Disowned, Scorned, Still Proudly Self-Deprecating

Written by

Loyalty is not something ingrained in students at this spirit-deprived school.  Even with all the excitement, we knew deep inside that Barack Obama (CC ’83, now some kind of important person) would never speak at Class Day.

After all, what with saving the world, how could he possibly have time to visit his Alma Mater?

As it turned out, our intuition was correct – Obama won’t be our Class Day speaker.  He’ll be the commencement speaker for other schools.

That’s right, schools, pluralized.  Two days ago, the White House issued a little-noticed press release announcing that Barack Obama would serve as commencement speaker at three colleges: Arizona State, Notre Dame, and the US Naval Academy.

Bwog’s analysis would suggest that he’ll touch on themes such as “the economy,” “the future,” and “you unemployable history majors.”

The press release promises “more details” at a later date, but we’re not holding our breath.  We’re too bitter.

Tags: , , , , ,


  1. SEAS '09  

    Wow. Shit.

    I hope that I too can one day expertly derive well-crafted, passive-aggressive action from years of holding a grudge.

  2. Sigh  

    I mean, I guess those other schools kinda sorta need it more than we do, and we should feel some kind of sympathy for them, right? And I guess speaking at a service academy makes sense. And Arizona State IS the largest public university in the nation, so I guess the sheer number of people makes it worthwhile.

    But Notre Dame? Seriously, what the fuck? Notre fucking Dame???

  3. Context

    In 2001, at the first commencement-speaking season after then President Bush's first inauguration, he spoke at his Alma Mater - Yale.

    So, depending on your view of Obama, you could either see that as making Obama's Columbia neglect even worse because he has less loyalty to his college than the arguably less intellectual Bush; or, you could see it as consistent with a pattern of Obama doing the exact opposite of everything Bush did in an effort to gain a different kind of reputation.

    Also, Bush was Yale's actual commencement speaker, a position not offered to Obama by Columbia. And Hillary was the speaker the day before at Class Day. So really, Yale kicked our ass. But it was their Tercentennial Commencement, so they probably tried hard to kick ass.

    And for what it's worth, Bush gave a really good speech. Probably the only speech of his I ever really liked. It's when he dropped the line, loosely paraphrased: "To those of you who received honors and awards I say well done. And to the C students out there I say, you too can be president one day!"

    Perhaps you turn your nose up at it now, but the whole speech was really well received by a student body that came prepared to NOT receive him very well.

    • better context  

      Harvard also considers him an alum, and probably invited him to give their commencement speech. If so, then he rejected them as well to go to these dumb but politically useful schools.

      • Notre Dame

        isn't too much worse than Columbia, really...

        Neither is ASU, probably

        • O politics

          Obama is speaking at all of these schools for political reasons and just to reiterate it would have been a bit insulting to be Class Day speaker when we have a ceremony for 40,000 people the following day. Fingers crossed he still comes as commencement speaker, but at least we have his two top cabinet posts, in Hillary and Holder

        • hmmm  

          obvious troll is obvious

          sorry, but ASU and Notre Dame aren't even safety schools. they just fail.

  4. The curious case of Mr. O

    It would not be insulting for him to speak at a class day for one of the most prestigious undergraduate institutions in the country. Bush, for one, even spoke at one or two, or perhaps several, high school commencements, and I believe he was not the first to do so. So to reiterate, it was not an insult to Obama to extend an invitation to speak at the Class Day. I am quite certain, however, that he felt that Columbia insulted him in some way during his undergraduate years, and while I do not have any inkling whatsoever as to what form that insult may have taken, I think it reflects badly upon this institution that such an accomplished alum doesn't even deign to speak its name most of the time. On a different note, I must say that I am impressed by the thoughtful, non-partisan remarks of commenter 5.

  5. The curious case...

    Upon further reflection, the list of schools that he will be speaking to sounds almost identical to the list of schools at which Bush spoke in his last years as president: a service academy, and two schools with large ROTC programs in politically receptive states. Perhaps Mr. O is not being true to himself, whoever that person is.

