Senior Wisdom: Niko Cunningham

Written by

Name, School:
Niko Cunningham, GS

Claim to fame: Student Body President of GS – you know the rest Post-grad plans: Going back to LA – getting back together with the gang and making movies.

Preferred swim test stroke? “If a student takes beginner swimming for one term and is still not able to pass the swimming test, the requirement is waived.” – from the Columbia website. That was my strategy.

What are three things you learned at Columbia? PODUNK – Pissed Off Deans Unleash No Kompassion FARMING – Financial Aid Reform Must Include Non-traditional Gsers CRAPS – Casbah Rouge and Pizza Slices ..Damn, I miss the Casbah!

Justify your existence in 30 words or less. “Daring ideas are like chessmen moving forward; they may be beaten, but they may start a winning game.” Goethe “The finest steel has to go through the hottest fire.” – John Mitchell

What was your favorite controversy in your time at Columbia? I’ll plead the fifth.

What Columbia memory best exemplifies your college experience? In October 2005, little known sophomore Marvin Eiselrod successfully penetrated the heavily guarded fortress known as John Jay Dining Hall without swiping one of his meals. Now given the courage to navigate the loopholes of the Columbia bureaucracy, Marvin proceeds to pilfer pre-made sandwiches from Café 212 without paying. Marvin studies the Columbia bureaucracy and by his senior year has developed the blueprints for the now infamous “suit and tie” scheme, borrowing a friend’s navy blue ensemble two to seven times a week, only to lift cheddar cubes and chicken empanadas reserved for Investment Banking information sessions held at the hallowed halls of Faculty House. He becomes the hero of EC; earns mad respect; and gets the girl. We are all Marvin Eiselrod.

Which prof do you think would be the best kisser? Have you seen some of the Econ professors’ wives? I have no idea how they do it, but perhaps it is worth pursuing that PhD. in sustainable giffen good econometrics.

What percentage of seniors do you think are virgins?

SEAS: 1- (1/pi)

CC: The College boasts an 8.7% “admittance” rate.

Barnard: 9 (Ways of Knowing)

GS: Our motto is “The light that shines in the darkness.” ‘Nuff said.

Would you rather permanently give up oral sex or cheese? To be determined after a double-blind taste test.

Days on Campus memory? Hmm…. (after just googling what that meant) – those would definitely be good for transfer students to have.

Regrets? (we can all have regrets madlibs style)…

    Not taking that course with __________.  Not getting that A+ in ______________.  Not approaching that girl in _______________.  Not pursuing that phenomenal ___________ which they guaranteed ___________ and _______________ in exchange for me _______________.  Eating too much _____________ after ____________ o’clock. Not using the blunt edge of a ____________ to smash ______________and laugh __________-ly. Going to sleep with not enough _________. That one time I showed up in class with _______________ in my ___________. Not taking up ________ on the offer of having that ___________-some at the club.


Tags: ,


  1. ermm  

    anyone else think this is a GSer who is trying to hard to be witty and who, like most GSers, thus is cursed as coming off like a giant douche?

    i mean, double-blind taste test? i think the hair on my neck actually stood up when i read that.

  2. sometimes

    my nanna takes her wig off when she gets drunk

  3. senior wisdom  

    more random people with no links to sga, pleasssssssse

  4. ...  

    contrary to popular wisdom, this is one time when judging a book by its cover is a good strategy. i should have never bothered reading after seeing that doucherrific picture...

  5. oh boy  

    there will be blood on this one

  6. i owe  

    niko cunningham a really, really big thank you for changing my life

  7. ...  

    i've interacted with this guy a grand total of two times... and felt like i needed to shower afterward. being slimy is only half this problem; his other sin is taking student politics far too seriously. can't wait to see you next year, niko.

  8. seas?  

    1-1/pi ~ 0.68. Is that 0.68% or 68%? Oh wait, it doesn't matter, you're not clever, just a giant cockmunching douchebag.

  9. GS love  

    Get Aries Dela Cruz!

    • No. don't  

      No, don't get Aries, he's just another "activist" type who defines himself entirely by his "oppressed" status as gay man. His "A Truly Multicultural Affair" article in the Spec last semester, supporting the hunger strikers, was an embarrassment to gay and bi men who don't toe the politically correct party line.

