Nov

11

On Bias and the Brownstone Committee

Written by

NO VACANCY

The brownstones in question

Earlier this evening, KevSho sent out an email to the student body. Touching on Student Life Fees, the yet-unallocated convent, and the Brownstone Review Committee, it used agreeable language to address student dissent.

Some of what he wrote on that last point—the 114th brownstones—didn’t line up to Bwog.

KevSho began by avowing to “value discussion at every level,” “particularly where it relates to topics on community building.” This, despite the exclusion of community discussion or input in the Brownstone Review Committee.

Further down in the email, he writes that “We selected students who would support a fair process and could set aside their own bias and group affiliations.”

This contradicts what he told Spec, which was that Student Affairs had actively looked for Greek members for the committee. He said,

“We did purposely ask students who were part of Greek life because I wanted to honor that, historically, those brownstones have gone to Greek organizations,” Shollenberger said.

There, KevSho admits that adding more Greek students to the committee would affect their judgement—and that their biases would be valued as such. Student Affairs cannot have their cake and eat it, too—if they openly admitted that the committee should weight Greek interest more heavily, that would be defensible. However, they cannot both claim freedom from bias while at the same time acknowledging that they sought that specific bias.

Take the case of Daniel O’Leary III, who was actually a founding member of an applying fraternity. Once his affiliation was disclosed by Bwog, he admirably resigned. However, his conflict of interest brings into question the rest of the committee members, whose biases might not be so cleanly dealt with.

Bwog met with Dean Martinez a few weeks ago and inquired about this ongoing issue. When asked why the 114th brownstones wouldn’t have the same type of selection process that the 113th convent will—that is, an open one—she said that she didn’t “see what that would achieve.” She maintained that if the community as a whole were allowed input, its biases would get in the way. On the Brownstone Review Committee, Martinez, “would argue that there is not a bias.” She did not explain why these select students have the superhuman ability to set aside their biases or why the community as a whole lacks that capacity. Why does the convent—a similar space which may be allocated to SICs—merit a town hall and personal meetings with student government, when the brownstones do not?

Last week, in a meeting with KevSho himself—who will make the ultimate call—Bwog was told that the committee for the brownstones was deliberating seriously, and that Pike and AEPi were chosen as finalists because they had proved their moral rectitude and worth to the community. According to Shollenberger, Greek alumni and national organizations provided support and input to applying organizations. For other applicants, external support of no kind was allowed, whether from non-existent alumni or national bodies or from the community that they intended to serve.

In short, the idea that individuals can just set aside their biases is highly dubious, especially regarding such a divisive issue, such as Greek life at Columbia. Democracy is the system by which, to the highest degree possible, communities can define themselves, either washing out or codifying their biases. That system acknowledges bias as a signifier of a community’s unique character. The decision-making process for the convent looks to be pretty good, and Bwog doesn’t understand why is isn’t reduplicated in the brownstones. On this campus, where space is so, so scarce, any one group earning space affects the entire community. Perhaps in such instances, the entire community does deserve input.

Dear Students,

In recent months, there have been a few student issues related to how resources are allocated to enhance the undergraduate experience. I have worked closely with student leaders to describe, in some detail, the processes that were used by the various offices and organizations involved to gather information, provide feedback, and make decisions. Answering questions posed by student leaders and relying on the student press and the councils of both Columbia College and SEAS to share information with their constituents, I have sought to keep students apprised of the progress being made on each of these topics.

Open dialogue in a community like ours is healthy and important. I value discussion at every level, but particularly where it relates to topics on community building and student services. Your ideas and opinions factor into the decisions that are made. Because there are ongoing conversations and questions around topics in student life, it is important for me to share with the CC and SEAS undergraduate community the information that I provided to various leadership groups.

Student Life Fee

The Student Life Fee supports many services and programs for students, including information technology, printing services, residential programming, student services and operations, career services, student activities, intercollegiate athletics, and physical education. A portion of the fee is given directly to the student councils of Columbia College and SEAS for distribution among the governing boards.

Details about the categories listed above and examples of how the Student Life Fee was distributed in the 2011-12 academic year are available online .

