Columbia does Paris

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Wish you were in Paris right now? Bwog foreign correspondent Sumaiya Ahmed reports on Columbia’s big weekend in the City of Lights.

This weekend, Columbia students in Paris were treated to another sort of World Leaders Forum organized by the Columbia Alumni Association. The three day affair included Nobel laureate and 7th Secretary-General of the United Nations Kofi Annan as the keynote speaker, as well as Columbia professors Orhan Pamuk, Joseph Stiglitz, Jeffrey Sachs, David J. Helfand, and President Lee C. Bollinger.

Saturday featured a full day of panels on globalization, arts, and the media at La Bourse, the historic site of the Paris Stock Exchange. The first panel, “A Critical Look at Today’s Media” touched on a number of issues, such as how journalism has changed under the Bush administration. The moderator, Graduate School of Journalism Dean Nicholas Lemann described the current administration as “post-modernists of the right” who refuse to trust journalists, and recalled that Karl Rove had once written to a colleague that “the press is just another interest group.”

sadMichael Oreskes, Executive Editor of the International Herald Tribune, described the survival of print journalism alongside the Internet as a daily challenge. “The Internet,” Mr. Oreskes said, “is disassembling the business model.” Even though major newspapers like the New York Times are still highly profitable, great newspapers are just not economically viable models in the marketplace. The market does not care about reputation, history, or what you’ve been–“it values what it perceives your future to be,” Mr. Oreskes said. A question from the audience underlined Mr. Oreskes statement by noting that YouTube has established itself in three years and Al-Jazeera in five.

In the second panel, “A Conversation on the Arts,” Nobel laureate and professor Orhan Pamuk discussed his cultural identity and writing with Carol Becker, Dean of School of
the Arts. He pointed out the tension involved with being a writer whose cultural background can serve as a novelty for readers. “If Proust wrote about love,” Professor Pamuk said, “it would be considered universal love. If I wrote about love, it would be called Turkish love.”

When President Bollinger, the moderator for the discussion on globalization, asked whether the US still serves as a moral leader, Teachers College President Susan Fuhrman was applauded when she said that she “isn’t sure
when we were leaders. Our goal was always a missionary one. Today we have as much to learn as we have to give.” Earlier, Earth Institute director Jeffrey Sachs had said something similar: “We have very little capacity to see through the eyes of a peasant farmer,” he said, “We’re too afraid to do it.” Economics professor and Nobel laureate Joseph Stiglitz, added that China and India are emulating America’s pattern of success. “That is a world headed for collision,” he said.

The entire event, complete with a cocktail party and three course French lunch, was very chi-chi and all free for Columbia students volunteering at the event. “It pays to be a Columbia student,” Elena Hecht, BC ‘08 said. If President Bollinger’s enthusiasm is any indication, I would imagine it pays the other way around too.


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  1. Anonymous  

    We miss you, Susu.

  2. sumaiya lover  

    sumaiya come home! wonderful, as always :)

  3. ramya  

    nice to hear from you sumaiya!

  4. admirer of sumaiya  

    great article sumaiya you are sorely missed!!

  5. damn

    what a good deal. I want to be a columbia prof and get flown to paris just to hobnob with other superstar columbia profs, occasionally casting an eye over to some appreciative alums.

  6. yeah right  

    any REAL professor would know that it is ALUMNI.
    ALUMNI, you mouth breathing idiots!! ALUMNI!!!

  7. Helfand fan  

    I know someone already proposed this, but how sweet would it be if Helfand was sent as part of Columbia's delegation to Iran?
    I would love to see him insist to the Ayatollah that Allah is a myth & all religion is irrational.

  8. cliché

    It seems that these predominantly leftist professors and dignitaries are in their natural element when in Paris. It's as if being amidst Parisians enables them to more freely express their "enlightened" disdain for America. How cliché!

    • Oh come on

      As if that disdain isn't at least somewhat deserved by now?
      Now we all know who the only elephant in THIS room is...

    • because

      New York is much more conservative? It is more of a cliché to stereotype France as being some fluffy land of liberals rather than a place for open critique, of all sides (as opposed to New York's emphasis on commentary than on critique).

      • No,  

        NYC is not conservative. In fact, its quite difficult to characterize. Furthermore, you're correct, France is not a "fluffy land of liberals." But many people make the implicit assumption that it is, perceiving it as a bastion of liberalism, and a counterpoise to the United States, which they continue to regard as a den of ignorance.

        • Moreover  

          although the French are not uniformly liberal, they are characteristically proud of their national heritage, and famously disdainful of "simplistic, chauvinistic" American culture.

    • Alum

      "Cliché" is a noun, not an adjective. The adjectival form is "clichéd". The correct way to make your point is thus "How clichéd!" (Note that the accent is strictly optional in English.)

      And yes, I know someone will complain that my tag, "Alum", is not grammatically correct either. If I were trying to use it as a word that would be a perfectly reasonable objection. But names -- even fictional ones -- need not follow grammatical rules. That's why the user who called herself "Cliché" erred only when she misused the word and not when she adopted it as her handle.

  9. David Helfand  

    fucking sucks. What's confounding is that this man has nothing interesting to say is celebrated, in fact, loved by students and administrators alike. reading this article makes me never want to give one cent to columbia if it's going to paying for plane tickets for self-important idiots like him.

    • yeah  

      I feel about David Helfand they way I feel about more than a few people here: even if I agree with them about some things, they're so rude and condescending and self-satisfied that I hate them anyway. I went to the Veritas Forum thing a year or two ago where he was one of the two people in the "conversation," and it made me want to throw things at him.

  10. Is it just me  

    Or is the girl on the left of the bottom photo really damn fine?

  11. is it just me?  

    or is sumaiya ahmed really damn fine?

    we miss you sumaiya!

  12. forget  

    any personal characteristics. I just hate helfand because of his hellspawn, Frontiers of Science.

  13. I had  

    Helfand as my discussion section leader in Frontiers two years ago. He only taught for the first few week as he was just filling in.
    But in those two weeks, he showed himself to be a great, dynamic teacher, and on a personal level, to be a genuine, affable guy. Thus, from my perspective, a lot of the personal attacks against the man seem overly vile and somewhat unwarranted.
    On a separate note, I fail to see why so many people are opposed to Frontiers of Science. As an Economics major myself with practically no science background, I really enjoyed the class and took a lot from it. I felt that I learned about topics which I otherwise would have neglected. And, honestly, wasn't that the purpose for the creation of Frontiers--to spark an interest in the sciences to some students who otherwise would seek their studies elsewhere?
    I understand that there is a herd nature to the criticism of Frontiers of Science; once one person hates it, everyone can hate it.
    But please, give the guy and his creation a break.

  14. helfand

    is basically a performance artist. he knows how to entertain a crowd, and work a room really well. worth the investment in plane tickets, in low library's estimation. alums are more willing to give to a scientist who informs and dazzles them than one who drones on about his research in monotone, even if it does win him a nobel.

    • Not only  

      is he quite the dramatist, he's not even teaching here this year. It seems that he's managed to out-hype the already much-hyped star status that is conferred to a select few in the faculty.

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