  6. the issue is...  

    He was a transfer, and transfers are treated very, very badly here. By everyone.

    • another transfer  

      i think being a transfer here fucking blows

      • EAL  

        I think if you had to live in shitty housing in East Harlem during the early 80s (when this city's crime was out of control), you probably wouldn't have good memories of Columbia either.

        This place has changed so much since then. I wouldn't have even applied here if this were the 70s or 80s, since the neighborhood was similar to the one UPenn is in now.

  7. still...  

    we got burned =[


    I got a great F.A. package.

    DIDN'T have to take Frontiers (suck my genitals!) got a lot of credits transfered, and a very involved academic advisor (you rock, Dawn!)

    I don't even feel the need to tell people I'm a transfer. Just a sophomore who slacked on his Art/Music Hum for a year.

    The transfer experience here is a-ok.

    • did u get  

      housing? That's where they usually shaft transfers

    • frontiers fails at life  

      how did you learn about the dinosaurs if you didn't take frontiers?

      oh yeah, third grade science...

    • yeah, but  

      Correct me if I'm wrong, but did you just say you tell people you're not a transfer? That instead you tell them you were a slacking sophomore?

      Why do you do that, if not to avoid a stigma surrounding transfers?

      • Anonymous  

        I'm not sure why there would be a stigma. Transfer admissions seems to be more difficult than for freshmen, and those who transferred under the auspices of the 3/2 did so knowing full well that they'd be socially uprooted and in difficult majors. I can't understand why the general student body would frown on either population.

        Though this is the same group of people who relentlessly order the undergraduate schools by difficulty of admissions and constantly suppress feelings of inferiority to Yale, so I wouldn't be too surprised.


        a) I absolutely did get housing. A single with my own bathroom. From my friends its basically a luck of the draw; they're all over the place (EC, Broadway) and certainly not all in some danky hallway in the Wein basement.

        b) I don't tell people because I've had the "Oh cool! Where did you go before? McGill. Oh you're canadian?" conversation literally over 50 times. At some point it just becomes a drag.

        c) Even if there was some stigma (not sure why exactly) it wouldn't be the administration's fault but that of the student mindset.

        d)What sucks worst about Columbia is realizing you've been craving Chipotle all day, 10 minutes after they close. The brochures never warned me about that!

        • #21 again  

          Aha, cool. I was more curious about the previous implications of stigma, as I've never really run into them except for here in this thread, and wanted to know if you might have run into some of this mysterious phenomenon. I've only known one transfer and she had it absolutely fantastic here! So I was kind of confused. Thanks for clarifying.

  9. Hm.

    Indiana, Arizona-->battleground states.

  10. Anonymous  

    Bwog, Judah Friedlander (Frank, from 30 Rock) was playing table tennis tonight at Dodge. Investigate!

  11. transfer  

    Transfers get housing, although they didn't when obama came here. I think his experience was pretty shitty, although the transfer experience here is now much better. I dont feel like people treat me worse than they treat people who applied for freshmen admissions. If they do that is stupid because its more competitive (less than 5% admitted most years) and most student have 4.0s or close at very good schools coming in.

  12. I don't blame him  

    Columbia wasn't good to him, why should he be good to Columbia?

    I hope the administration feels burned as hell.

  13. the case of Mr. O

    No one knows what happened. We cannot be certain that he simply had what we presume to be a characteristically negative experience as a transfer student. We simply do not know the facts. I think we would like to know the facts-- I certainly would-- but perhaps we never will.

  14. really  

    given how the administration and columbia bureaucracy can be completely cold to their student's aspirations, i'm not too surprised at the way obama feels. and i agree, part of it has to do with the stigma of ordering undergrad schools into ranks that results from columbia's strict division of its undergrad community based on age, major and gender.

