LectureHop: Drew Houston
Things got shakey out of excitement

Things got shakey out of excitement

Friday, as keynote speaker of their #StartupColumbia entrepreneurship festival, CORE hosted a conversation between Walt Mossberg (JRN ’70), editor of Re/Code and  Dropbox founder Drew Houston. We sent Artur Renault, our reporter with his head in the clouds, to cover.

Houston, pronounced like the street downtown, not the city in Texas, could be a GS student in your introductory CompSci class from his informal demeanor and long-sleeve shirt; you’d never guessed that he created Dropbox, the world’s largest file-sharing platform. In fact, when Mossberg asked the room how many of us used Dropbox, you’d be hard-pressed to find an arm that wasn’t raised. “What, nobody uses Google Drive or OneDrive?,” he asked next. When a few hands went up, Houston shrugged—”Nobody’s perfect.”

Being that this was an entrepreneurship event, many people were interested in how Dropbox came to be, so Houston told us the story in detail. He was waiting for the Feng Wah Chinatown bus in Boston’s South Station and realized he had forgotten his thumb drive containing all his work. He also didn’t have any Family Guy episodes left to watch on his laptop, and he didn’t feel like the lady next to him, who may have been carrying a bag of crabs, would be interested in much conversation. Realizing that his four-hour trip had been doomed to boredom by the simple misstep of forgetting a thumb drive, Houston began coding what would become Dropbox on that very bus ride.

And the rest was history?

LectureHop: The Prime Minister of Tunisia
blurry creeper shot

blurry creeper shot

It’s been/will be an eventful week for campus. Last night, Bwogger Tatini Mal-Sarkar saw the prime minister of Tunisia, Mehdi Jomaa, speak and promptly bragged about it to anyone and everyone within a 250-foot radius.

On the first truly bright day of the year, College Walk was populated by half the student body, as well as a full line of unidentifiable black town cars. The reason? Only the prime minister of the country whose revolution arguably set off the Arab Spring.

The prime minister of Tunisia spoke yesterday in Uris Hall through the Business School, in conjunction with the Institute for Religion, Culture, and Public Life, the Institute of African Studies, and the Middle East Institute. The doors were flanked by university officials, and by five till, the room was saturated with air kisses and excited whispers in French. Audience members of note included the Tunisian minister of higher education, minister of foreign affairs, and ambassador to the UN, amongst others.

At six sharp, the program commenced, and the entire room stood up as Prime Minister Mehdi Jomaa walked in. He started with a brief speech explaining the basics of the situation in Tunisia, beginning with the storm of political turmoil that the revolution set off in 2011. He spoke to the roots of the uprising, attesting it primarily to economic rather than political reasons; the politics, he said, became much more important later in the process. The overview also emphasized the significance of social media, especially Facebook and Twitter.

Tourism, privatization, and police states after the jump!

LectureHop: Sex Workers’ Rights are Trans Rights
We need teamwork, people

We need teamwork, people

On Thursday, the GS Alliance hosted a panel of queer activists (Emma Caterine, a community organizer at Red Umbrella Project; Dominick, author of Dean Johnson’s Reading for Filth; and Ryan Thoreson, a JD candidate at Yale Law School with extensive experience with LGBT NGOs) to discuss the issue of trans sex workers’ rights. Curious Bwogger Heather Akumiah attended the panel and reminisces on the night. 

The panel, titled Sex Workers Rights are Queer Rights!, began and ended with a discussion of Belle Knox, the Duke pornstar. Though Belle is not trans, the panelists discussed the fact that the same language used to “save” cis women from sex work is the language used to convict trans women of the same activity. Where white, cis, straight women are considered incapable of willingly “selling” their bodies (panelist Dominick joked that in reality, he was only renting his), trans sex workers, who are seen as being in possession of a dangerous sexuality, are considered perpetrators and ringleaders of sex work. This idea of dangerous sexuality is often the same reason that violence against trans workers is tolerated, excused, and perpetuated. The false dichotomy of the unwilling participant and the perverted perpetrator causes significant harm to a range of people involved in sex work, but the plight of trans sex workers often goes unnoticed.

