NYU: Five Things

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Bwog met NYU student W.M. Akers at a bar one night, and found that his fair institution could use some explaining. They don’t have a Core, a campus, or 250 years of academic elitism–but there are some (dubiously) redeeming qualities.


Columbia‘s Claremont dorm, two blocks from the 116th stop, is classified as “Extreme West of Campus,” hyperbole that seems quaint to an NYU student. Though a few of us—mainly freshmen—actually live around on “campus,” we have housing from 23rd Street to the Financial District. While Columbia expands through financial might, NYU’s student body does that work for it. On Friday nights you can see flocks of stumbling blondes outside the sorority housing in Chinatown, while actors just let out of Studio step through Madison Square with songs on their lips. Call it soft power.


Ever play the name game with people from other cities? “You’re from Atlanta? Do you know Tom?” NYU students play that game with each other, and with similar success rates. There are some 18,000 undergrads here, and none of us know anyone. Did you have a hygiene accident in a dorm hallway last year? Don’t worry, because outside of your tiny circle of disgusted friends, no one else knows about it. Go meet other people, and let your natural charm shine through. You’ll have a fresh start in no time.


The curse of the liberal arts education is that, for most of us, it’s simply too liberal. Anyone interested in one humanity loves them all, making it difficult to choose between the passing fancies we have for everything from anthro to art history to Arabic. I want to major in everything, which is why I’m horrified when I hear one of NYU’s extremely well dressed undergraduates at the Stern School of Business complaining on the bus that, “I’ve already taken Financial Report Analysis and Competitive Change, so I have to find an elective for next semester. I can’t think of anything!” Can greed really be their profession and their hobby?

Divine Right

There’s a reason all the subways converge on Union Square and not Riverside Park. Though not officially as cool as anything across the East River, there are still great bars, restaurants and people watching below 14th Street. This makes it a natural weekend destination for Columbia students without the energy to go to Brooklyn or the know-how to track how far one has to travel out the L to still be hip. NYU dorms give us an excuse to live where you visit.


Besides our mention in this clip, Washington Square is probably the best part of the university. Though the fountain is off for the season and the benches are no longer crowded with families and reading students, the park is still the loveliest way to get from the library and student center to the classrooms. Even in Winter it has an antique, severe beauty. Its continued attraction means that I can perch from certain vantages and see every student walking to and from class, as well as the odd lunatic wandering through the pack. If you’re curious about what they’re up to, come down and take a bench on the North-East Corridor and see for yourself. But if you don’t have the $2, don’t fret. I’ll be keeping an eye on them for you.


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  1. a charming piece

    W.M. Akers - you already have the initials, and are approaching the quality, of a fine novelist. Well done sir.

  2. Huh?

    Akers didn't write this. Bwog reported wrote this.

  3. Wait  

    He thinks Williamsburg is cool? He must be hipster scum, typical of NYU. I am so glad I don't go there.

  4. ...  

    Congrats on getting laid Bwog, but save us the blog of shame.

  5. BK Boy 1515  

    What's wrong with W-burg? All of BK is beautiful.

    Unlike Columbia, NYU students actually off campus and aren't stuck in the bubble that we live in.

  6. nice  

    liked that piece...

  7. Schapiro

    I agree with commenter #5. I really wish that we could somehow trade campuses. Nothing's worse than the bubble that so few people ever dare to venture out of.

    I get cross-eyed looks when I explain that I live off-campus. At any other school in Manhattan, it's expected to live off campus. Low had hoped that students would come to school at Columbia and live elsewhere in the city and was opposed to the construction of dorms (hence, "Columbia University in the City of New York"). Butler wanted a residential college. The rest is history.

    If you don't get outside of the area regularly, you're totally fucking yourself over.

    • well  

      Not all of us can afford to live off campus.

    • Alum

      In Low's day students could afford to live nearby. This was partly because life in NYC was cheaper and partly because Columbia was smaller and did not create as much demand for housing as it would today without dorms.

      Columbia College thrives because it can guarantee four years of housing for everyone. Most of Columbia's grad schools can't, which puts them at a serious disadvantage to their competitors in less expensive cities. The College would be a shadow of what it is today if there were no dorms -- or even if there were fewer of them.

      • housing

        Well, I don't think anyone has been talking about allocating space in the expansion project for housing. They should, of course. Incidentally, however, I don't see why campus housing can't be cheaper, given the fact that the university doesn't pay property tax.

        • Alum

          Columbia plans to make two of the Manhattanville buildings residential. Both of these sites are along Twelfth Avenue. They will most likely house faculty and/or grad students.

          • housing

            That doesn't sound like nearly enough.

