#definitive guides
The Definitive Guide to Biking (Around Morningside)

So wonders the confused Columbian: “I’m thinking of getting a bike. Should I get a bike? I looked on Craigslist, but I’m not sure.” Should you get a bike? Probably, for many reasons: exercise, free transportation, swag, ability to join the MBR sans rental fee. Now that we’ve convinced you, here’s how to buy one and what to do with the damn thing.

The first real grip I ever got on things/Was when I learned the art of pedalling--Seamus Heaney

Where to Buy It

  • MODSquad is just across the very un-bikeable Morningside Park. They have a 10% Columbia discount (which makes a big difference on a such a sizeable purchase) and when you get something fixed, they’re super friendly! Ask, and they’ll show you the tricks of their trade.
  • Innovation Bike Shop on 106th and Columbus is a good pit stop to top off saggy tires (and buy bike-related merch).
  • You knew it was coming: Craigslist. You can just get a bunch of cheap stuff on this glorious website. And, unlike your futon, you don’t have to carry a bike twenty blocks—you can ride it! Arrive ready to walk if the bike isn’t up to snuff. And as a rule of thumb, always offer half their asking price. Craigslist is a buyer’s market.

Where (and How) to Keep It

  • Lots of people keep ‘em under their beds. Most two-wheelers fit perfectly below an XL twin, but squishing your beloved bike under the bed and or weaseling it out can be a workout on its own.
  • You can hang your bike from your ceiling or wall, especially if you live in a dorm with mounting brackets.
  • Some people get a bike stand, which is the best option for a suite of multiple cyclists.
  • Harmony Hall has bike storage in the basement, provided you can find it.
  • Lock your bike. And get the good stuff. You need a u-lock and chain, and even that isn’t a guarantee. Bolt through the frame and front wheel, and cable through the back. How much you invest on security may depend on whether you have a utilitarian, rusted mountain bike or a carbon-fiber miracle of science.

Great. Now where do I take it?

Everything You Need to Know About ROTC At Columbia

A typical scene from the ROTC town hall meetings

One of the most controversial issues at Columbia last year was the return of the Reserve Officers Training Corps (ROTC) Program. It was the talk of the national media and dominated campus politics for a good semester. Bwog brings you up to speed with this primer on ROTC at Columbia.

Some historical context:

Columbia has played a prominent role in educating America’s servicemen since its foundations, and this tradition continued well into the 20th century. In 1969, responding prevalent antimilitary sentiment sparked by the Vietnam War, Columbia forced the NROTC program to leave campus. The university committee tasked with investigating the program argued that NROTC instructors were loyal first to the Navy and not Columbia. Columbia saw a conflict between “free inquiry and loyalty to external commitments.”

Since Columbia terminated its relationship with the Navy in ’69, there have been multiple unsuccessful efforts to revive the ROTC program. In 2005, the University Senate voted down a resolution that would have brought back ROTC. Critics argued the military’s policy of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” violated Columbia’s non-discrimination policies. There was also a potential return in 2008: student councils organized a referendum on ROTC that asked whether the program should be brought back. However due to drama such as fraudulent votes, the issue was never even presented to the USenate. Since the ban, Columbia students could still participate in the ROTC, but had to enroll in programs at other schools, like Fordham.

What happened last year to reignite this issue on campus?

The repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.” Literally the day after the law was changed the U.S. Senate voted to repeal the law, the Columbia University Senate created the Task Force on Military Engagement to investigate Columbia’s involvement with the military, and the school’s stance on ROTC. The task force devoted months to their investigations of Columbia’s military engagement, and organized town hall meetings and an online survey to gauge student opinion.

After the jump: town halls, the student survey, and what to expect next

Morningside Heights Politics Primer

Local politics might not be your chief concern as you prepare to uproot your entire universe, move across the country, and attempt to make friends with a few thousand other over-achieving geeks, but there are plenty of reasons to care about your new home! With countless unions, special interests, businesses, and millions of people, New York City is like a political pressure cooker. It’s impossible to summarize that whole mess in a short blog post, but here is some basic information about our local, state-wide, and federal representation.

Once upon a time..

Community Board: Morningside Heights is member of Manhattan Community Board #9. Manhattanville, the northern site of Columbia’s mammoth expansion, is also a part of CB9M. Most of the Mville expansion (don’t worry, there will be a primer for that too!) battle has been fought in courtrooms, and it’s likely that nothing exciting will happen with the community board in the near future.

City Council: Our City Council member is Inez Dickens. She is well-connected and has served as the majority whip. Some speculate that once her second term expires (2013) Dickens might try for Charlie Rangel’s House seat (see U.S. House below).

State Assembly: Our New York State Assembly member is Daniel O’Donnell. Elected in 2002, O’Donnell was the first openly gay member of the State Assembly. He was actually the author of the recent (and finally successful) Marriage Equality Act. A member of the “bear” community, he represents district 69.

State Senate: Bill Perkins is our New York State Senator (30th district). He went to Brown.

U.S. House: Charlie Rangel is our representative in New York’s 15th Congressional District. He’s the third longest serving member in the House, and during the last 30 years he’s been one of the most relevant figures in congressional politics (looong Wikipedia page). Recently, Rangel has been caught up in multiple ethics scandals. Despite that, he still won re-election with 80% of the vote. Shortly after the election, Rangel was censured by the full House. A note about NY-15: it’s tied with NY-16 for being the most Democratic congressional district in the entire country. Obama carried it with 93% of the vote.

