A For Apathy

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Students from a Radical Democracy course are ending the semester with a bang: a truelife protest on Low Steps. This is not, as hypothesized by some, a final project, but rather an independent project dreamed up by a group of “classmates and friends,” as one mini-Mark Rudd put it.

One young radical was seeing waving a Soviet flag, and others passed out a poem called “Wake Up Columbia”, others held a sign with the same slogan. Things got real when the hooligans were kicked off the Steps by Public Safety. Public Safety threatened to send the group to a dean who would, the cops claimed, identify the students and hold a hearing to assess consequences for the students’ protest.

The confusing revolution is continuing at the 116th Gates. One vigilante sent us this photo from the frontlines. Read the poem that was being passed out after the jump.


Columbia, wake up!
Columbia, sometimes my own head is too much for me. I’m a head case.
The worst part is that I’d rather be out for a stroll than inside health services.
I’d rather listen to Lady Gaga than progressive commencement speeches.
I’d rather smoke pot than learn about how the invisible hand will save us.
Bow down before your God-term, economists!  Tremble before the might of compound interest!
But surely I’m crazy.  Surely they’ll say…
“Rally ’round Columbia, Columbia!
Shouting her name forever.”
Columbia, Columbia!  I’m forever shouting your name but you’re hard of hearing.  In fact, I’m howling your name into the darkness at night as I collapse over my books, strung out, frantic even.
“Roar, Lion, Roar,
For Alma Mater on the Hudson shore!”
After all, she was the only woman here before 1983; it’s very gracious to cheer her.
Her cunt is the font of all knowledge and the white man’s phallus is surely the font of her cunt.  Glorious Athena bursting from Zeus’ head.
Columbia, I fuck guys and I fuck girls.  I read Judith Butler in drag.
Radical feminist queers unite!
Yes! “Stand up and cheer for old Columbia!
For today we raise,
The Blue and White above the rest!
Our boys are fighting.”
They certainly are!  Now 30,000 more of them in Afghanistan!
Friends, family members, dead.  Fuck you, show us your investments Columbia!
Pray for your dead.  Pray for the future dead of a thousand “small” wars, counter-insurgencies.
Wake up Columbia!
Columbia I’ve had it with your liberal bullshit.
Columbia it’s great that our student body is so diverse, but why is every single security guard darker than me?
And why does it seem that every single food worker have eyes that are narrower than mine, or wider hips, or larger breasts?
The only time I look at a worker here and see myself is when they look tired.
I’m tired and I look it.  Look at me Columbia.
Columbia, you hire half the population on the other side of Morningside Park to protect me from the other half.
Don’t talk to me about campus safety.  If everything were so great in this country, on this campus, why would we need protection?

A few bad apples…  A likely story…  Security alert!  Attempted Robbery!
Columbia, you stage useless security theater in every entryway to make parents feel better about their kids going to college in Harlem, but the effect is black people refusing entry to white people.
Columbia, I think that is a kind of justice.
So this is how the other half lives…
Professors, wake up!
Don’t give up and don’t settle.  Be my friends.  Have a drink with me.
Don’t you feel it, have you heard it?  That howling in the night?
I don’t think it’s just me.  It can’t be me all alone.
It could be you!  I guess you’re a part of me.
I want to be a part of you, not apart from you.
I want you to want me being a part of you, not apart from you.
You may have noticed, Columbia, that this poem is like “America”
By Ginsberg. Is it ripped off?
Is it worse than the frequency with which you whore out the Beats in your glossy college mail sent to every manwomanchild with a certain score on the PSAT?
(Kerouac wouldn’t have got one, he was here on football scholarship. He didn’t graduate, but he’s still in the brochures.)
Columbia why don’t you sell yourself with this list of alumni: Pat Buchanan, Norman Podhoretz, Thomas Sowell, Dr. Laura Schlessinger?
Are there limits to your tolerance?
Don’t your Great Books make everyone think right?
Columbia your favorite son is in the White House. You mean to tell me you force him to read the Symposium and he’s still against gay marriage?
or go to sleep. (Ask the econ majors to calculate the impact on the macroeconomy if grades no longer possessed the power to compel any purchases of Red Bull, coffee or tea in Morningside Heights. Compare numbers with the folks in public health.)


  1. Jimbo Slimbo  

    Ha! That it takes a class to get people arrested protesting is speaks ULTIMATE sad reality. Can't we just be bourgeois and not worry about it?

