Senior Wisdom: Ben Cotton
Written by Bwog Staff
Claim to fame: I served as Spectator EIC last year. In the course of that duty, I made it my personal life quest to educate the world about the Columbia housing lottery.
Where are you going? I’m staying in New York and working in consulting at McKinsey. I worked in baseball the last three summers—Go Red Sox!—so I dream about one day running a baseball team.
Three things you learned at Columbia
1. Spec was my passion, but there are amazing experiences to be had for anyone willing to hurl him or herself with reckless abandon into that sort of commitment. As Tom Cruise’s dad said in Risky Business, sometimes you just gotta say what the heck. (That kid went to Princeton, though, so maybe the lesson is also to try to keep things under control and not do anything stupid.)
2. Stuff here oftentimes comes down to what you make of it. Contrary to popular belief, it really is possible to get a lot out of things like your advisor and CCE if you put in the effort to make those relationships productive. Complaining can feel great, but you’ll feel a lot better in the long run if you try to do something to fix the problem instead. And you’ll usually be successful! It sounds like a big cliche, but despite all the bureaucracy, people here work hard (really!) and will want to help you (really!) if you’re persistent and polite (really!).
3. Sunny days mean the lawns are open, except if they were open yesterday, or if it rained at any point in the last week, or if we’re within a month of graduation, or if students look happy. I can forgive Columbia for a lot of stuff, but I will never forgive it for this.
“Back in my day…” Foreign dictators caused the campus to explode pretty much on a weekly basis and it was no big deal. There hasn’t been another Ahmadinejad, but Fox News has stuck around to keep things interesting.
Justify your existence in 30 words or fewer: I wore a Red Sox sweatshirt in the upper deck at Yankee Stadium—and the Yankees were playing Toronto. If that isn’t loyalty, I don’t know what is.
Is the War on Fun over? Who won? Any war stories? Freshman year (and every year since, too), I lived with a guy who blasted his music in the bathroom while taking a shower and danced in his boxers while shaving. I think an RA heard shouting once and came in, concerned, only to see “the shaving dance” in full swing. Word spread and they mostly left us alone after that.
Would you rather give up oral sex or cheese? If everyone had enjoyed one of Harvey Cotton’s blue cheeseburgers or a batch of Cathy Cotton’s baked macaroni-and-cheese, then everyone would be as offended by this question as I am.
Advice for the class of 2015: Do COOP (BOP love!). Live in Carman. Eating at John Jay will get old eventually, but it’s great for meeting people. Shooting the breeze in your Carman hallway when everybody’s awake in the middle of the night and still trying to get to know each other produces wonderful memories and long-lasting friendships (Carman 6 forever!). Don’t lose perspective and forget that a lot of stuff that happens inside the Columbia bubble isn’t all that real. For example, just because the Class Day speaker isn’t Barack Obama or a famous TV personality doesn’t mean he or she won’t be able to give a moving speech—there are probably more productive places to direct your anger. You can get into any class you want—if it’s full, try registering during the first meeting, when people start to have second thoughts once they hear the professor and drop while class is still going on. Don’t overload the dryers unless you want damp and moldy clothes. And if you’re a guy and you don’t know how to tie a tie yet, that’s probably something to learn before you get here.
Any regrets? No. I’ve met some of the best people I’ve ever known in my four years here and feel honored to count so many of them as close friends—they know who they are, and I’ll spend my last days here trying to remind them of how much they’ve meant to me. I do wish I’d had more time to spend chatting with professors and exploring New York, but with Spec I did something that was fulfilling and inspiring and that I’ll remember fondly for the rest of my life, and I don’t think I could have asked for anything more than that.