lecturehop Archive

Feb

10

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Iconic.

Iconic.

Sarah H. Cleveland is Columbia Law School’s Louis Henkin Professor of Human and Constitutional Rights, as well as the Faculty Co-Director of the Human Rights Institute. Her areas of expertise include National Security and International Humanitarian Law, Foreign Affairs and the Constitution, and International Law in U.S. Courts. Last night at 6 pm, she held a lecture on “Human Rights Connectivity and the Future of the Human Rights System,” and Daily Editor (and fellow human herself) Lila Etter was in attendance.

As I made my way up the steps of Low Library and entered the Rotunda, I began to notice that this was not just another lecture. I had thought that I was one of the early birds, and my plan had been to snag a seat up front by arriving a whole 20 minutes early. Little did I know, people had begun flooding in as early as 5:15 pm. The Rotunda was full by 5:45 pm, which is when I realized that the University Lecture only happens once a semester.

President Bollinger and Provost Coatsworth delivered two separate but equally-praiseful introductions for Professor Cleveland. PrezBo emphasized that there “could not be a more important subject in the world today than human rights,” and after affirming his love for the word “global,” he called Cleveland a brilliant mind and the embodiment of what Columbia stands for intellectually. Coatsworth was similarly complimentary, and for those who knew nothing about Cleveland up until this point (which I’m sure were very few), this opening may have seemed almost adulatory. I myself had known of only some of her numerous accomplishments, including her position as a beloved professor at the Law School, as well as her work with Amal Clooney at the Human Rights Institute. I arrived at the lecture already impressed. But when this semester’s University Lecturer was finally welcomed to the podium, it was immediately clear that she deserved the praise.
Read more about this once-in-a-semester opportunity, after the jump.

Feb

3

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A demonstration of his effortless cool

A demonstration of his effortless cool

Yesterday afternoon, Prof. Timothy Frye, CU political science professor and director of the Harriman Institute, presented his new paper about the popularity of infamous president Vladimir Putin – or, more specifically, whether or not this popularity was real or a trick of the Kremlin. Bwog writer and popularity seeker Betsy Ladyzhets was in attendance to document the lecture.

Vladimir Putin: fearless leader of the Russian Federation, slayer of tigers, victor of wrestling matches, subject of musical satire, banner of memes, and, perhaps surprisingly to many Americans, far and wide the most popular politician in Russia. Despite opposition from numerous foreign politicians and Russian activists, Putin’s approval ratings in Russia have remained high; the most recent poll results show that about 80% of Russians claim to approve of Putin’s political activities.

But that can’t be true, right? Putin is a dictator who squashes opposition, controls the media, and does whatever is necessary to stay in power, right? It’s impossible that so many Russians are able to ignore his faults—either they must be brainwashed by their country’s leaders, or they must be too scared to admit their true sentiments. Right?

This question was precisely what Professor Timothy Frye sought to answer in his presentation yesterday. Despite the lack of free food at the lecture, the room it was held in, up on the fifteenth floor of the International Building, was still nearly full. (It appears that, although Putin’s popularity may be false, the popularity of the concept of studying his popularity is definitely real.)

Okay, but, for real, is Putin’s popularity real?

Feb

2

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Who knew books could be so controversial? Actually, we take that back.

Who knew books could be so controversial? Actually, we take that back.

A professor of Religion, a professor of Law, a professor of Anthropology, and a professor of Sociology walk into a bar—we mean book review. What happens? Staffers Romane Thomas and Jennifer Nugent cover what happens next. 

Those who expected a staid and overly polite book launch were in for a surprise.

On Monday evening, La Maison Francaise hosted the formal launch of a collection of essays titled, Religion, Secularism and Constitutional Democracy. Editor Jean L. Cohen faced passionate criticism from an eclectic panel of academics that included Courtney Bender (professor of Religion), Jeremy Kessler (associate professor of Law), Rosalind Morris (professor of Anthropology), Gil Eyal (professor of Sociology) and moderator, (scorekeeper?) Adam Tooze. The collective work addressed the heated debates over the role of religion in public and political life in the US and Europe today.

After Cohen’s presentation of the book, each member of the panel gave a thoughtful critique of the work. Instead of a passive stream of praise, the professors discussed the main ideas in the work in a debate that ended up turning into somewhat of a war of the departments. Each professor defended their perspective based on their specialty, resulting in Columbia’s very own academic mean girls fight. And for one night only! Needless to say, the room was packed and the debate was heated, just like the vent we sat on…for lack of space.

