Random poles, prospective students, and shrubs are springing up around campus, which can only mean one thing: The end of the semester is nigh, and it’s time to snag your seat in Butler 209, if that’s where you plan to camp out during reading week. The proactive among us are already starting to prepare study guides and cheat sheets for our first exams. Since this column is my last, I’ll use it as a review session of some “Urban Dictionary” key terms that you can be sure will pop up again next semester.
1. Gentrification—The first word that came to mind when I returned to campus this fall after studying abroad in Paris. I found a new Levain Bakery on Frederick Douglass Boulevard and increased summer sublet prices for apartments well north of West 125th Street. As Columbia’s real estate holdings continue to grow farther into Upper Manhattan, this buzzword is used in arguments for and against the expansion.
2. Occupy—Remember when everyone suddenly knew about that little patch of land called Zuccotti Park? The Occupy Wall Street tents may be gone, but let’s hope that the spirit of the movement lives on in the form of more young people taking to the streets when they are moved by important issues. Shopping period next fall could be an ideal time to organize a walkout.
3. School choice—As an increasing number of charter schools open in New York City, with the largest concentration right in our West Harlem neighborhood, one argument in favor of the movement is that these schools provide traditionally underserved populations with more options for where to send children to school. It’s important to weigh both sides of the issue, however, and to question whether all charter schools are necessarily better than the public schools they claim superiority over.
4. Public art—Those unidentifiable sculptures on the median strips of Broadway, the public patios outside office buildings in Midtown, and the High Line are considered examples of art that we can enjoy without entering a museum. They make up part of the city’s effort to beautify public spaces, which, depending on your aesthetic sensibility, you may or may not appreciate. As you ponder what the bronze bird symbolizes, think about the “dirt” that these installations aim to cover up—homelessness, poverty, litter—and question whether they can fix these problems without being accompanied by policy changes.
5. Hegemony—As a political science and Francophone studies major, I use this word so often, and it will be a bittersweet moment when I realize that it doesn’t exist outside the world of academia. If you’re against the use of eminent domain in Manhattanville, feel free to equate Columbia’s expansion with imperialism, and then call the University’s actions “hegemonic.”
6. Obama—Barnard’s 2012 Commencement speaker.
This guide fits on a regulation double-sided, 8 1/2 x 11 piece of paper. One last piece of senior wisdom: Get in line for the printers now.
Jessica Hills is a Barnard College senior majoring in political science and French and Francophone studies. Urban Dictionary runs alternate Fridays.