On Monday night, CC Dean Michele Moody-Adams decided to mix up the traditional dean-student mixer by offering dinner and a movie. Official pizza correspondent Mahrah Taufique attended:
Michele Moody-Adams – professor, writer, philosopher and now Dean of Columbia College and Vice President for Undergraduate Education – is doing her best to be far more approachable than her lengthy title would suggest. The “dinner” part of the evening was set in Lerner Piano Lounge and consisted of mountains of Famous Famiglia pizza and soda. Perhaps a little more unexpected was the sight of Dean Moody-Adams sitting of the floor of Lerner Piano Lounge eating cold pizza, drinking diet coke and chatting with the 40 or so students who had signed up for the event. For half an hour she made her way around the room, spending enough time with people for them to introduce themselves, tell her about their involvement on campus or ask her questions about herself, the Deanship or the film screening.
At 6:30 p.m., everyone filed into the Roone Arledge Cinema, where she introduced the movie, The Philosopher Kings. The 70-minute documentary exposes wisdom in some of this country’s most prestigious universities: Princeton, Duke, Cornell, Cornish College of the Arts, California Institute of Technology, U.C. Berkeley and University of Florida. The focus, however, is not on brilliant professors or talented students, but on the often ignored and unseen people who work there: the custodians.
Before the movie began, Moody-Adams told the audience that she had heard of the film from her colleagues at Cornell, where two of the documentary’s subjects work. More importantly, she said, the film perfectly encapsulates many values that she stands for, being a moral and ethical philosopher who has stressed her support for Columbia’s Core. The tone of the pre-movie speech recalled a pet peeve from her Columbia College Today interview: “people who, because they have expertise, assume that they can disregard the knowledge of others who might not seem to be experts.”
The movie itself certainly lived up to the pitch: though it features the lives of eight men and women who have faced terrible hardships, all the subjects held surprisingly positive attitudes towards life. Even more surprising is their satisfaction, pride and happiness with their jobs and with the hand that they have been dealt in life. And, of course, they all shared touching nuggets of wisdom throughout.
After the film, Dean Moody-Adams revealed her skills as a professor as she ably led an hour-long CC-style discussion through topics such as the differences between the wisdom of Plato’s philosopher kings and that of the custodians, the irony of the title, the value of education, the link between happiness and success, the wisdom of humility and our own reactions to custodians in the film and in real life. She closed by suggesting that perhaps we do not express enough gratitude for all the positive things in our lives, and that we should search for wisdom not only in our textbooks but also in our communities. In other words, maybe it is time to put the book down, crawl out of Butler and just be thankful that it’s almost Thursday.