Night Market Brings Happiness In The Dark Times Of Midterms
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Bright lights in dark places

After her grandmother told her she needed a life After getting sick of sitting in the library, festival fanatic Claire Friedman went to check out Night Market in a much-needed break from the Butler grind.

In the amount of time I’ve spent studying/ thinking about studying this week, I could fly to Australia a couple of times, watch the entirety of Lost, or build at least four really kickass gingerbread houses. But, instead of any of those exciting options, I was at the library. Specifically Butler 210, if you feel like coming by to say hello or shower me with candy.

After hours of stale library air and overpriced ButCaf pastries, Night Market felt like stepping back and taking a deep breath. Judging from the “mole-person-seeing-the-light-for-the-first-time” expressions on the faces of other market-goers, I was not the only one who felt this way. Held annually by the CSC, Night Market is meant to emulate the famous markets of China and Taiwan. I’ve never actually been to Asia, but the CSC did a fantastic job transforming Low with huge tents, bright lights, and blaring music. Even in these dark and desperate times, Night Market managed to make Columbia look – dare I say it? – festive.

Although I visited the Market just minutes after downing an entire chicken-cheese-steak from John Jay, I made a beeline for any tents offering food. Thankfully, this was not a difficult task – almost every single booth promised some form of ridiculously cheap pastry and the Korilla Korean barbeque truck held court on College Walk. A quick survey of my pockets yielded only a nickel and a mint of unknown vintage, but I still managed to snag a good-sized cupcake and a free water bottle.

Cupcake in hand, I set about exploring the rest of what Night Market had to offer. Activities ranging from classic carnival games to nail art (a steal at $5) were set up in wide concentric circles, perfect for the casual wanderer who wants to feel lost in a maze of baked goods. Surprisingly, nobody was game to do my nails in exchange for an old mint. I tried not to take it too personally.

Can we talk about something that’s not food-related?

Bwoglines: The World Is Possibly Ending Edition
The Earth is feeling that midterm grind too. It's a transition period, you know?

The Earth is feeling that midterm grind too. It’s a transition period, you know?

We now have an ebola “czar.” Ivan Nicholas Alexander  Ron Klain will be responsible for overseeing the US’ response to the ebola crisis. (Reuters News)

Bermuda was struck by a category two hurricane, Gonzalo. (Reuters News)

Kris Jenner is “devastated” that Bruce is dating. Is Bwog the only one who remembers reading a magazine article about him wanting to become a woman? Guess that’s not actually happening. (MSN News)

According to an expert, Japan’s nuclear plants are vulnerable to volcanoes. They’re apparently not safe, even after the tighter safety regulations following the 2011 disaster. (Science Recorder)

In case this Bwoglines has made you lose all hope or faith in the state of our planet/humanity, brighten up! There is happier news today… Courts have knocked down bans on gay marriage in Arizona, Alaska, and Wyoming!! (Chicago Tribune)

Sad Earth via Shutterstock

Use Your Computer For Actual Educational Purposes With MOOCs
Title-Main (1)

Remember when you learned about this stuff in APUSH?

While we continue to hunch over crappy used textbooks and scribbled notes for most classes at Columbia, the world of education (even for Columbia) has been expanding with the help of the Internet. Education Enthusiast Courtney Couillard met up with Ted Limpert, the Communications and Outreach Manager at the Columbia Center for New Media Teaching and Learning (CCNMTL), to talk about Professor Eric Foner’s new MOOC.

Bwog: What exactly is a MOOC? What sets it apart from the rest of the online classrooms available?

TL: A MOOC is a Massive Open Online Course or, basically, a (mostly) free way to learn on the Internet. The main difference between MOOCs and traditional online courses is that MOOCs are open to anyone anywhere (with the Internet) and can have tens of thousands of students taking a course at any given time. Columbia has “officially” worked with two different MOOC platforms, with about 14 courses on Coursera and 3 courses on edX. What’s cool about edX is that it’s a nonprofit. What’s even cooler about Eric Foner’s MOOCs (a series of 3 different courses) on edX is that all of the content has a Creative Commons license, meaning that anyone can take any piece of the course (video, images, activities, etc.) and reuse/remix it.