  2. worst poem ever

    That poem is so bad on so many levels. It tried to hard to squeeze in ever cliche of radicalism. The facts aren't even correct, anyway: there are definitely white public safety officers. But I guess facts be damned when you're trying to make a point!

  3. Anonymous  

    Thats pretty damn stupid.

  4. maybe  

    the reason every security guard is darker, every food workers' eyes are narrower (who writes this dreck?) is because you, sir/mam, are a privileged white person.

    that certainly doesn't describe my experiences as a Columbia student, being of a recent immigrant of Southeast Asian descent. So, please don't waste your vague middle-class guilt on writing these misplaced missives.


  5. ugh  

    why the hell do people wear their progressivism on their sleeves. whoever the fuck wrote this poem needs to do the waking up. stop writing shitty poetry for your circle jerk on college walk. the movement needs your efforts on the streets, whether its for activism or community mobilization. no one cares about your insecurities.

  6. Anonymous  

    if columbia is so bad, then why are these people here? by paying their 50 grand (or allowing everyone else to pay it), they're paying into all of the policies that they're protesting. and a fake protest doesn't do anything to make a point. at the end of the day, these same people will go sleep in the safety of the buildings that are guarded by columbia employees who are, indeed, both black and white, and many other races.

  7. Anonymous  

    Are you kidding me? Get over your white, upper middle-class selves and stop generalizing your situation onto the rest of your classmates.

    And a Soviet Union flag? Really? Yes, of course--Columbia is a hundred times worse than a government that sends people who disagree with it to secret camps to die. How silly of me to think otherwise.

    Columbia has its issues, I'm not denying that, but this does not get us any nearer to solving them.

  8. This  

    poem makes me sick. It's just teen angst spruced up with profanity and academic language. If you have complaints, voice them reasonably, not in this burst of random whines.

  9. DIBS  

    on this poem for the 2010 Joyce Kilmer Memorial Bad Poety Contest.

  10. the poem  

    gets a lot better if you read it out loud in your best Christopher Walken impression

  11. Classic Columbia  

    Bitch out the system, flatter the professors, make misguidedly racist comments about the staff.

  12. epic fail  

    whoever wrote this needs to stop trying to be allen ginsberg.... this is an unoriginal piece of shit. you used the word howl? twice??? really?????

  13. this protest

    sounds cute. maybe a bit lame. also why were they removed from low steps? i thought students at columbia had free speech?

  14. Econ rage?  

    also, the hate directed at the future i-bankers of the world is hilariously juvenile.

  15. i'm pretty sure  

    i'm pretty sure this poem is satirical, i mean come on, "The worst part is that I’d rather be out for a stroll than inside health services.../I’d rather smoke pot than learn about how the invisible hand will save us" this is like a line from a Jean Luc Goddard film which also -- I hope to God, anyways -- were satirical, though some weaker minds took aspects of its philosophy to represent themselves.

    that... or it was written by someone in gs

  16. I'm  

    down for free speech, but not when it makes me ears bleed. That's assault.

  17. person in the class  

    actually Bwog the protest was the final project of the class 'radical democracy,' not an "independent project" as you claim.

  18. mini-protester  

    as someone who was involved today, i thought i might throw out my two cents-first, the poem shown is not the poem that was read anywhere today (the thing from ginsburg on is in fact, totally new to me). in fact, no one poem was the definitive version, as everyone was able to edit their own to hand out. whatever you may think of the sentiments-i didn't write the poem, i don't care-can you recognize how weird it is that public safety cracked down on us before we even opened our mouths, let alone read anything or passed anything out? we were told we needed a permit to be on the steps, regardless if we were doing anything or not. and the longer we stayed (no longer than 10 minutes, really) the more officers were there to try and shut us up. i'm a student, am i allowed to stand on low steps quietly?

  19. CRod


    I'm Latina, so I get where you are coming from. But I don't think you should assume the writer is saying this because he wants more white people to serve him, or because he is white and privileged. You, my dear, are at Columbia and that means — guess what? — YOU are privileged, too.

    So what can Columbia do about this?
    Hmmm. Maybe they could offer those "darker than thou" staff training and scholarships to General Studies?

    Another ideas? Let's hear some SOLUTIONS, not jabs to one another. That's a dead-end path.

  20. different poem??  

    Definitely not the poem I got today. This one seems kind of unintentionally racist and the other version has more on just being overprivileged. But also, I read this as people attacking the entiere Columbia community, not just admin. (And that might not be entirely misguided given how apathetic the general population is towards anything that doesn't directly affect us. At least these guys are trying.)

