Don’t worry; this pop culture moments list is actually Columbia-related this time.

I love history, I love iconic things, and I love making lists. So much so, that I combined all three into a project I’ve been working on since my freshman year. Namely, I wanted to look back at all the crazy things that happened these past four years and preserve a lot of events current underclassmen have no idea happened. Seriously, sometimes I think back on some of the most defining moments of my undergrad experience, and it’s wild there are sophomores who will never have faced the horrors we did.

So, I present to you, as my final longform list on this site:

The Top 20 Most Iconic Columbia Moments of the Past Four Years

20. “Barnumbia” Controversy: It wasn’t so much a “moment” as it was Bwog starting something and letting it spiral for a bit, but…it happened! Now move on, everybody; let’s bury this dead horse. And for the inevitable swarm of haters flying toward the comments section right now: we love to see the same two IP addresses demonstrating that they’re such avid readers of Bwog Student News.

19. BoyzTownUSA got #1 in the 2020 Housing Lottery: This memory may only resurface for the geezers that had participated in the useless but memorable 2020 Housing Lottery. While no one got their selected dorm rooms because the pandemic mega-cancelled everything, one group’s name certainly made an impact on the community: BoyzTownUSA. A group of six seniors—genders still unknown—got the lucky #1 number in the lottery that year. For behind-the-scenes Bwog lore, we did a ranking of all the names found on the Lottery master PDF (they do not give names anymore, much to my chagrin) back in the COVID era of bracketing everything. While some Bwoggers misjudged the sheer awesomeness of “BoyztownUSA” and picked a different (and lamer) winner, this perfect name with a perfect lottery number for it won #1 in my heart.

18. Smells like 116th and Broadway: I remember the exact day this random Spec article dropped. It was January 30, 2022. I was sitting on my floor in Nuss, working on a French paper, when suddenly, I learned about the perfume-collecting hobby for the first time. No previous article had managed to capture the beautiful lack of self-awareness of random rich people living in Carman, and nowhere else could a $375 Yves Saint-Laurent perfume bottle be so casually recommended for purchase. I’ve never been so invigorated after learning every perfume mentioned in that article had a vanilla base (except for the Jo Malone orange blossom), so it’s even funnier that these perfumes smell like a recently divorced soccer mom looking for some spice in her life! This Spec article fundamentally changed my life, and to this day, whenever I walk past the 116th and Broadway gate, wearing my signature perfume, I mumble ever-so-quietly to myself, “It smells like 116th and Broadway up in here…”

17. Dos Toros catered John Jay Dining Hall: Back when I was a freshman, Dos Toros didn’t exist until the Spring 2020 semester. So, a week before they opened, the Dos Toros PR team decided to give Columbia students one whole day of free food, taking up the John Jay Dining Hall to cater us with endless supplies of burrito bowls. The line outside John Jay stretched all the way to Hartley, and sure, the whole event made me late for my 2:10 class, but…free food from Dos Toros! With all the restaurants opening around campus now, it really sucks that none of them are promoting via hefty free samples. Remember what they took from you (local restaurant-sponsored meals as smart business tactics to attract new customers) …

16. Big Sub came back: Of all the pre-COVID traditions to revive, this one was…something. This one involved a giant sandwich sunbathing all over Barnard’s campus. Deli meats wrapping around the HWC’s border. Barnard Dining encouraged students to pluck from it and eat its bounties. It had many flavors. It was…the Big Sub.

15. The George Yancopolous controversy: It’s the end of March 2022, and Deantini’s best friend George Yancopoulos announced he was going to be the Columbia College Class Day speaker. He did some important things: he co-founded Regeneron, a biotech company responsible for the development of the COVID-19 antibody treatment (among other things). He went to Columbia (cool); he was even a Phi Beta Kappa alumnus (also cool). He also founded a research institute at Columbia that totally exists and is very well-funded by enthusiastic donors (cheers, mate)! His offer was rescinded less than a week later, however. It turns out secretly giving special access to antibody testing to the Cuomo administration and  health care fraud are not really aligned with the principles of “wearing the crown with honor.” My favorite tidbit of this situation is that I do not remember who replaced him at all.

