High Hopes, Low Expectations

Cold, callous Low

Yesterday, PrezBo announced that Low will get a bit more crowded come autumn—a fresh face will fill the newly-created role of Executive Vice President for Student Affairs and report directly to the president.

University Senators Akshay Shah, SEAS ’14, and Matthew Chou, CC ’14, note that the creation of this position is essentially a direct consequence of the sexual assault controversy, which showed the clear need for someone in Columbia’s central administration to become the “primary place of contact for issues relating to sexual assault.”

Joseph Ienuso, EVP for Facilities and Operations, has been picking up the slack, but hasn’t had any student affairs experience in the past. And remember when it took so long to find a time for the town hall? Terry Martinez and deans of student affairs from other schools in the umbrella were left without a central administrator to coordinate the event. Hopefully this new position will centralize the process rather than bog CU down with more slow, unresponsive bureaucracy, and hopefully student voices will be included in conversations regarding the search. To the University Senators, however, it’s already “a big win”—as Akshay noted, we’ll have someone ”with the direct ear of the president.”

Peer institutions and the current bureaucracy.

Update From PrezBo On Sexual Assault
"So, here are the updates"

“So, here are the updates”

PrezBo wants us to know he’s serious about handling our concerns about sexual assault. In addition to his previous letter stating his commitment to addressing sexual assault on campus, he sent out this letter giving the following updates on the administration’s progress:

  • PrezBo will create a new administrative position, the Executive Vice President for Student Affairs, who will report directly to PrezBo about issues like sexual assault.
  • The University Senate has passed a resolution which will increase student representation on the President’s Advisory Committee for Sexual Assault.
  • The deans will hold more public forums and respond to the concerns raised at the first one.
  • The administration will improve access and confidentiality for the Rape and Crisis Support Center.
  • Also, it’s Sexual Assault Awareness Month, and there are lots of events coming up.

PrezBo’s letter (bolding by Bwog):

Dear fellow members of the Columbia community:

I am writing to offer an update on the progress we’re making in addressing the issues involving sexual assault at the University. There are many complex problems to resolve, so this will not be the last letter or communication I (or others) will write on the subject. It seems better to provide periodic statements about what we’re doing, which, besides showing that things are happening, brings the added benefit of supporting an ongoing discussion within the community.

I want to begin, as I tried to do in my letter earlier in the semester, with the clearest possible statement that we are just not going to tolerate sexual abuse and assault at Columbia. Everything we are doing and will do must be with the purpose of reducing this misconduct to zero.

So, here are the updates:

Get the updates

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

Red Tape Around Campus And On PrezBo’s Door

“We demand that you fulfill the commitment you made in your public statement one month ago today. We demand to be heard.” Look around campus and you’ll see the red tape marking the spots, including PrezBo’s door. The group, No Red Tape, is calling for a series of town halls, for decision-makers to be present at them, and for “new and diverse voices” to be included in the conversation. According to the Spectator, PrezBo has finally responded, setting a time for the town hall on March 13 from 5 to 7 pm.

Update (3:22 pm): The group has released a press release (below the jump).

Check out pictures from other places around campus.

PrezBo Announces New Task Force On Personalized Medicine
The next task force will be on making personalized jelly beans

The next task force will be on making personalized jelly beans

PrezBo sent out an email this morning announcing the creation of a large, University-wide task force to help the University plan for new scientific advances in various disciplines towards the creation of personalized/precision medicine. According to the Personalized Medicine Coalition, personalized/precision medicine is “the use of new methods of molecular analysis to better manage a patient’s disease or predisposition to disease.” That sounds very futuristic and we’re glad PrezBo is keeping Columbia at the forefront of it.

The task force isn’t just for scientists. The announcement states that “This broad subject encompasses virtually every part of the University, including areas that explore fundamental issues of human self-understanding and those that seek to develop the legal, policy, and economic implications of revolutionary changes in knowledge and practice.” The task force has around 40 faculty and administrators on it, whose disciplines range from dental science to computer science to sociology.

PrezBo hopes that the task force will produce a report by next fall semester.

