Fireside Chat, Graduate Edition
The venue

The venue

PrezBo held one of his famous fireside chats; this time, for graduate students. He served us pretty good burritos and nachos, as well as the smallest cupcakes Bwog has ever seen. Wonder what he said? Presidential party crasher Artur Renault has got you covered.

People were very confused at my name tag, which said “Bwog,” where theirs stated their school affiliation. My standard answer to “What school is B.W.O.G.?” was “I’m getting a doctorate in squirrel studies.” I got mixed reactions.

Soon we were ushered from the large, old, hardwood-floored room with the buffet into a large, old, hardwood-floored room with chairs specially placed so we could talk to PrezBo.

Here’s what he said.

“The Meanest, Rottenest Landlord”: CAGe Leads Discussion On Manhattanville

1973453_10201985823342489_7270227400612543939_oYesterday afternoon, Columbia’s Coalition Against Gentrification (CAGe) held a conference about the local implications Columbia’s Manhattanville expansion. Manhattanville Maven Ali Sawyer attended the conference.

I think of Columbia, first and foremost, as a university—guilty of questionable administrative actions (or lack thereof) sometimes, sure, but also a hub for education and events that generally benefits the Morningside Heights community. You probably wouldn’t call my perception particularly disputable. But today, I was presented with a different picture of Columbia as a ruthless real estate giant, colonizing West Harlem without regard for the human beings who reside there. I was taken aback. We know that Columbia prioritizes maintaining a good PR image—based on how little I knew about this issue before, I would say they’re doing a pretty good job.

The event began with an opening speech by Professor Steven Gregory of Columbia’s Anthropology and African-American Studies departments. Professor Gregory presented a history of Columbia’s expansion plans, revealing how much longer this struggle has existed than I’d realized. Columbia’s administration has had their eye on Manhattanville for decades.

One of Professor Gregory’s main concerns was how the university deceitfully seeks and then ignores community input on its expansion plans. While it accepts community input on a surface level, it doesn’t allow it to influence their projects in any meaningful way. This disturbing habit of the university reflects its concern for good PR above human beings, a major theme of this meeting.

By spending millions on consultants and lobbying, Professor Gregory said, Columbia disempowers community organizations that lack the funds to keep up. This news was horrifying to me: my tuition dollars are feeding this expansion monster.

Back in 2008, Columbia hired companies EarthTech and AKRF to conduct studies on the environmental conditions of Manhattanville. The EarthTech report relies on visual observations like “ubiquitous roll-down gates” and “an almost complete lack of trees and vegetation” to declare Manhattanville a “blighted” area. The report ignored the social, economic, and historical richness of the area because of some obnoxious gates and a dearth of trees. Based on this logic, all of Manhattan, save perhaps Central Park, must be “blighted.”

Nice one, Columbia.

Fireside Chat: Wellness and PrezBo’s Future
The mansion

The mansion

PrezBo held a Fireside Chat last night, complete with snacks and fancy outfits. Bwog’s Bollinger Buddy Britt Fossum went to chat by his fireside.

I was told that President Bollinger’s fireside chat would begin at 6:00 PM, and so I hurried out of my CC class fifteen minutes early, regretting my decision to exchange midterms sneakers for nice shoes as I stepped in several puddles on 116th. Upon arriving at his home and getting my press pass clipped on, I realized that I wasn’t the only one trying to make a good impression by dressing well. I saw suits, dresses, and even what appeared to be some kind of deconstructed tuxedo. Impressive for college students in the throes of exams. 6:00 was when the snacking and mingling began, not the chat itself. And so I snacked and mingled, and spoke with a friend who has so far won two fireside chat lotteries. She reassured me that the food was better last time, even though I was pretty impressed. They even had scotcheroos, a Midwestern delicacy. Besides the food, the night was relatively tame, the exception being the controversial questions students asked PrezBo. Student mental health, Manhattanville, prison divest, and sexual assault all came up but these discussions were mixed with digressions on Columbia’s Global Centers and Bollinger’s personal development.