But really, when it comes to NYC politics, Mayor Michael Bloomberg runs the show. While the official reach of his powers may be officially limited, this is a guy that managed to change election laws so that he could chill in town hall for a few more years. That, and there is always a rumor circulating about a self-financed run for the White House.

Fat Cat via Wikipedia.

Everything You Need to Know About Operation Ivy League

Yesterday, Harrison David began serving his prison sentence at Rikers. The other defendants in the case have yet another hearing in Manhattan Criminal Court on September 23rd. It looks like the long saga of Operation Ivy League may be drawing to a close. Upperclassmen may be relieved it’s finally over, but members of the Class of 2015 probably have no idea what happened on campus while they were still finishing up their applications. And they thought Moodygate was a big deal! As a public service, Bwog presents this primer on Operation Ivy League.

What does “Operation Ivy League” mean?

Operation Ivy League was the name of a months-long NYPD investigation into drug-dealing that resulted in the arrests of five Columbia students last year. The students were Harrison David (SEAS ’12 and a member of the fraternity AEPi), Adam Klein (CC ’12 and Psi U) Chris Coles (SEAS ’11 and Intercultural House, or ICH), Michael Wymbs (CC ’12 and unaffiliated, living in East Campus), and Joseph Stephen Perez, better known as Stephan Vincenzo (CC ’12 and Pike). They were arrested early on the morning of December 7, 2010 when NYPD officers with guns drawn raided the students’ frat houses and dorm rooms.

What were the students accused of?

The students were accused of dealing a variety of drugs, and early reports stated that each student “specialized” in a different kind of drug, though this conspiracy argument was eventually dropped. Coles was accused of selling a pound and a half of marijuana; Wymbs of LSD and MDMA (ecstasy); Perez of Adderall and amphetamines; Klein of marijuana, MDMA, and LSD; and David of marijuana and cocaine.

And what happened to them?

After they were arrested, the students were taken to prison on Rikers Island. Within days, most of the students had been bailed out, and their families had hired high-flying defense attorneys. The exception was Harrison David, who remained at Rikers for nearly two weeks before his father, Dr. David David, bailed him out and sent him to live with a family friend and former corrections officer in Florida.

Did they go to trial?

Not yet. Instead of a trial, the students faced a series of hearings at Manhattan Criminal Court (down by Chinatown) in the months following the arrests. The defendants were charged with a variety of felonies (including “criminal sale of a controlled substance” and “criminal sale of marijuana”) in different degrees. If convicted, they would had had to face years of jail time. All students initially pled “not guilty” to the charges, and were later offered plea deals.

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BSB Will Not Teach You Western Civ

Our own class of 2015, apparently overeager to get their hands on the Masterpieces of Western Civilization, has thronged Bank Street Bookstore! We hope parents were not rude. Enjoy NSOP, children, and order books later! Amazon Student will get you your books cheap and lickety-split, or you can get them neatly packaged from the hip hands at Book Culture. For a full run-down of your options, check out Bwog’s Guide to the Book Market.

The sign, though it’s rife with improper capitalization and cries out for a serial comma, is not mean. If you need children’s books, BSB wants you there! For those of you with too much time on your hands, but too little eye-power, the full text comes after the jump.

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Which Park Should I “Study” In?

Okay so you’re basically not allowed on campus again until after graduation, and now you’re all mopey because Snoop is gone from your life and you have nine papers due tomorrow. Good news, friends! Snoop may not be comin’ back, but we have it on the best authority that there are three (3) lovely destinations within walking distance of campus where you can get your sundress and day-drank on – or review of the entire trajectory of western philosophical thought, depending on your interpretation of the term “symposium.” In the interest of getting you off campus at least once this semester, Bwog’s Senior Tree Hugging Correspondent Diana Clarke presents: Which Park Should I “Study” In?: The Definitive Guide.

Option 1: Morningside Park

Morningside Park

Pros: The closest park to Columbia’s Campus, Morningside Park delineates the eastern edge of Morningside Heights, stretching from 110th to 123rd Streets between Morningside Avenue and Morningside Drive (sometimes the forthright approach is best). From its peak along Morningside Drive, one block east of Amsterdam, the park tumbles down a steep slope laced with ambling paths, stone steps, and furls of green. The ground pools flat, opening into a waterfall, a track and baseball diamond, playgrounds full of adorable neighborhood children, plus plenty of grass to flop down and read on, and lots of sun. On Saturdays, visit the farmers market at the park’s southeast corner, on 110th and Manhattan Avenue!

Cons: If you go down the steps, you’ll eventually have to climb back up. There are no snacks, except on Saturdays, and if you tell your mother where you’re going to study she’ll probably call Public Safety.

Study Break: Visit the shockingly clean and functional public bathrooms at 118th and Morningside Avenue.

Option 2: Riverside Park

Riverside Park

Pros: Obviously, the river, and the wind whipping off it (and views of Jersey at sundown as it turns into a glittering mass of lights on the far bank). Loads of benches, walking paths, basketball courts, traveling rings, a snack cart on 115th street, lots of sun. Also, this is definitely where you’re most likely to run into other Columbians (if you’re into that kind of thing; elsewise, file under “Cons”).

Cons: Bizarre obstructing fences all over the grass, nubbly ground that people actually use (less comfortable for lolling), and sometimes there’s too much highway viewin.

Study Break: Visit the Amiable Child Monument, tucked into a corner of the park on 122nd across the street from Grant’s Tomb. (Bonus bonus points: the amiable child was named St. Clair Pollock!) (more…)