The decision not to release the financial breakdown of the student fees in past years was collectively made by the term bill committee. This committee is chaired by the provost and includes representatives from the Central Budget Office, Administrative and Student Services, Arts & Science, and the three undergraduate school deans. As a result of feedback from the student councils in 2008, a summary of how the fees were used is now given to the councils and student press every spring. In addition, I engage the council presidents each year to solicit their input, which I then take to the term bill committee. After reviewing the recommendations of the term bill committee, the University Trustees make the final decision.

After the councils requested the release of the student life fee this year, I once again brought the issue back to the provost and deans. Although similar requests had been made in the past, Provost Coatsworth, Deans Valentini and Goldfarb, and I felt that there were sound arguments for releasing the financial breakdown.

We hope the release of this information will help us continue discussions around how we can best enhance student services and programs.

Construction on 113th Street

Columbia acquired the brownstones—at 619, 621, and 623 West 113th Street between Broadway and Riverside Drive—from St. Hilda’s House convent in 2009. This is a space with program areas, dining facilities, and other wonderful features that give us a unique opportunity to create a new and different residential community.

Student Affairs held a Community Forum on the topic of the “Creation of a New Residence Hall” on Thursday, October 11, which, unfortunately, was not heavily attended. We will continue to solicit feedback from students groups on how to utilize the space through meetings with Residential Advisers, student councils, special interest communities, and other key leaders.

The goal is to have the space available for student housing beginning in fall 2013. Therefore, we will align the application process with the existing Special Interest Community housing application process: Applications are due by mid-December, with decisions made by February. Look for more information to be released in the coming weeks.

Brownstone Selection Process

There are currently three vacant brownstones on West 114th Street. Last year, a process was developed in order to fairly allocate the space in a way that strengthens student organizations and enhances student life. A Brownstone Review Committee was assembled with student and staff representation. Recommendations from the committee will factor into my final decision on space allocation.

Applications to serve on the review committee were open to all students. Only 21 students applied, and most of these 21 applicants were affiliated with Greek organizations. We selected students who would support a fair process and could set aside their own bias and group affiliations.

On July 24, applications for the brownstone selection process were released to the entire community with a submission deadline of October 5. Thirteen applications were submitted from the student community, and each application received careful consideration from the Brownstone Review Committee. After much dialogue and deliberation, a decision was made to extend an invitation to six organizations to return for the presentation phase of the review process.

The six organizations returning for the presentation phase include:

Alpha Chi Omega

Alpha Epsilon Pi

Lamda Phi Epsilon

Manhattan House by NAC

Pi Kappa Alpha

Q House

Each of these organizations presented their case on Friday, November 9. Applicants were asked specific questions regarding their anticipated plans for group sustainability, partnership with Residential Programs, group accountability, and anticipated communication with the surrounding community, among other questions.

___

Your involvement and feedback are much appreciated as we work together to serve the needs of our student community and enhance student life on campus. Your voice is an important one, and I look forward to our continued dialogue.

Sincerely,

Dean Shollenberger

Image via DNAinfo

Tags: , , , ,

77 Comments

  1. This may be because I am stoned  

    But this was a really good article. GO Bwog!

    • Barnard '15  

      Hold the fucking phone. I think you need to take some time to check your privilege before complimenting such a biased, heteronormative article. Do you know how many undernourished, overworked day laborers it took to farm that weed you're smoking? Maybe you should take some time to advocate for the rights of trans, genderfluid, pansexual, homoromantic, heterochromatic, multiembodied persons everywhere before making such a triggering comment.

    • Anonymous  

      Trigger warning: hate speech, ableism, transgreekphobia, privilege.

      I just want to take this time to call your attention to a form of institutionalized bias that is rampant across Columbia. Did you know that nearly a fourth of Columbia (and Barnard) students have been stigmatized for identifying as a fraternity brother or sorority sister? Hundreds of students live each day facing embarrassment and ignorant comments from people who haven't taken a single Classics course like "Oh, so you're in a frat. But it's like, not like a REAL state school frat, right?" Please. It's an I-dentity, not a YOU-dentity. People have characterized Greek life as a bunch of dumb blondes and meathead jocks with SAT scores unfitting of such an elite school. These men and women struggle every day to maintain their social lifes in an environment intolerant of their social identities. The hate speech and ignorance must stop, and it has to begin with an understanding of the people that organizations such as BWOG are dehumanizing. Comments like "Die Greek scum" are not acceptable.

