll be hearing from a group of people near and dear to our hearts: graduating Bwoggers. Up first to share her wisdom with the world is Alexandra Svokos, former Bwog Editor in Chief and future ruler of the world.


Alexandra Svokos

Name, Hometown, School, Major: Alexandra Svokos, Franklin Lakes, NJ, CC, Economics and Creative Writing

Claim to fame: I got a little involved in college journalism. But you probably know me as that annoying opera fanatic. Or something.

Where are you going? All the way to the top.

What are 3 things you learned at Columbia and would like to share with the Class of 2018?

1. Sometimes nonfiction writing workshops are quicker and more effective than CPS appointments.

2. Don’t stay friends with anyone who kisses you and calls it a mistake.

3. You guys are so weird. Also a serious word of advice because a surprising amount of people don’t get this: if you put your name on something on the Internet while you are in school — even if it’s just on a college news blog — it will stay there forever (yes, even after you graduate).

Teach us your ways, Svokos

SEAS Class Day 2014

They put him on the screen

Yesterday afternoon, the SEAS Class of 2014 took their metaphorical first step into the real world. Extended Housing Squatter Kevin Chen went to watch the festivities.

As per usual, the first person to speak was the class president, Daniel O’Leary. He went on in the conventional manner: a joke about hard problem sets and late-night ramen, urging graduates to thank their parents and keep in touch with their friends, and of course, mentioning the 150th anniversary of engineering at Columbia. O’Leary congratulated the Class of 2014 on its high participation at Lerner Pub and Senior Nights, and on all the amazing projects on display at the Senior Design Expo. Given what they have accomplished in just four years, he challenged the class to keep up the pace even after several decades in the field.

The next speaker was Jon Oringer, SEAS’98 and the creator of Shutterstock, Bwog’s favorite stock image site. “I wasn’t exactly the model student. I was coding websites by night, and sleeping by day,” Oringer confessed. The key to his lifelong passion for building things was to embrace failure. He gave the example of inventing the pop-up blocker—his tenth failure and first success. The program sold well until Microsoft built the same feature into Internet Explorer and gave it away for free. Oringer was out of business almost overnight. Later, he would start four companies: a dating site, an ad network, an online will creator, and a stock photo site. The first three failed—but those failures were necessary to find the fourth success. “Some people are not willing to pay” the price of failure. Oringer advised the Class of 2014 to continue trying new things in the face of failure, and also, to keep an eye on what Microsoft is doing. “You will fail. All of you. And nothing fills me with greater hope.”

Valedictorian Alden Quimby returned to his seat after receiving his award, seeming to forget that he had a speech to give and prompting a chuckle from the audience. In a heartfelt speech, Quimby spoke about career-changing experiences that came from straying from his plans. He originally wanted to major in financial engineering, but took a year off to work at a health startup. He wondered whether it was the right choice: “Startups crash and burn all the time, but the government always bails out Wall Street.” Spending a year at the startup taught him that “Googling is the most important skill of software engineering” and allowed him to find what he truly wanted to do: computer science. For Quimby, stepping off the path was worth it—he reminded everyone that it’s never too late to carve out a new one.

Woo Hyeun (Andrew) Kang was the graduate student speaker. Starting off with a fake speech that literally followed a template he found on the Internet, Kang had the audience in stitches: first, he thanked his family. Then he talked about the school: “columbia engineering. such amazing. much awesome. very knowledge.” Next, it was time for some reminiscing: “Remember all those crazy late nights?” And finally, the meaningful advice: “Never, ever do a PhD!” Kang transitioned to his actual topic: hangovers. He compared studying at Columbia to being drunk on knowledge and opportunity. And now that the party is over, the graduates have to deal with the risk of slowing down. “Get the Gatorade ready,” Kang suggested, encouraging his classmates to keep pushing forward (and/or partying).

