Girl, Irate

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Many of us think of Columbia as a nurturing mother, sheltering us from the vissicitudes of adult life. One Columbia senior expected her to protect us from the rain as well…and took PrezBo to task for failing in this final act of devotion. Her e-mail follows, with the administration’s response after the jump.

——– Original Message ——–

Subject: Columbia College Class Day

Date: Wed, 17 May 2006 10:35:26 -0400

From: ——[email protected]

To: [email protected]

CC: [email protected], [email protected]

Dear President Bollinger,

I am a CC ’05 graduate (whose Class Day was graced with beautiful

weather). I was appalled to hear that Columbia College, faced with bad

weather for the Class Day ceremony yesterday, was unable to come up with a

contingency plan to accommodate 1,100 undergraduates and instead allowed

them and their families to sit in driving rain for more than two hours.

Even under-funded public high schools do not ask their graduates to sit in

those kinds of conditions during commencement ceremonies. It is an

embarrassment that the University and the College were able to ask more

than $100,000 in tuition from each of the students sitting on that lawn

(and from their families who came to watch) but were not able to finance a

tent or a hall for CC students’ one opportunity to be recognized by name

for their four-year commitment to the institution.

Beyond convenience and comfort there are health issues – there were

elderly, frail, and unwell loved ones in the audience as well as students

with health concerns who were participating in the ceremony. A close

friend of mine in the class of 2006 has lupus and the ceremony brought on

an acute attack that has left her bedridden and unable to participate in

her own graduation festivities. It is not fair to ask students to choose

whether or not to participate in their own Class Day ceremony for reasons

of health or comfort – hopefully you appreciate the various symbolic and

emotional implications of completing the ceremony. Class Day is one of the

most important days in a graduate’s life and every member of the Class of

2006 will have blighted memories of their graduation ceremonies.

Perhaps the College and the University will consider taking measures to

ensure this doesn’t happen again in the future.

Thank you for your attention.


Columbia College ’05

—– Forwarded by ________________—–

Date: 05/23/2006 06:33 PM

To: ——–

CC: “Austin Quigley” <[email protected]>, “Chris Colombo” <[email protected]>

Subject: FW: [Fwd: Columbia College Class Day]

Dear Ms. ——,

President Bollinger is currently traveling, so I am writing in response to your email to him regarding the College’s class day.

Unfortunately, there simply is no viable, indoor alternative for seating 1,000 graduates and their families on Columbia’s campus. We plan on being able to accommodate up to 5,000 guests, so that the graduating seniors may bring as many friends and family members as they would like.

In addition, the logistics necessary to be ready to welcome 33,000 people the next morning for the University Commencement ceremony do not allow us to tent South Lawn.

Dean Quigley, Dean Colombo, and their offices continue refining and improving Class Day to make it as enjoyable and as meaningful as possible for all participants. I will share your email with them, and I know that they would also welcome any ideas that you may have to continue making improvements.

Many thanks for your email.


Jamie Bennett

Chief of Staff

Office of the President

Columbia University

202 Low Library, MC 4309

535 West 116 Street

New York, New York 10027

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  1. class day sucked  

    as a result of the rain, my family didn't come to commencement the next day. and i've been sick since. the sad thing is that there were tents put up right after commencement for the friggin' law school. and those were torn down right afterwards (which means that jamie bennett gave a load of bs)

    • but..

      The law school graduates 300-400 students, not 1,100.

      • Law School...  

        Had tents covering everywhere the CC class & parents sat... well, they had tents everywhere but took off the one where the law students were b/c it was nice outside. So they *could* have accommodated the CC students if they had wanted to.

        Maybe it just would have been better had Julia DiBenigno and John McCain pulled PrezBos and not spoken... because no one really cared what either had to say, anyways.

    • What?

      Who are all these fellow graduates with such fragile immune systems? Yes, it rained badly and it was in the 50s. But c'mon, if you put the plastic bag over your body and used your umbrella at all competently, then the worst that should have happened is some wetness, soggy clothes and socks, and uncomfortable but only moderate coldness. It would have put you in a bad mood for the rest of the day until you could change and shower, but an extended sickness shouldn't have followed.

  2. SEAS '03 Alum

    Come on now... This is just pure whininess that gives Columbia students/alum a bad name. Don't you think the university had considered all the alternatives? Logistically, it would have been nearly impossible to do what was suggested in the email.

    Plus, I would definitely have preferred graduating in the rain on Low Plaza (which we did in '03) than in say Madison Square Garden that we had no attachment to.

  3. President Clinton

    It's not rain. It's liquid sunshine.

  4. If you only had the noive

    It rained on my graduation at the University of Pennsylvania, and it did nothing to "blight the graduation ceremonies." Jeez...such cowardly lions

    • True, however...  

      ...if we'd had to suffer the indignity of going to UPenn for four whole years, we'd probably be tough enough to deal with the rain with more grace, too. It's like you're comparing the relative bravery of a bunch of smart prep-school kids with people who survived a military POW camp.

  5. psh

    suck it up, juliet. what do you think graduates and their families are, made of suede?

