Earlier today, the Times reported that Václav Havel, the dissident playwright who was elected president of Czechoslovakia after the fall of the Soviet Union and later became the first president of the Czech Republic (after it split from Czechoslovakia), passed away at the age of 75. A founding member of Charter 77, Havel was an major figure of the civil rights movement of the ’70s. Perhaps unbeknownst to current students, Havel also has an interesting history with Columbia, having accepted an offer to become Columbia’s first “Artist-in-Residence” for a few months in 2006, three years after he stepped down as President of the Czech Republic.
The artist residency program (much like the CU Arts Initiative and the World Leaders Forum) was dreamed up by Prezbo to turn Columbia into a more “global university.” The program allowed Havel to spend about eight weeks at Columbia in late 2006. Controversially, Columbia decided earlier that year to slightly alter the Core to include Havel, adding one of his late-twentieth century plays to the first semester LitHum syllabus (which is usually nothing but ancient Greek works) and letting him give the Fall 2006 CC lecture. (more…)