Harrison David: ‘The Columbia Kid’

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On Monday, New York Magazine published a six-page piece on Harrison David, one of the five Columbia undergrads arrested in Operation Ivy League. Both David and Miron Sarzynski, the dealer who lived downtown, were interviewed, as well as many anonymous sources alleged to be clients, friends, and classmates of the students. Some important lingering issues were addressed:

Gravity of the arrests: “David and the four other students who were arrested weren’t running an organized drug ring so much as catering to various niches of the marketplace, police say, in a loosely coordinated way.”

The ‘drug ring’: “Like Macy’s and Gimbels in Miracle on 34th Street, the five friends would allegedly send customers to one another now and then—but if this was a cartel, it was extremely low-key (no one has been charged with conspiracy). “It wasn’t like people were saying, ‘If you want this drug, go to this guy,’” says one customer. “You had to know in order to know.””

The NYPD’s methods: “The busts weren’t without glitches—they got Klein’s room at Psi-U wrong, because he’d traded rooms with someone on his floor. For a moment, frat brothers have been heard saying, the wrong man had an NYPD gun pointed in his face.”

Undercover cops: “The police sent an undercover officer to try to make some buys—a young-looking guy with long dirty-blond hair who went by the name of John. Friends of the accused students don’t seem to remember John. He apparently wasn’t posing as a student and didn’t attend classes or have friends at the school.”

The university’s involvement: “According to the city’s Special Narcotics Prosecutor Bridget Brennan, the university was unaware of the entire operation until shortly before the bust. The police, it seems, didn’t want to have to get Columbia involved in helping to establish his cover.”

The university’s reaction: “The university has yet to take action on the five students’ enrollment status.”

David’s financial troubles: “David says he got $37,000 in financial aid each of his first two years, but needed to pay $54,000 in tuition and living expenses … Drug dealing helped close some of the rest of it.”

“Why do you think I have to do this shit?” he told police when they picked him up. “My dad won’t pay tuition.” (His father has subsequently said he has contributed “since day one.”)

David’s links with Sarzynski: “Sarzynski says it was through an NYU student dealer who had a high opinion of David, and a source close to David says it was via a close friend of David’s at Columbia. In any case, they met in June, when David was living in Hell’s Kitchen.”

“Had David not stepped up the level of his enterprise or run into Sarzynski, it’s unlikely the police and Columbia would have ever been involved, however opportunistic or unprotective their subsequent actions may have been.”

Typical punishment: “Typical bail in a first-time nonviolent drug offense is usually around $5,000. But David got $75,000, Coles $40,000, Klein and Wymbs $35,000, and Vincenzo $30,000. A few of their lawyers privately floated conspiracy theories—not just that Manhattan Supreme Court Judge Michael Sonberg wanted to make an example of some Columbia kids but that the judge was feeling political pressure because of a case from a few weeks earlier.”



  1. I would have to say

    that is the worst cover picture ever for new york mag.

  2. Anon
    Looks like the cover of a Nancy Drew book. How do I preorder?

  3. Seriously???

    "a young-looking guy with long dirty-blond hair who went by the name of John." I don't really trust people with dirty-blond hair and named John, because it is the classic look and name of an undercover cop. Haven't you seen reservoir dogs?

  4. Another good point

    The cop in the picture...looks...well...something.

  5. question

    About 2/3 of the way in, David claims financial aid completely turned off the tap this fall, that is $37,000 to $0 because of "the state of the economy". He later petitioned to get 10,000 in fin. aid. Assuming this is true, WTF? How does Fin. Aid just decide to completely shut off someone's access to financial aid halfway through their education? No one who needed financial aid in the first place can find the kind of money to fill that hole. Why not smooth the financial aid cuts across recipients.

    full disclosure I receive substantial financial aid that increased a little bit this year.

  6. wowza

    If there was any doubt that this whole overblown mess was motivated in part by the considerations of a PR hungry police department, a failure of judgement on part of the justice system, and good old-fashioned class antagonism, look no further then this shoddily written article.

  7. Kid would have sold drugs

    regardless of his financial aid status. Even if he was given a full ride, he has been dealing drugs "since day one"

  8. alumnus

    I've wondered whether they were selling to buyers off the street. Bigger market of course, but raises risk by an order of magnitude. Ruins the mitigation of harmless student-to-student dealings restricted to campus. It seems at least Harrison David was an open-dealing seller who turned his frat house into a common drug den. To me, that the dealing included off-the-street buyers is the big revelation.