14. The tents: Another iconic part about going to Columbia University during the COVID-19 pandemic was the ugly, white tents with fake French windows they placed on the most beautiful sites of campus. On Low Steps, on the East and West lawns, on John Jay lawn, outside EC…open air intended for students to graze upon were occupied by giant plastic tents. Students hated them; someone once stood on Low every day with a cardboard sign to protest the tents! They sucked! You were meant to sit at them to avoid crowding in dining halls, but the tents that could actually fit a good number of people were too far away from any food centers. It also got really cold in those tents (the giant space heaters only heated ¼ of the entire tent), and it only attracted mice and other critters! Now every time I see a tent on campus, I want to tear it apart with my teeth. Go away; we don’t want you here!

13. Bacchanal on Vibrela: In the era of hoverboarding through virtual Charli XCX on Roblox, Fortnite dancing to Travis Scott, and swinging your diamond pickaxe to 100 gecs on Minecraft, the Bacchanal committee wanted to hop on that trend of video game concert experiences and give the people what they were (not) asking for: Bacchanal in 2021. The platform of choice? Vibrela, or an even worse version of Better Life. Instead of cheering along to semi-big names on the lawns, drinks in hand and friends by one’s side, students could make a blocky, virtual avatar of themselves and “party” in the cyberspace. The performers—Yaeji, A$AP Ferg, and Flo Milli (a LINEUP!)—did not partake in creating virtual avatars. Instead, they submitted prerecorded videos of themselves performing in their homes, complete with hype words like “HOW ARE WE DOING COLUMBIA!!” with absolutely no way for students to scream back in response. Morale was low; no one wanted to be on a computer for a prerecorded concert. The only people who had it worse than those on Vibrela were those who were booted off the server, forced to only watch the prerecorded performances on Zoom. ZOOM.

12. “Columbia is the Best School Ever”: Kind and Clever Productions, we will never forget your great service to this community. We salute you for objectively being the funniest people on campus, and for writing something students for years to come will drunkenly sing on Low Steps on a Thursday night.

11. Columbia daily attestations: If you were on campus between the years 2020-2021, I’m so sorry. We had this app on our phones (well…only on iPhones because they weren’t bothered to figure out Android) called “ReopenCU” whose entire purpose was giving us access to buildings. Namely, every 24 hours, you had to take a survey saying “I’m healthy! I don’t have COVID!” to be able to enter any building, and if you either mis-clicked on the survey or forgot to do it, you’d get a very aggressive email. Columbia also had silly rules where, if you forgot to complete your survey twice, you’d have to go to a hearing, and if you forgot three times, you’d be suspended/expelled. In the summer semester you fully wouldn’t be allowed to enter buildings until you took your survey (fun fact: the security ID scanners that are at the entrance of each academic building are residue of the ReopenCU era), but in the fall, they’d just let you in anyway. It was stupid, it made existing so much more annoying, but it did define a very important part of our Columbia experience these past four years.

10.. The PrezBo cut-out got stolen: Ok let me explain the cut-outs: the class of 2021 had a livestreamed, online graduation, and to make it feel a bit more “real,” Columbia built a stage in the middle of College Walk and made custom cut-outs of each of the important faculty/admin members who usually would be on the stage. Graduating seniors (with permission) could walk up and take pictures on the stage prior to the commencement ceremony—cute photo opportunity for their graduation pictures and whatnot. Columbia had HIGH levels of security protecting these flimsy mannequins all dressed up in their regalia…that was, until, someone hopped the fence and darted toward PrezBo, scooping him up like a seagull to the French fry in your hand. PrezBo hired more bodyguards for Uncanny Valley after that.