  2. Barnard student '13  

    Great more brownstones for asshole frats so they can binge drink and date rape!

    • Van Owen

      Don't worry your sweet little head, sugar tits. This is Columbia business. Oh, BTW, you DON'T EVEN GO HERE! So shut your mouth and make me a sammie, biatch... Barnard, irrelevant since 1983.

    • anon  

      Obvious troll is obvious. "barnard student '13"? Really?

      • Hannah G  

        Hi,

        I was just reading these comments, which I, like many people, do for most Bwog articles I read, and saw this.

        As the sole public Greek-life critic in the Barnard class of 2013, I'm going to assume you've assumed the above comment is me. Although I believe date-raping and binge-drinking are secondary problems, I happen to think as well that Greek life is a pretty virtuously corrupt organization, and the above comment wasn't me.

        However, I have to say that your eagerness to reduce the opposition to a single individual rings of the homogenizing impulse social psychologists and I believe self-selecting Greek-type ingroups engender.

    • Anonymous  

      sounds like someone got rejected by a fraternity brother... you can also try craigslist if you're that sexually repressed.

    • Anonymous  

      Did you just use the word "asshole" to describe Greek life? Great job perpetuating decades-old stereotypes of fraternities being homoerotic circlejerks. Thoughtless comments such as these are highly offensive to both the greek, lgbt, and greek lgbt communities. This practice of frat-shaming is highly derogatory and creates a divide in the community. Do we really live in a society where it's acceptable to say that someone is "asking for it (it being lifestyle criticism, institutionalized bias, and accusations of date rape)" by being greek? I someday hope that openly Greek people can live in peace without being asked if they gave/received an STD last night.

    • Not Van Owen, but...  

      This nonsense has to stop. How can people respond to a post explaining bias towards fraternities in the selection process by calling them date rapists and binge drinkers? It just sounds bitter and adds nothing to the discussion of why the brownstone selection process was flawed. If you're so opposed to supposed alcoholic date rapists occupying brownstones they had for decades before 2 years ago, why didn't you apply for one? I'm sure you have something to contribute to the student population. Greek life makes up less than 1/4 of the population, so why didn't more non-Greek groups apply? The result was predictable based on the applicants.

  3. Wait  

    Doesn't having a gay student in the group equal bias for Q house? Dig a little deeper bwog- you're slipping


    Also, ANYONE in the community could have allied to be in the group choosing the houses. So there was input.

  4. Serious failure...  

    ...to check their privilege on the part of this committee.

  5. Here's to  

    Columbia for having absolutely zero backbone when it comes to standing up to the burly, Republican, alpha males of the world. First, Rotc; now, frats are getting their pedicures done just because PrezBo probably wants in on some exclusive tee-time at some super white and parochial golf club.

    Hear that? It's Columbia's status as a school not afraid to be different flying out the window

    • Anonymous

      I bet you typed that comment with one finger. You, my friend, are a clown.

    • Anonymous

      What are you getting at? Republican alpha males? Pedicures and golf? This isn't fucking Dartmouth - Greek life isn't the big bad organization people make it out to be. The fact that they have such difficulty securing separate houses shows how little influence they have on university culture as a whole. Yes, Columbia is unique in that if you want no part in Greek life, you can go four years without ever encountering it. And PrezBo couldn't give two shits about fraternity alumni donations. He's off debating supreme court cases and running the university, so don't attribute this to him. Go visit 90% of universities in the US before you claim that Greek life at Columbia receives preferential treatment.

  6. so sassy  

    mmmhmmmm you tell em bwog

    • Anonymous  

      "Sassy?" What an insightful comment which certainly does not perpetuate object normativity and personification stereotypes. Let us look at the dictionary definition of sassy. (sas·sy/ˈsasē/
      Adjective:
      Lively, bold, and full of spirit; cheeky. ) On the surface, this word seems innocuous. However, it reflects centuries of anthropomorphism appropriation by sentient self-aware beings. Why does an article, or a website, for that matter, need to be "full of spirit," when it is clearly identifying as inanimate. Please check your adjective usage in the future.

