Under the Big Tent

Written by

quigleyDear underclassmen: When you get to be a senior, Columbia will start dong nice things for you, in hopes that those good feelings will be the ones that stick when you have more money than you need for basic survival. Senior dinner is one of those things, and this evening, many thousands of dollars went into an elegant if predictably mediocre meal to celebrate the class of 2009’s last day of school.

Twas a convivial affair in that circus tent on South Lawn, as roughly a thousand seniors lounged with good friends and rediscovered others who had fallen by the wayside. Embarrassing photos beamed onto the tent roof above, disproportionately featuring senior class president Mark Johnson, who received lackluster applause when he took the stage to say a few words about something. There was decidedly more enthusiasm for the Senior Fund announcement by a beaming Kristin Kramer: 90 percent participation, which surpassed the 86 percent record set by the previous record-holder! Guess half a year of threats, bribes, and guilt trips finally paid off.  

CCSC President George Krebs did his signature song and dance, but he was really only there to introduce the night’s main attraction, dearly departing Dean Austin Quigley. No doubt slightly sauced himself, the ebullient Brit fairly leapt out of the Varsity Show throne installed for the occasion and into a routine based on his theatrical alter ego. Little too close to reality there, Sir! This, followed by a series of recycled one-liners (“Love makes the world go round, but alcohol makes it go round twice as fast!”) platitudes (“This is the greatest Columbia College class of all time, and I am proud to graduate with you”) and a few genuine pearls of wisdom (“The chief value of a Columbia life is the great company it allows you to keep.”) After 14 years on the job, he can be forgiven for a few cliches. 


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  1. Anonymous  

    I still resent the giant tent for blocking the view of campus from my dorm room.

  2. Hmm  

    So that's why Butler was so damn empty. I never realized so many Butlermites were seniors.

  3. The Big Question  

    Did donations to senior fund even cover the cost of the dinner? My guess is no. When you have to harass people for a whole year to get up to 90% when the asking price is just $1, I think it's safe to say that people weren't exactly emptying their pockets for senior fund. But congrats to the senior fund people and the administration. You reached your goal, and you can now perpetuate the myth that Columbia students actually like their school and dupe more prospective students into applying, thus allowing the dean to throw out another statistic in five years at the senior dinner about how the admit rate for the College was the lowest in Columbia history. That should make CC'13 feel better after four years of Columbia.

    • Well

      hold on there. Being the bitter, angry, jaded, hostile Columbia student is MY schtick. Watch it, buster.

      The good news is that the warm feelings from Senior Dinner will tide you over until Class Day and Commencement, from whence you will depart Alma Mater with spirits ebullient.

      It's a devilishly clever plan. Hit as many feel-good high notes as possible on the way out and hope they neutralize 4 years of barely repressed rage at the sadistically bizarre maze that is this university. And it actually works.

      So enjoy the moment seniors, you deserve the endorphins and positive vibes. May your commencement exercises by marked by pleasant weather.

    • senior  

      Donations to the senior fund aren't about actually generating any useful amount of cash for the school. It's about getting students in the habit of donating, so that later, when they actually do have significant $$$, they'll be more inclined to donate some of that, too. High participation rate ties into that as well as inclining other classes to donate more. Making us feel good about the school through events like senior dinner also does this.

      That said, I think events like senior dinner are important and valuable and I'm very glad we have them.

      Regarding Quigley, I personally was much more disappointed by his speech than the author of this Bwog post. It was very nearly 100% canned, and it didn't sound sincere at all. Even his so-called "pearls of wisdom" were generic. It felt like he was just going through the motions. Granted, I expected a lot of it to be recycled and/or pablum, based both on what I'd heard about him and on what graduation speeches are (almost) always like. But I honestly thought he'd try a little harder to make it sound real, especially since, as he pointed out, this is his last year here too. Ah well, maybe he'll do better at class day.

    • Hello  

      that is not the big question. The reality is that most seniors by now are wise enough to realize that there is more to their Columbia experience than Student Affairs, ResLife and Student Services. For most people, Columbia has been a process of self-discovery and really a lot of fun, since by senior year most people have found their groove. Hence getting from 70% giving to 90% giving happened very quickly, when people realized what they were going to be leaving behind.

      • Hi to you too

        The jump from 70 to 90 has nothing to do with students suddenly realizing how important Columbia is to them. It has to do with peer pressure and superb brow-beating.

        • hey  

          did you just cite WikiCU? Really? WikiCU? Because they are a bastion of credibility of all historical information. Everything is written by Tao Tan, ffs. I on the other hand actually know people who donated very late, and why they donated. If you can survive an entire year of senior-fund-committee harassment, you can last out the end of the semester. These people chose to donate.

          • yeah

            I did cite wikicu. And Tao Tan didn't write everything on the site. And note that the article has citations. And I also know people who gave late, and why (e.g. they're as bitter as the cited Spec Op-Ed writer who calls the idea of the fund bankrupt.)


          • I don't  

            understand why anyone could get so hot and bothered about the senior fund on a night that was clearly not about the senior fund, it was about celebrating the CC Class of 09. Assuming you are a senior, was there nothing more to your experience here beyond the shittinness of Student Affairs, ResLife, and Student Services? Yes, the Senior Fund people did strong-arm a lot, but the point was that if they broke 86%, an alum would donate $50k, which is actually a significant amount if it gives one student a full-ride for a year. And that Op-Ed writer is having a laugh if she doesn't think that breaking an Ivy Record and getting 90% giving during a recession won't push alums to donate. You should attend some of these alumni dinners and see how they will spin this.

  4. In other news

    Regarding the far more... um... interesting campus event which occured simultaneously to this one: Did anyone notice that Ann Coulter basically endorsed a foreign missile attack on Columbia and Dartmouth?

  5. Coulter made

    ridiculous militaristic statements against the ivy league to which she owes her success? That's interesting?

    You must be bored, a clingy republican, or both.

  6. senior 09  

    senior dinner was amazing.

  7. Quigz'  

    speech was completely bizarre. What a truly batty speech.

  8. 08 alum  

    Quigs said the same things last year.

  9. Senior  

    Honestly, I think Quigley at this point is checking out of his responsibilities just as much as the rest of us. I mean, I know I would be. Four years here is a lot of work...after 14 I'd be giving speeches completely plastered.

    On the plus side, we got to take home the floral arrangements, which were nice.

    And as for donating, as someone who has had a fantastic time here and learned a lot from the experience, I will hopefully be able to someday pay forward the thousands of dollars in financial aid that I received so that someone else can have a similar experience. But I don't like the administration any more than any of you jaded types, and I have no intention of ever giving to the general fund.

  10. Typo Alert

    The second sentence of this post contains the word "dong".

  11. senior

    I don't understand why Quigley has to recycle the same lines year after year after year. Granted, it's certainly not as if this is the most important speech to be delivered over the course of the year, but it isn't so unimportant so as to merit no effort whatsoever. And it's also not as if this is the only instance in which he has delivered a completely recycled speech. I once naturally assumed that he took pride in his position and in the responsibilities entailed. Now I don't know. In any case, his jokes toward the end about the mock "awards" for "best poem," etc. were very funny, especially given that he presides over all of the award ceremonies. Perhaps it's an indication of some of his true sentiments.

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