  15. I would be

    disappointed if Obama did actually accept an invitation to speak. This institution treats its students like shit and has nothing but scorn for student quality of life. As an '08 alum I can say that I will never donate a cent to this shit hole. I have nothing but hatred for the administration and bureaucracy that runs CU. We can only hope that having a sitting president and CU alum snub this shit show of a university will finally drive home how fucking foolish Low and the 5th floor of Lerner have been. I have nothing but vitriol for CU and I am sure Obama has the same. FUCK COLUMBIA!!!

    • Jesus  

      chill out. Surely there's more to Columbia than Student Affairs? Besides, the problem has been that Colombo is scared out of his butt about administrative liability; his boss Quigley was a totally apathetic, hands-off Dean (at least in terms of day-to-day student activities and interactions) and his other boss left for Tel Aviv University. Now, we have two new Deans, one who just recently sponsored a drinking event at a club midtown for seniors and young alums where people got absolutely shit-faced for free. Lets hope Dean Moody-Adams takes some of the liability-pressure off Kevin Shollenberger and urges him to chill out. Surely you can't measure a university by one transient, failed student-affairs administration?

    • Alum '07

      I totally agree with you. Columbia was a terrible place for undergrad and if I had it all to do over again I would have picked somewhere different. To the people above who were describing ASU and Notre Dame as subpar, I would challenge you. I'm now a grad student at a well-regarded public school. I actually find the caliber of student and teacher at these schools to be better than Columbia. One, the students don't have major intellectual chips on their shoulder and the need to prove their intelligence in every comment in class. Two, the Ivy League about a decade ago started doing admissions based on the 'whole' student. What this means is that the quite brilliant kid at a school probably wouldn't be admitted to Columbia, Harvard, etc (Princeton is an exception to this) because he/she didn't play lacrosse or do debate. So, what some of you kiddos would consider second tier schools become filled with highly intelligent, deserving students who didn't pad their resumes enough for the Ivies.

      Anyway, back to the topic. Columbia won't ever get a cent out of me either. I will, however, donate to the school I attend now as it does a better job educating and all for a lower price (plus everyone seems happier here...Columbia always seemed dour to me)

      • just to make a point,  

        ASU has a 90% acceptance rate.
        even for a public school, that's high.
        ND is much more competitive. maybe not as competitive as Columbia, but other than the ivies, who is?

      • ...  

        out of curiosity, what was your field/major?

        • Alum 07

          History (ancient concentration).

          And #47: the point is that while these schools let in more people they also have a large number of qualified students. What I'm trying to say is that I've met more students there of the type who enjoy learning for the sake of the knowledge. Columbia might have a low acceptance rate but that's because, as I said before, they have created this silly litmus test on people where they have to be a 'whole' student. You need to have played a sport and been in three different clubs to get into Columbia. You wouldn't believe the number of kids I've met who had amazing academic records in high school (1600 SAT, stellar grades) but didn't get into an Ivy and the common thread is that these kids didn't play a sport and spent their time reading, building computers, or some other solo activity. I've had conversations with professors about this and several think that the Ivies need to do something (let in the smartest candidate) instead of retreating back to this Victorian notion of mens sana in corpore sano.

  16. grudges are so 9th grade  

    Obama is a big boy. I don't care if Columbia called him fat every day and pointed out his pimples.

    He needs to be the bigger person. If this is how he treats a university, I fear for Afghanistan.

  17. hopefully  

    this will be a sign to the administration to treat its undergrads better.

    ah, wishful thinking. let the war on fun continue...

  18. Anonymous  

    Dudes, seriously, anyone who is too terribly bitter when we have Holder is looking for something to be angry about. Sure, Obama would've been cool, but I am pleased as hell with whom we've got.

  19. ummm  

    Has anyone considered that every school has a different graduation date, and that maybe the PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES might have some important shit to do on our graduation date? Oh no, I'm sure he's sitting around the Oval Office thinking about ways to insult Columbia.

    • truth  

      good point. The commencement dates for the three schools are May 13, 17, and 22. Ours is on May 20.

      I guess we'll wait and see what's going on in the Executive Office on May 20.

  20. Old CU Adm, 15+ years  

    Columbia College in the early 80's was not what it is today.