At around 6:30 we were steered into a side room filled with rows of chairs and couches, with a single stool in the front awaiting PrezBo’s arrival. After everyone settled down, he entered quietly and took a seat. The other administrators present were announced: Dean Terry Martinez, University Chaplain Jewelnel Davis, Media Relations Vice President Robert Hornsby, GS Dean of Students Tom Harford, and Facilities Vice President Joseph Ienuso. Bollinger then announced, as he always does at these chats, that he would answer any question we ask him unless he doesn’t want to.

Ask him some questions and get some answers

Bwoglines: Is It Still Cold? Edition
Yalta Conference in 1945 (left to right) Winston Churchill, PrezBo, and Josephson Stalin

Yalta Conference in 1945 (left to right) Winston Churchill, PrezBo, and Josephson Stalin

Tensions grow in Crimea as the crossroads where the three most powerful men in the world once met is again under international scrutiny. (CNN)

The Manhattanville expansion might not be going as smoothly as planned. (The Real Deal)

Jobs are up, and drones are legal, so maybe do something with that. (USA Today) (GigaOM)

A couple of classy gentlemen give the kids what they want. (Huff Post)

The Big Three via Wikimedia Commons

USenate Plenary: Nothing New But NROTC
sorry we just really like that phrase

Topped off.

We’ve decided to pay more attention to USenate and what exactly they do, so as to be prepared for the upcoming election.  They had their big plenary meeting yesterday.  Senatorial summarizer Kevin Chen took notes.

Les highlights:

  • Per PrezBo, if this government shutdown goes on for more than a few weeks, the university is totally fucked financially.
    • A quarter of CU funding comes from federal grants and contracts, so like, we need those
    • Meanwhile, we’ve already been suffering due to the sequestration–some labs still can’t afford hiring new grad students
  • NROTC (that’s Naval) returned to campus this week!
    • There are 5 participating students–2 in CC, 2 in GS, and 1 participating informally from Barnard
    • In May, there will be the first commissioning ceremony in 2 generations for the first student finishing a degree with ROTC
  • In case you haven’t noticed, our deans don’t stick around too long.
    • We’ve got 5 new deans across the University, and we’re on the hunt for 2 more
  • USenate really does just talk about the smoking policy!
    • They’re working with the President’s office because…well…no one is following the rules
    • A task force has been made to make a map of designated areas for smoking because…again…no one is following the rules
    • Apparently the new policy will be implemented and put into effect in July 2014.  SENIORS REJOICE: YOU CAN SMOKE WHEREVER!
  • Manhattanville: a thing that is still happening
    • Per PrezBo: we will “work with the surrounding community” and it is “right for this century”
    • Everyone just wants to make sure their space needs are met
    • The square footage of Manhatanville is approximately equal to the Morningside interior campus.  Damn!
    • The Jerome L Greene Science Center was topped off, which sounds dirty but just means the building finished IS finished.

Bwog’s sophomoric humor via Shutterstock

The Deciders: Four Trustees Share the View from the Top
Illustration by Alexander Pines

Illustration by Alexander Pines

From the Orientation issue of The Blue and White: Somer Omar sat down in Low Library to talk with some of the Trustees about their role at the University. The Blue and White will hold the semester’s second open meeting tonight, at 9 p.m. in the crypt of St. Paul’s Chapel.


The King’s College Room in Low Library.  Nestled in a corner next to the Secretary’s Office on the first floor, the room is unlisted in the receptionist’s computer’s directory. It is the summer of 2013, after one of the four annual meetings of the Board of Trustees.


Bill Campbell, CC ’62, has been the Chairman of the Board of Trustees since 2005. He serves on the boards of Apple and Intuit. From 1974 to 1979, he coached the football team, earning his moniker: The Coach. The Campbell Sports Center bears his name.

Philip Milstein, CC ’71, is a Vice Chair on the Board. He is a principal in Ogden CAP Properties LLC, which owns and operates luxury residential buildings. The official name of the 24 hour reading rooms in Butler is: The Philip L. Milstein Family College Library.