      Can't we get someone who's not a so-called "activist" to rep for GS? C'mon, Bwog.

      • Agreed  

        Get Paul Stamm. He is not an "activist", he is just amazing. Even if he is in GS. And as someone who's been in college since 2000, and is finally graduating this year, he must have collected some pretty good senior wisdom, which he should be invited to share with the rest of us.

  10. Well...  


  11. pauly  

    C'mon guys - senior wisdom is also about poking fun at what goes on at columbia. everyone knows gs doesnt take the swim test. everyone knows there is free food at internship recruiting events. everyone knows the casbah is closed down. give the guy a break. the questions are obviously slanted towards cc/seas. what was he supposed to say about the swim test "hey guys - gs doesnt take it. we're so unequal. save us." lighten up foos'

    • Not the point  

      That's not the point. He was making light misleadingly, implying he'd found some loophole around a non-existent requirement. No, not everyone knows about the things you rattled off.

      And as for his answers to "Justify your existence in 30 words or less," it's obvious the guy has delusions about his importance to other GSers, present and future. He can't seem to let go of the fact that he needs to be a student, rather than a student "activist."

  12. GSers...  

    Get Susannah Karlsson

  13. wtf no  

    this isn't a question about gs or not gs. this guy is just flat-out retarded. god damn! those were some fucking dumb answers! i don't even understand what he's talking about!

  14. bring us  

    andrew martin. c'mon, folks!

  15. ew ew ew  

    Can't this guy move somewhere OTHER than Los Angeles? We already have enough gross slimy guys in that city.

    • no worries  

      There's no threat that Niko will hit LA anytime soon, unless he's transferring again to yet another school: he's not graduating this year, and will (sigh) be back to haunt us in the Fall, albeit stripped of office.

      Speaking of that "transfer student" thing to which he alludes in his words of wisdom, has anyone considered investigating that? His Facebook profile strongly implies he transferred from Yale, but word has it he attended a couple of sessions of some Yale Extension class, and didn't even complete whatever course that was. He seems only to have picked up a Yalie email address, and has been making hay of that ever since. Ever tried pinning him down on his "Yale experience"? No? Might make for a very interesting story...

  16. ok...  

    all of these comments are just way too intense (not on just this senior wisdom but most of them). i think everyone, including our pal niko, just needs to get over themselves, take a deep breath and think, "four more days." RELAX, SUMMER IS ALMOST HERE!

    (gotta admit though i thought his response to "cheese or oral" was gross yet hilarious)

  17. GSer  

    yo, bwog, interview Lemi Guidice for senior wisdom. she's a cool, laid-back GSer with interesting stories *and* sanity.

  18. dear bwog  

    there are SO many wonderful gs seniors, why did you have to pick this dude?

    on the other hand WTF is up with all the senior wisdoms? I eagerly await the return of Lydia P, bwog queen and source of good substance!



  20. I don't  

    hate GS in general, but people this this guy really annoy me. I need to revise the definition of douchebag in my dictionary.

    • yep  

      Now you know why so many GSers have such a strong adverse reaction to the mere mention of the guy: he's an irredeemable self-parody, and needs to stop pretending to speak for the rest of us.

  21. wow  

    Bwog lost a lot of credit in my book with this selection. Bring back Depillis!

  22. Also,  

    who in GS actually voted for this guy? This puzzles me.

    • suckers  

      Truth is, only a very small percentage of GSers actually vote in GSSC elections, since most of us think campus politics - in general - is unimportant, an amusing distraction at best. So, the remainder (the voter cohort) comprise those who are prone to thinking student council politics has some real-world meaning to their lives; it's no surprise that a majority of that small cohort would have chosen someone who promised to act as "their" change agent.

      And to those who eschew politics, it's no surprise he failed. Oh, my, how he failed.

  23. kill  

    Who needs cc/seas/barnard students to rip gs students to shreds. looks like gsers will always kill their own before we even have a chance.... let the games begin

  24. gs senior wisdom  

    get elizabeth alonzo-hallifax!