Get PrezBo’s whole message and the list of task force members

Columbia Prison Divest Speaks Up
Some members of the campaign speaking with Columbia's deputy something something

Some members of the campaign speaking with PrezBo’s Deputy something something

Members of the Columbia Prison Divest campaign sat down with Bwog to talk about the letter they’d sent around and had publicly submitted to PrezBo.  The campaign has only just started, but it seems the group is focused on success—they want Columbia to get rid of its investments in private prisons and, perhaps more importantly, they seem to want you to want it as well.  

Bwog: Well, let’s start out simple. Who are you guys and what are you circulating this letter about?

We are students and we are the Columbia Prison Divest campaign. We delivered a letter on Monday to President Lee Bollinger asking Columbia to divest from the private prison industry.

B: For those of us who haven’t read the letter, what exactly are you asking for?

Specifically, we are asking for Columbia to divest completely from the Corrections Corporation of America (CCA), G4S, and provide a negative screen for (i.e. measures to block any future investments in) CCA, G4S and The GEO Group. We are also calling for Columbia to publicly encourage its investment partners to divest from those same corporations. Alongside these calls for divestment, we are also asking our university to be accountable to us, students, and members of its community by way of increasing the transparency regarding its budget since currently we can access only 10% of its investments.

B: Why do you think students ought to care about this? What’s personal about divestment for students?

For some students, the divestment campaign is solely related to holding themselves, and by extension the University, accountable for sound spending practices. For other students, this is a far more personal matter, related to the effects of police profiling on targeted communities and the continued incarceration efforts directed towards communities of color and working class communities. Regardless of what perspective you approach this from, we can all agree that profiting from putting more people in prison goes against what we want Columbia to stand for.

Find out more about the campaign and how you can get more info/get involved

PrezBo Releases Statement On Sexual Assault

Update (1/30, 1:15 pm): Several deans, including Dean Valentini, Dean Boyce, Dean Awn, and Dean Martinez, emailed a statement to Barnard and Columbia undergraduates this afternoon. It’ll be under the jump.

Update (9:50 am): Debora Spar, President of Barnard College, emailed a statement to Barnard College. Find it after the jump as well.

At 9 am this morning, President Bollinger emailed this statement to the entire university. Over the past few weeks and months, there’s been growing criticism of Columbia’s improper handling of sexual assault cases, including an investigative piece by The Blue and White’s Anna Bahr.

Most notably, President Bollinger committed to more transparency throughout the system; he promised to release anonymized statistics on “gender-based misconduct” by the end of this school year, and also expressed his support for a review of PACSA (whose members currently aren’t disclosed) and forums to discuss how cases of sexual assault are taken care of by the University.

While we can’t forget the tradeoff between transparency and confidentiality—and PrezBo doesn’t—there’s few who would say that the current system for reporting and trying sexual assault allegations is ideal. Catch the email after the jump.
Emails from Prezbo and DSpar after the jump.

USenate Releases Statement on Sexual Assault Process

The USenate Twitter account just released a statement from the Student Affairs Committee (SAC) on the Sexual Assault Adjudication Process. In short, the SAC has called for:

  • President Bollinger to release a statement regarding the university’s policy on sexual assault and misconduct,
  • a town hall to act as a forum for students and faculty to speak publicly on the issue,
  • full transparency from the university regarding data related to sexual assaults and other associated violations, and
  • making the President’s Advisory Committee on Sexual Assault (PACSA) more inclusive of the student body and more transparent.

For more information about sexual assault at Columbia, see former Blue and White managing editor Anna Bahr’s (BC ’14) piece. Statement below.

Update (10:05 pm)–The SAC sent out the statement via email to Columbia College students. Matthew Chou, a co-chair of the SAC, added:

We understand this is an incredibly important issue for students, and we are dedicated to reaching solutions in partnership with the entire Columbia community. Through the Senate, we will also continue to actively pursue the implementation of the statement’s recommendations. If you have any questions or would like to get involved, please don’t hesitate to drop us a line at asksenate@columbia.edu.