A’Lelia Bundles, J ’76, is a Vice Chair on the Board and co-chair of the Columbia Alumni Association Strategic Planning Committee. She is president and chair of the Foundation for the National Archives’s board.  She also serves on the boards of the Madame Walker Theatre Center in Indianapolis, the Friends of Woodlawn Cemetery in the Bronx, and the Schlesinger Library at the Radcliffe Institute.

Lisa Carnoy, CC ’89, chairs the Alumni Affairs and Development Committee. Carnoy joined the board in 2010, and is both its newest and youngest member. She is Head of Global Capital Markets for Bank of America Merrill Lynch. In 2008, Forbes published “The Climb: Lisa Carnoy,” a story about her speedy ascent on Wall Street.

David Stone is Executive Vice President of the Office of Communications and Public Affairs. He has served in state and federal government, worked as a lawyer, public affairs television producer, writer, and strategic communications consultant. He helped arrange and guide the meeting.

The Board in action after the jump

B-School Gets $100 Million for Manhattanville

The Ronald O. Perelman Center for Business Innovation

The B-School announced today that they’d received a $100 million donation from businessman and philanthropist Ron Perelman.

Perelman is part of the Board of Overseers for the B-School and serves as CEO and chairman of MacAndrews & Forbes Holdings Inc., which that owns a ton of corporations—including the Revlon make-up company and Scantron, the company that makes those standardized tests that require a number 2 pencil.

Perelman’s $100 million will go toward building the B-School’s two new buildings in Manhattanville, one of which will be named the Ronald O. Perelman Center for Business Innovation, “in recognition of [his] generosity.” The other building will be named after Henry Kravis, B ’69 and co-chair of the Board Overseers, who made his own $100 million donation last year.

No word on whether either of the buildings will be restricted to undergrads. But as of this writing, http://undergradsinperelman.tumblr.com is still available.

Read the press release after jump

Summer Update, Part II
As you take refuge from the sweltering midsummer heat (or cold, if you’re super abroad) amidst frozen margaritas with friends or popsicles on a couch you haven’t left in three days, the world somehow manages to continue turning. Keep reading to find out in which direction.

  • Remember when J.P. Morgan lost more than $2 billion of other people’s money by irresponsible trading? Well that’s caused a lot of people, including politicians, to urge Jamie Dimon, the chief executive of the company, to step down from his position on the board of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York—but not PrezBo. He’s been subject of controversy, because he supports Dimon. He went as far as to say Dimon’s critics are “foolish” and posses a “false understanding” of how the board works. (NYT, LA Times, Business Week)
  • After Paul Krugman sarcastically insulted Estonia’s economy in a blog post, Estonian president Toomas Hendrik Ilves rebutted him on Twitter. Not only did he disparage Krugman’s Nobel Prize, but he bitingly accused him of reducing the conflict to a “Princeton vs Columbia thing.” (NYT, Twitter)
What’s In the McKinsey Report?

Earlier this morning, The Eye published an article about shakeups in the upper echelons of the Columbia administration. The piece contained a couple of new nuggets in this seemingly never-ending story—including a summary of the infamous McKinsey report and changes to financial aid—but it can be difficult to keep track of everything that’s happened since Moodygate broke back in August 2011. So Bwog decided to put together a little guide to the latest news about Columbia’s administration and what effect, if any, this will have on your life. 

What’s the latest news about the McKinsey report?

Spec reporters apparently obtained a partial summary of the secret McKinsey report, which recommended three different options to reorganize the Arts & Sciences (A&S), an administrative grouping of the College, GS, GSAS (the liberal arts grad school), SIPA, and the School of the Arts.

The first option is the least radical, just calling for an additional “operating committee” to decide issues that involve multiple schools in FAS. Since the Dean of the College would probably be on this committee, it wouldn’t be a huge change from the status quo.