  7. Anonymous  

    I sincerely hope the frats do not weasel their way into getting the brownstones back. But this article seems a little ridiculous to me. I worry that by overstating the case against the frats and doing so too frequently, Bwog is undermining its own cause. Just to take one thing, in an article that performs a close reading of Shollenberger's public statements and calls for wider community input, it seems to me extremely insincere not to address this line from Schollenberger's email: "Applications to serve on the review committee were open to all students. Only 21 students applied, and most of these 21 applicants were affiliated with Greek organizations. "

  8. CC  

    Most of the people against frats getting their house back don't care at all about the effect on the community. They protest out of spite. For that reason I saw a few very well-received comments in earlier posts talking about opening the brownstones to general selection. That would contribute exactly 0 to Columbia but would accomplish your actual goal: spiting the frats.

    • Anonymous

      I agree. People seem to have the impression that improvement in certain fields such as Greek life, athletics, and other "collegey" things comes at the cost of academics and our reputation, and then complain that we have no unity or school spirit. It's no wonder we're ranked the most stressful school when a large percentage of students are against centers of social life on campus. Makes you wonder if students themselves are contributing to the War on Fun.

  9. CC  

    Yeah yeah, now go back to occupying a park and eating up my tax dollars.

  10. more posts  

    like this post. bwog, please start getting back in the trenches and writing what's in touch with the nerve of this community. most of us are too busy to do the digging ourselves and posts like these at least have a few balls attached to them. kudos to whoever wrote it. we need more blunt, informed conversation on campus issues.

  11. ICanFixAllOfOurProblems  

    Why don't we first integrate barnard into columbia as a whole. This would resolve many issues. First the age old debate(although there is no real debate) of barnard being part of columbia will be settled in a satisfactory manor to all. Second there would be so much more room for activities. Your group gets housing, their group gets housing we all get housing. Thus solving both the brownstone and the barnard housing shortage crisis. Additionally, the pool in barnard will now be able to be saved due to the now stable financial situation. Next, columbia students can also say that obama spoke at their school now that barnard and columbia are one and the same. All of these effects joined together will create peace in the upper west and we can focus our hatred on our true enemies, nyu........

    -Your future fearless leader Mr.Biggles

    • anon  

      Why did all of [email protected] migrate over to Bwog? Jeez.

    • Anonymous  

      I'd rather have sex with a barnard girl (disgusting) than to have those guttersnipes legitimately claim columbia status

    • Seriously, though...  

      I hope that Columbia soon begins to seriously consider eliminating Barnard as a separate institution. It would pretty swiftly put an end to a lot of academic/administrative space issues by merging redundant Columbia/Barnard facilities in the larger (and, because of Manhattanville, soon-to-be more open) combined campus. On the residential side, obviously the first decision would be how many more CC/SEAS/GS undergrads to admit to make up for the Barnard loss (presumably, the new number would be somewhere between the current CC/SEAS/GS and current CC/SEAS/GS+BC numbers). With all the extra space, the University would be saved for the foreseeable future from the costly and controversial gobbling up of neighborhood property for new undergrad housing.

      For a typical women's college, it staying independent makes sense as it provides a unique, female-only environment for those who may want that, but for Barnard, where dining, studying, learning (and for many, even housing) already happen in a co-ed environment, it just doesn't make sense anymore. Columbia could easily maintain some same-sex residences for those who want them, and of course continue to provide any services for female students that only Barnard does now, but in virtually every sense, Barnard students already attend a co-ed college. It just doesn't make sense anymore to mandate that thousands of spots in a largely unified undergraduate population can only go to one gender.

      • Anonymous

        you'd kill the ratio bro.

      • Barnard '14

        You clearly have no concept of what Barnard is about. It's not just a lot of space across the street, it's an entirely unique institution whose students attend because they CHOOSE Barnard and NOT Columbia. And I recognize that there may be some bias in this statement, but I think many students from both sides of the street would agree with me when I say that Barnard brings a lot of good to the Columbia community (and vice versa, except for trolls like you).

        • Seriously, though...  