Akshay Shah, also co-chair of the SAC, noted, “We feel that this is an issue that is appropriate for the University Senate to take on as it deals with a university office following a process that the university has put in place to comply with Title IX.” We’ve reached out to administration for comment and will update accordingly.

Update (1/27, 4:15 pm)–Robert Hornsby, the Associate Vice President of Media Relations, sent us this statement in response to the letter:

Sexual assault and gender-based misconduct are always unacceptable and often criminal.  The safety and well-being of every student and each member of the Columbia community is our foremost priority, and we recognize that confidence in the handling of allegations of gender-based misconduct and sexual assault is an essential part of ensuring that safety.  Over the last few months, Columbia has been reviewing its policies and procedures for the reporting, investigation, and provision of discipline in these matters.  As part of this process, the University’s Presidential Advisory Committee on Sexual Assault has been speaking with the Columbia University Student Democrats and other student leaders whose requests for the disclosure of aggregate data are under consideration.  A new website urging sexual respect in our university community was launched last week.

In the days ahead, we look forward to sharing additional steps intended to sustain our campus dialogue and to ensure that students’ voices inform the ongoing development of the university’s gender-based misconduct policies.  We therefore welcome the broad conversation occurring on campus involving Columbia’s leadership, the University Senate, Columbia University Student Democrats and a large cross-section of concerned students in the expectation that it will increase awareness and identify opportunities to improve current practices.


PrezBo Opposes ASA’s Academic Boycott of Israel
This guy

This guy

Hillel received a statement from PrezBo two days ago stating his opposition to the American Studies Association’s boycott of Israeli academic institutions. PrezBo joins the Presidents of Harvard, Yale, Brown, Princeton, Cornell, and NYU  in opposing the boycott. The boycott was announced by the ASA on December 4th on account of what its resolution calls “the Israeli occupation of Palestine and the expansion of illegal settlements.”

PrezBo’s message:

I have made my opposition to academic boycotts of Israel emphatically clear over the years, most prominently in my 2007 letter that was signed by some 400 of my fellow college and university presidents speaking out against the British University and College Union’s boycott of Israeli scholars and universities. I stand by that statement today when considering the recent vote by the American Studies Association for just such a boycott. To be sure, it is entirely appropriate for our campuses to provide a forum for discussion and debate about the policies of any government, including our own. But the ASA’s vote runs counter to this essential academic and political freedom and, taken to its logical conclusion, would necessarily result in boycotts of fellow scholars and peer institutions from many nations around the world. I reject the ASA’s position which would compromise an essential value of universities in an increasingly global society-and we look forward to continuing to Columbia’s long history of engagement with our peers from Israel.

Update 10:19 EST:

DSpar, not to be outdone, issued the following statement today:

As President of Barnard, I stand with the Executive Committee of the Association of American Universities in my strong opposition to a boycott of Israeli academic institutions. All scholars have the right to speak out against issues or policies with which they disagree, but academic boycotts pose a threat to the intellectual exchange and open debate that sit at the very core of our educational mission. I would urge fellow scholars and their affiliated academic associations to seek alternative forms of protest that do not jeopardize academia’s crucial role as a marketplace for independent thinking and collaborative dialogue.

Our glorious leader via Wikimedia

Actual Quote: “I sat on Lee Bollinger’s bed and was watching football on TV.”
PrezBo partying like it's 1997

PrezBo hosting a house party—and looking to the future?

Before Bollinger was president of Columbia, he was president of Michigan. And despite the way he left—setting off a not-minor kerfluffle at UMich by leaving right after averring that he had no intention to leave—PrezBo left his mark on UMich.

See, at right, PrezBo at a house party he hosted after a huge UMich football win. From The Michigan Daily:

Then-University President Lee Bollinger was sitting in his bedroom watching the Michigan-Penn State game on television with his wife when more than 1,000 students gathered outside the President’s House and began chanting Bollinger’s name. As the crowd grew rowdier, instead of turning them away or calling University Police, Bollinger opened the front door and invited the students in.