SEAS Dean Mary Boyce started her speech with her signature lines: “this is the age of engineering,” “the power of engineering has never been more apparent,” and “engineering is in a renaissance period.” She reminded the newly minted engineers that engineering has increased crop yields and brought electricity to many parts of the world, but emphasizes the importance of solving upcoming problems, like smarter cities and more personalized medicine. Oh, and everyone’s favorite, big data. She acknowledged that the grads may not have “engineer” in their future job titles—especially if they end up in business or law—but that SEAS has prepared them to be adaptable and to have an engineering mindset.

Finally, it was time for PrezBo to speak. He kept his remarks short again, so that he’d have more time to address them at the university-wide commencement on Wednesday. Echoing Dean Boyce, PrezBo mentioned that in every field—including his favorite, freedom of expression—technology plays a central role. He then went on to explain that “respect for truth and understanding” are the “habits of mind that characterize” life in academia. But outside of Columbia, grads will be asked to think instead about what will work and what will persuade others, regardless of the truth. PrezBo believes that there’s nothing wrong with this—as long as they keep alive the voice that asks for the truth.

All twelve pages of the graduates’ names were read, and they all got to shake hands with PrezBo. Bwog had to leave immediately after the ceremony ended and, unfortunately, missed out on the cookies.

Congratulations, Class of 2014!

Photos of PrezBo’s amazing hair after the jump. You know you want to see it.

Columbia Male Student Fights Sexual Assault Disciplinary Action
Princeton, ew.

The wrong type of cat

Princeton’s newspaper, The Daily Princetonian, published a piece on a male Columbia student suing the University for unjust trial and punishment during a sexual assault investigation in Spring 2013.

The student, referred to as John Doe in the suit, criticizes the University, saying that he was unfairly treated in a sexual assault case carried out by Columbia in which he received a year and a half suspension. John Doe further argues that the sexual intercourse between himself and the plaintiff female student in the University investigation was consensual, adding that it was the female student’s idea to engage in sexual intercourse.

The student’s suit against the University comes after a long semester of sexual assault awareness. Student groups have demanded that the administration improve its sexual assault policies, especially in dealing fairly and promptly with student’s sexual assault complaints. John Doe blames this recent protest by saying that he, the assailant, was wronged in the process rather than the plaintiff, as recent public accounts support portrays to be the problem in most sexual assault cases. The suit also claims John Doe’s rushed judicial process was a result of pressure of political movements on campus.

To view the entire suit from the student, see The Daily Princetonian’s copy uploaded online.

Inferior to Roaree via Wikimedia Commons

Senior Wisdom: Rakhi Agrawal

Rakhi Agrawal

Up next for a Senior Wisdom: Rakhi Agrawal, who has a metric ton of advice to share.

Name, Hometown, School, Major: Rakhi; West Hartford, CT; BC; Applied Math and Philosophy

Claim to fame: I did a thing or two, here and there. The girl who will love you if you let her.

Where are you going? Right now, to seek out $5 margs at The Heights (meet me there and I’ll buy you one). In life, somewhere other than here.

What are 3 things you learned at Columbia and would like to share with the Class of 2018?

1) Creating community is an art, not a science. When I first got to campus, “community” and “wellness” were probably terms reserved for use by the Blue Books, admissions sessions, and therapists. My sophomore year, that all changed. I had a friend who, for about a month, I had no contact with. We were both on campus, but I not once texted her to tell her I missed her, or that I was thinking of her, or that she had touched me, or that I needed her, or that I wanted to see her. After that month, I lost my chance forever. Imagine yourself in that situation with not only your best friends here, but also your less close friends. The people who you care about and admire but don’t talk to regularly. If the thought of this feels at all painful to you, try not to let it happen to you. Don’t let your closest friendships dissolve. Love deeply and forgive quickly. If I have learned anything, it is that creating community at Columbia–even a community, a pocket on campus–is an ever-evolving, ever-changing vision. There is no recipe for community–it doesn’t take a certain personality type or a certain amount of resources or a lack of student death or anything. Three essential tools are truth, empathy, solidarity.