  6. so fix it

    I sympathize with the plight of the university officials, as it is definitely a logistical nightmare. Something they might consider is having a smaller tent or a simulcast in a building for students and family members with disabilities or illness that would not allow them to safely participate in the activities. It's not such a large population that this is unreasonable, and while yeah most 22-year-olds should suck it up and get a little wet, there are people for whom this is dangerous and they should be acknowledged.

  7. ttan

    I was on in Hamilton Hall on the 6th floor when class day was going on. The rooms at the west end of Hamilton overlook south field and the huge windows give a great view of the activities. I wandered into that room and there were a few people watching from the windows.

    These were obviously friends and relatives of the elderly sort.

    Anyway, they were watching the activities and listening to Columbo speak when a security guard barges into the room and tells the people they have to leave. He just marches in and says "You all have to leave." and when the people dawdled he said "Now!"

    I asked why. He said if the people down below saw other people watching Class Day from the windows, they too would want to go into Hamilton Hall to watch it in relative dryness and warmth. I observed that it wasn't such a bad idea. He ignored me and headed toward the people still at the window to march them out.

    Did I mention these people were old? One lady was walking with a cane. He still insisted on pushing her out. So she went out as fast as she could with her cane, holding her completely soaked poncho around her.

    This is completely fuckin' shameful.

    • I admit

      that is very upsetting. However, I do think Columbia does care about us, but I know that if there's one thing Columbia cares about, it's looking good. Remember how they repaint every black surface and bring in a ton of plants just for graduation?

      I also think that the security gaurd may not represent what another person would have done in the same situation. But think about it, Columbia did not do this to spite anyone, Columbia wants to represent itself well to these people, but maybe they need to put a little more thought into some separate accomodations for the infirm.

    • El Greco

      I was going to try to watch Commencement from the Hamilton windows, but decided on sleeping instead. Good thing, given CU Security. That doesn't make sense.

    • i completely agree

      i wonder what john murolo's reasoning was for not letting anyone into hamilton classrooms so they could watch from windows. i myself was watching from 503 until security kicked us out; i was fine with this, but i really felt for the elderly who probably traveled far to watch their grandsons and granddaughters graduate. just ridiculous, columbia, just ridiculous.

      • Kent Hall

        I've been in Hamilton long past midnight before (along with other buildings) and have never been told to leave. I've only been asked to show my CUID if the front doors are locked, but never been kicked out of a classroom. This whole thing really troubles me.

  8. J Train  

    "Chief of Staff"


  9. curious

    Tao, how come you got to stay there?

  10. Embarassing

    Columbia failed on all fronts at Class Day. It looked bad to outsiders, and it was miserable for those who had to experience it. Graduation is not something one should have to grit one's teeth and endure. At best, that rainy day was uncomfortable; at worst, it was dangerous. I don't care who you are, sitting for two hours in the rain is hard on your body. For the elderly and otherwise weak, it's a serious health risk.

    There is no reason to accept the response that tents are logistically impossible. They are not, as proved by the law school tents put up on Wednesday. This issue, as with most issues at Columbia, comes down to Columbia's lack of financial committment to its student body. If they wanted to do tents, they could have done tents. It's as simple as that.

    I will remember that miserable day every time I get asked to donate for many years to come.

    • alumni

      that's how you are supposed to reply ... reminding columbia's administration of class day when they ask for money. It's a tragedy that the students won't get the benefit though ...

    • Senior Class Gift  

      Our senior class gift should go towards ensuring tents on class day... maybe more people would donate if it was for something more useful than a gate or to pay for the resodding of a lawn.

  11. you mean

    "This issue, as with most issues at Columbia, comes down to Columbia's lack of financial committment to its student body."

    it's UNDERGRADUATE student body. as much as gs bitches, its not like cc/seas are treated so great.

  12. hrmm

    Possessive, no?

    Class Day belongs to GS, so "it's" would be sufficient?

    I think you're right though. Fine nitpicking.

    • It's/Its

      It's = it is, its = possessive. "It's a shame its eyeballs fell out" etc.

      • wow, gs

        Indeed, by this time we should all know our its, it's, and (pre-frosh joke coming) tits (not funny)

        • yeah, wow (or woe!)

          Actually, I have a really poor (but legit) excuse for the confusion. Not long ago, I dated a grammar nazi (that got into Barnard, but went elsewhere). She'd constantly correct my "its" versus "it's" (when I was right and she was wrong), causing me to fall into the current trap. It's an awful excuse, but if you had to deal with it constantly (with her being wrong, no less), it'd stick with you.

  13. nope

    Barnard's was in Levien Gym, but CC's wouldn't have fit... BC students were limited to four tickets apiece.

  14. Last year...

    it was sunny and beautiful, and even so, there were few enough people that they could have fit under a tent or in a gym. It's not as well-attended as people might think. That's probably because it's on a Tuesday. Seriously, where does Columbia get off having two days of ceremonies in the middle of the work week? Not everyone has parents who can just take a whole week off from work for graduation.

  15. ..

    it's not like it was a little rain and we are all whining about it... it was a downpour, we were soaking wet under a field of useless umbrellas. 22 year olds were getting sick and shaking and half the people left. it's complete bullshit that columbia didn't just tent the field like they did for prezbo's inauguration and class dinner and all those other events. they knew far in advance that it was going to rain and could have easily solved the problem.

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