          • Alum

            Nearly enough for what? It won't be enough to meet Columbia's need for housing, but that isn't what the Manhattanville expansion is for. Housing for faculty and grad students can be dispersed more widely than academic buildings, which need to be clustered together. The main reason Columbia is putting even these two buildings in the area is to make sure there is enough foot traffic in the area to keep it safe and make it feel like a campus. Putting more housing in Manhattanville would leave less room for what really needs to be there.

  8. JNW  

    Room and board is 8 grand a year, which doesn't translate to $800 something a month, because it's not counting half of May, June, July, and August. Plus there's the month we're not here for winter break.
    It's actually closer to $1100/month.

  9. hmm  

    Some members of NYU student council have approached our student council wondering if Columbia would be interested in an NYU/Columbia mixer somewhere midtown. What do you think?

  10. Ultimately  

    Butler is more right than Low. I can appreciate Low's desire for a Columbia that melts in with the rest of New York, and if you think about it, Columbia isn't too lacking in this respect. Not perfect, but certainly not lacking.
    Butler's vision for Columbia was a competitive, global university, and he damn well knew that a competitive university always needs land marked off so that people can ideologically recognize "where" and "what" the university is. For us, that would be Low Library and the lawns. For Yale, it'd be their clock tower. Etc etc.
    Moreover, having a residential campus gives Columbia advantages that a non-residential college does not have. For instance, we can give housing to faculty, which is extremely attractive considering how expensive NYC is. (Apparently, Columbia has 6000 apartments around campus, half of which are used by faculty.)
    Lastly, we didn't come here to party.

  11. Brooklyn Man  

    The point is that we columbia students don't get out that much. I'm a native NYer, and it's embarrassing that I don't have enough time to hang out extensively (not at all).

    I'm tired of kids from Nebraska and CT complaining that "NYU is 40 minutes away and is so far!" or saying shit like "Oh no! It's past 110th! I'm not going there unless we take a cab."

    Point is, unless there's a break, you won't have time to spend a whole Saturday chilling in the city with that girl you like, or with your best friend. At NYU, it's definitely more possible.

    • From CT  

      Whoa! I'm from CT and I get out a hell of a lot more than some native NYers here at school, so maybe YOU don't find time to get out and complain about travelling 40 minutes to go downtown, but I make a point of leaving at least once a week.

  12. also  

    as a RA, I get free room and board -- a luxury that my Brooklyn landlords would never grant me, purveyor of community cohesion or not.

  13. What discussion?  

    NYU sucks, and Columbia is ballin.

  14. (: :  

    this article bored me to tears. fuck this shit

  15. Hell  

    Residence space has always been a problem for Columbia, ever since the beginning. This is our fourth campus, and I hope we can keep it. If we don't get more space, Columbia will die. Yes, die.
    I just hope there isn't a critical point for space that puts a limit on the quality of a liberal arts education. There certainly is a critical point for the sciences, because you naturally need space to build facilities.
    BUY BUY BUY! We need more space for the graduate students.

  16. School Spirit  

    But if everyone leaves the campus, what sort of community is formed here? None, zilch. That translates into little or no loyalty to Columbia, which kills me. A campus is needed to keep students together and to form a community. Otherwise, we will continue to lose to Yale and Princeton in the battle for alumni donations. Alumni don't donate if they can't identify with their alma mater because they have no memories of community. And before one of you shouts that that is a very toolish response, what does your Columbia education mean to you? For our university to continue to be at the pinnacle of American higher education we need to foster more school spirit on this campus.

    I for one, propose we try to reinstate more traditions here (since many of them were lost after the ugliness of '68).

    • I agree

      "A campus is needed to keep students together and to form a community."

      That hits the nail square on the head. The NYU student in this piece even notes, "There are some 18,000 undergrads here, and none of us know anyone." But it's a difference in mindset. He says that like it's a good thing, but I would be miserable living like that. I like knowing that I can go and sit on the steps or the sundial on a sunny day, and within minutes someone I know will walk by and wave, or stop to chat. Yeah, it would be nice to roll out the front door of my dorm and be in Union Square or a 10-minute walk from the village, instead of having to take a subway or two down there, but I'm still not sure I'd trade their swank location for our beautiful campus, even if we are a bit detached from the rest of the city.

  17. Hello

    I am an NYU student who happens to live off-campus near Columbia. This article is pretty right on, and I just wanted to say that it's been a pleasure observing the shuffling feet of Columbia students between 111th and 120th Sts.

  18. school spirit

    To foster more school spirit, we must eliminate a percentage of the douchebaggery that lurks in the administration.

  19. sometimes  

    when i have a 4 hour block of time between classes, i take the train to washington square to watch nyu students shuffle their feet. it's actually quite a unique experience. they don't walk the same around here...

