We waited in line for this

Britt Fossum and Taylor Grasdalen happily represented Bwog last night

Last night, we were invited to President Bollinger’s first undergraduate fireside chat of the semester. Editor in Chief Taylor Grasdalen attended, and reports back here. (Please note that Internal Editor Britt Fossum also went, having won a seat by submitting the question “Do you read Bwog?”)

I must acknowledge that this was not my first Fireside Chat, though it was my first amongst other undergraduates. That said, the questions asked of President Lee “Ask Me Anything” Bollinger were nearly identical to those that I’d heard from graduate students. This tells me that whatever your school or year within Columbia, whatever your area of study, we’re ultimately concerned with the same things.

Let’s get “right into the thick of it,” then, as the first student to raise a question began. He asked about the difficulties of receiving a good or service from elsewhere in the University, particularly for a club, and how “departments have a monopoly on their own service.” Not only are costs incredibly high, but there’s an irrational amount of administrative work required. Bollinger had no answers, “[knows] nothing about it,” but had plenty for the next student.

This young panderer asked about the role of transparency in free speech, politics, and western democracy. Bollinger was happy to respond: “Every society has to discuss this kind of balance.” How much information are you willing to allow the public, after all? He considered the press and the public’s own roles in government transparency; while the press may publish whatever it can “get its hands on” with full constitutional protection, the “leaker” (he used Edward Snowden in example) may be prosecuted and receives no First Amendment rights under the Espionage Act. He felt that there’s been a shift “in favor of too much openness,” though citizens — the press included — must too be charged with representing the best interests of the government, for the sake of the country. It’s not only the editors in chief of The New York Times and Washington Post who have information today, but too the likes of Julian Assange, who certainly has no interest in protecting the United States. And on that note, the original asker said, “I’ll just take your class.”

Columbia Prison Divest, Manhattanville, money, and more transparency after the jump.