Bwog: How did the process go about in terms of getting Professor Eric Foner to sign on to do a MOOC? What aspects of the course did he want to keep or change from his original lecture course to better adapt to the format of a MOOC?

TL: The Chronicle of Higher Ed knocked it out of the park when they called Eric Foner a rockstar. I’m not sure who was the first to approach who, but Professor Foner has always been an advocate of improving access to/understanding of history. He’s been excited at the prospect of reaching more history “students” than he ever has been able to at Columbia.

In terms of the actual MOOCs, we didn’t have to change much. His incredible accolades in the historian-world rival his power and presence in the classroom. Because he’s such a compelling lecturer, we really didn’t have to tweak too much of his material. We did add images, and cut back and forth from various angles, throughout his filmed lectures. Probably the biggest change was that we split his one-semester course into three MOOCs (27 weeks). Professor Foner worked closely with Michael Cennamo, an Educational Technologist at CCNMTL, and Tim Shenk, his lead TA, to develop the courses’ content, which includes discussion questions, short quizzes, longer tests, and other interactive activities. Our video team also filmed Professor Foner at the New York Historical Society and in TA (all Columbia graduate students) discussions. We were also able to connect with Thai Jones, a Columbia Librarian in the Rare Books and Manuscripts Library, to add images from their rare digital collections of Abraham Lincoln, Slavery, and the Civil War.

Bwog: How has the MOOC been doing so far? Are there many Columbia students signed up, or has it been attracting more off-campus students?

TL: The first MOOC (of three) is doing great! It is in its 5th week, and we have 6,511 people registered. The number grows larger each day. The interesting thing about MOOCs though is that generally less than 10% of people registered actually finish them. We’re not sure entirely why, but we are staying strong with nearly 2,500 people staying active in the course so far. I don’t believe we know if we have any Columbia students currently enrolled/active, but we do know some other things: We have about 50 alumni (and hope to increase that number). We also have students from 136 different countries. Of course, we would love to have more Columbia students.

Honestly, I think Columbia students could really benefit from taking the course, even just parts of it. If anything else, it’s a great way to supplement other material from a class, almost like an interactive virtual textbook. And, in my opinion, Professor Foner is great at incorporating humor into his lectures, making them even more fun and engaging. He has also been on The Daily Show and The Colbert Report (unfortunately, not included in the course).

Learn more about why you should take this MOOC after the jump.

Overseen: Jurassic (Riverside) Park
Public Safety has released this artist's rendition of the alleged pterodactyl.

Public Safety has released this artist’s rendering of the alleged pterodactyl.

Bwog received a startling tip yesterday:

“Something GIANT just flew out of the tree outside my window. I couldn’t see what it was, but holy shit. It must have literally been a pterodactyl or something.
The night is dark and full of terrors.”

We reported the incident to Public Safety, who has since launched a full investigation into the matter, dubbed “Operation: Find Petrie.”

Based on recent weather patterns and the hunting preferences of pterodactyls, investigators think it may have moved to around 112th and Broadway, and ask individuals in the area to exercise additional caution.

“We hope to shed light on the darkness surrounding the situation,” said a Public Safety spokesperson. “Please use caution when out late, and may the Lord of Light cast his light upon us all.”  The spokesperson then transformed into a shadow creature and disappeared.

Public Safety photo in collaboration with Shutterstock.

They’re Watching (Out for You): Increasing Security And Surveillance At Columbia University (Part 2)
Yes, Alma is still watching

Yes, Alma is still watching

Sometimes the Man can really get you down, especially here at Columbia, but not always for the wrong reasons. In light of today’s town hall on protest rules, we bring you an article from the Blue and White’s December issue on security at Columbia. This is the second half of the investigation written by Naomi Cohen. You can read the first half here.

Last year, when the Associated Press reported that the NYPD spied on Columbia Muslim students, University President Lee Bollinger denied that the school knew or participated in the NYPD operations.

“We weren’t explicitly aware of it [the surveillance],” said then-Muslim Students Association president Abdul Hanif, “but we were not surprised at the same time.” After meeting with McShane and other top administrators to demand an explanation from administrators, Hanif said that the neutral response from McShane and superficial treatment of the issue led him to suspect that Public Safety was involved and may still be involved in surveillance.