The second option is a little more centralized, suggesting that FAS create “functional heads” like a chief financial officer to decide policy for all schools in FAS. This would basically involve ceding authority for College matters from the Dean of the College (and other College administrators) to administrators in FAS who’d have to consider the interests of schools like GSAS and SIPA in addition to the College.

The final option calls for a major reorganization, basically putting the Provost—who would have to consider the interests of every school at Columbia—directly in charge of the A&S. The Dean of the College would only be responsible for the “care and feeding” of undergrads. Particularly in this option, the Dean is really no longer a leader; he or she couldn’t make decisions for the College but could only try to persuade and advise the Provost to make decisions.

Which of the three options did the University end up choosing?

None yet, although Nicholas Dirks, the vice-president of A&S did just announce the formation of an “executive committee” consisting of himself, Deantini, and the dean of GSAS, which seems similar to the “operating committee” called for in the first option.

What’s all this about financial aid? Will my financial aid be cut?

According to the Eye article, the College’s financial aid department was recently moved into the Provost’s office. Depending on the Provost’s priorities, this could be really good or really bad.

The College is always strapped for funds, while the University’s budget is much larger. If the University is serious about financial aid for undergraduates, then, they’ll be able to take money out of that large budget and put it directly into a pool for College students’ financial aid.

On the other hand, the University budget also includes many more things expenses—like facilities costs, that school we run on 110th street, and of course Manhattanville—that will be competing with financial aid for funds. At this point, we’ll just have to wait and see what happens.

Read more after the jump.

Maybe This Town Is Big Enough

Columbia isn’t the only university set on expansion in New York. NYU has decided to make a bit of a ruckus with the residents of the Village for the past couple of months with their proposal to develop 2.5 million square feet of new infrastructure over the next twenty years. Their plan, which they’ve called NYU2031 in honor of the year that marks the university’s bicentennial, includes a host of other changes, like expanding academic buildings to Governor’s Island and Downtown Brooklyn and reconfiguring its medical campus in Midtown. But, it is the construction in the Village, a historically political (and now affluent) area of the city–the very neighborhood where NYU resides–that faces the school with so much opposition.

Unlike Columbia’s expansion, much of NYU’s proposal relies on it building on the land it already owns, land some would argue it has the right to develop. This makes the development more palatable for Village residents who have demanded that the university “build on its own footprint.” But doing so isn’t enough for some residents who feel they have a claim to the open space . Michael Kimmelman, the NYT’s architecture critic writes:

The most radical part of what N.Y.U. wants is to construct two tall, crescent-shaped towers, 400,000 square between them (the architecture is still notional) on the 1.5 acres of open space between the two apartment slabs of Washington Square Village. Beneath that open space, in lieu of the current parking garage, the university wants to dig several floors down to create 770,000 square feet of underground classrooms.

This would entail, among other things, demolishing the raised concrete garden by Hideo Sasaki from 1959 that is one of the country’s earliest parking garage roof structures, beloved by landscape historians, with its boxed crabapples, cherry and willow trees. I used to play in it as a boy. It’s a severe park but peaceful. The Village has notoriously few public refuges, aside from Washington Square Park. This is one of them, though most people don’t even realize it exists.

That’s because over the years the university has effectively closed off the open space between the buildings with fences and gates, obscured it behind a cheap retail strip mall on La Guardia Place and allowed what should be accessible parkland to languish while arguing that building the towers with fresh landscaping around them would create an improvement. Demolition by neglect is the term of art.


“Substandard,” “Unsanitary,” and “Undesirable”: CPC’s Open Forum on Columbia’s Expansion

Above-standard and highly sanitary detective Jed Bush explores the controversies surrounding expansion at Monday’s CPC forum.

A misleading image representing another type of expansion

Last night, the Coalition to Protect Community (CPC) organized a panel discussion on SCUD— efforts to Stop Columbia University Displacement—in a small lecture hall in the Mathematics Building. Though students did not come out in droves (the crowd numbered around 40, with students making up around half of the attendees), that did not prevent two hours of discussion on the issues regarding the University expansion, from its economic aspect, to scathing criticism of the divisive and misleading language Bollinger’s administration has used on the issue.

