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First Plenary Meeting Doesn’t Disappoint

Today from 1:15 to 2:39 pm, our own University Senate met in Schermerhorn 501 for the first plenary meeting of the year. As with any such plenary, there were big helpings of Milano cookies, Newman’s Own juices, and petty behavior. Bwog’s plenary junkie Conor Skelding stopped by both for the laughs, and also to observe serious consideration of a campus-wide smoking ban.

PrezBo asserted his power at 1:15 sharp, banging his gavel, cutting off the chatter, and shouting, “Okay, let’s go!”

With his standard out-of-order opening speech, PrezBo eased along through the agenda, “Okay, we need a motion to adopt the agenda…is there a second? No objections…okay.” He talked about ROTC, NoCo, FAS, the College, and what the agenda would be for the day.

“The University is, I think, making great, great progress, and we all take enormous pride from being associated with it.” [applause mainly starting with two people]

And with his typical style, PrezBo dismissed the importance of the meeting as he built it up, saying, “I have to leave at 1:45 because the President of Ecuador is coming, and he has done some things on which I need to challenge him.” [laughs, sorta forced]

By then the meeting was actually underway, and a student raised the idea of course evaluations being open to students. PrezBo personally supports that, but “it’s not something I can or should decide on my own.” People laughed at that.

An anti-ROTC professor asked about how the ROTC committee would work, and PrezBo said he didn’t know. She asked for “as much information as possible.” After a little talk about Title IX and fringe benefits, the real issue of the meeting got underway: a campus-wide smoking ban.

So Facilities accidentally moved some smoking receptacles from where they should be, and they’ll be moved back. This really struck Bwog as emblematic of the Senate process: a resolution is debated, passed, but it’s not over then! Bureaucracy carries it out, and people from the person who chooses which receptacle to buy to the person who puts it in place all have a little effect on it. And it can be ruined by one mistake from the very last person on the chain.

That segued into a PowerPoint presentation which began with that shocking slide at left. People smoking really suavely!

Mark Cohen clicked his way through all the money the University spends cleaning up cigarette butts, the health damage secondhand smokes causes, and why a ban, though restricting the personal freedom of a few, is overall better for the school. He ended by advocating a full ban to match that of Barnard and NYC.

He talked about the “new signage” at Butler and elsewhere. A fairly acrimonious debate followed. Ron Mazor spoke against it, saying, “This is a bad idea. On the weekends we have underage drinking and smoking of various types. Personal behavior is not curable by passing a law. If it was, the War on Drugs would be over […] people would still smoke on campus [with a ban], that’s guaranteed.”

Mark started to interrupt him, but then was shouted down and apologized twice.

A Library senator complained about walking through “a wall of smoke” every time he went to work, and that nobody moved when he asked.

By this time, 1:51, PrezBo had managed to slip out! His seat was conspicuously empty, and he had disappeared.

A School of the Arts senator talked about how he liked to smoke pot and that this rule would be too harsh. “Let us not take the role of the state and be so draconian. And let us say, ‘You know what you’re going to die. You’re going to die of cigarette smoke. But as reasonable people, that is OK for you to choose.'”

A Law School professor mentioned that it is really “a moral issue disguised as a public health issue.” And the debate became a philosophical one about personal freedom!

Cohen responded that it was better to protect the freedom of the many to avoid cigarette smoke.

Interestingly, no draft has been sent to any senators at all, so Cohen was asked to make that happen. He stated that there will be a town hall-style meeting, probably the week of October 10th, between this plenary and the next. Go speak your piece!

By this time people were checking their phones, on their laptops, and trickling out. With PrezBo gone, the lady in his stead introduced a resolution to add 25 “concentrations” to the Mailman MPH degree meant to make our graduates more competitive in the job market. It passed nearly unanimously, and with little debate, much like the CE to PAX name-change last year.

Next was a chat about NoCo. Apparently the building wasn’t built to spec. The doors to the outside are seven pounds heavier than ADA guidelines, and the faucets in the fume hoods have no drains. Regardless, researchers there love it, both their labs and offices.

Then came a report from the Researchers Officers Committee, outlining the gender and race disparities in salaries and stipends across the University.

The meeting ended symbolically with the new senators being called out by name and given applause from themselves. Hurray, self-congratulation! Deantini was there and named. He humbly acknowledged himself when named, representing the College as he had promised.

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  • Anonymous says:

    @Anonymous The person who said “This is a bad idea” about the smoking ban was not Alex Frouman but Ron Mazor.