“You can stay here as long as you want and come inside,” Bollinger said as he welcomed students into the house on South University Avenue, according to Michigan Daily reports.

The 1,000 plus students packed into every room of the house.

Then Kinesiology sophomore Bob Lehrer made himself at home in Bollinger’s bedroom.

“I sat on Lee Bollinger’s bed and was watching football on TV,” Lehrer told the Daily. “I called from his phone to my answering machine and left a message. He gave me a hug and on the way out he said he loved us all.”

No kidding! Tell me more, Bwog.

Bucket List: de Blasio and Perry
PrezBo has no one to push him when everyone's gone for Thanksgiving

PrezBo has no one to push him when everyone’s gone for Thanksgiving

Bucket List represents the unbelievable intellectual privilege we enjoy as Columbia students. Aka, you’re paying for tuition and might as well get the most out of it, right? This is a short week because of Thanksgiving break, but the pickings are good across all disciplines.


  • “NYC Summit on Children: Keynote With Mayor-Elect Bill de Blasio” Monday, 12:30-1:30, Roone Arledge Cinema, Bill de Blasio
  • “The Flowers are Vexed: Gender Justice, Black Literature, and the Passionate Utterance” Monday, 6:30-8, Satow Room, Imani Perry

The possibilities are endless..

Today is Your Lucky Day

Ever wished you could take a picture with his majesty PrezBo? Were you not dedicated enough to wake up for yesterday’s Fun Run? Have no fear! Bwog is giving you the opportunity to take your very own PrezBo picture today. And by take a picture we mean insert your face in/on/around the holes we have provided in the template below. Don’t be put off by the fact that PrezBo looks totally unamused by your presence, just be glad that your arms are kind of sort of almost touching.


Shhh, you can thank us later. Be sure to send in your best PrezBo pictures!

Photos: PrezBo’s Fun Run 2013

Bwog’s own sporty superstar Claire Friedman woke up early this morning to stumble through participate in President Bollinger’s 2013 Fun Run. Here are a few photos from the glorious morning. If anyone else ran next to ’Bo today and has some pictures of his locks flowing in the wind, tip ’em!

PrezBo Lectured Today at U of I

PrezBo wasn’t in New York Today! He’s lecturing on affirmative action at the Univ. of Illinois!

podium reads, "Illini Union"

Snatched paraphrases of his talk, from someone who was there:

  • “If legacies and athletes want to argue for easier admissions they can do that, but certain races can’t.”
  • “America still has healing to do because of our past… It is about more than educational benefits, it’s about history… We are still not where we need to be… race still matters, prejudice still exists… “
  • “The pre-college educational system is just as segregated as it was in 1960.”
  • “I led the defense of affirmative action at Michigan.”

[The video and transcript should soon be online.]

Photo courtesy Owen Skelding

Prezbo Reacts to Supreme Court Sort Of Upholding Affirmative Action
PrezBo doesn't look at cameras.

He looks great, whether chilling at Baker or responding to Supreme Court decisions .

Yesterday, the Supreme Court sort of upheld race-based affirmative action. In the case of Fisher v. Texas, in which a white girl named Abigail Fisher sued the University of Texas for not admitting her and practicing race-based affirmative action, a lower court ruled in favor of the University.

Many Supreme Court watchers expected the conservative justices on the Supreme Court would overturn the lower court’s decision and rule that affirmative action was unconstitutional. Instead, the Court ruled 7-1 (with 1 abstention) that the case should be reargued in the lower court. Basically, the Court dodged the question of whether race-based affirmative action is constitutional.

So the press turned to the next best authority on affirmative action: Prezbo, who was involved in two landmark affirmative action case back in 2002, when he was president of the University of Michigan. In those cases, Gratz v. Bollinger and Grutter v. Bollinger, the Court basically ruled that it was OK for schools to consider race in admissions, as long as they didn’t set racial quotas or say that being black was equal to a certain number of SAT points. The Court also insisted, as they had in an earlier case called Bakke v. University of California, that race could only be used for the purpose of having a diverse class, not to correct for historical discrimination against minorities.

After the jump, see Prezbo’s reaction to the decision