Puppies bring unity too…

Monday night saw the anticipated coming-together of Columbia University under the roof of the Diana Center. As with most other things that happen under the hallowed roof of the Diana Center, Renée Kraiem was there.

Monday’s University Unity Forum was hosted by the Junior Class Councils of Barnard, CC, and SEAS (GS lacks an equivalent as there is technically no “Junior class”). The evening began with an introduction by the organizers, CCSC ’14 President Conan Cassidy; CCSC ’14 VP Joanna Kelly; Barnard’s 2014 president and vice president Aliza Hassine and Colleen Mulvihill, respectively; and SEAS ’14 President Daniel O’Leary. The speakers thanked the 40ish in attendance and reminded participants: “whatever you say here, it has implications one way or another.”

The group then split up into smaller tables to discuss the relationship between the four undergraduate schools at Columbia through questions moderated by class council representatives.  Discussions varied, clearly, based on the participants at each table, but a few things were consistent throughout—the majority of the participants were Barnard students, those who weren’t Barnard students were pretty psyched to be at Barnard, and what we were really talking about here was Barnard.

“The goal of this event,” Hassine said, “was that we felt like there wasn’t any discussion in May regarding what happened on a university-wide stage.” As individuals addressed questions at their tables, such as whether they identified with their respective college or the university at large, or whether they had ever experienced any form of discrimination based on the college that they went to, discussion abounded. The discussions tended to have a common theme, which was that the distinction between Barnard and the schools to the east of Broadway was substantially larger than that between those eastern-side schools. It was generally agreed that this had led to problems. Surprise, surprise. But, like Hassine said, this sentiment had implications, and those implications are interesting.

Once the entire (30ish, now) group of participants reconvened, a discussion about the very room that held the forum led to a consensus about promoting awareness. Numerous comments comprised the usual suggestions, like the dorm sign-in policy, email addresses, and programming locations. The most productive conclusion, however, came from the general sentiment that what had to change was the dispersal and internalization of information about the relationship between individual schools and the whole. “Until the administration takes the stance and they say what the relationship is…I think the change in campus culture should start there,” Cassidy said. Or, suggested a few other participants, “the change starts with us.”

That change may start with those (20ish, at this point) at the forum, but at the end of the evening, the question was really about with whom those at the Forum should be connecting, and how. Breaking the chain of stereotypes that perpetuate themselves through incoming classes—be it through student culture and admissions material—is a must, participants stressed.  For the whole, united University’s sake, though, here’s hoping that the “we” who are starting the change are a tad more than the 20 who stuck out the whole evening—even if midterm week month accounts for another ten who meant to come before falling asleep in 209.

Balls o’ fluff via Shutterstock