  21. bwog

    Bwog really wish you hadn't published this it's so distasteful

  22. you all  

    are the very source of inspiration for this poem.

    you hate it because its the truth.

    • correct  

      You're right - unfortunately, it *is* the truth that we have idiots on this campus who think they can string some angst together with some four-letter words and call it "art" or "democracy" or "radicalism" or any other buzzword they choose.

  23. possibility  

    maybe the whole thing was completely satirical... maybe a faux protest making fun of columbia's so-called "radical history." maybe the really funny thing is how quickly security swooped down and broke it up, especially if they went all grim-faced about "student radicalism" or whatever.

  24. concerned

    there still is a serious free speech issue here.

    students were on campus making speech acts, and security shut them down.

    bollinger should be ashamed.

    • yo  

      Security didn't shut them down for making a speech act, but for organizing on the steps without a permit. Now, some people may say that the bureaucracy is bullshit and that it inherently violates our free speech. On the other hand, I see the bureaucracy as more as a tool for organization than as a tool for control. There needs to be some organizing mechanism to ensure that student groups can reserve space on the steps for their events on specific days. If that mechanism wasn't in place, groups could never be sure if their event was going to happen. And as a leader of a student group, that would be a pain in the ass.

      • Nope.  

        No reservations allowed during reading week. They couldn't have reserved if they wanted to.

      • freedom of assembly

        is also part of the first amendment.

        the finals point kind of makes sense, but i highly doubt these folks could have disrupted someone from studying for finals

        • Irrelevant  

          It is completely irrelevant if freedom of assembly is part of the 1st Amendment. Columbia is private property and, as such, the 1st Amendment does not apply to campus. The argument could be made that protests should be allowed on campus given its history as a protest zone (the public forum doctrine), but that's a much harder argument than just pointing to the 1st Amendment.

          • when

            a university claims that they respect students first amendment rights, and then pull something like this, it is a problem, and it isn't irrelevant. private property doesn't allow columbia to back out on stated obligations.

          • ...  

            When did Columbia ever claim to respect students' first amendment rights? Provide a link.

            You also seem to be conflating "first amendment rights" with "the right to say whatever the hell you want." Big difference (even on public property), and if you don't believe me, I'd advise you to take PrezBo's class next fall.

          • Anon  

            "While the University as a private institution is not subject to the Constitutional provisions on free speech and due process of law, the University by its nature is dedicated to the free expression of ideas and to evenhanded and fair dealing with all with whom it conducts its affairs. The Rules of University Con­duct are thus enacted by the University to provide as a matter of University policy the maximum freedom of expression consistent with the rights of others and a fair and speedy hearing to any person charged with a violation of these Rules."

          • ...  

            A couple of points:

            1) That still doesn't equal the 1st Amendment, mainly because Columbia has no legal obligation to follow through on that and can still essentially do what it wants to do in specific cases.

            2) Even if this protest happened on the streets of NY (or the parks, or the bridges, or in the subway, etc.) and not on campus, the NYPD would have still broken it up. On campus or not, you're going to need a permit to hold a protest in NYC. You're confusing 1st Amendment rights with the uninhibited right to say whatever, whenever. There's a huge difference.

          • except  

            they haven't. They're merely just enforcing a policy that they put in place to PROTECT those rights from the beginning. It's their prerogative and they're not backing out on anything. If anything, they're sticking to their guns, not balking.

    • yes  

      PrezBo should be ashamed that a Columbia student still doesn't properly understand what the 1st amendment does, and does not, mean.

      Hint: It does NOT mean that you have the right to say whatever you want whenever you want wherever you want.

  25. Thomas Rainsbourough  

    Whilst appreciating the charges of vacuity regarding both the poem and the protest, if that is what it was (note it only became such in reaction to the pre-emptive actions of security), the broader question remains the relationship between free speech, regulation of protest and broader networks of control on campus. Of course some might suggest that these processes of control are to our benefit. Fine. But that still does not deny that the action, whatever its motives, provoked a reaction, both on bwog and the authorities, even if it is merely to dismiss it.

  26. Anonymous  

    Since people are addressing the Ginsbergian nature of the poem, I thought I'd post another iteration which was distributed today. It acknowledges the debt to the Beats explicitly while addressing the issues of what to do with all this Columbia history no one knows what to do with (least of all students in a radical democracy class.) Please give it a read!