According to McShane, the department is in contact with the 26th precinct—and Student Affairs—every day, conducts joint investigations, and holds “a very positive collaboration.” Almost all of the senior management investigators in Public Safety are former NYPD investigators. Both McShane and Held declined to comment on what situations merit Public Safety investigation or compliance.

As a high-profile, globally-focused, elite university, Columbia attracts non-OGC intelligence gatherers that hold enough authority to demand the information directly.

After September 11, the Department of Homeland Security became a significant sponsor of Public Safety projects, such as the outpost on 119th and Amsterdam that guards traffic on Columbia’s street level, according to one of the anonymous officers. Held, the Public Safety spokesperson, denied that it had received funds from Homeland Security. Under federal policy, Immigration and Customs Enforcement monitors Columbia international students through the Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVIS) as a condition for the university hosting students from abroad. Columbia, as a certified school, is obligated to report changes in student information and events that could jeopardize students’ visa status.


Real Talk With Columbia Sloth

A group of anonymous students have put together a Twitter account called Columbia Sloth to create, as they say, “the world’s laziest student journalism.” Sloth represents the apathetic and adorable side we all possess, and Sloth is never afraid to tell it like it is. Here’s a bit of a taste of Sloth’s thoughts:

We decided to ask Sloth some hard hitting questions every Columbia student has been pondering via Twitter.

Tricky Sexual Assault:

How Sloth is feeling about class and JJ’s after the jump.

Bwoglines: Protest This Edition
Raise your voice and speak your mind. Protest this.

Raise your voice and speak your mind. Protest this.

The rules of protest and free speech are under review at Columbia, and today all students can make their voices heard at the First Rules Town Hall from 4-6 PM in Havemeyer 309. Time to speak up.

This morning, hundreds of Hong Kong police raided a pro-democracy camp. About 800 officers infiltrated the protest zone with riot shields, helmets, and batons. (Reuters)

Also this morning, Pacific Islanders blockaded a Newcastle coal port in a protest against rising sea levels. (The Guardian)

26 low-wage workers were arrested yesterday at a protest outside Walmart billionaire’s New York home. See also this article. (CNN, Forbes)

They’re Watching (Out for You): Increasing Security And Surveillance At Columbia University
Alma is always watching

Alma is always watching

Sometimes the Man can really get you down, especially here at Columbia, but not always for the wrong reasons. In light of tomorrow’s town hall on protest rules, we bring you an article from the Blue and White’s December issue on security at Columbia. This is the first half of the investigation written by Naomi Cohen.

Four years ago, before public scrutiny of Facebook’s privacy policy began and majority opinion about the National Security Association soured, a Columbia student posted a comment on his Facebook wall about Julian Assange. The comment was a joke about Gossip Girl. Non-political.

The student says that in a matter of hours, he received a message from Columbia University Information Technology (CUIT) in his Cubmail inbox. The message, he says, strongly suggested that he take down the post. Words like “Julian Assange” attract unwanted attention. Heeding CUIT’s words of caution, he took the post down—and asked to remain anonymous in this article. Associate Vice President for Media Relations Robert Hornsby wrote in an email that CUIT “does not monitor or review student Facebook pages” and couldn’t have sent the email. The student says the email was deleted in the switch from Cubmail to Lionmail—CUIT reserves the right to delete emails without notice. Hornsby wrote that a CUIT search for the email was “inconclusive.”

In the same year as the alleged email, the Office of Career Services at the School of International and Public Affairs drew fire for sending a similar warning. The email passed on advice from a SIPA alumnus in the State Department, who advised that mentioning Wikileaks on social media might jeopardize students’ prospects for employment with the state. Following public “alarm that the liberal bastions of academe in the US would be complicit in restrictions on access to the documents,” as reported The Guardian, the State Department denied that these restrictions even existed on its side. The advice was never meant for non-employees, said the State Department spokesman. Then-SIPA Dean and now-Provost John Coatsworth defended the email as a “cautionary suggestion.” He encouraged Columbia students to keep sharing their views publicly “without fear of adverse consequences.”

Students by now have been repeatedly reminded to be distrustful of transnational surveillance. The NSA, though, is not the only pair of watching eyes. Wherever students go on campus, whatever they write in emails, whichever sites they browse, whomever they text and call, and whatever other information they provide the school, Columbia is also systematically keeping tabs—and hovering closer and more unchecked than any municipal or federal institution.