  25. hmm

    Am I the only one who thought the answers were kind of clever, irrespective of what you think of Niko as a person?

  26. not quite  

    Yes, to some, but he blew it on others: that "Columbia memory" thing is embarrassingly self-revealing, and summarizes his delusional take on the situation of other GSers.

  27. femi  

    yo interview roman caban.

  28. ...  

    can someone find a really old gs student to interview? then we'd really have "senior wisdom"

  29. donor  

    How big of a donation do you think it'll take to get Columbia to shutter GS and cut all ties with or absorb Barnard?

  30. Paul stamm  

    for senior wisdom!!! Get paul stamm!

  31. eugh  

    niko tries too hard to be clever. Perhaps he thinks he's worked out what elements makes some jokes funny, and tried to reproduce them formulaically in every answer here?

    "witty people would say something like x, therefore let me say x"

  32. Anonymous  

    Aries knocks on people's doors and brings them cocoa. At least I think he did that. Good guy.

  33. wellllll  

    i did read this expecting him to be a total ass but it wasn't so bad. he seems like a (somewhat) normal guy.

    i agree with the sentiment that we shouldn't give douchebags platforms to speak, but you have to admit that there's an odd fascination with these "high-profile" people we're always hearing about. so i'm interested in reading about them, even if they seem like jerks.

    also... 4, 13, 15, 21, 22, 25, 34, 35, 40, 43, 47... you should calm down.

  34. Yeah

    #4, 13, 15, 21, 22, 25, 34, 35, 40, 43, 47, why don't you step forward and put a face to those incendiary statements.

  35. dude  

    get Stephen Harris to rep GS.. he's awesome

  36. doesn't  

    bwog just send these surveys out and cross their fingers? I think who they publish depends on who bothers to respond...

  37. which  

    i guess, tends to be people we've already heard way too much from.

  38. CML  

    Alright, everyone get off of their high horses. Niko may be a douche, but the "8.7% admit rate" was clever. And that alone made this more worthwhile than reading the usual self-indulgent borefests. Now that I think about it, the people who didn't enjoy this article are the same philistines who denigrated the Campus Character-ization of Jeffrey Hunter Northrop II.

  39. voting  

    I think that a lot of people thought that the girl who ran against Niko didn't really represent the typical GS person. She was in the joint GS-JTS program I think, so she was more of a typical-path student than most non-traditional GS students. She is also in a sorority. Not that there are anything wrong with those things, but for the typical student in GS who took a few years off, is less focused on the typical college experience, she might seem different.

  40. hmm  

    Why not solicit senior wisdom from the graduating class in general? You could create a pretty cool archive, and highlight the best submissions with their own post on the front page.

    Obviously if the submission pool was filled only with people who submitted to read their own thoughts, this would suck. But as long as people pressured their graduating friends, it could be pretty great.

  41. Can  

    we have Janusz Kesek please?!?! Before he graduates!! The man lost a finger for Columbia!!

    • The Judge

      Really, how did he lose it?

      Also, couldn't he have just gotten a replacement finger from Columbia?
      They're usually so adept at giving them to students, after all.

  42. way to go  

    you fail at formatting, bwog editor!

  43. I demand  

    wisdom from former Philo president, Kilmer winner and noted Talmudist Josh Schwartz, GS/JTS '08

  44. by far the  

    most interesting senior wisdom yet - interesting and funny in the content, interesting in seeing gs students disparage other gs students. i thought cc on gs was bad enough - looks like gs on gs is even worse...

  45. Bethmann-Hollweg  

    GS is, inter alia, a farce of an educational institution.

    • Support that  

      Be specific. What's the farce? As an "educational institution," well, it shares the Faculty of Arts & Sciences with CC. With rare exceptions, we attend the same classes, graded to the same standard by the same TAs and teachers. The same degree requirements. The same degree, although the diploma is printed in the vernacular rather than in Latin, but who really cares about that nonessential point anyway?

      One significant difference in is the treatment of Core reqs, which I do feel should be addressed, by requiring exactly the courses (e.g. mandatory CC & Lit Hum) as CC students. Rumor has it this is happening, though slowly. In the meantime, though, GS Core reqs are more similar to those for CC than SEAS Core reqs are to those of CC.

