MSA Town Hall Audience Still Dissatisfied With PrezBo’s Response

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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.”


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  1. Anonymous

    this post is really, really good

  2. Anonymous  

    Is it really a massive violation of rights for the NYPD to be reading a website?

  3. Anonymous  

    msa town hall audience dissatisfied with prezbo's response? Now really? I was at the town hall and without a doubt in my mind, most people in attendance were impressed with the amount of outreach he had done in wake of the disturbing incidents, the silent majority if you will.

    Please correct or qualify bwog.

  4. Stop Criticizing Bollinger for Everything  

    What I find so interesting about this post is that the content of the paragraph following the girl's quotation about Bollinger's “half-hearted support,” his alleged failture to "come out publicly supporting Muslim students," demonstrates the exact opposite. He stated publicly that he uniformly objected to the government monitoring students based on religion. What, he did not say the government monitoring of "Muslim students" so you're going to have a hissy-fit? Bollinger does not want any students monitored based on any of their religious beliefs. This isn't just about Muslims and how you feel so stop being so sensitive and quick to point your finger at the "topmost position." If he really didn't care or support the affected Muslims, he wouldn't have sent a personal message to the entire university and held a fireside chat. CC12

    • Actually

      He actually refused to send out a public message, and only did so 6 days of pressure and outcry. And if he truly believed in the message he sent out, he wouldn't refuse to send a letter condemning NYPD surveillance of students to either Mayor Bloomberg or Commisioner Kelly.

      He is the President of this University and needs to take responsibility when issues like this arise. The MSA and Chaplain's office shouldn't have to constantly hold meetings with him just so he can address the student body.

  5. CC '12  

    I was at the fireside chat Monday. There, Bollinger spoke at length about his opposition to the NYPD's actions, promised independent investigation of the NYPD's actions, and committed to fundraising to support expanded institutional support of Muslim students on campus. Many members of the audience were members of MSA who chose to read prepared statements rather than engage in conversation with Bollinger and Coatsworth, who seemed perfectly willing to talk candidly about the University's response.

    It's shocking to learn that the NYPD conducted surveillance of a Columbia student group on the basis of religion, and the MSA as well as all students have a right to (and should) be outraged that it happened. But to criticize Bollinger for his response, which so far, has included multiple public statements (both of which condemned the city's actions in very clear terms), commitment to additional action, and personally meeting with students, doesn't seem fair.

  6. If prezballs gets the report  

    Then everything will be square. The Nypd report needs to be public. This is much more than a silly responce that he drafts to satisfy. He needs to do the right thing and get the report and make it public.

  7. SEAS '12  

    Yeah I'd be interested to see the NYPD report (wishful thinking)... What were they looking for? What info did they record/gather?

    • exactly

      Keeping that report secret is like saying that Prezboner is off the hook because he responded but it is still ok to spy on students, treating them as potential threats to our society and thus not fully a part of it because of their observed race and creed.

  8. Anonymous  

    "He actually refused to send out a public message, and only did so [after] 6 days of pressure and outcry."

    Where are you getting this information? Even if he was reluctant at first to send out a public message which I have no idea whether he was or he wasn't, he still did. The action is completed so why dwell on structural forces and again feelings? Also to say he "only" sent a public message because of "6 days of pressure and outcry" is way too extreme a statement. You don't know all of the factors that go into his decision making so to claim that only pressure and outcry prompted his message is a highly uninformed, reactionary way of thinking.

    Second, "if he truly believed in the message he sent out, he wouldn’t refuse to send a letter condemning NYPD surveillance of students to either Mayor Bloomberg or Commissioner Kelly."

    You have a demand of President Bollinger, you want him to send a letter to Mayor Bloomberg or Commissioner Kelly, and if he does not follow through on your wishes that automatically makes his stance unbelievable? You think like Don Quixote.

    Stop criticizing Bollinger for everything. Behind the scenes he is looking out for you but like every position of power, he holds a thankless job. There will always be individuals who try to make him out to be the bad guy just like you. He is not the bad guy, the NYPD and the officers involved deserve the blame in this scenario. CC12

  9. CC'12  

    Of course we both have freedom of thought, nobody would deny that, but you exercise yours in a twisted fashion. An "agree to disagree" kind of answer gets us nowhere. You did not acknowledge anything I said or answer my original question: where did you get that information to make such a claim?

    You are "actually" completely full of it.

  10. Anonymous  

    At least night's Town Hall meeting, the students made it clear that they were grateful for the efforts made by President Bollinger and the administration. Yes, the President and administration have been supporting the MSA and the MSA appreciates the statements he has made. However, there is still more to be done. This issue is a significant manner that is not only a Muslim issue but rather a civil rights and student issue. President Bollinger needs to continue to support the MSA and publicly condemn the NYPD for their actions. As the top university in NYC, it is up to us to call out the NYPD and President Bollinger needs to be more firm and direct with his actions.

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