The panelists agreed that removing the stigma of sex work and decriminalizing the practice would be a significant step in the right direction. However, they noted that trans men and women are often left out of conversations about destigmatizing sex work, and about civil rights as a whole. They cited the increasing prominence of respectability politics in the LGBTQ movement as one of the many reasons that trans voices are silenced. White, male, gay men have become the face of the movement, and what most Americans associate with LGBTQ rights. Their narrative has become the mainstream, where the narrative of trans people has become the margin. The panelists described the preeminence of the discussion of gay marriage as a distinct reflection of respectability politics.

Talk about solutions and the struggle ahead

LectureHop: Retranslating Literary Classics
It's not quite this easy

It’s not quite this easy

Retranslating Literary Classics: A Panel on Cervantes, Montaigne, and Dostoevsky was held yesterday in Miller Theatre. So many Lit Hum favorites in one place! Bwog sent literary liaison Artur Renault to fill you in.

As pessoas encheram o auditório na hora marcada, e à medida que as cadeiras iam se ocupando, a animação crescia.

This sentence in Portuguese, my other native language, describes what happened at the Miller Theater yesterday, and could be translated to English in a few ways:

The people crowded into the auditorium at the scheduled time, and as the chairs filled themselves, the animation grew.

The theater filled up at the scheduled time, and the enthusiasm increased as people took their seats.

The crowding theater bubbled with excitement as the seats were taken.

Now I am not a professional translator, but it is at least clear that the meaning of the sentence can be conveyed in multiple ways, with varying levels of literality, formality, and naturality. This was one of the central themes of the panel that took place at Miller Theater yesterday, featuring Edith Grossman, Richard Pevear, Larissa Volokhonsky, and Wyatt Mason, moderated by Susan Bernofsky. You may recognize some of these names: Edith Grossman translated the edition of Don Quixote we read in Lit Hum, and Richard Pevear and Larissa Volokhonsky translated Crime and Punishment. Which means, they were the names you saw when you looked up at your shelf and thought about how you really should be doing that reading.

After short introductions by Roosevelt Montás, Gareth Williams, and the moderator, the panelists were invited to speak briefly about what translation means to them.

And the magic begins.

LectureHop: Harlem Nocturne
The cover of Griffin's book

The cover of Griffin’s book

Bwog is a firm believer in taking advantage of all the cool and hip lectures held on Columbia’s campus. On Thursday, Bwog  sent history junkie Courtney Couillard to the book talk for one of Columbia’s own professors.

Considering I am both a woman, live in Harlem, and had a free Thursday night from midterm studying, I decided to stop by one of Columbia’s fascinating lectures/talks called Harlem Nocturne: Women Artists Progressive Politics During World War II. Featuring the book of the same title, the intimate book talk sponsored by The Center for Jazz Studies at Columbia University was held in Dodge Hall. Led by Columbia English, Comparative Literature, and African American studies professor and author Farah Jasmine Griffin, the talk focused on Griffin’s book, which chronicles the lives of three women in Harlem as they navigate through their artistic passions in the 1940′s.

The talk began with Griffin explaining why she decided to write about Harlem, particularly in the 1940′s. Her explanation began with recalling her experience on 9/11 while living in New York. Griffin took a walk the day of the attacks, and she said that being in Harlem felt quite different than the rest of the city in the wake of the crisis. This stillness and almost indifference from Harlem fascinated Griffin, inspiring her to further research the history of the neighborhood and what cultivated the response. Griffin also notes that while working on writing liner notes for a Lena Horne CD, she became engrossed with researching the 1940′s in regards to Harlem; she used this experience to determine the setting of her book. Griffin’s tale of the inception of her idea of the book felt genuine and real. Also, I appreciated her personal anecdote as it exposed the real connection she feels as someone living in Harlem.

Questions from the audience and the progressive spectrum.

Feeding the Buzz: A Conversation with Buzzfeed EIC Ben Smith
We wish we had a gif.

We wish we had a gif.

Last night, the Columbia Organization of Rising Entrepreneurs, along with the Society of Professional Journalists, brought the man responsible for much of Columbia’s procrastination and listification to campus—Ben Smith, former Politico writer and current Editor-in-Chief of Buzzfeed. Since Buzzfeed is everything Bwog has ever wanted to be, we went to check it out—here’s the report from Reason #7 To Go To Every Bwog Party, Artur Renault.