09. Chef Mike’s rise to fame: Before last year, Chef Mike was just kind of there. Sure, he had a small hut in the corner of John Jay where the people made smoothies, and he got some highlights on the CU Dining Instagram. He also gave out t-shirts and laptop stickers with his Bitmoji to students who stayed on campus for the iconic Summer 2021 shortened semester. But, until a certain sub shop came along, Chef Mike was nothing. He had no carpets with his name on it, no grandma to make a recipe out of, no wrapping paper complete with branding, no wide-ranging collection of navy-blue t-shirts (seriously, I have three different Chef Mike-related shirts, and they’re all from different semesters) and no soups! The past four years were defined by this man I’m still not sure exists, and as someone who experienced a pre-Mike hype Columbia, he certainly changed campus culture forever.

08. Someone pooped on the Sundial multiple times: The Spring 2021 semester was a weird time. No one was on campus except the graduating seniors, people who got special permission, or people who already lived in New York. As someone who wasn’t on the field, learning about the atrocities happening there really cemented one impression in my head: the people left behind on campus really were going a certain kind of crazy. Namely, we had to learn via social media someone walked up to the Sundial and took a fat dump on it. Many times. Allegedly in broad daylight. Word on the street is that they’re still pooping on the Sundial to this day…

07. The false bomb threat: Going through this moment was a learning experience for everyone; students had to figure out where they’d hide in case of a security emergency. Admin and security had to learn how to protect and defend such an open campus, a place where literally anyone could get in. Most importantly, parents of students learned what NSFW anime cam girls were! On November 7, 2021, some random person tweeted via burner account that they and someone else planted several bombs on campuses like Columbia, Yale, Brown, and Cornell. However, campus security searched the whole premises and found nothing, rendering this suspicious tweet useless. Then, after a long, nauseating, brain-rotting investigation, Bwog found out that the cause of this false bomb threat was that some random guy became obsessed with an anime cam girl (who was a minor) and joined an online pranking group over Minecraft that made false bomb threats for money or girls’ attention. As the sole commentor on our article put it best: “What the hell?”

06. The Baroness: Ok yeah, first woman president of Columbia University in my lifetime deserves a spot on this list. It’s important to acknowledge incoming President Shafik. Anyway!

05. The Marching Band disbanded (twice): Nobody here knows what it was like to be awoken at 2 am to the worst cover of “Holiday” by Green Day you will ever hear. Nobody here knows about the “Underground Tour” of Columbia, where members of the Columbia University Marching Band gave a satirical tour of campus, complete with bad music and biting remarks about the administration. Nobody here knows that people would actually show up to sports games just to see the Marching Band make fun of themselves and both teams playing, all while wearing silly hats and nice blue and white sweaters. Nobody here knows about Orgo Night, the night before the infamous Orgo final where the band would storm Butler (illegally, as they were banned from doing this in 2016) and play (you guessed it) awful covers of popular songs. The CU Marching Band was undoubtedly an integral part of campus culture before 2020, and it has a super complicated history. Also, they were one of the only excuses to regularly introduce the word “CUM(b)” into sentences in public.

This story begins in September 2019, when the Columbia Athletics department pulled funding for the CU Marching Band. The Band was then prohibited from playing at any Columbia sporting event, and any student who attempted to play an instrument during a game would be sanctioned by the University. For context, the University had a love-hate relationship (mostly hate) with the Band, as the Band repeatedly made fun of the University in public events and were not the best, most respectful representatives of the student body. The University always tried to find ways to limit the presence of the Band—the banning of Orgo Night comes to mind—but, considering so many alumni were Band members or just had fond memories of the Band, it was extremely difficult to dissolve them. However, missing the 2018-2019 deadline to apply to be a recognized student group gave admin a golden opportunity. Students, alumni, and members of the CUMB protested all throughout the months of September and October, aiming to force Columbia to rescind their decision by the time of Homecoming in October. It worked; and the Band would live to see another year…

…and only another year. During the summer of 2020, Columbia Confessions became flooded with bombshell confessions about the darkest side of the Marching Band. Allegations of every sort (stealing, abuse, bullying, bigotry, hazing…you name it) were made against current and past members, asking for a complete overhaul of the Band’s culture and leadership. After several weeks of a seemingly endless stream of confessions, as well as many meetings that explored different options for the group, the CUMB dissolved in September 2020. There were hints students would try to re-start the club as soon as all the members of the original band graduated, and the memories of the band’s horrendous culture would be swept away, but who knows if it will ever come back. Oh well, there are other clubs to join that don’t encourage robbing people for fun.

