Surprise! This is actually our last senior wisdom (and post) of the semester. Prez Ben is a busy guy, but he eventually found the time to write his senior wisdom (a few weeks after the deadline). Read on for wise words from Ben Makansi.
Name, School, Major, Hometown: Benjamin Karim Storch Makansi, CC, Astrophysics, Steelville, Pennsylvania
Claim to fame: NSOP OL in 2013 and 2015
Where are you going? Shit, that’s deep.
What are 3 things you learned at Columbia and would like to share with the Class of 2020?
1) When students are divided over something, they’re often divided more on tactics than they are on ideology. Few students will disagree that the university should do more to support survivors of sexual violence, but there will be a lot of disagreement on whether the right way to push for that is to project “Columbia Protects Rapists” onto Low Library during Days on Campus or to scrawl the names of alleged rapists on bathroom stalls. Seventy-four percent of CC students voted to divest from fossil fuels, but I’m guessing that fewer students were in support of occupying a campus building or chasing Suzanne Goldberg into a cab. Both CUMB and the people who posted on the Orgo Night event page hate discrimination and want to hold the university accountable, but they disagree on whether relentless satire is an appropriate tactic for doing so. I say this not as a prescriptive claim about how activists should advocate for issues, but as a descriptive observation that many campus conflicts aren’t actually about the issues. We often agree on goals but divide ourselves on how to get there. This is frustrating but it should also be encouraging. It’s frustrating that a disagreement on tactics is often equated with opposition to an entire movement, and it’s frustrating that, as I genuinely believe, there are people who care deeply about certain social justice issues but become discouraged from working on them at this school as a result. But I also find solace reminding myself that students are often advocating for the same causes.
2) Advice for quantitative classes: No matter how much you think you can use the solutions guide for homework now and just learn the material later in time for the exam, it probably won’t happen. It’s true that actually doing problem sets takes a ton of time, but it’s also true that you’ll likely never be able to make up for the accumulated debt of study time before the exam. Depends on the final grade breakdown, but in most cases you will probably get a better grade by struggling to get partial credit on the problem sets, learning some of the material through that and thus doing better on the exams, which are worth much more. Too many times I convinced myself I could do otherwise and my grades suffered. It’s too easy to fall into that trap.
3) If you see someone who you know, don’t pretend like you don’t know them to avoid talking! People do this all the time at Columbia and I never understood it! If you forget someone’s name, just admit it and ask it again, it’s not a big deal. Or here’s a trick: if you’re with a friend, introduce your friend and they’ll tell your friend their name.
4) Everybody poops. It’s easy to feel small on this campus. But no matter how high and mighty other people seem, everyone–including Prezbo, Suzanne Goldberg, your intimidating professor, every student who got above you on the curve–pulls down their pants every day or two, sits on the toilet and expels their body’s rancid, solid waste. It’s the great equalizer.
“Back in my day…” We walked 3 miles to school and we liked it.
Lots of roofs were easily accessible that are now pretty difficult to get to (Mudd, SIPA, Schermerhorn). The Heights and 1020 often didn’t card. The fourth floor of Butler didn’t smell like ass.
Justify your existence in 30 words or fewer. Prezbo introduced me to the crowd at the John Jay Awards Dinner. He said, “And now we will hear from….our student.”
What was your favorite class at Columbia? “Technology, Religion and the Future” with David Kittay. Kittay is the kind of professor who makes you genuinely want to learn and impress him. He also knows that students often don’t do the reading, and he tailors his class accordingly. The first half hour consists of student presentations on a related topic of the presenter’s choice (everybody has to do one at some point during the semester), the second half hour you break out into small group discussions, and the last hour you reconvene and discuss as a group. I’ve uploaded the syllabus from when I took it here.
Would you rather give up oral sex or cheese? Actually, it would be great if students who have had oral sex and eaten cheese could fill out this poll. Health Services wants to know [which one to make free].
One thing to do before graduating: Go to a Columbia Astronomy Public Outreach Night (every other Friday at 8pm). The first hour is a lecture on some exciting topic in the field, and the second hour they take you up to use the telescope on top of Pupin. There’s a lot of light pollution in New York, but you can still see some really neat stuff. The outreach nights actually draw a lot of people from the city, but few students know about them.
Any regrets? Not going to office hours is definitely a big one. Professors can be incredible sources of knowledge and support, and I think that a lot of students are afraid to look dumb. You have to let yourself be the dumb kid in order to be the smart kid.
Also, taking so long to submit my senior wisdom. Sorry, Bwog.