What did each professor say, though?

Dec

11

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This guy's writing is out of this world

This guy’s writing is out of this world

Last night, the Columbia MFA Program hosted its final creative writing lecture of the semester, in which novelist Mat Johnson (CU School of the Arts ‘99) discussed story structure – what to do, what not to do, and what’s necessary to understand before you start. Betsy Ladyzhets, Bwog writer, creative writer, and drawer of many imperfect circles, attended the lecture and attempted to learn something.

An author walks into a room full of MFA students and tells them to draw a circle.

The audience has been prepared for this; they were given sharpened pencils and pieces of blank white paper upon arrival. (They were also given sandwiches, beverages, and cookies, although whether or not this was at all related to the circle-drawing process is up for debate.) But the audience has also not prepared for this; although not every single audience member was a Columbia MFA student, the vast majority were writers who likely hadn’t been required to draw circles since their high school geometry classes. And none of them are Giotto, a thirteenth-century artist who drew a perfect circle as his resume when he was up for a commission from the Pope.

Prepared or not, each audience member at Mat Johnson’s lecture last night attempted to draw a circle. Johnson also picked one volunteer to draw a circle on the whiteboard that stood at the front of the room. Of course, none of the writers were able to complete the task. Johnson spent a minute critiquing various circles, describing them as lopsided, misshapen, or just plain unfortunate.

But why all this preoccupation with circles? They’re just shapes, right? Wrong – in writing, a shape is never just a shape. And in a lecture on writing, a circle is a metaphor for structure. This circle-drawing became an extended analogy Johnson used throughout his talk to discuss story structure.

But how is a circle like a story?

Dec

5

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Witchy black hole

Last night in Pupin, the Astronomy Department opened its doors to both the Columbia community and the public for its regular Stargazing and Lecture series event. Bwog has sent writers to cover the last few starry Friday night programs, and this week staffer and Friday Night Lights fan Amara Banks was lucky enough to check it out.

Although Friday nights are usually reserved for EC, 1020 and later Koronets, it should be noted that Pupin, too, could be a place to spend your wild nights. Walking into a lecture room with a projector displaying the words “How to Feed and Care for Your Black Hole” confirmed this. Last night around a hundred people, of varying ages, occupied every seat in the Pupin physics classroom, eagerly eyeing a projector.

Aleksey Generozov, currently a grad student at Columbia, led the lecture. He had an adorably nerdy demeanor, complete with classic glasses and a sometimes uncomfortable laugh. However, his brilliance shined through.

The lesson for the night was on black holes–a difficult concept to truly understand without deep astronomical background knowledge. Generozov was able to break down the concepts and explain them so simply that both the five-year-old in front of me and the 50-year-old behind me could confidently reiterate the information. In fact, when Generozov asked the audience to what size the earth needed to be compressed in order to become a black hole, both of their hands shot up. The little girl answered, “to the size of a peanut,” earning laughs, while the elderly man’s more scientific answer brought impressed brow raises. The correct answer was simply “by a few millimeters.”

Generozov’s PowerPoint was refreshingly basic, its slides comprised of solid black backgrounds with single graphics. On his slide about Tidal Disruption Events, he included the Top Dawg Entertainment XXL magazine cover, because the two share an identical acronym: TDE. This slide merited laughs, as Generozov’s dad pun reminded the audience that they weren’t in a 4000 level class preparing for finals, but instead enjoying the fruits of the Astronomy Department’s Friday-night generosity.

Although the night was about science, my favorite aspect of the event was the diversity of the audience. People of completely different races, ages, and interests had all come together to learn more about a puzzling space phenomenon. As I mentioned, the five- and 50-year olds in front of and behind me were two people in opposite stages of their lives, but to my left and right were two people in nearly identical stages: CU students. This was about their only similarity. The eyes to my left were on his Instagram profile more than they were on the projector, and the ones to my right were closed the majority of the time while he passionately “hmmm”ed throughout the lecture.

At the lecture’s conclusion, a woman from the Astronomy department announced the locations of the post-lecture stargazing and the 3D wall. Find more information about the astronomy department’s next outreach event, on December 18th.

Wintry black hole via Shutterstock.

Dec

2

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The "Thinking of You" exhibit

The “Thinking of You” exhibit

Last night, IRWGS hosted a panel for the opening of a new art exhibit titled “The Legacy of Rape.” We sent Avid Art Admirer Sarah Dahl to check it out.