  9. Anonymous

    I know that financial aid at Columbia can sometimes be unfair but what about taking out a private student loan to fill the gap instead of dropping out or selling drugs? I feel like no one has addressed that option. Compared to many other private non-Ivy League schools, Columbia's Fin. Aid policy is extremely generous so its more so the norm for many college students to incur large amounts of debt to pay tuition. Also, even if Columbia is giving you less than adequate financial aid, they will help you find a loan. I have first-hand experience with this, they do most of the footwork. Harrison obviously did not explore his options and it's quite obvious that he wasn't selling drugs to pay tuition as seemed to have escalated to the next level over the summer to pay his summer rent in the meat-packing district. He then got addicted to the thrill of the quick cash. This was BEFORE they cut his financial aid to nothing.

    • Anon  

      Columbia has a No-Loan Policy. Unfortunately, everyone -- including the Financial Aid Office -- seems to forget that. So, David shouldn't have to take out a loan. If what he is saying is true, Columbia should be able to provide him with a financial aid package that doesn't (directly or indirectly) require him to take out more loans and fall deeper into debt.

      • Anonymous

        This may have happened before Columbia's financial aid policy changed but they did in fact help me find a loan. That's besides the point, there are many other sources for student loans than going through Columbia, they just would have facilitated it, like they did in my case. They can't stop you from getting a student loan from a bank on your own.

        • nope

          im cc12, and ours was the first year of our finaid policy. I've had to max out on my stafford loans every year. So much for "no loans" columbia.

          • Totally false

            I'm CC 12 as well. When Columbia changed their policy, my loans got replaced with grants the following semester. And when they screwed me out of some finaid this semester, I appealed and they gave 90% of it back. I know everyone thinks finaid is out to get them, but there are some genuinely good people (like 2) in that office. Don't bitch and kvetch on Bwog, Explore your options. And be thankful you don't go to U Penn, NYU or Sarah Lawrence where the financial aid is total shit. Btw, educational debt, in most cases is the most most positive debt you can have. Think about that.

          • oh RLY?

            nope, every year I've appealed twice. Yes its gone down each time I've appealed, but still paying about 10k more than freshman year, which was already so high that I had to take out loans.

            I'm happy to do whatever it takes for a columbia education. I know that my finaid here is likely much better than at other schools, but it was Columbia that set the expectations for financial aid that they are failing to live up to.

          • Fin Aid ANon

            In this case, he has a rich dad that just WONT pay. You can't expect Columbia to give FinAid for that.

            No one's parents want to pay. But they do because they care. Unfortunately if your parents don't, AND make money, then you're kinda fucked.

            He would get a lot if he didn't have a father or his parents were poor and didn't want to pay.

        • financial aid student  

          Yes, even if your parents cannot afford to pay your tuition with the financial aid package you get, you can take out a personal student loan!!!!!!! Amazing, I know. That's a good way to get money.

  10. Anon  

    I'm almost positive that an intern wrote that shit



    • Educational Idealist

      woah... did your economics class confuse you as to the basic principles and philosophy of higher education? Point of college =/= getting a job at Morgan Stanley. The idea is to get the brightest young minds and put them together with the brightest old minds to make sure that we as a species keep doing smart things. If some of those smart things also make us money and get us jobs at Morgan Stanley, so much the better; but the point of college is not a simple money in, job out equation. I am not entitled to an education, but the philosophy of most institutions of higher education is that it is ideal, beneficial, and even the entire purpose of an academy to educate not those with the most money, but those with the best minds. As such (and assuming Columbia students did not engage in mass duplicity in admissions), it is not we who deserve Columbia, but rather Columbia that deserves us; and a policy of financial aid that understand its place within the context of the larger university and its purpose will do its best to ensure that issues with money do not rob Columbia of bright minds.

      • lol

        You sound just as self-entitled as the d-bag you're responding to.

        • HAHA

          ill have to agree...I may have been trolling, but "Educational Idealist" you're just pathetic

        • Educational Idealist

          If it makes it any better, I was being self-consciously flowery. I mean, I generally believe the essentials of that, but most of that comment was rhetorical flourish. Just wanted to provide an extreme perspective in the opposite direction. But yes, I'm aware that it was very grandiose, and therefore comes off as stupid or whatever.

          The notion that believing in actual intellectual whatever (that's the sort of ironic language that people find less upsetting) is pathetic is really irritating though. 'Cause it's not. No more or less ridiculous or pathetic than believing that having more money makes you more entitled to a Columbia education, or that college is primarily a financial transaction (expected benefit and such).

