In the new issue of your favorite magazine The Blue and White, on campus later this week, you’ll read about the denial of tenure to a favorite Barnard professor, get some insight into CUSH’s split from the IRC, and hear from the wisest cabbie in New York City. Whet your appetite with this piece by senior editor Torsten Odland, CC ’15, on Operation Ivy League and how quickly institutional memory fades at Columbia.
In the early hours of December 7, 2010, the following students were awoken and arrested for drug dealing by NYPD officers: Harrison David, SEAS ’12; Chris Coles, CC ’12; Stephan/Jose Vincenzo/Perez, CC ’12; Michael Wymbs, CC, ’11; and Adam Klein, CC ’12. Specifically, they’d sold: marijuana, cocaine, LSD, ecstasy, and Adderall. The bust was the culmination of a five month long investigation of the students, from whom undercover NYPD officers bought $11,000 worth of drugs over the course of 31 deals.
In the Office of Special Narcotics’ original press release, they referred to the sting as “Operation Ivy League.” Though Police Commissioner Ray Kelly denies ever using it, it is the name that stuck.
Students from 2010 remember “OIL” as a “big deal.” Operation Ivy League united the Columbia community in confusion; the atmosphere on campus in the days after the arrests was described to me as a “collective daze”—OIL was “shocking” and “upsetting” and everyone was talking about it.
The responses to “Five Students Arrested in Drug Bust, ‘Operation Ivy League,’ ” Bwog’s first article covering the story, demonstrate how intensely Columbia students felt about the issue: “My thoughts go out to the countless individuals in the Greek community who fight everyday to show the truly positive side of their fraternity or sorority, only to have actions like this essentially reset the process. It’s an absolute shame”; “My heart goes out to the desperately poor people from third-world countries who risk their lives smuggling drugs inside their bodies because they have no other option. My heart does NOT go out to Ivy Leaguers who got caught.”
For the Columbia students who were there, OIL was an unforgettable event, about which many still feel strongly, both in support of or in disgust with the arrested. It’s remained campus news for two years–—Bwog published updates about each of the accused’s court cases, and still keeps campus posted when Jose Perez appears on network news to talk about the dangers of Adderall.
Two years from now, almost all of the undergrads who remember the atmosphere on campus in the days after the arrests will have graduated. Which begs the question: Does Operation Ivy League matter to Columbia students anymore? Let me put it this way: In Columbia history, can we put Op. Ivy League in the same category as “that time Snoop Dogg played Bacchanal?” Did it permanently impact the lives of Columbia students, or is it another “legendary moment” that ultimately amounts to a memory?