Opinion | Op-eds

How Columbia turned me into a badass

Before I came to Columbia, I was an obese, theater-obsessed, socially awkward penguin. Now I’m fucking James Dean.

You see, it’s really easy to get in trouble at this school: Just act your age. If you partake in any teenage tomfoolery, you’re sure to find yourself detailing to Judicial Affairs and Community Standards, to residential advisors, or to Public Safety officers how you have been a very bad boy.

At this juncture, we’ve run the discourse ragged on Columbia’s War on Fun, a war so pointless you’d think Bush declared it. However, for those of you who were students two years ago, you may remember the giant snowball incident. A group of students, during one of those gigantic blizzards, constructed a snowball to match the size of the storm. Public Safety soon came and shut the festivities down, having the snowball plowed away. These students were not disturbing anybody nor were they under any sort of influence other than that of sheer joy. Is this incessant micro-managing and intrusion on the personal lives of students wholly necessary?

Another time, I witnessed an RA shut down a friend’s party due to noise violation. However, the RA made his rounds too early and, in fact, reported this noise complaint 30 minutes before one was allowed to, according to the “quiet hours” policy. When my friend informed the RA that he would lower the volume, but did not want to kick everyone out so early, the RA, in an overly-brash exercise of his duties, informed the student that he had called Public Safety and had also informed New York Police Department about this violation. This was probably horseshit, considering NYPD does not answer to: “Those damn kids are being too loud.”

You may notice I’m a very angry student. My irascibility, though, is not the product of any personal experience with this institution. Actually, I was inspired to write this article when I saw a perfectly able, young man become unwillingly thrust into an argument with a Public Safety officer. We were studying hard on the fifth floor of Lerner—by “studying,” I mean that he was attentively doing his work while I was munching away on BBQ chips, reveling gleefully in the genius that is South Park. Just then, an unnecessarily angry Public Safety officer dismounts his elevator.

“Building’s going to close in five minutes. You’ve got five minutes before this building closes! Get up! Come on,” states the officer.

“Okay, just—” the student barely utters before,

“Don’t go telling me what time it is. I said get up!” the officer hawked.

“I wasn’t going—”

“Don’t go fighting with me. You’ve got four minutes. You’re wasting my time!”

Defeated, the poor student turns to me, whimpering, “But, I wasn’t going to tell him anything. I was just going to ask what time the building re-opened.”

“I know, dude. They’re dicks. Accept it.” This is the only response I could elicit.

These incidents reflect how Columbia has a funny way of treating its students nowadays. We are just punks. What do twentysomethings know about the world, after all? The only thing Columbia expects from its students is that we keep our shoes polished, our noses clean, and their brochures glossy so the institution can recruit another set of young drones to do its bidding.

I am not entirely discontent with this school by any means. Being a Columbia student has allowed me opportunities not afforded to most young men my age. Columbia offers me substantial financial aid. I just wish that this university wouldn’t infringe on my personal life so often.

I have been in front of the Judicial Affairs and Community Standards board three times and counting merely for drunkenly speaking out against the stupidity of the system to administrators. You would think that the “drunkenly” part would be what they cared about. I assure you this is not the case. I have had to pen more letters of apology to the administration than love notes to potential suitors.

Yet, all the board can ever say to me is, “We’re confounded. Anyone we speak to says you’re a sweet kid who puts others way before himself. Why are you here?”

I don’t know, Columbia. Why don’t you tell me? I'm not a badass—Columbia just brands me as such.

The author is a Columbia College junior majoring in film studies and anthropology.

To respond to this op-ed, or to submit an op-ed, contact opinion@columbiaspectator.com.

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Anonymous posted on

Hi Hector. I would agree with you that Columbia does manage the level of "college-student fun" in order to maintain a certain brand image, but the incidents you bring up seem to be more of an HR issue than a campus strategy one. If you consider the kinds of responsibilities and hours demanded by a considerable amount of positions on campus, (Kitchen, cleaning, night shift public safety) the corresponding unskilled labor force tends to come from select socioeconomic and ethnic groups.

In addition to the fact that unskilled workers have probably lacked access to the educational opportunities we have had access to, they are now put in positions where they're forced to do our bidding. I'm sure the idea, "We are just punks. What do twenty somethings know about the world after all?" runs through their minds. The administration's time would be better spent on monetization after all.