      Are you an alum from way back, when GS really was an entirely separate institution, complete with underwater basket weaving courses and such? Things have changed.

      • that's  

        because seas has its own ridiculously rigorous engineering core -- you can't hold yourselves up against the seas standards of the cc core, without some equivalent challenge that gsers face.

        i think most of the younger undergraduate hatred of gs is pretty logical actually: your school feels somewhat less legitimate than cc/seas (i know everyone brings some life experience to the table supposedly, but fundamentally we see you as sneaking in the back door of columbia without putting in the arduous labor that we all did in high school to get here). and you couple that with a group of people who are, by virtue of being older, very easy to distinguish in all of your classes, you get some really strong hatred.

        i think gs is sort of a threat to all that what we've done to get here, and sort of a threat to the independence is such a big part of college. in my fantasies of leaving home and going to college, i did not envision taking classes with people who are my parents' age

        for my personal $0.02, I will say that I've met some brilliant and incredibly cool gsers, as well as some who validate all of our prejudices against it as an institution.

        • ...  

          it seems like people are always rabbiting on here about some grand anti-gs bias that all the late teens/early 20s undergrads share.

          i for one have never seen it anywhere other than on the internet. and lets be honest, if you were a part of a group that isn't ridiculed, hated or doused with vitriol on a regular basis in the columbia anonymous internet comment pool, then something is very, very wrong.

          while i've only been here a year, i've had dealings with a fair number of youngergrads. (yes, i live in a bizarre world, where normalcy is so foreign than i'm forced to invent bizarre words to describe it) every single one of them has treated me the same way i've treated them: with respect.

          in fact, some of them have even done me huge favors (letting me photocopy their notes when i lost my backpack, for instance)

          • !!!  

            Lost your backpack? Surrounded by people who don't discern your school (implying you're either an Applied Math or Comp Sci major)? On the internet? I know who you are! It's bedbug!

          • ...  

            fuck... i dropped a breadcrumb.

            #75: if you ever end up in a corporate position, get used to the idea of idiots getting in through the back door. annoyingly, they usually end up sending you emails with abhorrent grammar and spelling. even more annoyingly, you actually have to read them, because more often than not, they're upper management.

          • and  

            Would those emails also feature lack of capitalization?

  46. why  

    doesn't anyone rail so harshly against cc/seas legacy people? Is it really an issue of gs'ers coming in through the "back door," or is this just a matter of age discrimination?

    • umm..  

      People regularly rail against the legacies... It's not an issue of age discrimination so much as the lack of academic discrimination in GS admissions.

      • real student  

        Yeah...a kid from my high school class who failed out during junior year and had to go to some special school for screw ups now attends GS. It's lovely thinking that one of the best students in my high school class and one of the worst now attend the same university!

      • reasonable  

        That's a reasonable rejoinder: yes, admissions are looser for GS (and I speak as one)... but there's ferocious (and deserved) attrition for those who can't cut it here. And that's the way it should be: if you're going to factor in "benefit of the doubt," then compensate by ruthlessly booting the failures. No one's "entitled" to a Columbia education (or for that matter, any education anywhere); you have to earn it, non-stop, until the last hard-fought exam success in the last couple of weeks of Senior year.

        If you get here with a bit of "benefit of the doubt," you should be selected out of the pool if you can't keep up. That's the only stable longterm accommodation that can reasonably be made. Speaking only for myself, I'm usually generally happy when some marginal loser gets selected out of the intellectual gene pool and I don't have to deal with the consequences of being erroneously associated with him.

        GS is large enough to have its own Gaussian distributions of intelligence, performance, etc. The leftmost 2nd standard deviation GS laggards, however, unlike their more protected counterparts in CC, tend to be culled by their 2nd semester on campus.

        • fair point...  

          but isn't that part of the problem? For CC undergrads, while it does matter whether a GS student graduates, I think what bothers us (as CC undergrads) is that we're put in classes with these "leftmost 2nd standard deviations" before they're weeded out.

