Zack made the rare decision—transferring from one undergraduate school to another within Columbia—and the impossible decision—choosing between all the controversies this institution has to offer.

Name, School, Major, Hometown: Zack Murdock, School of General Studies, Urban Studies – Sustainable Development, Las Vegas, Nevada

Claim to fame: Transferring from JTS to GS my freshman year. Yes, it is possible, and don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. To paraphrase Ecclesiastes (yes, I paid attention), ‘To everything there is a season and a time to every purpose under the heaven… A time to love, and a time to hate; A time of war, and a time to GTFO.’

Where are you going? After a long, heartfelt decision, I have decided to take my talents to Las Vegas.

What are 3 things you learned at Columbia and would like to share with the Class of 2025?

  1. There is more to life than school. You are the most important thing in life, so take care of yourself and your needs. I know you hear this from your parents, academic advisor and anyone else in your life, but it is true. You are allowed to have bad or off days. You are allowed to be emotional, so be vulnerable. Work your hardest within reason and ask for help from your friends or network at school. People will surprise you with their willingness to help you succeed in your classes, so remember you aren’t alone here at school. The weight of your personal life and world external to school can be distracting and make the thought of school unbearable, so be honest with yourself and take the time you need to work on yourself.
  2. Don’t give in to the stress. “Stress culture is our culture” is what I heard on a regular basis, and this school is doomed if the student body won’t actively work to change it. If you aren’t always studying in Butler, if you aren’t pulling all-nighters, if you aren’t getting perfect grades, a student here often is made to feel that they are doing something wrong. But look, every student worked their asses off to get into Columbia taking 20 AP classes, 4 subject tests and whatever gauntlet of extra curriculars in High School, and it is difficult for many to turn that off. So, take a moment to breathe and remind yourself where you are and who you’re with. You are at one of the foremost institutions of education in the world. The odds of you getting here are slim to none. The person who sat next to you in FroSci might be the next Fauci. That annoying kid in your LitHum class playing devils advocate all the time may be a future Supreme Court Justice. You are smart and going to do something great one day simply by being yourself and following your passions—but showering in the Butler bathroom sinks just ain’t it.
  3. Your schoolwork will always be there, opportunities won’t be. Say yes to things. You will always have another assignment due, another midterm weeks away, or pages upon pages of reading to do. It can wait. College is more than the books you read and the classes you took; it is also about the memories you made along the way. Find a balance that works for you, but these four years go by faster than you think, and you never want to be playing the “what if” game as a Senior. So, go have yourself some fun. You may regret what you did for fun, but hey, at least you can say you gave it the old college try.

“Back in my day…” A Professor poisoned themself with a homemade common cold remedy made of Elderberry. Any learned or amateur horticulturist, like myself, would know that Elderberries when eaten raw are toxic to humans as they contain Cyanide. Anyways we all made fun of the professor, but if brewing homemade remedies was their answer to the common cold, I’m here to ask how COVID went for this professor. Wellness check anyone?

Favorite Columbia controversy?
This question is particularly difficult to answer. I could say that the yearly—sometimes twice yearly—controversy, or rather, vote, held at various student councils urging Columbia to divest from Israel was my favorite, because a vote held by some University students will surely change Bibi’s mind on settlements in the West Bank. I could also say the TA strike ranks up there with my favorite Columbia controversy. But, purely out of concerns for the Bwog TM web host and fears of crashing this website with a comments section akin to a frat party toilet, and most definitely not because I want to keep my friends <3, I have decided to go an alternate route.
Remember that kid who started spouting off racist crap outside of Butler in like 2018? Yeah. That is my favorite Columbia controversy. While it is of course a given that the kid was in the wrong, this controversy gave me hope. Every single issue at Columbia ends up having two parties, for and against whatever happened. Yet, even on this polarized campus, I’ve never experienced such a united front amongst the student body against this student. We certainly may not always agree with one another here on campus, and that’s a good thing. But when it came to the treatment of Nazis on campus, I am happy that we all agreed that a good ol’ kick into the pit of doom sufficed. Baby steps.

What was your favorite class at Columbia?

  • Made in America: Mafia in Cinema with Professor Stefan Pedatella
    • Spend your summer watching every Mob movie by Scorsese, The Sopranos, and some other classic Mafia movies. This deep examination of Italian-American culture and the struggles of all immigrants in America is a class that you certainly do not want to miss. Come for the knowledge, stay for the GABAGOOL!
  • Salsa Soca Reggae with Professor Christopher Washburne
    • Do you like going to concerts for homework? Take this course. While I heard online the class was only so good, if you have the opportunity to take it in person, do. Professor Washburne has such an extensive knowledge of music and his lectures were always incredibly entertaining.
  • Empire of Liberty: The Global History of the U.S. Military with Professor Robert Neer
    • Whatever your views are of war and the US Military, everyone should take this class. This course will challenge all of your preconceived notions of the military by examining the thesis of the course, “Why We Fight.” Professor Neer’s energy, passion, and encyclopedic knowledge of history truly makes the course special.
  • Public Speaking with Professor Patricia Denison
    • I took this course my Senior Spring on a suggestion from a friend. If you have trouble getting up in front of an audience or even telling a story at dinner with friends, take this course. It is a Master Class in public speaking on all levels and arenas. Professor Denison works so closely with you to give you confidence in your speaking skills. Beyond from the speech, the course also teaches you how to communicate effectively to others, which is a skill all of us can work on. You are doing something wrong if you do not take this course.

Would you rather give up oral sex or cheese? I don’t do dairy, so… J

Whom would you like to thank?
I want to start by thanking my family for the opportunity to live and learn in one of the greatest cities in the world—New York. The memories made and experiences had have created one of the more unique learning opportunities that I will ever have.

To my Friends of old and new, thank you. The lessons we have learned together are invaluable and it is my hope that we never cease making memories together.

To the Brothers of AEPi, thank you for all of the experiences you have given me. Every single one of you have impacted my life in more ways than you know. I owe a great majority of the positive experiences I have had in college to this Fraternity, and I am forever grateful to have been a member and leader in the brotherhood.

To the professors and instructors that enjoyed my presence in the classroom, as well as to those opposite or indifferent, thank you. Each one of you have made an enormous impact in my life, albeit some more than others.

To the administration and staff at the Office of Disability Services, thank you. Thank you for all of your hard work and efforts trying to level the playing field for students on campus. College is stressful enough already and if you face certain challenges in life, the team at ODS is there to ensure your success so that school, rather than your diagnosis, is at the front of your mind.

Lastly, I would like to thank that which has been there for me every step of the way throughout my college experience. In the dark times, in happy times and times I should have been at Butler instead of, well, elsewhere, The Curve has always had my back. Thank you, the Curve.

One thing to do before graduating: Have a JJ’s frozen margarita/daquiri. Buy one (or as many as you want) of those mini bottles of booze from any liquor store. They hold the equivalent of a little over one shot. Combine that with the slushee at JJ’s and stir to incorporate. Thank me later.

Any regrets? No Regrets. Thank you, Columbia. What a wild ride.

portrait via Zack