LOTS more to learn after the jump

Senior Wisdom: Prashant Dhanraj

Prashant Dhanraj

Next up for a Senior Wisdom is Prashant Dhanraj, who self-describes as “that cute Indian guy” and has some potentially dark thoughts about cheese.

Name, Hometown, School, Major: Prashant Dhanraj, Calgary, Canada, SEAS, Mechanical Engineering

Claim to fame: That cute Indian guy?

Where are you going? Hopefully to Germany to study automotive engineering! I haven’t really ironed out my career ambitions yet, so for now I’m sticking with my childhood dream of eventually becoming a Formula 1 race engineer (basically achieving rocket scientist-status for car nuts).

What are 3 things you learned at Columbia and would like to share with the Class of 2018?

1. I believe that the most valuable thing you can get from your Columbia education is the chance to meet the amazing people here. Making relationships with these superstars is one of the best uses of your tuition for sure. There are so many people I’ve met here who are profoundly inspiring and who have made me grow and develop more so in four years than ever before. Never have I met more stellar and multi-talented people before, from all walks of life (and from all schools!). Going to an Ivy League school may not mean that all your professors and all the resources are exceptional, but it does certainly mean that your peers will be astonishingly so.

Any advice on tequila?

No Red Tape Planning Graduation Solidarity Demonstration

no red tapeNo Red Tape is asking graduates to attach a piece of red tape to their graduation caps in solidarity with the ongoing struggle to improve the policies and culture around sexual assault at Columbia.

Read on for their letter to graduates, and information about how to get the red tape (bolding by Bwog):

To the graduating students of Columbia’s Class of 2014,

This week, we celebrate all that we have accomplished at this University — and all we have endured. As you may know, this semester, students have demanded that the University take several important steps to reform a woefully inadequate set of services, policies, and procedures dealing with sexual violence that students face on campus.

Although we have been promised some reforms, there has been no significant change to our level of community safety, to the pain and trauma survivors must endure when they see their perpetrators on campus, to the rape culture that pervades this school.

Read on for more information.

PrezBo, On 60th Anniversary Of Brown v. Board, Argues To Renew It
A pretty pale Warren Court

A pretty pale Warren Court

Go back in time sixty years to the date. May 17, 1954—the Supreme Court deemed unconstitutional the segregation of African-American students in school, blasting the “separate-but-equal” status quo that existed to that point. Columbia’s favorite affirmative action and equal opportunity advocate, PrezBo, wrote an article in The New Yorker arguing that, while we’ve come a long way as a society, we might recently have forgotten what Brown vs Board really stood, and still stands, for.

The 1978 Bakke decision, PrezBo writes, turned this original idea of affirmative action on its head by declaring these new policies, put in place to establish certain “critical masses” of historically oppressed racial groups, unconstitutional because they disadvantaged other innocent but historically privileged people; rather, the decision allowed for the consideration of race and ethnicity in creating a more diverse student population.

However, PrezBo argues, this decision has required college presidents and other officials to create and follow “hollow and banal” admissions policies that students can see right through. In fact, both university and government officials are hesitant to touch on the topic of race. PrezBo notes the few memorable times a certain other president has spoken up on the issue, most recently regarding the Donald Sterling debacle, supporting his claim with extremely timely and true examples. He counters by including his own defense of University of Michigan’s policies, a case that also went to the Supreme Court and won, but was, in unprecedented Supreme Court fashion, given a time limit before affirmative action could become irrelevant.

Our famed scholar then gets to the good stuff, but we’ll leave that to you to explore.

Warren Court via Wikimedia Commons


Bwog Out

Well, we made it. Another year is done. No matter how you did on your finals, Momma Bwog is proud of you. Now it’s time to attempt to forget about Columbia for a little while. Bwog hopes your summers will be full of your desired combination of fun, rest, learning, adventure and making money. Have a great summer, and thanks for reading this semester.

As for Bwog, we’re also going to be taking some time off. We’ll finish posting the senior wisdoms, and if anything really important happens, we’ll let you know. But otherwise, we’ll see you during NSOP 2014. Right now, we’ve gotta go home to these guys, our loyal pets and beds:

Much more cuteness below the jump!

