As Columbia undergrads, we tend to think the University centers around us. But beyond even the mélange of colleges, graduate schools, professional schools, medical schools, and two theological seminaries that congeal in the average student’s imagination as the greater Columbia University lies a sprawling network of 212 (I counted) research institutes and centers, about 160 (I approximated) academic programs and divisions, and countless (I didn’t bother) departmental research sites that the university runs, supports, or is affiliated with. Columbia is as splayed out and expansive as the city itself (in fact, many of these institutions reside in the suburbs beyond the city). Here are a few that I found poking around the Columbia website’s A-Z index.

xfsdIn a post-9/11 effort to keep pace with newly developed federal emergency programs, Columbia joined six other institutions throughout the city in creating The Center for Resilient Networks: “a center for research on and prototyping of regional networking that serves the needs of emergency workers, public officials, and ordinary citizens during natural and man-made emergencies.” In what was apparently a further attempt to match federal standards, the Center seems to have done nothing since the spring of 2003. (Even the Center for Medieval Japanese Studies made a more sustained bid for relevancy, lasting until the fall of 2003.)

The New York Center for Human Sexuality diagnoses and treats all types of sexual dysfunctions, which, its homepage reassures, “are very prevalent in both males and females.” Awesome. Citing the landmark First International Consultation on Erectile Dysfunction, it also advocates a “right to sexual health” that protects not only everyone’s god-given ability to have (and enjoy) wild, uninhibited sex, but also, their right to not feel guilty about it the next morning. Double awesome. Additionally, the center runs a series of clinical trials and research studies, and even though their “active research” page has been blank for over two weeks, they offer an open invitation to anyone who considers him- or herself a “qualified” patient to participate in these studies. If you’re interested, their clinical-research number is 212.305.0157.  

Switching gears (probably), Columbia’s Medical Center also runs both a Fecal Incontinence Program and a Colorectal Care Program, and my heart goes out to the fifteen physicians who collectively staff them. With their upfront references to weak anal muscles, I was wary of venturing past the front page.

According to The Richard and Hilda Rosenthal Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine, though, clowns might have helped. There, a Clown Care Unit researched the effects of introducing clowns into “medical settings where painful, invasive procedures are performed” and examining their ability to decrease anxiety, increase cooperation, and function as a possible alternative to sedation. Instead of restraint or sedation, “young patients are paraded into the room escorted by clowns with the appropriate musical accompaniment.” The appropriate musical accompaniment is probably key. Among the findings of the study: “clown therapy proved to be non-toxic, did not cause respiratory depression, sedation or gastric upset.” Thank goodness.

Columbia also houses the Harlem Health Promotion Center, whose website is titled “black online sky degree school at” Umm, exactly. The homepage allows its viewers to click on links to “Black Online,” “Sky Online,” “Black Sky,” or, for the less discerning, simply “Online”—none of which exist. But at least they’re covering all their bases, right? At the bottom of the page, there’s also a link to “Homework and Essays,” which sent me to an index of websites that advertise: “Buy an Non Plagiarized Custom Essay”; “Downloadable Essays”; “Professionally Written Term Papers”; and, my personal favorite, “Enjoy Schoolwork Hypnosis.” (The hypnosis website is actually very extensive, and, via CD, claims to be able to make you do many things beyond enjoying school work, like: enlarging your breasts, reducing your breasts, stopping aging, enjoying giving oral sex, manifesting money, and hypnosex. I love hypnosex.)

And that’s just the tip of the iceberg. Columbia’s multitude of research institutes also consists of centers on syncope, nonlinear earth systems, the Hudson River, decision sciences, Gertrude H. Sergievsky, aging, Korean legal studies, risks, novel surfactants, legislative drafting, holistic urology, and breasts. I don’t know what more you could ask from your university.

– Rahul D’Sa