The panel featured six speakers: two students, Yoni Golijov and Layan Fuleihan, one professor, Mindy Fullilove, and several community members, Sarah Martin, Tom DeMott, and Earl Kooperkamp. An invitation was extended to PrezBo, and though he did not show, his absence was marked by an empty chair.

The panel began with the two students discussing the effect of the expansion on the student body, with Golijov speaking on the need to preserve the memory of past expansion efforts, given that most students only stay in the community for four years. Fuleihan reminded the audience that the very idea of “Morningside Heights” was a false division meant to separate Columbia from its less wealthy Harlem neighbors. Still, for the rest of the panelists, most of the discontent stemmed less from the idea of expansion itself, but rather the University’s methods–which opponents argue have only contributed to further gentrification and division within the neighborhood.

Further opinions after the jump.

Occupiers Encamp at Tuck-It-Away

Starting Thursday, “members of the Coalition to Preserve Community, St. Mary’s Congregations for Justice and Peace, Harlem community members, and students of Columbia University” met up to #occupy Tuck-It-Away Storage. Tuck-It-Away, located at 655 W. 125th St., was the last legal battleground of our Manhattanville expansion. Of the many demands that the coalition fights for, one says it all: that “Residents under threat of forced displacement by the University be permitted to stay in their homes and communities” (emphasis theirs).

They’re still set up today, so Bwog, wiping its bleary eyes, trekked north.

It’s a scene. Ten or so occupiers stand around, talking to one another and sharing fliers with passersby. There are no drum circles, no mic checks, and no chanting. Amidst the encampment, bright-eyed undergrads mix with disillusioned senior residents and middle-aged attendees over snackfoods. The average age rests somewhere north of #OWS.

There is one cop hanging out at the fringe who says that he’d been there for a few hours without seeing any sort of disturbance. He describes the occupiers as decent people. This is most likely a product of him having just worked at Occupy Wall Street, where it was a lot harder to keep everyone controlled. He also mentions that the encampment at Tuck-It-Away is the only NYC occupation of its kind uptown.

Occupier Elliott Grieco, CC ’12, has slept at Tuck-It-Away for two nights now. “Last night we had 16 staying over, the night before, 25,” he says. It makes sense, he says, to camp out in front of Tuck-It-Away since the University is seizing the property via eminent domain. Another, old, occupier asked Elliott if he know “Chibby,” the guy he was texting to sounds the muster at Tuck-It-Away. Chibby is apparently important at “Occupy Downtown,” and the older guy sort of sneered when Elliott explained that he wasn’t really down there all that often.

Bwog spoke to another occupier, a resident and 1966 graduate of Columbia College. This alumnus bemoaned the loss of diversity he perceived in Morningside, which he attributes to Columbia’s expansion. In his words, Morningside has undergone “ethnic cleansing and economic homogenization” since then, processes that he does not wish to see repeated farther north. A black, middle-aged, female, resident talking with us had only to say, “It’s apartheid, that’s all it is.”

Manhattanville Building Collapses, Killing Construction Worker

The projected second phase of the Manhattanville campus.

According to Columbia Public Safety, a building in the heart of Manhattanville collapsed this morning with a construction crew still inside. The collapsed structure, The Pearl Green building on 131st street, is located in front of the Columbia-owned Studebaker building, on the block between between Tuck-It-Away Storage and Fairway.

In a brief email, Ricardo Morales, Public Safety’s Manager of Crime Prevention Programs, reports, “Crew members have been rescued, but it appears other crew still trapped. Possible injuries.” Public Safety, Public Affairs, and Manhattanville reps have not yet responded for comment.

So far, the major demolition work for the Mville expansion has been between 129th Street and 131st street, and the projected development plan for the campus suggests that The Pearl Green building is one of the properties slated for construction work. However, we cannot yet confirm that crew working in Manhattanville this morning is affiliated with Columbia’s construction.