          It seems to me logically that if you want to claim Barnard should continue as a separate institution, the way to justify that is by saying that (1) the curriculum and (2) the school culture are unique compared to Columbia proper. That's certainly true with the curriculum (even though many from both schools cross Broadway for some classes, obviously the 9 Ways/Core are pretty different). I would say, though, that the school culture is NOT separate today from Columbia proper, that they are so intertwined that we can see them as one cultural body. So I'm saying that Barnard's defining uniqueness is its curriculum, not in the fact that it is nominally a women's college, so why not admit men? Because the different curricula, when you look at them without the "school culture" business tied to it, are not enough to justify Columbia and Barnard being separate institutions. The schools can be combined and a committee can look at how to take the best from both schools and create a modified Core curriculum for a unified Columbia undergraduate community. (Also, don't call me a troll just because I disagree with you. I never said Barnard was useless; I'm just saying that in 2012, both institutions would benefit from a merger)

          • Anon  

            Barnard is sexist because they dont accept men. This ruins the culture of acceptance and cultural unity on columbia's campus. If i have to go sit through under 1 roof then i should be able to go under 1 of barnard's roofs!

      • Me  

        your wish will come true soon. columbia is just sitting here, waiting and laughing, while barnard is going on the verge of bankruptcy

  12. Eve  

    Hating on greek life is getting kind of old...no wonder is Bwog one of the least relevant sources of news on campus

  13. Re: New 113th Brownstones

    "This is a space with program areas, dining facilities, and other wonderful features that give us a unique opportunity to create a new and different residential community."

    ...Seems to me KevSho is implying these brownstones would be better suited to non-Greek special interest groups. I'm wagering this round of brownstones will go 2/3 or even 3/3 Greek and the others will go 3/3 non-Greek. Makes sense in my opinion.

    Thoughts?

  14. Anonymous

    This article is a perfect example of the dangers of majoritarianism.

  15. anon  

    Seriously, I would respect the administrators so much more if they straight-up admitted that they have a preferred interest in ending the frats' ban by giving their houses back to them instead of trying to insist that the committee was un-biased. Really? "Have their cake and eat it too," is exactly what this sounds like.

  16. Anonymous  

    everything points to frats retaking these houses being a foregone conclusion. the idea that pike does more for the community than adi would, or than postcrypt would have, is laughable.

    • Anonymous  

      yet clearly none of those organizations had supporters who were willing to serve on the committee

      • Anonymous  

        Look, part of this is that Greek organizations are a college institution, a Columbia institution. Of COURSE they can find people who are in their favor. The Greeks have more members, more alumni, and more institutional history than tech entrepreneurial or Native American organizations, for example. Some might see this as a reason to have Greeks take the houses, but many on campus still thought that the brownstone selection would allow underdog, i.e. non-Greek, communities -- like Q House -- to better establish themselves on campus.

        • Anonymous  

          Well, that's part of the reason he juxtaposed it with information on the other three houses on 113th. Clearly the selection of people on the Brownstone committee suggests an inclination towards social life, and 114th is undeniably a social hub on campus. The administration's biggest fault was not consistently characterizing the selection process as such in the first place, instead of doing damage control and suggesting that the non-frat applicants try for the 113th houses instead.

  17. ughhhh  

    bwog why are there so many more trolls than ever please make it stop reading comments isn't even fun anymore

  18. Anonymous  

    I, for one, am thoroughly opposed to Greek life receiving brownstones. Segregation of the Greek community drives a physical, but also mental barrier between them and the student body at large. It polarizes members of the community who see frats as receiving housing handouts and entitlements, while they pay full tuition and work hard to organize suites and receive a favorable lottery number. They think that fraternities and sororities deserve a little bump in the housing application process just because their forefathers gave donations, regardless of their current social status. The system is flawed. An upper middle class suburban sorority sister should not receive preference over a low-income non-affiliated student. Small SIC owners have been hit especially hard by this housing shortage and this redistribution of brownstones reeks of Marxism to them. I propose that we end this affirmative policy of giving special housing to Greeks that have shown improvement and propose a more egalitarian process where brownstones are given based on merit and how much the groups can add to campus (social) life as a whole...although in most cases Greek life would beat out other applicants anyway.