I’ll be honest—when I signed up to go watch the guy from Buzzfeed talk, I didn’t expect to really agree with anything he said about his website and journalism. I went there with the same kind of morbid curiosity that drove me to watch the Justin Bieber movie. In my mind, Buzzfeed was a collection of amusing lists and frivolous quizzes, and I half-expected Ben Smith to talk about these things like they were the future of journalism, the revolutionary new voice of the people, here to replace most forms of investigative reporting. Maybe I’d been watching too much Netflix; this event changed my perspective on journalism and on light entertainment in a profound way.

The first event was a small dinner in a Lerner room full of J-School students who somehow all had British accents; the second was a large lecture in Roone. When Ben walked into both of these places, several voices greeted him like they knew him. At the dinner, he had to wait until everyone had gotten their share of baked ziti and garlic knots; as Bwoggers know, food is the first order of business.

Wait, what did Ben Smith say about Bwog?

Lecturehop: Changing the Narrative for Our Boys of Color
Mama Bwog can't handle the cuteness

Mama Bwog can’t handle the cuteness

On Thursday night in the Schapiro, the Men of Color Alliance, Sigma Lambda Beta, The Sons Of Eta, BSO, and Teach For America hosted a panel discussion about the role of men of color in today’s educational system. Bwogger Heather Akumiah was there, eating pizza, snapping at all the wrong times, and occasionally taking notes.

The panel was filled with educators and educational leaders from low-income New York communities. Amongst them, Larnell Vickers, Associate Director of Recruitment for the Uncommon Schools Charter Network; Edgar Reyes, Assistant Principal of Harbor Heights Middle School; Abbas Manjee, Mathematics Teacher at ROADS Bronx High School; and Curtis Palmore, principal of Exceed Charter School.

The event started with participants being grouped into workshop stations around the room. It didn’t seem that a room of black and Latin@ Columbia students needed to be convinced that students of color all over the country are facing educational struggles. Instead, we skipped the statistics and discussed articles that detailed the avenues of oppression that are currently holding back students of color in the United States.

More reasons to snap after the jump

LectureHop: Bill de Blasio Returns to CU to Talk Education

The self-described “recovering middle school parent.”

This Monday, the Earth Institute presented the NYC Summit on Children in the Roone Arledge Auditorium. Hundreds of education and social service heavyweights were in attendance, with mayor-elect and SIPA grad, Bill de Blasio, taking stage as the keynote speaker. Bwogger Heather Akumiah was in attendance and took notes at a hand cramping speed.

Mayor elect Bill de Blasio started his speech (after an introduction by PrezBo and a huge round of applause) by delivering some dismal statistics about wealth inequality in New York. Forty-six percent of New Yorkers currently live at or below the poverty line. Of the thirty most populous cities in the United States, New York claims the highest gap in wealth. De Blasio insists that this gap is key in breeding education inequality. In recent years, the racial and economic divisions on high school test scores have become increasingly pronounced. In all of New York, only twenty-two percent of high school seniors were found to be college-ready, with Black and Latino students scoring even less. It is undeniable that economic destiny is directly liked to education; to leave the education issue unsolved would only perpetuate this damaging cycle.

De Blasio admits that there are a lot of factors that go into this sort of stratification: some national, global, and historical in nature. Still, he encourages New York to take responsibility of its current state; and in a time where we can’t look to our country’s defective congress to solve our issues, he vows to remedy it.

First, de Blasio proposes a series of immediate and short-term actions. He says that we must leverage economic policy to increase wages for workers who have traditionally been left out, and proposes affordable housing and job skills training to strengthen New York’s job force.

What else did he say?

LectureHop: Judith Butler and Cornel West in Honor of Edward Said
Public Intellectual

Public Intellectual

Wednesday night, in the Low Rotunda and around the world, people gathered to witness two of the greatest thinkers of our generation, Judith Butler and Cornel West, engage with the legacy of Edward Said –ten years after his death from lymphocytic leukemia. Said was best known for his views on the Western study of Eastern cultures, as espoused in his 1978 book Orientalism. A proud Palestinian American, he was also considered by many to be the strongest voice in favor of the establishment of a Palestinian State. Zachary Hendrickson sat in awe of genius.