    1. Yes says:

      @Yes the person above is correct

  • Anonymous says:

    @Anonymous Bwog, I love you, but you really need some help with your copy. Two Ss in “disappoint” and “disappeared”? Or is that a joke that’s just going over my head?

  • ... says:

    @... banning smoking would have two practical effects:

    a) smoking wouldn’t be stopped fully on campus, yet ashtrays would be abolished. those ashtrays are emptied daily. if you think that lack of collection receptacles will make their contents just magically go away, you’re fooling yourself. a large share of their previous traffic would go on the ground.

    b) it won’t do anything about clouds of smoke, it will just concentrate and move them to university entry points whereby they can greet visitors and be the first impression that they take in of columbia. to mitigate this, perhaps the university could pass out buttons that say “Welcome to Columbia University!” that smokers could wear as they congregate at major entrances?

    1. You miss the point. says:

      @You miss the point. Murder is illegal. People still commit murder. Should we legalize murder just because it can’t be stamped out?

      Smoking is the same. It is harmful to inhale second-hand smoke. Just because a smoking ban would be difficult or impossible to enforce does not mean it is not right.

      1. ... says:

        @... is there solid science that clearly links brief exposures to second hand smoke with adverse health effects? there have been a few studies that have attempted to study second hand smoke in outdoor settings, but most have been focused on extended exposure periods (4+ hours) in concentrated areas (attempting to mimic the work environment of those who work service in places that have outdoor smoking areas). the results have been, by and large, inconclusive to support an argument that outdoor smoking areas pose health risks to employees that work in those sorts of environments. (so much so, that some municipalities have dropped initiatives toward potential outdoor smoking bans)

        just because a smoking ban is fashionable, doesn’t mean that it is supported by real science (i’d expect a place like columbia to be a bit more rigorous in doing its homework before policymaking) and therefore right…

        that said, i look forward to a shoddily designed smoking ban passed by people who don’t think about what they’re doing. by concentrating campus smokers at major entry points, those entry points are likely to become lively locales for interdisciplinary intellectual cross-pollination across all the schools and programs! plus, i’ll actually make the “Welcome to Columbia University!” buttons and hand them out…. it will be hilarious.

      2. Anonymous says:

        @Anonymous Vehicle exhaust is bad for your lungs. Obviously, driving should be illegal.

      3. Anonymous says:

        @Anonymous you seriously just compared smoking a cigarette to murder

  • Re: End-of-Semester Evaluations says:

    @Re: End-of-Semester Evaluations Whose job is it to make class evaluations public? I haven’t met anyone who thinks this is a bad idea, but yet it doesn’t happen–problem is, nobody at Columbia seems to be willing to take initiative and make decisions, and the people who would aren’t given the power to make changes.

  • Anonymous says:

    @Anonymous All major universities have a disease – this disease is called activism. If there are no problems on campus, we’ll just make them up! God forbid you smoke anywhere outside (under the flight path to LaGuardia – think about those carcinogens). While we’re at it, lets make a quick list of other waste of time undergraduates can complain about and attack/defend in the name of the college experience.

    1.) Giant Rat Blow Up Dolls – Put there by workers complaining of a labor dispute, the same workers who don’t pass out flyers or talk to any one, but spend their whole protest on their iPhone or taking a nap.

    2.) Hot Nuts Stand – This stand is either racist or sexist…. you decide

    3.) Public Safety Taking Naps – I challenge you to go one week without running into a Public Safety Officer taking a nap. Either they are over worked or over paid – let the movement begin.

    4.) The slow expanding removal of the red bricks in favor of the black bricks. This is a major problem.

    5.) Price Gouging at the GYM – First I pay a student life fee which the gym gets a piece of, then a locker charge, a towel charge, and pay for classes. Class warfare anyone?

  • Katharine Celentano says:

    @Katharine Celentano I hear a lot of passionate debate regarding this from all sides and with quite a bit of nuance. Students for Sensible Drug Policy is facilitating a discussion among folks with a range of views on the smoking ban, without taking a position, on Wednesday from 9-11pm in Satow in Lerner if anyone’s interested. We’re hoping it’ll be a good way for students to process their thoughts on the matter with other students before the Townhall.

  • Anonymous says:

    @Anonymous I don’t understand why people complain about second-hand smoke and its adverse health effects, when they live in New York. If you want clean air, move the fuck away.

  • Anonymous says:

    @Anonymous Bwog: can you give us details on where and when to go to discuss positions on the smoking ban?

  • Anonymous says:

    @Anonymous uhh I’m smoking anyways

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