  19. Anonymous  

    "According to Shollenberger, Greek alumni and national organizations provided support and input to applying organizations. For other applicants, external support of no kind was allowed, whether from non-existent alumni or national bodies or from the community that they intended to serve." So in other words, they used the resources they had available to make their cases. I don't really see a problem with this. If the frats can get that kind of support and input from a national centralized body on a regular basis, that holds them to standards and provides suggestions to improve the chapte, then that's one upside they have over the independent groups.

  20. Tell me how  

    the Fraternities DO NOT deserve their houses back? If they have jumped through all of the hoops and managed to stay in existence without their house, why shouldn't they be allowed to return? If someone goes to prison, aren't they allowed to leave once they've paid their debt to society? The Fraternities were punished for what 1 member of their houses did, and they've done their time. All 3 houses WILL go Greek.

    • Don't just downvote  

      without a good response. What do you disagree?

      • Ace  

        The point is that the house are not "frat houses", they are spaces that belong to all of us in the campus community. If frats screw up , by selling drugs and end up losing their houses, other people in the campus community could do so much more with the space. if frats think the houses belong to them, that's disgusting and entitled. Brownstones are a privilege, a privilege that I think fraternity members don't deserve.

    • the point is  

      it's not THEIR houses, which they can have back once they've done their time, just like a parent gives back a child's toy at the end of a time-out. these are incredible spaces on a campus that lacks space dearly. frats need to show that they can use it better than any of the many other student groups on campus who could benefit from it. The fact that frats can survive just fine without a house, as you point out, is a reason NOT to give them the brownstones back.

      • It's not a right to have a house

        and I agree it's a privilege. However, the privilege was revoked after poor behavior of one person in each house. Now that the Fraternities have in fact, done their time, and have contributed more to the communitiy than any other group on campus (not only brotherhood, parties, athletic events, but also thousands of hours of service and tens of thousands of dollars to philanthropic organizations) they have demonstrated that they deserve to return. You can argue 'til you're blue in the face that "Fraternities hurt our rep" (which is odd, since CU has maintained our #4 spot in the rankings post drug bust), but the fact remains that Fraternities are more diverse (race, religion, creed, orientation, background, socio-economic status, geographic location, Class year, undergraduate school) than any other type of interest group on campus, which has 1 said interest.

        While the Fraternities have been doing well without their houses, imagine what they could do when they have the ability to congregate, and I don't know, live together like brothers should.

  21. Anonymous

    Keep all of these housing options (brownstones, convent, etc) open for the entire community. We are supposed to be a university to meet all kinds of people. These theme houses contradict that.

  22. Anonymous  

    i wouldn't call this a good article... perhaps an attempt to state the obvious.

    however, if non-greek people feel so adamant about this, why did they not want to be on the committee or apply for one of the houses? you'd think at least esc/ccsc-type people would have done so... perhaps it was because it was after elections?

  23. graduate

    Lol butthurt geeds r butthurt

  24. shrinking violet  

    Someone give the man ( or woman) a medal.

  25. Methinks

    they're tired of it too, hence the sarcasm.

  26. old yeller

    there used to be a day when bwog actually focused on being a humorous outlet in an otherwise tedious day of classes and tight schedules. I used to look forward to having a good laugh because they used to have a talented group of writers who were smart enough to come up with creative, humorous content. Now they have a tendency to put up posts that stir up resentment or seek to prove their correctness (like this one). I miss the old days bwog, days when you had no self-serving pride and self-righteous opinions and used to just brighten days... i wish we could bring zak dychtwald, pat blute, and all the other talented contributors we used to have back.

  27. Chris S  

    I dunno. I think that Columbia just haswants
    eeds different centers of social life than greek life and sports. Things like Philo which are kinda off-the-wall and tongue-in-cheek but definitely bring people together. I don't think the brownstone selection committee, or even the Columbia community at large, really recognized the possibility to create spaces that are social spaces, that do host parties, that do bring the community together, that do contribute to the community, but just aren't frats. Is it so weird to imagine a university where social life is organized around something other than greek life and sports? I really don't think it is.

  28. ive never seen

    closer up-votes and downvotes numbers on the bwog comments section -- Democracy!

© 2006-2015 Blue and White Publishing Inc.