The event, subtitled Palestine & The Public Intellectual: Honoring Edward Said, was first and foremost a memorialization of a man who often called Columbia University his “home.” The introduction by Lila Abu-Lughod was a very touching moment that reminded the audience of the humanity that Said so keenly displayed through his determination, his courage, his brilliance, and his conviction. But the event was more than just a solemn glorification of one man’s work. As Cornel West pointed out, that was the last thing “Brother Edward” would have wanted. And so the event was also a chance for critical engagement with the terms and ideas that marked Said as one of the most profound thinkers of his time; terms like “public intellectual,” and “secular humanist.” It was a very technical conversation at times, but the captivating personalities of Butler and West kept the conversation dynamic and engaging for all those in attendance.

One of the first things discussed was that for Edward Said, the term “public intellectual” was redundant. In his mind, the intellectual was inherently tied to the public, tied to an Enlightenment way of thinking that demanded engagement with the community at large. It is the duty of the intellectual to publish his views and serve as fact checker for the public. From this standpoint, it is impossible to be anything other than public. Certainly, Edward Said was well-known in his day for his unpopular pro-Palestinian stance, at one point being declared a “Professor of Terrorism.” Despite the criticism and even death threats he carried on with his work. It was said that even just two months from his death in 2003, he would finish a chemotherapy treatment and give a lecture later that day with a fiery disposition that couldn’t help but inspire.

He Said She Said

LectureHop: Richard Rodriguez On Women, God, and the Desert
Religion looks like this - Richard Rodriguez

Religion looks like this – Richard Rodriguez

Earlier this week Bwog contributor and  earner of frequent (lecture) flier miles Fainan Lakha attended a talk given by an author some of you may be familiar with: Richard Rodriguez.  Below is his account:

This past Thursday I saw a talk given at Union Theological Seminary by Richard Rodriguez, author of, among several works, an essay entitled “The Third Man,” which is standard assigned reading for UWriting. He came speaking on his recently published book Darling.  The book focuses on two points, his relationship to religion and a trip he recently took to the Middle East to learn more about the origins of Abrahamic faith, and his relationship to women.  Tied into this is not only Rodriguez’s homosexuality but also his attachment to the Roman Catholic Church and his being an American.

As he walks in, a Mexican friend I had come to the talk with whispers in my ear, “he reminds me so much of my grandfather!” The statement doesn’t just refer to his ethnic appearance; Rodriguez is an intense but comforting figure—a grandfatherly figure.  I have to say that his comb-over and thick-striped suit had something to do with it, though I’m not sure exactly how.  Tonight, his individualism was reflected in his choice of brightly colored striped socks.  Yes, they do totally clash with that suit.

Rodriguez beings the talk with one of the first significant recognitions he had upon coming to the Middle East.  It is the word “ojala,” a Spanish word that can be roughly translated to “hopefully.”  Rodriguez speaks to how it was a word he attached to his mother, who employed the word daily.  There in the Arab world, far from his Californian upbringing he found his mother again in the root of “ojala,” the Arabic phrase “Inshallah,” meaning, “if Allah wills it”.  There it was in front him, his Catholic mother repeating the Muslim name of God, over and over.

Is the suspense killing you yet?

Sustaining Peace Lecturehop
Look, she glows

Look, she glows

This past Thursday, Elizabeth Self, lover of all things peaceful, attended the Sustaining Peace lecture held at the Teacher’s College. Bwog is sure that there were tons of lovely and accomplished speakers present, but we zeroed in on one of our favorites: the ridiculously flawless Leymah Gbowee, who happened to be Barnard’s Commencement speaker this past Spring

Sustaining Peace: Interdisciplinary Perspectives was a program about conflict resolution, violence prevention, and sustaining peace held at Teacher’s College on October 24, 2013. It lasted 9 hours. I hate to disappoint you, but, even in the name of journalism, I am not that dedicated.

I in fact slid in right before the keynote speech, feeling somewhat like a kid who only read the Sparknotes (back in the eighth grade when people actually generally read the book before class). Fortunately, there was a cheat sheet to be found in the program, so I decided to clue myself in about this “Leymah Gbowee” while the speaker before her talked about some experiments in abstract terms that I didn’t understand.

Some super inspiring quotes after the jump

Lecture Hop: No More Sexual Assault
Imam Khalid Latif, the University Chaplain of N.Y.U.

Imam Khalid Latif, the University Chaplain of N.Y.U.

This Thursday, pro Lecture-hopper Elizabeth Self attended “Breaking the Silence: Sexual Violence in Islam,” and brought back some valuable information to share.  