Conceptually, a panel and art exhibit titled “The Legacy of Rape” doesn’t sound…heartening? To be sure, last night’s discussion of how to deal with the effects of sexual violence was heavy, yet it offered a tone of hope, showcasing the creative ways in which today’s artists and academics are addressing rape.

Marianne Hirsch, a professor in Columbia’s Institute for Research on Women, Gender, and Sexuality, introduced and moderated the program; and Columbia Law professor Katherine Franke also spoke. The other panelists were Leora Kahn, the founder and Executive Director of PROOF, the organization behind the Legacy of Rape photo exhibit; artist Patricia Cronin; and sociologist, policy analyst, and New School professor Anna Di Lellio.

What do these speakers think about art portraying the effects of rape?

Dec

2

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Poor Hamilton. You were already killed once.

Poor Hamilton. You were already killed once.

With talk of replacing Alexander Hamilton on the $10 bill with a historically famous woman, Barnard hosted a discussion with US Treasurer Rosa Rios to talk about the process. Currency Connoisseur Betsy Ladyzhets headed over to the lecture and reports on the event.

Yesterday evening, US Treasurer Rosa Rios sat down with Barnard economics professor Anja Tolonen to discuss the current ongoing process of redesigning the ten dollar bill with a woman at its forefront. This process spans years of planning and a complicated series of bureaucratic steps, but ultimately, it aims to put women where they belong: in a place of recognition for their contributions to American history.

Rios herself is the 43rd treasurer of the US, part of a legacy of all-female treasurers since 1949. Her background in public service facilitating economic development prepared her for her role in advising Secretary of the Treasury Jack Lew, but her strong commitment to representation for women came later. Rios describes herself as an “accidental feminist,” who realized later in her life that feminism was not the strongly biased viewpoint she’d been taught it was. Now, she’s committed to promoting financial literacy and education, as well as intersectional representation both inside and outside government.

When? How? Who?

Nov

25

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"We'll always have Paris."

“We’ll always have Paris.”

129 murdered in Paris on November 13th, 43 killed in Lebanon one day earlier, and hundreds more killed since the beginning of 2015 – all these deaths were at the hands of the terrorist organization ISIS. As the dead were mourned and awareness of the bloodshed spread, the Islamic state only gained more power world-wide.

Yesterday, SIPA hosted a panel called “ISIS after Paris” which discussed ISIS’s ever growing influence despite the western world’s plans to contain it. Although the panelists were all very knowledgeable about the subject, the discussion stayed fairly broad and hypothetical.

What were the conclusions of the panel?

Nov

19

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no you idiot

Being stuck in a jar: one of the perils of marriage equality?

Marriage inequality might have been terrible, but marriage equality, it seems, is also dangerous. Staff writer Ross Chapman reports on yesterday’s panel, in which several Columbia and Barnard professors discussed the perils of legal fairness in marriage, that institution held above all others.

After the recent progress of LGBTQ+ marriage equality, has love really won? Columbia’s Institute for Research on Women, Gender, and Sexuality, in association with the Institute for Research in African-American Studies, held a capacity crowd panel discussion on just that question in Roone Arledge Hall yesterday afternoon.

The talk centered around a recently released book by Columbia professor Katherine Franke, Wedlocked: The Perils of Marriage Equality. Mignon Moore (Barnard sociology professor), Kendall Thomas (Columbia law professor), Patricia J. Williams (Columbia law professor), and Marianne Kirsch (Columbia English and IRWGS professor) made up the rest of the expert panel. Wedlocked asks what was gained and lost by the LGBT marriage equality movement, and compares it to the interracial marriage movement that climaxed in the 1960’s and the black marriage laws passed in the 1860’s.

But as anyone who has taken a class at either of these Columbia institutes might know, black and gay identities don’t exist in a vacuum. The speakers took an intersectional approach to marriage, questioning the racial context of marriage and the sexual context of race. Mignon Moore took the most speaking time of the panel, and she looked at marriage as a test. The success or failure of marriage, an institution still technically designed to last forever, can be a public sign of a community’s validity. That is to say, a fight for marriage equality is a fight for a community’s opportunity to prove itself.

What did the speakers think the gay marriage movement did wrong?

Nov

18

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John Lennon said it first; "A working class hero is something to be"

John Lennon said it first; “A working class hero is something to be”

On the evening of November 17th, Schermerhorn’s typically spooky vibe was replaced with that of strongly opinionated women ready to discuss a heavily loaded question: is feminism Jewish? A panel comprised of Michelle Goldberg, Vivian Gornick, and Catha Pollitt deliberated on the topic before an audience of about twenty women, most of them elderly. Although the discussion was supposed to be led by Goldberg, the audience members pitched their own questions as they came to mind.

