Sep

26

A Visit to the Harvard Club

Written by

Illustration by Manuel Cordero, CC '14

The September issue of The Blue & White is on campus now, and Bwog will keep on running the highlights. If you’d like to read the whole issue, you can now do so on the magazine’s new archives website—theblueandwhite.org. Here, Staff Writer (and Bwog Editor) Alex Jones recounts a visit to the Harvard Club.

Illustration by Manuel Cordero, CC ’14

The Blue & White dispatched me to the Columbia Alumni Association’s “Annual Inter-Club Beer Tasting – Saison Global Language Exchange” event at the Harvard Club of New York City. As the magazine’s sole contributor with a membership at the Columbia Club, the assignment was inevitable. The editors were looking for a brief note on the event including some jabs aimed at the attendees without real engagement in the culture war. Simple enough.

But as I sat in a high-backed chair, eating fried clams and wondering if anyone there played golf with Jamie Dimon, I decided that I might have enjoyed the gilded age—that I liked counting stuffed baboons and elephant heads among our posh company—even as I felt I shouldn’t. Such extravagance seemed to me not the Columbian mode of interaction with wealth.

The average student spends too much time lazing in the cocoon of conventional liberal wisdom to be admittedly satisfied in that setting, even if he were raised in it. Certainly, we have our cadre of “sellout” finance types, but how many would feel comfortable admitting their aspirations to wealth in CC?

Perhaps I draw too-hard lines for the sake of sport (forgive me—I’m an undergrad one year more yet). Still, Columbians are coy about their aspirations to money. They aren’t after lobster mac and big game on the walls, and those that are are compelled to conduct themselves with a falsely charitable sprezzatura. Instead, Columbians earn endless degrees in search of an examined life. Such pursuit is lauded. And the “life well-considered” should find an audience at the University, but I can’t help but find that too-abstract path an inferior means, to the common end: some Aristotelian “good life.”

I asked the straw man helping me with this piece, “What is wrong with trying to make a little money, to live nicely, to pay off debt, to save for a family?” “Nothing,” he replied. “But shut up about it. Discussing money is rude, and the Core unites us all.”

That might be the simple answer: that most everybody aspires to wealth, only with varying degrees of subtlety and decency. It wouldn’t be the first time I didn’t know which fork to use first.

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13 Comments

  1. On a scale of 1 to Harold and Kumar...

    How high were you when you wrote this?

    • Anonymous  

      I prefer to use the 0 to 1 scale. For example, tonight on my way back to my room, I saw this girl who was a 1. Then a few minutes later I saw another girl who was a 0. In my book you're either a 0 or a 1.

  2. Anonymous  

    this might explain why why the Columbia Club is still "in residence" at the Princeton Club in our own city.

  3. Anonymous

    It says something that HYP, Cornell and Penn all have their own Clubs in NYC, but Columbia does not.

    Maybe, we should all work to change this situation.

  4. Anonymous  

    Bravo. Someone had to point out the truth...

  5. Anonymous

    Alex Jones is a bad writer and it's a grave disappointment that he's apparently now "Bwog Editor."

  6. CC '13  

    I like this piece. As someone who is not going into finance/consulting but has seen 70% of my friends go into it (whether that was their intention coming into college or not), I am fascinated in this aspect of Columbia life. Why is it that people coming into CC start out interested in foreign policy in rural Latin America and leave with a job in trading at JP Morgan? I'd hesitate to say it's just the loans that amount after four years. It seems that there's something else--perhaps the proximity to such extreme amounts of wealth--that changes people subtly over their time here.

    • On a scale of 1 to Harold and Kumar...  

      Perhaps I could agree with you if that were even the message I got from this post. It just seemed to casually toss in that somehow we care less about material success than other schools, except for a few rotten kernels? Then it threw in some CC bullshit. Then it talked about what makes us Columbians. Then he had a conversation with the straw man. Honestly my frustration with such incredibly unfair castigation of an entire profession is secondary to my utter confusion at what the hell this post is trying to say. This is truly one of the worst pieces of journalism (?) I have ever seen.

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