MSA Town Hall Audience Still Dissatisfied With PrezBo’s Response
Written by Bwog Staff
Tonight, Earl Hall correspondents Bijan Samareh and Ella Quittner sat down with Columbia Chaplain Jewelnel Davis, Chaplain’s Council Chair Daniel Bonner, Chaplain’s Council member Aleq Abdullah, and SGB Chair Barry Weinberg after the second town hall meeting held to find out more about Columbia’s response to surveillance of Muslim student groups.
Two things were blatantly apparent at tonight’s town hall, held to discuss NYPD’s surveillance of Muslim student groups in the Northeast: a sense of community derived from agreement amongst the various student groups connected to the incidents, and the glaring absence of a specific person from that community—PrezBo.
This was the second town hall forum held to address reactions to an Associated Press report released on February 18, which revealed that the NYPD has been spying on Muslim student groups, including Columbia’s Muslim Student Association. During the Q & A portion of the event, students echoed one another in asking what specific plans for action PrezBo has in the works, and what form those plans will take. One of the first students to take the mic commented on what she feels is a “half-hearted support” demonstrated by the University’s president. “The topmost position [holder] has not come out publicly supporting Muslim students,” she said.
Since the AP report, PrezBo has issued two statements. The first, released February 21, was criticized by the MSA for his lack of explicit condemnation of “the racial profiling committed by the NYPD on this campus,” according to their response. PrezBo then made a second statement on February 24, in which he wrote, “The public response by universities, including my statement earlier this week, uniformly objected to the government monitoring of students purely based on race, nationality, or, as was the case here, religion.” He also held a fireside chat last night, in which a smaller group of students were invited to discuss the events. Bwog did not have a reporter present at this chat.
“I think that a sort of lack of process or procedure—a lack of stated process or procedure—moving forward has troubled people. And we heard that today,” said SGB Chair Barry Weinberg. “The steps moving forward,” he said, “remain very unclear… And that might be because people in Low don’t know either.”
Chaplain Davis affirmed that PrezBo has actually been doing quite a bit to respond to students’ questions and concerns, citing his engagement of students at yesterday’s fireside chat, and his willingness to hear feedback from all facets of the Columbia community. “One of the ways that Lee works… in a magnificent way that some people would not do, is he really trusts those people who work with him to be listening for him,” she says, pointing out the benefit of hearing information that comes from a source “closer to the students, the faculty or staff.” But Davis’ support for PrezBo’s efforts highlights something of a disconnect between his communication with administrators, and his communication with the student body.
There’s more to come from PrezBo, according to Provost Coatsworth, who assured the agitated town hall audience, “You haven’t seen the last of President Bollinger’s responses.”