There are two correct answers to the question at hand; the first of which is no, feminism is not Jewish. Gornick strongly defended the secularity of the second-wave feminism movement, claiming that there was no feminism in the history of Jewish life until our generation. She believes that the feminism movement belonged to women, not Jews. This movement, along with the labor movement and other 20th century revolutions, was entirely secular. Gornick expanded on this, claiming, “the labor movement was not Jewish. It was Italian, Irish, it was the working class!” A lot of women in the audience reacted negatively to her point and vocalized their disagreement. One yelled, “a lot of those immigrants in the unions were Jews, it’s okay to admit that Jewishness had some impact on the labor movement, and the feminism movement, too!” Gornick believes that growing up as a girl, an immigrant, and a part of the working class all contributed to her outlook during the revolution, but not being Jewish.

Could the answer be yes, too?

Nov

13

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The work in question

The work in question

The first thing I noticed when walking into the East Gallery of Buell Hall (which I learned was also the Maison Francaise upon looking up the venue) was just how many people had packed into the room. I knew The Meursault Investigation, named after the book which was to be discussed that night, was going to draw a crowd, but I wasn’t expecting almost every glass chair (much fancier than any chairs I’ve seen Columbia roll out in the past) to be filled filled.

After exchanging my CUID for a pair of headphones, which allowed us non-French speakers to listen to a live translation of the book discussion and Q&A, I sat down and played around with the volume settings. I could hear a smattering of English in the room, but most of the conversations occurring around me were in French. A faint scent of tobacco hung in the still air as we waited for Kamel Daoud, author of the award winning novel, to take his seat on stage.

Daoud’s novel, for those unfamiliar with the name Meursault, is a response to Albert Camus’ famed 1942 existentialist novel, The Stranger. In The Stranger, a French man in colonial Algeria, identified only as Meursault, essentially kills an Arab in cold blood. The novel is told in first person perspective, following Meursault through his love life, interactions with his neighbours, the killing of the Arab, and his subsequent criminal trial.

More after the break!

Nov

7

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Nina Ansary

Nina Ansary

Barnard held a lecture on the women of Iran featuring Nina Ansary on Friday night. We sent Daily Editor Asya Sagnak to check it out.

This Friday, the Barnard Center for Research on Women and the Middle East Institute at Columbia University hosted Barnard alum Nina Ansary in a conversation based off her widely anticipated book about the misunderstood story of women in Iran—Jewels of Allah. Joined by Richard Bulliet, Columbia Professor of History and Middle East Studies, and Debora Spar, President of Barnard College, Ansary discussed her view on the submission of women since the Islamic Revolution in 1979, challenging the dominant narrative of passive submission and instead shedding light on “an unprecedented surge in female literacy and a flourishing feminist movement against the boundaries of traditional religious prescription.”

As soon as Ansary started speaking, she began advocating for those she felt had been looked over – those whose stories had been untold. The subject of conversation quickly veered to a staple in the debate over Muslim women’s rights: the veil. “This is an example of a perfect storm”, she explained, putting air quotations around the phrase. “Context changes everything. Seemingly liberal measures can become oppressive, and seemingly backward measures can become empowering.” In the context of post-revolutionary Iran, the veil was welcome and comfortable, and Western efforts to “free” covered women were met with backlash from the women themselves. Similarly, the hasty push towards co-educationalism actually proved detrimental to female literacy due to conservative families who no longer felt comfortable sending their daughters to school. “They can not simply be expected to embrace the adoption of a Western lifestyle,” Ansary added. “It’s not that simple.”

It soon became clear that this was a trend – Western feminism can not be translated directly into Iran, and the assumption that it can stems from widespread ignorance about the way of live in Middle Eastern cultures. Bulliet contributed with a story about a group of unveiled Iranian visitors to the United States, expressing that many of the Americans had seen the women and assumed that the lack of veil meant the country had somehow achieved gender equality. As he put it: “You don’t change attitudes just by changing clothes, yet they didn’t know any better. Would anyone look at us Americans and be able to identify an Evangelical Protestant by clothing?” I found myself agreeing – born and raised Muslim, I could never compare New York to my native Istanbul, let alone directly superimpose its social policies, no matter how often I wish I could. So, there was one question on my mind: how can we attempt to further the liberation of women in such areas while remaining aware of their unique contexts?