More on the inner-workings of Columbia security after the jump.

SGA: No Ways of Knowing Featuring Provost Bell
Time to take a new look at the rules.

Time to take a new look at the rules.

Monday’s SGA meeting was all about the upcoming curricular review: what it is and why it’s actually a really cool opportunity to put in your own two cents. As always, Barnard Bearoness Lauren Beltrone reports.

The curricular review is basically an open mic for you to let the administration know how you feel about everything curriculum-related at Barnard. Do you like the Nine Ways? Is the amount of major/concentration requirements for you too big, too small, or just right? Do you think Barnard should add a department? How does your thesis make you feel? If you aren’t yet compelled to contribute, remember that the curricular review only comes around every fifteen years. In fifteen years, your opinion on the lab requirement probably won’t be quite as nuanced as it is now, so go speak your mind. You only have until March or April until this round’s over. Here’s the Facebook event for the next open forum so you don’t miss it.

The other thing on Monday’s SGA agenda was also really relevant. Tomorrow from 4-6pm in 309 Havemeyer there will be a meeting to talk about rewriting the University’s Rules of Conduct. If you care about how the university deals with protests and free speech activity on campus (which you do), you should go to this discussion.

The old Barnard rule books via Shutterstock

#TBT: Ghosts Of the Past

On this drizzly fall day, a reminder that you stand not alone, but in the footsteps of the shades of the past. “What has been will be again, what has been done will be done again; there is nothing new under the sun.” Where you have procrastinated with Alma, they have procrastinated with Alma. Where you have despaired in 209, they have despaired in 209. Do not be intimidated. One day you too will join the ever swelling ranks of the forgotten. Photo credit to Hannah Friedman and the Columbia Archives

butler entrance

Picking up chicks in Butler

butler room

Still a pretty room

butler outside

Same Butler, different decade

LectureHop: Priscilla Ferguson Talks Food
The lady of the hour, our very own Priscilla Ferguson

tl;dr everyone should take “Food and The Social Order” with Professor Ferguson

What do you think you talk about when you talk about food? Do you even know what you should be talking about when you talk about food? Bwog didn’t know either, so we sent hungry correspondent Ross Chapman to get answers.  

A crowd with a median age of somewhere around 60 gathered in the East Gallery of Buell Hall, home of the Columbia Maison Française, to hear a talk about culinary conversations. Air France and Culinary Historians of New York (CHNY) hosted Columbia professor of sociology Priscilla Ferguson (GSAS ’64 & ’67 (French)) as she gave a lecture loquaciously titled “What We Talk About When We Talk About Food.” Also included in the night was the presentation of CHNY’s Amelia Award, which honors significant contribution to culinary history. CHNY Chair Cathy Kaufman introduced the event and advertised Professor Ferguson’s new book, Word of Mouth, before bringing the speaker on stage.

Ferguson’s lecture, also called “Food Talk” by the speakers, focused on Haute (pronounced like “oat” because of French!) Food, a culinary movement and perspective that disdains convention and praises creativity and incongruity. The defining characteristic of Haute Food is its novelty. Filling a chocolate with nuts or raspberry was once rare and new, but is now old hat. (Ferguson praised Mondel Chocolates for staying true to these culinary staples). Now, the Haute Food chefs who want to stand out fill chocolate with wasabi and cheese. The combination of unusual and ordinary ingredients is one way to effect “Hautification.” A normal and plainly prepared hamburger paired with foie gras (as one NYC chef dared to do) would be Haute. Putting a traditionally luxurious food in a mundane location (here’s looking at you, McLobster) would be Haute. The goal is sometimes not to make the best tasting meal. “Are you even supposed to like them?” asked Ferguson about some items on a four-hour long tasting menu. Some chefs would say, “I really don’t care.” The goal is to be new and artistic.