    Additionally, Obama was a transfer, probably received little or no financial aid and had to live in an off campus and terrible apartment. Basically he was treated like GS students today.

    Ask any of them if they would come back here to speak at commencement and there you will have Obama's feelings about Columbia.

  21. Anonymous

    why ppl get so crazy about obama and how he may or may not have experienced his time at columbia. the guy has never made any outright statements about liking or disliking the school. the fact is that he spent two years here almost 25 years ago, and he probably doesn't even remember it all that well. he's certainly been through quite a bit since 1983. ppl seem to have some strange sense of entitlement regarding how they expect him to behave toward the school. i'm sure he'll come to speak eventually; it just may not be exactly ppl want it to happen or even during his term as president. for the time being, let's be proud to have the guy as an alumnus.

  22. LOLOL  

    HAHA YOUR "GOD" OBAMA REJECTED YOU!! HAHAHAHAHA!! and you thought he cared about you!? newsflash: your fucking oppressor doesn't care about you. now get back on your knees

  23. ...  

    a) he's a populist! why exactly would he speak at one of the last bastions of old school classism/elitism? (to be fair, the school has made great efforts and strides to grow beyond that... but still, it's there... and indeed there is a not insignificant number of people who still cling to that)

    b) as was said before, he probably got screwed in financial aid and housing. aren't there stories of him sleeping in doorways when he first arrived? people do not forget those sorts of things. also, michelle obama is on the record bitching about their combined absurd education loans and how they close doors.

    c) columbia is a major feeder for wall street. that's probably something he'd rather distance himself from.

    moral of the story: for the trustees... don't screw anyone! you never know where they might end up, and you may end up with an embarrassment on your hands.

  24. USNA Anient

    Boo Hoo ! It's politics insofar as ASU and ND are concerned ... both battleground states. The third just happens to be tradition, and the best of the Service Academies, but being CA, you'd have trouble comprehending that. You might have been on the list eventually ... way down, but you've probably screwed that up now.

  25. populist?

    He is a populist? Really? And just what exactly does that mean? Are the "people" all in conservative districts? Are those that hail from such places inherently non-"elitist?" I have no problem with those places whatsoever, I'm just challenging your contention that he's a populist, and your acceptance of the present-day definitions of that term-- definitions which were crafted, I believe, by people of no insignificant wealth themselves. If you listen carefully, you'll find that he is, in philosophy and general outlook, inseparable from the Ivy League. Incidentally, I don't know what his grievance is, but I do relish the thought that he now has the power to get some modicum of revenge.

  26. seas 09  

    right, because getting into harvard is so much easier with a degree from occidental than it is from columbia. and the whole getting into harvard thing certainly didn't have any effect at where he is today.

    even if he had a shitty time at columbia (guess what?! i've been here all four years and columbia treats me like shit!) he still has a prestigious degree and i'm sure in all his interviews he glorified his ivy experience just like i am undoubtedly going to do.

    and this is coming from an obama supporter. fuck that.

  27. crucial  

    You all are aware than unlike many of these schools, Columbia doesn't have a keynote address at univeristy-wide commencement by a guest speaker, right? At Columbia, the president of the university has always delivered the commencement address. Our class day ceremonies are relatively small.

    As for the student experience here - the administration made me miserable, but I got a great education. I donate a few dollars every year to fin aid, because I wouldn't have been able to afford Columbia without financial aid myself.

    I keep saying this but I don't think it has sunk in: Columbia is not like other ivies and many other top peer schools - Undergraduates make up the smallest percentage of the total student body of any Ivy league school. We're just that not that important to the central administration in the grand scheme of things. Additionally, the size of our endowment is seriously misleading. In 2008 we had one of the 10 largest endowments in the United States. But when you divide the endowment by the student body, we're closer to the outer edges of the Top 40. Still pretty good, but that probably gives an indication as to why it's hard to compare the resources the the administration has to lavish on students vs. our peer schools.

© 2006-2015 Blue and White Publishing Inc.