Yesterday morning, five Columbia students were arrested on campus for selling cocaine, marijuana, ecstasy, Adderall, and LSD. Over the past few months, undercover officers bought almost $8,000 worth of marijuana, $1,000 each of cocaine and ecstasy, and $440 of LSD from them. The majority of the sales of “Operation Ivy League” took place at Alpha Epsilon Pi, Pi Kappa Alpha, and Psi Upsilon.
Five students woke up in Columbia housing yesterday. Some of them may have woken up this morning on Rikers Island. As much as we feel like college students insulated from everything beyond the 116th Street gates, we are also adults. This happened at Columbia, and it’s a shame that we had to be reminded in such a startling way that Columbia is part of New York City—a city in the real world, with real laws to which society is all too ready to hold us accountable.
But to what extent will we hold each other accountable? Reactions on campus ranged from hysterical to bemused, from saddened and bewildered to self-righteously enraged. The most common and most visceral reaction seems to have less to do with the drug dealing itself and more to do with the stunning invasion of the real world into our collegiate bubble. How do we begin to respond to the situation when the question it raises is what, exactly, just happened?
It is particularly unclear what happened with regards to University involvement. At what point did the administration become aware that this was happening? What would have happened if the University had known about it earlier? Would it still have gone through the NYPD, or would it have dealt with the situation internally?
Moreover, because four of the students involved were members of fraternities, it is worth considering the relationship between Greek life and the University—both its administration and its students.
With respect to the latter: Because this comes shortly after the Barnard Student Government Association’s decision to recognize sororities, it also follows a publicity campaign that focused on the general positivity and empowerment of Greek life. This juxtaposition will surely magnify what is already an inevitable push-back against fraternities and sororities at Columbia. Our notions of what constitutes Greek life here will be called into question. Nevertheless, we must remember that fraternities are composed of many more individuals than the five who were arrested. There will surely be discussion, but we should strive to have conversations that do not reinforce pre-existing divisions on campus.
Where will the University go from here? The answer to that question must address the oversight in place for frat houses. We do not know what the University will do about the drug bust, and we certainly cannot say whether or not it will consider kicking the fraternities off campus, or the extent to which other members of the fraternities were aware that this was happening, or even how any University is expected to proceed in this situation. Stereotypes aside, the relationship between fraternities and the University needs to be re-evaluated, and the University should conduct an investigation independent of the NYPD. We don’t know whether anybody even knew about this, but we do know that this happened in dorm rooms on our campus.
Columbia’s reputation will remain intact. The media attention will fade. These five of our peers will be found guilty or not guilty, but their lives will never be the same. The rest of us will watch this turn from scandal to lore, but we should not forget that it happened. And it happened here. We, as a community, are complicit in this. The actions of these students had wider consequences, but so, too, will whatever steps we take from here. And we need to consider that, and all of the implications thereof, no matter what happens next.