          Yes, it is intellectual arrogance, but after going working hard through high school and somehow making the cut to be among the best, wouldn't you be disappointed that there's an idiot next you in lecture who got in through the backdoor? We don't follow up on whether he graduates or not, but the contempt stems from the fact that he's there at all, when you had to jump through hoops to prove yourself intellectually just to make it here.

          • Yes  

            I strongly sympathize with you, and find little fault in your argument... except with the implication that GS admits were necessarily less accomplished at the high school level. Yes, that's true of some, and they do stick out. But consider that a large number of others really were in the competitive upper percentiles of their own high schools but, for various reasons, did not directly enter college after graduation. Some chose a stint of military service, some lived and worked in Europe as ballet dancers, some started businesses which did well and were then sold, etc.

            A number of us fall into that latter cohort, i.e. did very well in school, deliberately chose a transitional period of development elsewhere, then returned to school. I can't agree with all the admit decisions that GS has made, but speaking for myself, I'm willing to say confidently that I might have stood an excellent chance of having been selected at age 18 to CC; instead, I did some other things first, a great many of them, and enjoyed a transitional period whose memories I will always treasure.

            And having now been admitted, I do not consider myself at any disadvantage. None. If anything, I've only heard the occasional mumbled complaint that the higher percentage of GS enrollees in the smaller upper division classes I take have a tendency to skew the grading curves, to the relative disadvantage of some of the conventional students.

          • how to fix this  

            I agree that there are certainly GS students that are high-caliber students, and imagine that some were comparable high school students to CC kids. I didn't mean to imply that all GS students necessarily didn't perform well academically before coming here.

            But, from hearing you describe your path to GS, I would think you would be just as upset as CC and SEAS kids with GS's admissions policy that lets so many students get in through the backdoor. I have no doubt that there are highly qualified GS students who chose a non-traditional route before coming to Columbia, and agree that the diversity is good for our campus. Whatever percentage of the GS population that is, they need to multiply the admit percentage by that percentage, so the quality of student in GS isn't as diluted, and the quality of Columbia student isn't diluted as it is now.

            I like the idea of GS, and allowing non-traditional students to be part of the community -- it's just the execution of it, with the admit rate as high as it is, that I (and I think most CC/SEAS kids speaking up) have a problem with. If they lowered the admission rate to cut it down to people like you describe, and it'd work in harmony with the rest of the University.

          • Well-spoken  

            Now we're really getting somewhere: this is the most thoughtfully constructive criticism of GS in respect of its implementation I've heard from someone in CC. You've thought this out, you've made your case well, and I agree with you.

            Would you consider delivering your case to Dean Awn? He needs to hear this type of thing from a CC student. As a GS student, my concerns range from short term nullification of the negative halo effect from "The Ones Who Spoil It for the Rest of Us," to building reputation capital for GS over the long haul. I'm almost a senior myself, and after I head back into the work force - I left a very comfortable career, and I already have excellent standing offers conditioned on my return to the suited world - I plan to establish a regular personal alumnus donation plan as part of my yearly tax planning. Those will be directed donations, however: in my case, merit-only scholarships to high academic achievers in the physical sciences and/or engineering.

            I will only do so if I have confidence that GS is continuing to improve as an institution. Any interest in helping out?

          • thanks  

            Thanks for kind words. Tensions usually run pretty high during discussions about GS and CC, so and it was refreshing to have a discussion about it that was both thoughtful and constructive, so I appreciated being able to have a balanced discourse about it with you.

            I am intrigued by the idea of speaking to Dean Awn, but I don't think this sentiment is anything he hasn't either heard or thought of before. There's so many factors in play -- politics and budgets come to mind first -- that even if this would be the best long term solution, its implementation, at this point, would be exceedingly difficult.

            I do have a vested interest in GS improving as an institution, since I believe it'll improve Columbia as a university, but unfortunately (in this case) am graduating next week. I think the plan of making directed donations for merit-only scholarships is certainly a step in the right direction. The major hurdle I see Columbia facing in making GS more selective, and thus smaller, is make it work financially, and donations of that nature help that budget.

