Quigley Will Miss You

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Outgoing Dean of Columbia College Austin Quigley has just issued a goodbye letter to the students of Columbia College. He wants us to know what an impact we have all made, “individually and collectively,” on his life in the past fourteen years, and so he has copied and pasted his own statements from a previous interview published in Columbia College Today. To great effect, Bwog might add.

The self-plagiarism not withstanding, Quigley has been well-loved and his comments in the letter and interview certainly come straight from the bottom of his adorable little British heart. But who could have predicted he express them by quoting his own interview? Bwog congratulates the writers of the 115th Varsity Show on their incredible powers of divination.

Full email after the jump.

Columbia College logo

Dear College Students and Young Alumni,

As you know, I will be stepping down this year as Dean of the College and returning to the Columbia faculty.

Though I am always pleased to talk with each and every one of you whenever opportunities arise, there have been nearly 20,000 of you passing through the College in my time as Dean.  I will not, therefore, have the chance to say goodbye to each of you in the way I would wish, by letting you know in person what you have, individually and collectively, meant to me as Dean.  I signed up for four years and stayed for fourteen, in significant part because it has been so personally rewarding for me to spend so much of my time working for and with College students.

As there will not be an occasion when I can tell you directly why that has been so, I would like to draw attention to some remarks I made in an interview, just published in Columbia College Today . I was asked several questions about students, one of which ran as follows:

“Columbia College students are known as active, involved students who think for themselves and readily voice their opinions. You seem to enjoy interacting with students, and judging from the reception you get at events such as the Senior Dinner or Class Day, the students enjoy this interaction as well. Please talk about this aspect of the job.”

I responded as follows:

“Though you’re dean of a college of 4,000 students, your work with students is always one at a time. You shouldn’t be in a job like this unless you find young people really interesting … in fact, unless you find people in general really interesting. Interacting with College students is a privilege, a challenge and a joy not least because Columbia students traditionally tend to have independent views and very strong opinions. It’s not going to get you very far if you enter conversations with your mind already made up. A conversation really does need to be a genuine exchange. That doesn’t mean that every time you talk to a student you are going to change your mind on something, but it does mean that you have to be open to changing your mind, that you are ready to be influenced by a better argument than the one you began with. That respect for students and their views is essential in dealing with young people, and it isn’t something you can readily manufacture or adopt as a pose or deploy as a strategy for conversing with students. They’ll see right through it. You really do have to be genuinely interested in what they have to say, to have the readiness to disagree when you feel there is something they need to hear, but also to have the willingness to listen attentively when they disagree with you, to understand that, besides being deeply engaged with the world you share with them, they are preparing themselves for a world in the future that they will shape together long after you are gone…

We all have values and beliefs and convictions, and we don’t hold them lightly. But the world keeps changing and moving along, and the world that young people are growing up into is going to be their world, and they have a right to define it eventually on their terms. We must, of course, make sure that, as students are exercising their right to take increasing responsibility for their own future, they are very well informed about what people have learned before them. But in the last analysis, it’s going to be their world, and you need to be listening very carefully and making sure that you try to move with them to wherever that future is going to be. For all of us, being ignorant of the past is a serious disadvantage. But being governed solely by it is a serious misjudgment. Making sure we are in a position to be guided but not governed by the past is essential if we are to bring about a better future, and that is what grounds our intellectual relationship with our students, along with the respect and admiration they so regularly earn.”

These words, along with some of the other remarks I make in the interview about College students, serve, in their own way, as my personal tribute to every member of the College classes from 1995 to 2012, whom I have had the honor to serve as Dean.  Should you wish to read more of them, they can be found at:    http://www.college.columbia.edu/cct/mar_apr09/features1 .

I very much want you to know that you have played such an important role in my life, and I would like to think I have played some small role in each and every one of yours.

With fond and enduring memories, your Dean,

Austin Quigley




  1. ah bwog  

    You are a silly gmail user. The only reason "Columbia College logo" was displayed at the top of the letter was because you didn't tell gmail to display the image, which was the columbia college logo. It was just a text placeholder for the actual image. Sheesh, don't knock a letter when you aren't actually viewing the entire thing.

  2. I'll miss

    Dean Quigley :(


    Class of 2004 alum

  3. you know  

    Quigley seems like a nice guy and all, and i'm sure did wonderful things for CC behind the scenes, but honestly I saw him once in my life...at Days on Campus. Definitely not a dean who made real effort to make himself available and visible to the students...compare to Zvi Galil and his nice little email updates about unicorns. (not saying Quigs has to be so esoteric, just wishing i saw or heard from him while i was a student!)