  20. ironic  

    that you mention academic elitism... because this is the most elitist piece of shit writing I've ever seen. This is like what some 15th century white dude would written about some "foreign civilization".

  21. in the morning

    If you crunch the numbers, you'd find that living off-campus will cost just as much as living on-campus given what Columbia offers those that dorm. The only thing you won't get is a guard that requires you to swipe in and sign in your friends. If you live with a handful of friends, even on the UWS, it's very possible to bring your rent down to $600, with just as much space as a Columbia dorm, and then split utilities (cable, electric, etc) evenly.

    I personally believe Columbia doesn't offer its students enough independence. This was one of my biggest gripes with even the admissions tour. It's far too easy to be hand-held in the 110 to 120 bubble where literally everything you need is provided for you and you're almost certain to be around the same group of people all the time. Part of living in New York really requires a sense a great deal of independence that Columbia doesn't provide, even if you do happen to live with people. It may sound silly, but there's something exciting about riding the subway to and from campus, living in a not-so-gorgeous apartment with a handful of problems, not needing to depend on dining dollars and flex, making sure to get downtown at least once each weekend while still getting all of my work done and maintaining very high grades. In all honesty, if I wanted just the residential college without the big city atmosphere as the place where real individual growth is found, I would have applied to Dartmouth, Cornell, or some other top school in the middle of nowhere.

    Living off-campus is something that people, I think, should try moving toward as upperclassmen. Given the gripes students have every semester with the lack of flash access and whatnot, I oftentimes wonder why groups of friends don't do it more often.

    • mistake

      " In all honesty, if I wanted just the residential college without the big city atmosphere as the place where real individual growth is found, I would have applied to Dartmouth"

      except that columbia is a residential college WITH the big city atmosphere. that's a clear distinction between dartmouth and cornell. you can choose whether you want to feel coddled or independent on any given night, rather than having one option thrust upon you based on your choice of college.

      so many people come to columbia expecting it to be a more prestigious nyu. no, it's not as connected to the city as other institutions, but that doesn't mean the city doesn't make it a fundamentally different place, culturally.

  22. alum

    columbia does not do nearly as much hand holding as other colleges. as a grad student now, there are plenty more services provided by the college i am at than at columbia. a laundry service, banks, a real movie theater, etc., etc. i'm not saying this or that is better, but the columbia 'bubble' is an exaggeration in comparison to most colleges in america.

    also, columbia is really packed for space. other colleges have fucking couches and lounges all over the place. one can take a serious nap in academic buildings. at columbia no couches. i think the older professors have them hoarded in their offices.

  23. nyu  

    even though the pain of a columbia degree will pay great dividends, i really think the quality of life for those who go to nyu is much better. before i came to columbia, i worked for a prof at nyu. nyu is in the middle of the preeminent playground of the western world.

    morningside heights is effectively a suburb with a reality distortion field surrounding it.

  24. oh yeah  

    and the praise for washington square is totally deserved. washington square is amazing. despite nyu, it's one of the most interesting gathering places i've come across in this entire city.

  25. seriously

    guys chillax. nyu is cool, so is columbia. they are DIFFERENT PLACES. you cant have it all. enjoy it for what it is. though, maybe nyu is better because the kids complain a little less.

  26. Alum

    I think some of the commentators have misunderstood the author's comment that "we have housing from 23rd Street to the Financial District." This is a reference to NYU's own housing, not to apartments students find on their own. NYU has bought and/or built undergrad housing relatively far from the university's core, while Columbia's is all nearby.

  27. oh dear

    saying that columbia is not connected enough to the city is ridiculous. if you really cannot find the time to make the 20 minute trip down to 14th street, or the 40 minute trip to brooklyn, you clearly have far too much on your plate. columbia does a fantastic job, in my opinion, of providing for any sort of student. if said student wants a more typical college environment, he or she can stay within 15 blocks of main campus and be happy. if said student wants to be less columbia-centric, they can do that, and they can do that independently. sheer laziness and maybe a $2 metro card is all that's stopping columbia kids from getting below 110th or above 125th.

  28. DHI  

    Sizable portions of America are located outside the center of its largest city.

  29. NYC

    I go downtown all the time. What I meant was that Columbia itself does not really have an NYC atmosphere.

    • That's ignorance.  

      Your post raises the question of "What is NYC?" What IS New York? It's not where NYU is, or at least not entirely. As a New Yorker, I find it irritating that people have a boxed impression of what is New York - this hip place of bars, tall buildings, concerts; basically anything between 42nd and Wall Streets.

      What about Harlem? Queens, the "United Nations borough"? The Cloisters up at 195th ST? Good ol' Brooklyn, where in Dyker Heights you can catch the best view of 4th-of-July fireworks?
      These places are just as accessible from Columbia as they are from NYU.

