Abrams + Roar-ee

Whoops, *this* is our last Actual Wisdom of 2013. Or is it…

Justify your existence in 30 words or fewer: I don’t really like such existential questions! However, I will fall back on to my Jewish world view and say Tikun Olam (“Repairing the World”). Hopefully I can do that by inspiring students to do amazing things and that my research on polarization and civic culture can bring more Americans together.

Claim to fame: I am very good at darts and am always up for a game! This is really odd but we had a dart board in the P-Chem lab where I worked back in college and we played constantly. If I ever needed a break or needed to work through the problem, I’d be at the board. Over time, everything clicked.

What’s your most valuable or unexpected college experience? That’s a great question! It was finally learning that the college is about propinquity and meeting amazing people of every background. These people push you to think and drive you to take risks, support you when you fall, and dust you off and help you try something new once again.

Back in my day… I did most of my research in physical archives, on special computers to run data, and used microfiche to look up old newspaper and journal articles. We can do all of that today with a few keystrokes and clicks on my laptop.

What’s the craziest student excuse/extension story you’ve heard? One of my favorites is getting a text telling me that they couldn’t turn in a midterm because they had just been arrested protesting down at Occupy Wall Street. Some students even asked me to come help bail them out!

Would you rather give up oral sex or cheese? That’s an easy one. I am lactose intolerant so it’s cheese!

Three things you learned at Columbia:

  1. Most students hate the phys ed requirement and the pool. Back in college, I would try to be outside doing something physical daily.
  2. Students seem to use Butler more of a space for napping than finding books. I’ve repeatedly had to walk around to different aisles to find books with so many students sleeping in the stacks.
  3. Columbia students do not leave Morningside Heights enough. Come on people! NYC is amazing. Come downtown and see what we have below 110th street.

What’s your advice to students/academics/the human race in general? Context is everything. Nothing is black or white and people are just trying to make it through the day. Be nice, be compassionate. This applies to our habitual and mundane regular interactions on the street, in a store, and at a restaurant.

This concept also applies to the formal study of politics. As academics we need to be more careful to keep context in mind. We can’t always assume or model behavior as well as we sometimes think we can.