Join Guest Writer Gina Brown for her meditation on the fountains of Low Plaza.

During the day they are unassuming, decorative fountains, placed symmetrically on either side of Alma. Columbians pass right by them, hustling under the scorching sun to make it to their lecture on time. It is hot, the sun is high in the sky. Clouds seem to skirt around Manhattan on these days, offering no reprieve to the poor freshman suffering in unairconditioned dorms. 

It is too hot to pay much mind to these fountains. Even Low Steps are deserted in favor of the temperature-controlled libraries, oases in the desert heat. If you can call Uris Business Library an oasis. It is shopping period, so there’s really no reason to be there. But heat forces us all to make sacrifices, even if it means receiving leering glances at your “suggestive” outfit from the finance bros.

The fountains don’t run much. Like a river, they swell with water, or they dry up, probably to divert water to the perfectly manicured Butler lawns: overwatered so much it defeats the purpose of actually sitting on them unless you wish for a wet splotch on the back of your jeans. 

For some reason, they were running late one Saturday night—strange since there were no prospective Columbia parents to remark on their beauty while touring the school. Instead, the fountains’ admirers were the very students, lured out of their rooms on a hot Saturday night for the promise of alcohol and parties. Shopping week is party week—get it in now before classes get too hard. 

And in this dark night, the students were transformed into wild animals. Swarms of Barnard girls begging for an EC sign-in, a herd of frat boys in nothing but a pair of shorts stopping around in the fountain, a flock of stumbling girls baptizing each other in the water… it goes on. The penis fountains, once laughed at in the light of the sun, become a watering hole for debauchery of the finest kind. The water washes away all of our sins—and as one Sidechat user pointed out, coming away with approximately 75 new diseases. 

The fountains represent Columbia in a way nothing else ever could: cajoling them one minute but secretly becoming enthralled by them the next. Take away all the judgment the daylight brings, and you witness a return to your primal instincts. We certainly don’t agree on anything, but a dip in the penis fountain watering hole will surely give you a new perspective on Columbia life. 

Low Plaza Fountains via Bwarchives