    • I agree  

      Quigley gives really nice, heart-warming speeches at events when parents are around, but he doesn't interact with students at all. He doesn't even send us cute e-mails! This most recent e-mail, hardly qualifies as a nice, cute e-mail, since he largely talks about how great he is, and how much people will miss him (?!)

  4. wait  

    Who is this dude?

  5. dean quigley

    is the man.

    he's a pinter scholar

    and he's been dean of this college for 14 years

    and he's amazing in every way possible

    don't hate

  6. Goodbye

    good riddance. megalomaniac. couldn't care less for students. if you really like quigs, give me something concrete? he is good at schmoozing? have you ever tried to say hi to him on college walk as he storms past you? have you ever had an individual meeting with him where he gives you another name. the real credit goes to Sue Mescher who made quigley anything.

    colombo and quigley gone. there is a god. his name is bollinger; amen for knocking these egomaniacs off their pedastals. the only reason they 'cared' about the college was that they cared about their own legacy. would they ever do something that benefited students over their image in the press?

    • i don't think  

      Bollinger is a God. Robert Kasdin is a tyrannical bastard who doesn't give a shit about students, and under his tenure student services have been atrocious. Yet Bollinger brought him in from Michigan when he came and he's ruled since

  7. wait  

    so what classes is he going to teach now?

  8. yeah  

    if there's a bad administrator it is Kasdin.

    Though if there's a "bad" (as in good!) administrator then its bollinger among the moustaches.

  9. EAL  

    Well, the very picture of bad administrators is Cristen Scully Kromm. I'd much rather have her leave (preferably by firing) than Quigley.

    I'll miss you, Quigs, but we're leaving Columbia at the same time, so it'll make the emotional pain more bearable.

  10. When  

    Are you doing Senior Wisdom bwog?

  11. Austin Quigley friend  

    To all of you who insulted Quigley bite your tongues and die a painful death. Quigley is the most caring, devoted and interesting man on this campus. I know him well and have interacted with him on many occasions, and he showed genuine interest in my experience as a student, as well as asked for feedback about the campus as a whole, from a student's perspective. Columbia is his second home and he truly DOES care about the campus. So whoever you are for insulting him... jealous that he didn't give a shit about YOU specifically...and ignorant.
    The new dean better up to the challenge because Quigley leaves a wonderful legacy behind!

    • i'll bite something

      your statement is full of vagueries. give us specifics if you want us to take you seriously. are you a current student? alum? how much money do you give the college fund? i knew quigley probably as well as any student could - saw him lecture, speak multiple times, had many meetings with him at alumni events and as a student. and if you notice that he feels the need to act superior to you at all times, you come away with some conclusions. i know at least two other alums who have the same vitriol that i have; we were able to share a great time getting to know our dean with closer proximity than most and have formed our thoughts through experience. the guy is not the 'real' thing. he lacks the compassion and understanding of issues to be a great administrator.

      i only hope the new dean is better than quigs in the sense that she will care as much about the livelihood of the students as she cares about her own legacy.

  12. I  

    I wish his letter was an audio file that spoke in his lovely British accent to me.

  13. nah...  

    i'm sure he reached out to a select few students and had wonderful relationships with them and that's fine and great for those students. that's also impossible to do for all students so no problem there.

    but it is possible to send an email that says "oh, hi, hope you're doing well" to the whole class and maybe show up at a class event ONCE in four years. he never did that and i'm bummed because i believe from the one time i saw on days on campus that he is a great and caring guy.

  14. ALERT

    Starting in 2 hours, Baskin Robbins will commence 31 cent scoop night!!! It benefits firefighters, so load up on scoops!

    (Closest one is on 125th, but again, it's for a good cause!)

  15. ALERT2  

    free dinner on the lawn in 2hrs

  16. noooo  

    quiggles i love you

  17. Recent Alum

    Quigley's reputation and legacy is subject to debate, at least among those of us who bother to have an opinion on the matter.

    This farewell email pretty much sums it up - really, how tacky and lame is copying and pasting a passage from an interview and including a link for further reading? It's really sad.

    The fact is that Austin Quigley was an absentee dean for most students. I can count on one hand the number of emails I got from him in 4 years, with fingers to spare. None were actually emails from him. Just policy statements. He just isn't a presence in most students lives. Zvi's involvement and participation in student life is the obvious contrasting example.

    But I'm willing to cut him some slack. I can only speculate as to the level of politics he has to deal with (Quigs was briefly fired during a bout of administrative intrigue in 1997). It's entirely possible that in order to secure the funding that the College needs, Quigs has had to sacrifice being a presence on campus. I don't doubt that his personal efforts in cultivating alumni have helped land hundreds of millions of dollars in donations like the Kluge gifts for financial aid, among others.

    All that being said, Quigs, I really want to like you. I really do. But this email was pathetic. You couldn't have taken the time to compose something original?

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