More on transnational feminism next.

Oct

22

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Gossip Girl season 1889 promo pic?

Gossip Girl season 1889 promo pic?

Though Barnard today is often seen as an almost overly liberal and accepting environment, that wasn’t always the case. The Barnard Library is hosting a series of panels to address Barnard’s history, the first of which, “Guess Who’s Coming to Barnard?” happened on Monday evening. It was led by Professor Bob McCaughey and Mollie Galchus ’16, and discussed the founders’ vision for Barnard as opposed to what it turned out to be. Barnard Bears Betsy Ladyzhets and Mia Lindheimer take a look at what kind of bold, beautiful women Barnard’s founders envisioned back in the 1880s.

Imagine: the year is 1889. There are only forty states in the U.S. The world does not yet know the destruction of world war, the speed of subway trains, or the wonder of modern pizza. Adolf Hitler is born at Braunau am Inn, a small town on the border of Austria-Hungary and Bavaria. The Moulin Rouge Cafe opens in Paris. The Coca-Cola brand is originally incorporated as the Pemberton Medicine Company in Atlanta, Georgia. And, in New York City, Barnard’s first class of 14 students began to meet in a rented brownstone on Madison Avenue.

But who were these students, and how were they selected for Barnard? What did the founders have in mind when they created this college? And did Barnard stay true to the founders’ vision for the next hundred years, or even in the next thirty? These questions and more were answered last Monday evening.

These questions and more answered after the break

Oct

16

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Why would anyone want to leave here in the first place?

Why would anyone want to leave here in the first place?

In this LectureHop, Staff Writer Nadra Rahman puts on her politics hat and attends a talk at Lehman Auditorium with several important guests who came to speak about Central America’s social and political world.

In introducing the symposium (titled “The surge: Politics, violence, and children in Central America and Mexico”), Professor José Moya noted that the recently publicized issue of unaccompanied minors’ migration in Central America is particularly timely because of the “real refugee crisis” occurring all over the world. According to Professor Moya, the crisis is one that has existed for a long time, but has come to the forefront now “not because the intensity of suffering has increased, but because the richest countries are now affected”.

The first two speakers contextualized the “surge” of unaccompanied minors crossing Central and North American borders in 2014, speaking about the “Northern Triangle” made up of the three Central American countries that produce the most immigrants: Guatemala, El Salvador, and Honduras. These countries have seen the most migration, but they are also the ones most affected by migration.

Gun violence, domestic violence, and deepening poverty are the major factors that have pushed citizens out of the Northern Triangle. Father José Idiáquez, Rector at the Universidad Centro Americana, described the deaths of six Jesuit priests and the constant presence of gangs, death, and kidnapping. He said the “population lives in terror,” and often children left behind by their emigrating parents find themselves sexually and physically abused.

In describing the consequences of migration in these societies, Idiáquez said that, on a familial level, effects can include depression, anxiety, alcoholism, and a loss of identity, particularly when families are uprooted from their homes or scattered. On a socio-cultural level, there is a widespread rejection of religious and familial customs in favor of European and American ones (English, for example, is preferred to Spanish).

Read more about the lecture after the jump!

Oct

15

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Nine of the Shinx Virtuosi performers rocking hard

Nine of the Virtuosi Sphinx performers rocking hard

Higher education needs more diverse leaders, to help as many students from as many different backgrounds as possible achieve their goals. Sarah Dahl reports on Tuesday evening’s panel on diversity in higher education, which discussed this need from a variety of perspectives.

With a stirring contemporary string composition inspired by civil rights activist Rosa Parks, the Virtuosi Sphinx performers prefaced the panel. The Virtuosi Sphinx performers are part of the national Detroit-based Sphinx Organization, “dedicated to transforming lives through the power of diversity in the arts,” whose founder, Aaron Dworkin, was among the panelists.

Sponsored by the Office of the Vice Provost for Faculty Diversity and Inclusion and the Office of University Life, the event included presentations from accomplished minority academics, some of whom voiced concrete steps toward improving diversity in higher education, and some of whom merely lamented the lack thereof and cited statistics.

Columbia Business School professor and Senior Vice Dean Katherine W. Phillips, Ph.D. presented first. She displayed statistics of women in the workplace, citing unsettling numbers such as the fact that women comprise 47% of the workforce but just 5% of Fortune 500 CEOs.

More of the problems in higher education and how we can solve them after the jump

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