The reaction to the Haute Food movement has been variable. Food critics (and readers of those critiques) have had a terrible time devising a good way to objectively grade food in a movement that promotes individuality. This has led to a decreased importance on stars and a greater weight on the text of reviews and the reader’s relationship with an individual critic. In American culture, the deformalization of public events has led to a clash with fancy dining. Some restaurants have learned to deal with the “smart casual” dress code (and some gourmet chefs in food trucks don’t care if customers wear anything at all), while others thrust sport jackets onto casually dressed patrons. The fascination that comes with the development of new culinary techniques has led to tables popping up in the middle of kitchens and television cameras gravitating towards celebrity chefs. “Today,” Ferguson explained, “cooking is part of the meal” much more than it once was. And a sort of jadedness has come over the eating public. While 1970’s French critics had no idea what to say about Japanese food, some college students today make it a weekly staple of their diet.

Answers to the big questions coming up(?) after the jump

Bwog Wishes You A Happy Midterm Day, The Day Of All Your Midterms
Look into his eyes. Look into his eyes and be devoured.

We don’t think this is what happiness looks like, but we can’t quite remember. We’re just going to have to take Shutterstock’s word.

Ah. The day has finally arrived. Midterm Day. When all your midterms are scheduled. Some of you freshmen must be nervous. You’ve got this. After all, you’ve had weeks to adequately study and prepare, and at the very least you know that after today, it’s all over.

What’s that you say? Well the duck I am talking about (that my iPhone assures me you meant to ask about) is Midterm Day! That magical day, so official and important it’s right there on our academic calendar.

But wait! You say your professors have midterms scheduled for weeks to come? Talk to them about it! I’m sure it’s all one big misunderstanding. Midterm Day is on the calendar after all. You say you have midterms for weeks? Bad dreams, for certain!

You say your life has been reduced to tests for so long that you are about as sure of when they started as much as you believe that they will ever, ever end? Well, that’s a puzzler! Bwog was confused about that one for a while, as well. There we were sitting in 209, thinking about it, and then through our tears, we saw the answer! Midterm Day! It’s on the calendar! Midterm Day will save us all!

Happy, sane celebration, via Shutterstock

Bwoglines: Only What You Care About Edition
What an evil looking sloth. Just like you.

Appropriate as it both something that you care about, and also symbolic of what those things have lead us all, slowly, to become.

Let’s start off with HBO, which has announced the launch of a stand-alone streaming service next year! Unfortunately not soon enough to meet your urgent need to watch Season 2 of The Sopranos the night before your micro midterm. (Washington Post)

Though new love might be beckoning, your current lover calls; Netflix needs your help. Following the announcement of less user growth than expected, Netflix stock has fallen 25%. Gilmore Girls is not procrastination, but solidarity, you can tell your parents. (Forbes)

Speaking of souring relationships, to those of you who are considering your own stock with Apple, keep this in mind: the reviews for the new Galaxy Note 4 are very positive. (Wall Street Journal)

It might not be Nutella, but yogurt is still pretty cool right? Whatever. Nutella was never named the official snack of the State of New York. (Gothamist)

In one last bit of entertainment news, those who just couldn’t get into the carnival thing during last night’s AHS: Freak Show can begin counting down the days until the fifth season, recently announced by FX. (AV Club)

Finally, in honor of Bwog’s very serious get together last week, we bring you one of our favorites among the many things you care about: small business. Namely, the geographic density of those small businesses serving, among other things, alcohol. (Gothamist)

Disturbingly devious symbol of lethargy via Shutterstock

What’s At Stake In The Rules Of Conduct?

rules of conductColumbia’s Rules of Conduct, which govern protests and demonstrations on campus, are currently under review by the University Senate. Protest proponent Julia Goodman explores the potential impact of impending changes. Those interested in updates to the Rules of Conduct should attend the town hall this Friday from 4 to 6 pm in 309 Havemeyer. All those with a CUID are welcome.

On Columbia’s webpage on university regulations, under the policies on religious holidays and hazing, lies the little-understood section known as the Rules of Conduct. Introduced after the 1968 protests, the Rules are currently under review by the University Senate Committee on Rules of University Conduct. Any potential changes must be finalized by the end of next semester in order to be approved by the Trustees in June, before the retirement of Rules Administrator and Vice Provost for Academic Administration Dr. Stephen Rittenberg. The last updates to the Rules of Conduct were made in the 80’s, so it’s not a stretch to say that any changes will likely remain in effect for years, if not decades. In an email sent Monday, Sejal Singh and Jared Odessky, the two undergraduate students on the Rules Committee, said, “This is perhaps the single most important structural change happening at Columbia in our four years here.”