  30. The King of Spain  

    As I said earlier this week,

    Shut up.

    If you wish to have the soulless liberties of NYU why don't you simply transfer your ass there, or get a (girl/boy)friend there.

  31. bkalltheway  

    when people say they dont have the time to get downtown, its completely ridiculous. it takes maybe 30 minutes tops to get to union sq from columbia. in high school, i had an hour commute every day from my house in brooklyn to school in manhattan, and pretty much every new yorker commutes at least 30 minutes to get to work each morning. morningside heights is not nyc. ethnically, culturally, and architecturally, it pales in comparison to what you will experience below 96th. im sorry, but anywhere you can see the full spectrum of crocs and the ll bena catalog within a 5 block radius is not new york. the campus community is a wonderful, wonderful thing to have as a first-year, but if you're not taking advantage of the cultural mecca that is new york as an upperclassman, why the hell did you choose to come here?

    • Junior  

      "If you're not taking advantage of the cultural mecca that is new york as an upperclassman, why the hell did you choose to come here?"

      I chose to come here because Columbia was the best school I was admitted to in the academic areas that I was interested in. I also really liked the Core Curriculum. New York City was never a part of the equation. To me, Columbia was a great school, first and foremost, that just happened to be in a city. And its history and political science programs were much more renowned than those of Dartmouth and Virginia. What probably most affected my decision was the fact that I did not get into Yale or Princeton.

      That being said, it's okay if you want to go into the city every now and then, but you shouldn't make it an overriding part of your college experience. One of the biggest problems I have with this University is the seeming lack of community on campus sometimes. We don't seem to have as many campus-wide events as other schools, and I think that does a lot to dampen school spirit here. I love the academics here, but sometimes I wonder whether I'd have had more fun at Dartmouth.

      • ZvS

        The thing is... I'm not sure there's not a lack of community because people leave campus (evidenced by the fact that nobody leaves campus). There's just a plain ol' lack of community. A little space might do everyone some good.

        My neighborhood actually has a fair-sized population of CU kids (mostly grad students), a few of whom I'm starting to recognize. Time to start a poker game.

  32. Bro  

    yea man. NYC is not just fancy bars and hipster hang outs.

  33. Well, frankly,  

    I’m ridiculously lazy. I don’t even go to HamDel that much anymore because I don’t want to make the trek from Woodbridge up the hill to Broadway and then across to Amsterdam. So I like living very close to campus; I couldn’t deal with NYU and having to walk 15-20 minutes to a class building (or taking the subway just to get there).

  34. good idea guy  

    i say columbia and NYU merge to form a super university. then we can buy up most of manhattan.

    whaddyall say, lads? ya with me?

    • Well  

      This is a scarier idea than you think. NYU, which does not have an engineering department (meaning students cannot major in engineering), is about to merge with Polytechnic University, a decent-sized, research-oriented engineering school in Brooklyn. Polytech has its own campus, and its program is tough (as are all engineering programs). If NYU makes the deal, it will have vastly more space and resources to offer a better engineering program than Columbia, simply because we're space-strapped uptown.

      Lesson to take from this: Don't confine the school to one neighborhood. Expand, expand, expand!

      • Alum

        It will be a very long time before NYU/Poly has a shot at overtaking SEAS. Polytechnic is weak academically and, depite some huge infusions of moneh, has failed to improve. This is why it wants to merge. It's not nearly in the same league as SEAS, and NYU will have to pour a lot of resources into it to get it there. Even then, engineering undergrads will have to divide their time between two campuses that are much further apart than Morningside Heights and Manhattanville, which will make NYU less appealing.

        In the meantime, Columbia SEAS will at least double its current space by expanding into Manhattanville (and will probably gain Fairchild, too, once biology moves uptown). NYU/Poly will have a hard time ever becoming as good as SEAS is now, but SEAS will become considerably stronger in the next 10 years or so.

  35. cubrooklynlions

    On the topic of this thread, is anyone out there looking to get an apartment in January? I am, either something fairly close to campus or as far as some parts of Brooklyn (Williamsburg/Greenpoint) or Astoria. If yes, email [email protected]

    I'm a senior looking to get a multi-room apartment with other students for no more than whatever it costs per month on campus. Thanks.

  36. Reni Laine

    But you should check out my website. I'm definitely not sheltered.

  37. grumpy old man  

    What is school spirit? Maybe I'm a dumb grad student ... but where does it come from? What is it used for?

  38. spirit

    School spirit is not for grad students, especially PhD candidates. You are expected to be spiritless.

  39. i'm confused  

    what's a hipster?

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