Senior Wisdom: Maddy Popkin

Maddy Popkin

Even though finals are over, you can always use a little more wisdom. Today’s Senior Wisdom is from Maddy Popkin, who refuses to capitalize anything.

Name, Hometown, School, Major: Maddy Popkin, (staunchly) Barnard, Women’s, Gender & Sexuality Studies Major, Race & Ethnic Studies Concentrator, Spanish minor

Claim to fame: wellwoman peer educator [resident diva cup + armpit hair enthusiast], former q president, outgoing SGA President, creator of cutest millie-the-bear-campaign photos, maintains a stubborn distaste for capital letters.

Where are you going? staying here!

What are 3 things you learned at Columbia and would like to share with the Class of 2018?

1. “The university needs what she bears but cannot bear what she brings.”-Fred Moten and Stefano Harney in their book The Undercommons. as students, we have more potential for power than we think we do–or are supposed to feel we do. the white-cis-hetero-patriarchy is real. wellness in the face of that monster is hard, change is even harder. but trust yourself, trust your discontent, and keep acting on it–and do it all carefully because…

But should I shave my head?

Emma Sulkowicz Files Police Report For Sexual Assault

In the last week, campuses around the country have been reeling over an increased focus on sexual assault, and publications from all fronts have addressed the topic. Here at Columbia, the past seven days have featured lists of four alleged rapists in bathrooms in Hamilton, Lerner, and Butler.

On the morning of May 14, according to Spec, Emma Sulkowicz, CC ’15, filed a police report against Jean-Paul Nungesser, CC ’15, for alleged sexual assault.  Nungesser’s name appeared on the list circulating around campus listing the names of four alleged rapists.

According to Spec, Sulkowicz went to the police after finishing her finals on the 13th.  She filed a complaint with the NYPD after being dissatisfied with Columbia’s internal handling of the case.

Sulkowicz’s experience with the NYPD was harrowing, to say the least.  She describes the police as “dismissive,” as they emphasized the fact that she had engaged in earlier consensual sex with Nungesser and that she could not remember specific details of the attack, like what shoes Nungesser was wearing. They demanded graphic details, and one officer also allegedly told friends Sulkowicz brought for emotional support that he “didn’t believe [her] for a second.”

Sulkowicz, one of 23 survivors who recently filed a Title IX claim against Columbia, was also featured in a Time Magazine video, part of Time’s recent feature on sexual assault on college campuses. Sulkowicz writes, “The Columbia administration is harboring serial rapists on campus. They’re more concerned about their public image than keeping people safe.”

Columbia University has declined to comment on the matter.


Robert Kraft Is Dating Someone Young and Beautiful, Just Like You
Kraft and Landers

If it makes you happy, it can’t be that bad.

Robert Kraft, CC’63, and his girlfriend, actress Ricki Landers, were spotted at a Hillel dinner celebration last night at which Kraft was being honored. The 70-year-old billionaire honoree rocked a Columbia blue tie, and the actress 39 years his junior was mistaken by a few for an undergraduate student.

Kraft is the longtime owner of the New England Patriots and his philanthropic efforts on campuses around the country, including at Columbia, have yielded him the naming rights to the playing field at our football stadium (he was a running back his freshman year) and Hillel. His efforts on other campuses—namely Boston College, Harvard Business School (his grad alma mater), Tufts and Brandeis—especially with their Hillels, have given him immortality at colleges all over the country, and for good reason.

But, let’s talk about his dating Ms. Landers. Myra, Kraft’s wife, passed away in 2011. Kraft told the Boston Globe last year that “…you go home, and you go home alone, and no one’s there. It’s just really sad.” Kraft began seeing the actress and even helped her with an audition for The Internship in 2012, which scared Owen Wilson, one of the movie’s marquee names, quite a bit. Judging by their smiles, they looked pretty happy together last night. We hope Kraft comes back again to give us some more money.