This was really heavy subject matter, and when I arrived Thursday to a room full of round tables, I felt the gravity of the situation pretty harshly. Sure, I was interested in the issue, and wanted to get involved, but a discussion? What did I even have to discuss? In my head I imagined that everyone around me had some amazing story of survival or rescue or single-handedly creating a trans-continental trafficking haven. What did I even have to share? I wasn’t even Muslim or Asian. Fortunately, there was chocolate at the refreshments table, so I tried to settle myself down and pretend to be a reporter by furiously taking fake notes.

The event began more or less as I suspected it would, with a few stories of sexual assault, including some absolutely slamming spoken word. After that, however, I met surprise after surprise.


Lecture Hop: Syria from the Ground Up.

Syria on the map.

On Wednesday, a panel of journalists and activists with expertise on Syria gathered in the International Affairs Building to unravel some of the intricacies of the crisis and discuss the future of media coverage. Bwogger Lauren Beltrone was in attendance.

 In between the sound of my ears popping as I rode the elevator to the 15th floor, I heard the woman to my right dub the lecture “a really big deal.” That it was indeed. The event boasted panelists such as Carolyn Miles, President and CEO of Save the Children, Lara Setrakian, Executive Editor of the blog “Syria Deeply,” Liam Stack, New York Times editor of “Watching Syria’s War,” Michael Oppenheimer, Clinical Professor of the Center for Global Affairs at NYU, and Jean-Marie Guéhenno, former UN Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations and current Director of the Center on International Conflict Resolution at SIPA. Originally the panel was to include Rami Jarrah, a Syrian opposition activist skyping in from Turkey, however due to technical difficulties this never came into fruition.
Read On

LectureHop: The KKK And Separation Of Church And State
Some good old political cartoonage

Some good old political cartoonage

Non-KKK-supporter Elizabeth Self attended this week’s lecture on the KKK. Let her educate you. 

Yesterday, Philip Hamburger, professor of law, gave a talk on the KKK and the Separation of Church and State. I dropped in, intrigued because I’ve always been confused about just what the KKK was. In textbooks I was told they were a weirdly well-organized lynch mob of the South, but my older, male, white relatives back in Alabama always vehemently insisted that this misunderstood little club was actually designed to protect women and force men to be genteel and bring home the bacon and was simply vilified by the Yankee media, which chose to focus on there oh-so-few not-so-pleasant activities. Though I was more inclined to believe the book, I thought I would go be sure.

Now I’m even more confused.

In order to accurately describe the Klan’s role in the politics of the 20th century, Hamburger organized his talk as “a table of strange facts,” with such servings as the roles of women’s groups, the meaning of the fiery cross, the goals of the KKK for public education, different meanings of the slogan “Separation of Church and State”, and the role of the clan in nativist movements today. As he dished out all of these odd servings, I learned that the Klan presented itself as a rather progressive group, pledging to dispel ignorance and encourage liberated minds, as well as, you know, defend white supremacy. Many of us would even agree with their stance on public education, too: “Children should be taught how to think, not what to think.”

Apparently the KKK was pretty popular in New York…

LectureHop: Macky Sall, the President of Senegal

Macky Sall

On Wednesday, the President of Senegal Macky Sall joined the World Leaders Forum. Enigmatic Enthusiast Eric Wimer practiced his French.

Macky Sall almost didn’t come to Columbia on Wednesday. He was cutting his New York visit short that very night to return to the capital, Dakar, where a water shortage had hit hard. But Sall seems very comfortable battling tough circumstance: when the previous president of Senegal had removed him from an Assembly President post, he founded his own party and took the former prez’s job in the next election. President Sall touched of the philosophy of Francis Fukuyama and Hobbes, called out the UN and Western Media, and laid out his vision for African growth, even a common West African currency, in what was an interesting, wide-ranging speech.

President Sall gave his speech entirely in French. I was lucky enough to see a handful of World Leaders Forums this week, and maybe it was just the novelty of practicing my poor French, or more likely the fact that the President didn’t have to struggle to hit an elegant note in a foreign tongue, but President Sall’s speech seemed to be especially well-recieved. Even with our UN-style earpieces on to translate, his fiery rhetoric got through and he had to pause multiple times for strong applause, albeit probably led by his diplomats.