According to Singh and Odessky, “The Committee has identified the hearing process as one key area for review.” Members of the Rules Committee are generally not allowed to comment on the proceedings, so we can only speculate on possible changes they are considering. However, President Bollinger believes the external judicial process is an “odd” remnant of a time long past when “people didn’t like administrators.” If those sentiments are shared by administrators and faculty on the Rules Committee, the Committee may be planning to eliminate the external process altogether.

Currently, only serious violations, those for which the lightest possible punishment is suspension, can go through the external judicial process. For simple violations, the only option is Dean’s Discipline. This process was exemplified in the 1993 case of Benjamin Jealous (who would go on to become president of the NAACP). He and several other students were accused of violating the Rules of Conduct after protesting the demolition of the site of Malcolm X’s assassination, which Columbia had acquired a few years previously. As Jealous and other students wrote in an op-ed in the February 2nd, 1993 issue of the Spectator, they were faced with the impossible choice between Dean’s Discipline and the external process, in which “the University does not assist you in locating or retaining an adviser, and hires outside criminal or corporate attorneys to construct and prosecute their case against you,” a practice that is unusual within the Ivy League and at other universities.

Yet Jealous chose the external process, because the prospect of being tried under Dean’s Discipline was infinitely more “scary and confusing.” Dean’s Discipline not only denies respondents the option of a lawyer or any outside council, but also eliminates the opportunity to present evidence or call witnesses. And unlike the external process, which is judged by an outside attorney, Dean’s Discipline relies on the decisions of Columbia administrators, who may often have conflicts of interest in such cases.

More on the significance of potential changes after the jump

ClubHop: Atheist and Agnostic Students Society
What beautiful light emanating from that cloud! Whatever could it be?

What beautiful light emanating from that cloud! Whatever could it be?

If there’s one thing we can say for sure, it’s that the CU Atheist and Agnostic Students Society has done a fabulous job with marketing. If you haven’t seen one of their flyers, you probably haven’t left your room in several weeks. Yesterday, though, we were interested in learning about more than just their astronomical print quotas. Wonder-bwogger Max Rettig sat with two of the AASS founders to learn about the society and its mission. 

Evan Garnick, Ben Makansi and Nadav Ben Zur are passionate and ambitious. This past spring, they took it upon themselves to fill what they saw as a gaping hole in Columbia’s religious and secular community. Religious groups, including designated centers for religious life, are in abundance at Columbia, and they often share important and interesting interfaith dialogue with each other, but Evan, Ben and Nadav saw something missing: a space for a large but largely invisible group of people like themselves who identify as secular, including atheists and agnostics. So, the three students and friends sought to create such a community and contribute to the incredible conversation that Columbia’s rich religious community already participates in.

Bwog: Tell me about the club. What is its core mission?

AASS: Columbia is home to dozens of religious communities, but there’s a large segment of the student body that identifies as non-religious, and for them there’s no home. Our core mission is to provide a community of secular students who participate in intellectual engagement and the ongoing dialogue on religion, but we also want to be a space for social cohesion.

Bwog: Why is it important to have a space for atheists, agnostics and other secular students on campus?

AASS: There is, and has been for a long time, a social stigma attached to identifying as secular. People refrain from associating with the group for many reasons associated with this stigma, such as running for public office. We want to break through common conceptions of nonbelief, examples being immorality and faithlessness. People can criticize politics, sports, cultural phenomena, but we’ve found that it’s culturally taboo to criticize religious belief, so we want to become part of the public discussion on difficult topics dealing with belief.

Bwog: What made you decide to start the club?

AASS: Last spring, we got the idea, and we’re passionate about it. We thought it would be fun to start something important up at Columbia. While we’re not yet officially recognized by CU, and are in the process of applying for that recognition, we had a table at the activities fair and got about 200 initial signups, which we were really excited over.

Bwog:  How do you think atheists and agnostics are perceived on campus?

AASS: Columbia is a pretty secular, liberal and contemporary place overall, so we haven’t had a lot of trouble in that respect. No one has really come to us and bashed or delegitimized us. Most of the concern is over creating a support community for people to express their secularism in the outside world and we’re taking steps to include that in our discussions.

Tell us more about the society!