Earlier this summer, I received an official-looking email from Columbia University. The customary masthead and neat type made me think it was just another email update about campus affairs—maybe Summer Advising Sessions, work-study opportunities, or some sales pitch for a fundraising event. Then the opening words caught my eye: “It is with a mix of emotions, the first of which is a genuine sadness, that I write to let you know…”
My heart stopped. A cramp shot through my stomach and a single thought appeared in my mind, written in the same clear, neat type of the email. They are revoking your acceptance. You don’t get to go to college.
I didn’t know how or why or what I might have done to deserve this. Did I forget to sign my housing occupancy contract? Did I neglect to turn in a financial aid form? Did I—dare I even think the words—put an inappropriate picture on Facebook? It was a surreal experience, a bad dream that I had somehow stumbled into midday. I didn’t know what to do. Shell-shocked, my chest caving in on itself, I forced myself to keep reading.
And then I realized Dean Moody-Adams had resigned, and my heart started again and I was totally fine and went to go get some tea.
Let me explain why I am not quite so cold-blooded as this anecdote suggests. Obviously the resignation of Dean Moody-Adams is an important and controversial event at Columbia, and it means a great many things to a great many people. I know that the implications for the administration, as well as for the actual students are complicated and worthy of much concern. But for me, it was a massive relief. The news of her resignation was the trigger that released all of the sudden horror and anxiety that had sprung up inside of me when I thought I was being kicked out of school. Choosing between the two, I must admit, I would take Moody-Adams’ departure over a revoked admission any day.
And how much did I really know about the woman anyway? She was the dean of the college I would spend four years attending, and also in charge of undergraduate education—something that would figure pretty heavily in my immediate future. But was I aware of any of her individual policies? Did I know why she was hired, what her credentials were? If asked, could I have, in all honesty, told you her first name? I admit, on all counts I proved deficient. But as much as I should and do regret being so ignorant about the giants who bestride the administration offices, I don’t think I’m the only student who doesn’t know very much about the people who run the show at Columbia. Not only that, but I’m not the only student who cares more about my personal college experience than about higher-ups I never meet. These people are abstractions to most of us, shadowy figures whose names appear in newspaper articles and emails, whose voices occasionally leave messages on our phones, and who don’t know us any more than we know them. PrezBo aside, I feel that the phalanx of Columbia administrators are at best distant and aloof when it comes to students—and truth be told, I think many of us on both sides prefer it that way.
I’m sorry Dean Moody-Adams felt the need to resign, and I wish her best of luck in future endeavors. But my regret will mean as much to her as her departure ultimately meant to me—a passing understanding, appreciated and then put to rest. And thinking back to those pangs of fear and that rush of relief, I realize that I don’t regret the trade I made for Moody-Adams: a Lit Hum class, a free pass for the Met, and a community that is worth more to me than a hundred deans.
The author is a Columbia College first-year.