Early Sunday morning, Bwog was tipped video footage that depicts a white man standing in front of Butler Library and making several statements criticized by Twitter users as racist. The video is linked below, and according to Twitter user @blkgirlculture, the man was identified as Columbia sophomore Julian von Abele.
The video shows von Abele shouting lines such as, “Europeans built the modern world. We invented science and industry and you want to tell us to stop because oh my god, we’re so bad. We saved billions of people from starvation.” By the end of the video, he is also seen jumping closer towards Butler and yelling, “White people are the best thing that ever happened to the world. We’re white men. We did everything.”
As he speaks, von Abele is jeered at by a group of several other individuals, peppering him with shouts of “You […] degenerate!” and “Say that one more time. Say that here.”
— Aala Nasir (@aalanasir) December 9, 2018
Columbia student Kwolanne Felix, who was present at the time of the video, told Bwog that the incident happened around 2:45 AM Sunday morning. According to Felix, a mostly-black group of underclassmen were returning from an event and crossing Butler Library when they encountered the man shouting statements such as, “I love white people, we are the best,” and “Trump is a great president.”
“He said those statements just to see if we would react. The group stops and starts to converse as we are confused as to who he’s yelling at,” Felix said. “As he yells, a large argument begins. This is the part caught on video.”
After around five minutes of “heated engagement,” Felix said that the group stopped engaging, as they believed the man was under the influence of alcohol, and left for JJ’s Place. According to Felix, while at JJ’s, the group of underclassmen encountered another group of black women, who also stated that they were harassed by the same white, male individual.
According to Felix, von Abele later entered JJ’s place at around 3:30 AM. After he used the “same rhetoric” and was confronted by other students, a bystander reached out to a nearby public safety officer, who attempted to talk with the individual. “Ultimately the Public Safety officer lingers and when we ask for action, [the officer] replies, ‘He is just saying how he feels,” Felix said.
“This has deeply shaken our community, as he targets POC on multiple occasions,” Felix said. “During the Supreme Court confirmation of Kavanaugh, [the student] went to a Casa Latina party and harassed party-goers and [incited] unrest.”
Bwog has reached out to the student identified in the video, as well as Columbia Public Safety, for statements in regards to the incident; we will update this post with any statement received.
Update December 11th, 2018 7:32 PM: Edited to include the confirmed status of the white, male individual as Columbia sophomore Julian von Abele. Headline also edited in accordance to recent university statements.
Update December 9th, 2018 8:05 PM: Columbia has issued a statement about the incident via email. The full text can be found below.
Dear Undergraduate Students,
We write to you to unequivocally denounce a deeply disturbing racially charged incident involving Columbia undergraduates that took place in front of Butler Library and JJ’s Place early this morning.
Many of you have heard about or seen the alarming footage online, which includes painful language directed toward students of color in our community. Although we cannot comment on the proceedings, this incident is already under investigation by the Office of Student Conduct and Community Standards, and we want to assure you that it will be investigated thoroughly, beginning with interviews of witnesses.
We are alarmed at the rise of incidents of racism and hate speech in our world today. It is more important than ever that we continually demonstrate our core values and restate our commitment to a diverse, inclusive community on campus. At Columbia, we stand firmly against white supremacist language and violence. As we said last week, our community will not waver in its support for those of any faith, race, gender, sexual orientation, background or identity.
We understand this may be a difficult time for you and your classmates. Members of our on-call team began to provide individual support as soon as we learned of the incident. If you need support this evening, please reach out to your RA, who will connect you to additional resources as necessary.
All undergraduate students are invited to an open reflection space tomorrow night, Monday, December 10, 6:00-8:00 p.m. in Lerner Hall 505, hosted by Multicultural Affairs, for students to be in community with each other. Additional areas of support will be announced as we are able to plan.
Our collective work toward peace, respect and understanding must continue, both within our community and society at large.
Mary C. Boyce
Dean of The Fu Foundation School of Engineering and Applied Science
Dean of the School of General Studies
James J. Valentini
Dean of Columbia College and
Vice President for Undergraduate Education
Photo via Bwog Archives