We will continue to update you as we learn more.

Updates: DNAinfo reports that the building was purchased by Columbia last month and is part of the Manhattanville expansion.

The New York Daily News reports that one worker was killed and two more injured in the collapse. They also have pictures of the aftermath.

Spec reports that the construction company—Breeze National—has mob connections and had gotten in trouble with the Department of Buildings twice earlier this month. The New York Times reports that the company is so corrupt that the City of New York refuses to do business with it.

Sadly, this isn’t the first time a construction worker has been killed at a Breeze National construction site. Last February, a worker fell off a different building that the company was constructing for Columbia in Manhattanville.

SAC Holds a Meeting, People Notice

Update, 6:01 pm: Occupy Columbia did not officially protest the meeting. According to Frouman,”There were some people on the steps affiliated with Occupy but it was coincidence as I understand it.” Certain members of Occupy did, however, send the attendees of the meeting an e-mail based on a misunderstanding of what the meeting was about, the content of which is found after the jump.

Yesterday, Occupy Columbia got wind of the fact that the Student Affairs Committee (SAC) was having a closed meeting about what the university would do with the space vacated by the move to Manhattanville. Outraged by the lack of transparency, they stormed over to Low and sat outside the meeting to take a stand for the rights of students to have a voice in the process.

It turns out the meeting wasn’t technically closed. Bwog sat down to speak with Alex Frouman, Eduardo Santana, and Jose Robledo of SAC to figure out what all the hubbub was about. It turns out there may have been a miscommunication about what was being discussed at the meeting and who was invited. According to Jose Robledo, the GS representative in the SAC, “All of our SAC meetings and student council meetings are open.” The head of SAC, Frouman, who called the meeting, further clarified that the discussion over whether or not it should have been publicized wasn’t discussed because of the administrative nature of the meeting. Whether or not SAC should use Google Docs or Survey Monkey and whether the survey should come out on a Saturday or a Sunday, for example didn’t seem to merit a more explicit meeting announcement, especially because they would come out with the press release later that night. The irony, Frouman claimed, was that the whole meeting was regarding how to get students involved by thinking about methods of outreach.


Fireside Chat: Globalization, Wellness, and Transparency

As he does from time to time, last night PrezBo opened the doors to his grandiose abode on Morningside Drive to a number of students and administrators for the latest in his Rooseveltian series of fireside chats. A pair of Bwog editors were in attendance, and positioned themselves on a soft couch to listen in on the night’s discourse.

As the thirty-some undergraduates climbed the elegant staircase within the president’s mansion yesterday evening, they were greeted by a large display of finger foods surrounded by a host of hungry students—many of them notable campus characters. After about 20 minutes of schmoozing and snacking on miniature pizzas and breads, the students were shepherded into the main sitting room, which contained neat rows of chairs as well as the promised fireside.

prezboPrezBo entered without fanfare and made his way to the stool waiting for him at the front of the room, pausing briefly before quieting the room in his trademark soft, paternal tones. He introduced the other administrators in the room—among them KevSho and Kenneth Prewitt—and then solicited questions from the crowd, adding as always the caveat that while they could ask him whatever they liked, he “could choose not to answer whatever he liked,” as well, garnering himself a handful of polite laughs.

When the chuckles waned, the first question was asked—likely one PrezBo never would have predicted: does he have plans to retire after his (recently extended) term as Columbia’s president is over? He hinted vaguely at other side projects he would like to finish up, including helping to see the Manhattanville expansion through as far as possible, before giving an apparently earnest answer that he wishes to continue as an educator and a scholar after he steps down from leadership.

The next question was far more topical, and regarded PrezBo’s reaction to the controversy surrounding the SEAS faculty’s recent vote of no confidence in Dean Peña-Mora. PrezBo expressed nothing but confidence in “Feni,” reminding the attendees that he is still a new dean, and that the engineering school has seen a great deal of improvement, both in the rankings beyond them, over the past few years.

Read on for Manhattanville, student wellness, and the McKinsey Report