  12. Anon  

    Shut the fuck up troll

  13. Anonymous

    Me too. 20,000 to 0 in one year. Granted it was 'cause my family's income went up, but that's still absurd for one year, when you're self-employed and your income is supposed to change from year to year. It's seriously ridiculous.

    Also, regarding the person below with the loans, if Columbia's doing ANY legwork whatsoever regarding ANY loan, I don't know what advisor you have, but I don't believe they work at Columbia.

    • I don't know

      if I should put her name out there, but there is this one financial aid officer from the South. She is the nicest, most caring person alive. I hope she's cannonized eventually. Even when she couldn't help my family out she did EVERYTHING in her power to find someone who could. I regret the day financial aid decided to restructure their department and assign people alphabetically. I'm still going to her regardless.

  14. Anonymous

    Well, its a good thing that you're here getting an education, seeing as you apparently can't differentiate between \your\ and \you're.\

  15. Anonymous

    His father is a freakin surgeon. Need-based financial aid is based on family income. He shouldn't have been getting any at all. And if his father won't pay for it, he takes out loans, like the majority of students who go to college. How is it fair to the parents that foot the bill that Columbia gives this kid a ride but other parents, who make even less, pay.

    Anyway, the kid should have worked and gotten loans to make it work out, not sell drugs (which obviously didn't work out)

    • Anonymous

      How does this argument make sense then? If you're saying that he should work and take out loans to pay his tuition, why shouldn't the students from a lower income family do the same?

      • god, shut up

        there is a difference between making claims and offering an argument for those claims. you might disagree with the claims, but the jokes on you if you are looking for an argument.

    • surgeon?

      His father may be a surgeon (and part-time talking head), but it doesn't sound like he was making a lot of money. The fact he got $34,000 in financial aid suggests that his family did not have much money.

  16. Anonymous

    ...or that he has 5 siblings

  17. Anonymous

    I don't care about this or any of you. I just want at least one of my damn grades back. It's been a week already.

  18. Anonymous do realize it is expensive to come here. you knew what you were getting into financially, now stop bitching

  19. I've been waiting

    For a chance to protest our outrageous tuition & fees, which are the highest in the nation. No matter what you say there are ways to get around charging us this much. It's a ridiculously huge sum for all but a tiny fraction of a percentage of the population. Open a god-damn branch in Dubai if you have to, just stop raising tuition while incomes stagnate!
    Otherwise this will be a school dominated by children of the ultra-wealthy; and if our education has taught us anything, it is that such a situation would be definitively unjust.

    • 'definitively unjust'

      , according to the very first book we read in CC, is everyone not fulfilling their 'roles' in a society structured by the man whose name is the first [i believe] in a series of philosophers' names to grace the facade of the single largest library on campus.
      and we might have been educated to criticize the crap out of aristotle's justifications for certain power structures and all these other dead white guys, but ever notice how these dead white guys are the only people we ever study?

    • middle class

      You (your parents) dont have to be "ultra-wealthy" for you to not qualify for any financial aid. If both of your parents make the median mid-career pay for a CU grad ( you won't qualify for much, if anything.

      I will be graduating owing $120,000+ to my parents who were (barely) able to pay for my education by taking out loans working some long hours.

      It is hard for me to listen to people who pay almost nothing for school complain about not getting enough $ or small amounts of debt while I am up to my neck in it because my parents make just enough. Don't get me wrong, fin aid is necessary and good - I think if you're smart enough you should be able to come study here. All i know is I have to work multiple jobs and live on the strictest of budgets... and have to pay $60k per year. My family is not even close to being "ultra-wealthy".

      Sometimes I feel like I'm paying for people on fin aid. Then I look at Columbia's endowment and realize Bollinger is a crook.

      • Anonymous

        My parents fall under a similar financial situation. A little insight into my family's spending habits: we dine out once a week (if that), parent's haven't purchased a car since 2006, modest suburban house, one vacation per get the idea. Point is I still have yet to take a loan in my third year, though our budget is tight.

        • the pity party  

          that sounds terrible, you poor thing! and your poor parents too. one vacation a year? how do you survive?!

        • Dine out

          once a week? We dine out on birthdays. So, 3x a year. "New" car is a 1999, other is a '92. Annual "vacation" usually equals a hellish roadtrip to visit grandparents 4 states away. You want to talk about living frugally...