    Columbia I've given you all and now I'm nothing
    Columbia who keeps track after $200,000?
    I can't stand my own mind
    Columbia when will we end the meritocracy
    Columbia we all feel sentimental about the Weathermen
    Columbiamerica how far have we come since
    Asia was rising against us, we hadn't a Chinaman's chance
    Since marijuana was illegal?
    Since no one spoke of the prisons and millions of underprivileged

    Things are serious, Columbia.
    Things are bad everywhere, you say?
    You say this poem is plagiarized. It violates the code!
    Is this worse than the frequency with which you whore out the Beats in your
    glossy college mail seent to every manwomanchild with a certain score on the
    (Kerouac wouldn't have got one, he was here on footballl scholarship. He
    didn't graduate, but he's still in the brochures.)
    And you, Herbert Huncke, what were you doing in Manhattanville?

    Columbia why don't you sell yourself with this list of alumni: Pat Buchanan,
    Norman Podhoretz, Thomas Sowell, Dr. Laura Schlessinger?
    Are there limits to your tolerance?
    Don't your great books make everyone think right?
    Columbia your favorite son is in the White House. You mean to tell me you
    forced him to read the Symposium and he's still against gay marriage?
    or go to sleep. (Ask the econ majors to calculate the impact
    on the macroeconomy if grades no longer possessed the power to compel any purchases of Red Bull, coffee or tea in Morningside Heights. Compare numbers with the folks in public health.)
    Columbia I'm putting my queer shoulder to Butler's double doors.

  27. Anonymous

    when you grow the balls to write poetry and recite it.... then criticize. until then, shut the FUCK up and let people do what they want. BITCHESSL

  28. Wow

    I can't believe so few people are reading this "protest" as a joke... I don't think the poem is supposed to be serious, you guys... at ALL... Regarding the "unintentional racism" in it, I think those lines are probably a direct reference to the original Ginsberg poem. (But I don't feel like going to check right now.)

    Also, if it's unintentional racism, is it really racism at all? Seriously, think about it. So sick of this nonsense.

    Let them have their goddamn fake joke protest.

    As for assembling on the Steps, I find it pretty strange that it's standard campus policy to kick them off, but it's not against policy to sit there having a conversation with 20 of your friends. Where exactly does one draw the line? When does it become an "event"? Besides, it's not like they're hurting anyone by being there. God I really hate that policy.

  29. Anonymous  

    By now we all know Ferris Booth is becoming a one swipe meals place.

    Why? Because they lost over half a million dollars last year.

    Why? Because they overpay their employees.

    Don't spend your time worrying about who has what job. why don't you help all of the people that CAN'T find jobs. OR spend your time advocating for better education so people can get better jobs in the future.

    Don't yell at Columbia. Columbia's doing WAY more to help than you ever have.

    • take an econ class  

      It's not that they "overpay" - it's that they pay more than their competitors. Why? Because they want to pay living wages. Unfortunately, that means they have to raise prices. Deal with it.

  30. hate boners  

    I hate the retarded boners that like to complain over stupid shit. STFU and go take your god damn finals. It is your choice to be here, if you don't like Columbia or the city GTFO and go to Dartmouth.

  31. ugh  

    i am so glad that i'm done with columbia next semester. glad i pushed through four years and am walking away with the shiny degree, but god does this place suck.

  32. lke

    in my opinion, the immediate problem with columbia is that it is wayyyy too impertinently arrogant and smug.. the school itself, the president, some of the professors, and especially the students.. wow when i speak to some students... they are just about to explode with arrogance like they know EVERYTHING and with this false sense of entitlement.. you can just sense it in their tone and their facial expressions.. though yes, they are smart and usually know how to respond intelligently.. but it seems it is hard to find a sense of real humility and nobility here nowadays. columbia needs some real, raw, smack-in-the-face humility lessons.

    of course im focusing on one of the weaknesses of the school, columbia has many strengths as well, and not all the people are arroogant and smug. there is a difference between confidence and arrogance however. just my thoughts as a 1st yr grad

  33. lmao '11  

    Both poems are hilarious. They are parodies of protest poetry.

  34. Anonymous

    I don't think this means they \want to be served by white people,\ necessarily, or why it is racist. It's not racist to talk about race. The poem is pointing out that the school and the nation use a racialized labor force and that there are still massive employment opportunity disparities... I agree though with the point about how columbia already goes out of its way to create opportunity and have as good of wages as possible- what more can the university do?

  35. US constitution  

    first amendment. read it, bitch. let the students speak!

  36. Adam

    If the students or their professor wants to follow up, they should consider contacting the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (

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