04. “Unit of Time” email: The one thing that makes me cry even harder than the fact that I’m graduating is that no one after the Class of 2023 will understand the physical, emotional, and mental pain that came from the day PrezBo announced campus would be shutting down for a “unit of time” during the COVID-19 pandemic. For the incoming students: our president, Lee C. Bollinger, loved to send very long, very verbose emails. Throughout the COVID years especially, he just was obsessed with couching upsetting news in long-winded, multi-paragraph statements that only gave Bwog Staff even more questions whenever we had to write an article about them. The “unit of time” email, however, is the most iconic of all emails because it dropped the last day of the Spring 2020 semester, and it officially began the COVID era of our undergraduate experience. It told us that we’d no longer be returning to campus until the end of the pandemic, and that our education plan would be completely uncertain due to all the tragedies and unforeseen circumstances. However, details about the 2020-2021 school year would be revealed to us by July 1, so we would not have to wait long to make our own preparations for housing, academics, and maintaining personal health and safety. (Disclaimer: They did not reveal the plans on July 1, but on July 15. Several “teaser” emails were sent between the May update and the July ones; one encouraged the students to watch the July 3rd premiere of Hamilton on Disney+.) Anyway, even though the admin was human and could not predict the future and/or global tragedies, PrezBo delivered all the sad news in a way that was so laughably vague it made us tear our collective hair out. Take these two iconic paragraphs—they’re two of eight by the way—to get a glimpse of what we, the class year Columbia gave the least shit about during the early stages of the pandemic, had to go through.


03. The SWC Strike of 2021: It’s not every day you can say you went to college during the longest, largest student worker strike in Columbia history. Over 3,000 graduate student workers went on strike for 10 weeks (November–January), going back and forth between Columbia administration for approval on their first worker contract. It was such a long era of our time here—so many twists and turns—but don’t fret! Bwog covered basically all of it, so catch up with us if you’re new here. You most definitely need to know about this moment in history because, Class of 2027, you may run into the next negotiation term!

02. Columbia US News Scandal: Prof. Michael Thaddeus himself said it: no one really cares about ranking. Well, PrezBo and Provost Mary C. Boyce did—as well as super reputable, no-nonsense, completely relevant “news publication” US News—so watching the beef from the sidelines sure entertained us all. Can we also talk about how petty US News was? Like, before the whole “we will not rank Columbia in 2023 due to the fact it did not submit its relevant data on time” thing, they bumped us down to #18 best school! Not an even #10, not a #20…EIGHTEEN. Just enough to be under Cornell (woof) but not enough to be a memorable ranking number. That’s so funny and mean in such a specific way; PrezBo probably had several nightmares about it.

01. “Venmo me for my emotional labor”: All these underclassmen make so many references to this Spec Op-Ed, but none of them were there when it dropped. None of you know what the author of this article was even arguing; turns out the most heinous people on campus were the author’s closest friends for having open and vulnerable conversations with her, which only distracted her from doing her literature homework. It also came out the same week as equally out-of-touch Op-Eds in the student newspapers for UPenn and Dartmouth, where topics such as “Legacy students are the real oppressed minority on campus” were discussed with 100% sincerity. There was bullying on Twitter, retorts with even worse takes, digging up funnier Op-Eds from this author’s repertoire…It’s just a title to you, but it was a whole nightmare of a suitcase to unpack for us. This was THE article of the 2019-2020 year, and it was not safe from our memeing and antics. It was so iconic, that it was referenced in not one, not two, but three years’ rounds of multiple Bwog Senior Wisdoms (strong chance of it returning a fourth year). Tectonic plates shifted.

“The Room Where It Happens” (Stream Hamilton on Disney+ this July 3, 2020) via Bwog Archives