        • ouch

          that sounds like a pretty rough life ya got there

        • Anonymous

          Did I mention my parents fall under "upper middle class?" Other families from similar financial means spend twice as much on their homes alone (granted their college-age children attend state schools). I'm easily living below the regional standard of living for upper middle class. Don't get me wrong though, I'm not complaining. As much of my parents' salary that goes to tuition, I'm still grateful to recieve a few thousand in grant money.

    • Shut up

      Columbia's tuiton fees only cover about half of what it costs for each student to attend.

  20. Anonymous  

    they aren't the highest in the nation

  21. Anonymous

    I wish he was my boyfriend

  22. Anonymous

    Coles "hung out with other black students and social activists" ....was that necessary.

  23. Anonymous

    supposedly Columbia spends upwards of $70k on us, and they only ask for ~$40k tuition.

    • yes

      This is true, and I think it's a actually mid-70k. Even if you pay sticker price, Columbia is losing money with each undergrad it admits. Alumni giving and interest from the endowment, along with some smaller grants make up the difference.

    • LBB12

      I think it was last year they increased the number of students admitted to the university by about 50 students a grade because of the poor economy. If they are losing money for every undergraduate they admit then why would they do that? to lose more money? something is telling me they aren't losing money on us.

  24. summary

    From what I've gathered from this thread, my own experience, and conversations with many friends financial aid has been both amazingly generous and paradoxically miserly to students whose families' make close to the same amount of money. I would say as a whole they do a good job, and I know Columbia gave me by far the best aid out of schools I got into.

    Anyway, in the case of David: The fact is fin. aid saw a reason to give him 37000 his first one or two years and then completely reneged. The fact that his dad is a surgeon is irrelevant, since he clearly qualified for substantial aid for reasons unknown to us. The fact that he dealt drugs is also irrelevant to his financial aid evaporating, it was only a possible consequence of the situation he was put in. No one, and I mean NO ONE out of high school, can make 37k a year and go to school. Not working 3 jobs, not dealing petty drugs. The only option I can see is ROTC (wink wink). If the choice for David was to work part time or deal drugs to fill the gap between aid and expenses then this would be a different issue.

    I think education today costs so many orders of magnitude more than in our parents' generation that many simply cannot wrap their heads around the absolutely insurmountable barriers to paying for a private, high-quality education on your own.

    pre-rebuttal: I know public education can also be high-quality and much more affordable. That's not the point, since all educations costs are rising astronomically.

  25. gay

    i'd definitely tap that. he's so cute

  26. Anonymous

    Columbia is heavily featured in this New York Times article, The 110 Things New Yorkers Talked About in 2010:

  27. Anonymous

    Did you just defend Aristotle's ideas of natural slavery and female inferiority??!!! We read Aristotle in CC (for better or for worse) to get an idea of the bases of Western philosophical thought. That doesn't mean we have to abide by his ideas or that we can't recognize the differences in worldview then and now...

  28. CC-Alum

    When my father lost his job mid 2008 I emailed the Financial Aid office and asked them for help, as I would have not been able to finance my last two years of Columbia anymore (parental support dropped to $0 after Sophomore year). Their reply came within a few days with a new fin aid award a couple of thousand dollars higher than the one before, actually getting close to a full ride, and I was able to finish college with only medium amounts of debt.

    With the $400 million donated by Kluge Columbia loans also almost vanished entirely.

  29. completely genuine

    these c5 threads all turn in to the blind leading the blind, whether the topic is drug law, these guys' moral character, and apparently, financial aid at our own damn school. i'm glad we all take every opportunity to shout at each other, regardless of what we actually know. never change, columbia, i love you. happy new year.

  30. I love

    how everyone completely forgets about the international students when bitching about their financial aid packages. International students at Columbia do not have need blind aid, asking for aid even when you really need it can affect your admissions decision. We basically don't qualify for financial aid per se.

  31. WHAT

    "For a moment, frat brothers have been heard saying, the wrong man had an NYPD gun pointed in his face.”

    WHY would they point a gun at any of the students?? this can't be true

    • its completely true  

      I'm good friends with the guy whom it happened to. They originally went to room 44 where Adam used to live, threw the brother living their on the ground and hand a gun to his fucking head, and then, like the dumb simple fucks that they are, were like "uh, we fucked up, uh, uh, sorry, derrrrr" and wobbled their gorilla asses down the hall to try again.

      No wonder they're salaries are so goddamn low: the NYPD is a group of unskilled workers. (Learned about that in Global Urbanism).

  32. Are you guys like

    those fascists in London?
    Y not riot about it, instead of just complaining on here.

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