Unfortunately, there also just doesn't seem to be a culture of service in the NYC unskilled workforce. I have also had to utter the words "I know dude. They're dicks. Accept it." on several occasions. As a California native, it's a workplace behavior I'm not used to. I've just had to well, accept it.

Point is, we don't get to party as hard here as they do in USC, but criticism toward the war on fun is more valuable when properly directed. As for your episodes with the Office of Judicial Affairs, you just happened to get unlucky in the RA lottery. I did too, but like the anti-administration, fun loving rebel I am, I walked out unscathed.

Best of luck in all your endeavors.

Acharya

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Anonymous posted on

I don't see how this relates to what he's saying here. He seems more concerned with the administration's unwarranted influence on our personal lives. For the hefty price I pay, I feel this school should work for, not against, me. This isn't about partying, nor should we bring up socioeconomic status. This argument is way out of left field. Also, having met the author in passing, he always seemed extremely respectful to all staff.

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Anonymous posted on

Point taken as to why Public Safety might be brusque (though personally, I've never had that experience) but what is this business about a "culture of service"? I hope you're using hyperbolic language to make a point, because Facilities and Public Safety are NOT here to "do our bidding." They work to keep our living spaces clean and safe, and that is SUCH a freaking privilege that—no matter their attitude—all we have a right to say is "Thank you."

Come to think of it, I'm puzzled as to why you're conflating Dining, Facilities, and Public Safety. Public Safety's behavior during disciplinary situations is one thing, and that kind of abuse of power should be addressed. But don't drag Facilities and Dining into this conversation. The "culture of service" isn't up to your exacting standards and you've "just had to well, accept it"? The people who cook your food, clean your bathroom, and fix your shit when you break it aren't being nice enough to you? Wow. Cry me a river. That must so hard for you.

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yea posted on

Are you kidding me Acharya? How condescending can you be? "there also just doesn't seem to be a culture of service in the NYC unskilled workforce" I am ashamed of you.

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rick131 posted on

Stop blaming other people. College is what you make of it and what you take away. Columbia is an amazing place wih amazing people and tons of opportunity. If you don't have a great time here, it is becasue you put in no effort.

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Anonymous posted on

"I am not entirely discontent with this school by any means. Being a Columbia student has allowed me opportunities not afforded to most young men my age. Columbia offers me substantial financial aid."

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Anonymous posted on

Columbia has carefully engineered a perfect storm (or should I say frankenstorm) of stress and angst -- the administrators understand campus more as a look-but-don't-touch museum rather than a community (i.e. the War on Fun), the university employees who interact with us on a daily basis want absolutely nothing to do with us, the students are incredibly bitter and scathingly critical of one another (if you are anything other than HYPER-politically correct, HYPER-anti-institution, HYPER-bookish -- i.e. a leader or peoples' person of any variety -- you are a dangerous element that warrants absolute condemnation -- just look at what went on with the anti-Fraternity flyers recently passed out), the professors and classwork are difficult to a degree that is honestly ABSURD, and the pipeline mentality into Wall Street, law, med school, etc coats the whole place with an extremely competitive gloss.

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anon posted on

We were also on the list of the happiest students.

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anon posted on

Get over yourself. Yes, the kids are smart here and want to learn and want to succeed. So what? What's wrong with that? We are not a party school. People come here to make something of themselves. Many students here were not born with a silver spoon like many of our peer institutions. We are consistently one of the top four schools in the nation. That's the way it is. If you wanted to be around less intelligent, less competitive people, that is fine; you should have gone somewhere else

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Anonymous posted on

"...We are consistently one of the top four schools in the nation."

No, anon. You claim to go to a top-rated school. But even if you do, you are not the school, you're part of the school's community. You're intelligent enough to appreciate the distinction? Probably not. You once told me that I was "jeal" of CU. I assume you meant jealous, but it was another good example of your inability to understand the difference between an individual and an institution.

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Anonymous posted on

You said something to the tune of "micro managing private life" and I find that an inexplicably well-located phrase to describe the overall 'feeling' that I have about Columbia. I am grateful, amazed at the opportunities, the people, the intellectualism, and culture, yet I feel that I am so constrained in the most idiotic of ways.

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Anonymous posted on

Really loved this piece.

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