Kesha could write the Iliad, but Homer couldn’t write “Tik Tok.”
Butler Library, the masterpiece of Columbia’s campus, looms large over the gray stone and perfectly picturesque grass. Inscribed across the front and sides of the library are the names of 18 philosophers, thinkers, and overall influential figures. Homer, Herodotus, Sophocles, Plato, Aristotle, Demosthenes (whose works have never been required reading for the Core Curriculum), Cicero, Virgil, et cetera.
I read the names as I walk across campus every day, but I always wonder, “What are the qualifications for deserving your name inscribed on Butler Library?” Is it the number of impactful works? The number of volumes each figure has in Butler? A score of Butlerocity based on some unknown rubric? No one has the real answer, but I began to wonder: “Should some of those figures have their name inscribed on the historic library, and if not, who else should?”
Over the years, there has been heavy—and valid—criticism of this particular list of names, mainly about the lack of diversity of individuals honored in the library. There have even been efforts to diversify with the usage of banners with the names of influential female figures, such as Ntozake Shange and Diana Chang. These efforts were not long-lasting, and as of today, Butler remains inscribed with the names of 18 white men.
The first name inscribed on the library is one that is the staple of the Core Curriculum reading list—Homer, the ancient Greek poet. You may remember him from works like the Iliad or the Odyssey, but scholars aren’t sure if Homer the person truly existed. With this in mind, it seems that the names of other influential figures should be able to make it on Butler.
In addition to people we aren’t sure existed being on Butler, there is also a figure who couldn’t make it on the Core required reading list but somehow made it on Butler (looking at you, Demosthenes). Surely we can replace his name with someone who has changed our society for the better, such as Timothée Chalamet, Kesha, or BTS?
To answer these questions, Bwog decided to have 16 Bwog-suggested figures battle for a spot on Butler through NBA-style brackets. The names of 16 figures have been organized into tournament brackets below, and the battle will end when two final winners—one from each side of the brackets—win.
Tune back in soon to see two winners (who will hopefully replace Homer and Demosthenes on Butler).
Butler Library via Wikimedia Commons
Butler Brackets via Sahmaya Busby