            Sorry to not be able to be of more direct help -- I am optimistic that it will make strides in the coming years if more students take your lead, and make directed donations for merit scholarships. Best of luck in your remaining time at Columbia -- I'm already feeling pings of nostalgia for college, with graduation not until next week.

          • Saladin  

            I object to the idea that the "idiot next to you in lecture" is necessarily a GSer. As a GS student, my first semester was filled with disappointment in the caliber of students I was taking classes with (some of you are brilliant, but I've heard some stupid shit coming out of your mouths). I don't see why doing well in high school gives you free reign to be a dumbass in my classes. Just as you find the older folks more noticeable when we are dumbasses, I see these young kids in class who can't seem to grasp the obvious and think "YOU are the 8.7%"? I think a lot of the stress on high school and admittance from the CC/SEAS commenter crowd stems from their inability to show a real performance gap between the schools.

  47. not exactly  

    Never said the idiot next to me was by necessity a GS student. In that example, he or she was. I think everyone's frustrated at one point or another with people not being the brightest in lecture, regardless of what school they're in. The point is that there's always going to be some kids that slipped by the admissions office into CC, but the problem is that there's a significantly higher number that make it in through the GS backdoor. Certainly there are qualified GS students, but the average applicant is not distinguished over the average CC applicant to account for the total difference in admit rates.

    Of course doing well in high school doesn't give you free reign to be a dumbass -- that's not the point. Yes, there are people who slip by into CC, but percentage wise, there's a lot more who slip into GS, simply by the grossly disproportionate admit rates.

    "I think a lot of the stress on high school and admittance from the CC/SEAS commenter crowd stems from their inability to show a real performance gap between the schools." I think you'll hear pretty universal agreement from CC and SEAS kids that this couldn't be further than the truth. In fact, the exact opposite is true.

    • Saladin  

      Regardless of the "universal agreement" you may have in CC/SEAS, the numbers show that the top and middle third of students are comparable in all schools. GS's problem is with our bottom third showing a drop. I'm unconvinced that stricter admissions would have a serious effect on this lag. I think a large portion of the drop comes from life issues that don't effect most CC/SEAS students: the strain of working full time and taking classes, children, PTSD, etc. That's simply the difference between coming fresh out of high school and taking a detour (the military in my case).

      The whole idea of halving admissions as a solution is ridiculous. If there is space for students at any school in the university, it should be filled. Denying positions when there is space simply to keep an admissions rate concurrent with CC is ridiculous and elitist (in the real sense, not the political one).

      If you want to increase the admissions rate of GS, make the program more financially appealing. Let's not forget that a major factor in admissions is how many people want to get in.

  48. soontobenewslum  

    Would a merger solve this?

    • Maybe...

      but only if GS were held to the same admissions' standards as CC and SEAS. Even so, I think it makes sense to keep them separate--they're fundamentally different types of students who comprise each.

      • interesting..but  

        you say they're different..... does that mean that all gs students that conform to the cc/seas mold in age (they are quite a few), SAT scores ( a hell of a lot), and ambition (whatever that entails) should be migrated to cc/seas - while the "oldies", the ones who came back to school to become writers, and the ones who admissions deems SATS are irrelevant for should be the ones who solely comprise GS?

        • I wouldn't do  

          I wouldn't split GS. Integrating the ones that conform (age, SAT, ambition) into CC/SEAS and keeping the rest in GS kind of defeats the point to me.

          I think GS is perfect for any non-traditional students, but it's admissions standard needs to be raised to get rid of the kids who "got in through the backdoor." Defining this student is crucial, and not necessarily obvious during admissions, either. CC and SEAS seem to have a decent system figured out -- though they reject a ton of well-qualified candidates, and do let some in that shouldn't have made it. Without SAT scores or much standardization, this could be tough for GS to compare a broad range of students. Perhaps the application needs to be more extensive? Something tells me that if they decided they'd slice the admit rate by %50 (or whatever the number is), they'd be able to get a good collection of students across all the parameters -- age, SAT, ambition, etc.

  49. bythey  

    yay niko. great posting!!! best yet.

  50. keep it simple

    An educated fool at best. Ha! You'd be surprised!

© 2006-2015 Blue and White Publishing Inc.