Columbia students enter campus free, but everywhere they are in chains. A cursory glance at the contents of Columbia-related Facebook groups will convince the reader that Columbia is little more than a glorified Hanwell. Op-eds in Spectator dissect the myriad of ways in which Columbia’s culture and administration actively harm students. And, for some reason, many of us revel in this. While discussing the prompt with a number of my fellow panelists, I was astonished by their fervent defense of “negative school spirit”—the unifying force of mass commiseration.

As an Orthodox Jew, I find many students’ embrace of anti-Columbia spirit perplexing. Upon the setting of the sun on Friday evening until dusk the next day, Columbia’s Orthodox community will not be found on the ramps of Lerner participating in club activities, nor will its members be counted among the many students attending the school-wide events that inevitably occur on weekends. Our weekend is spent in prayer, song, and ritual meal. Prevented by my observance of the Sabbath from partaking in the celebratory energy of Homecoming or the Dionysian rush of Bacchanal, I cherish the few opportunities afforded to me to bear the white and blue with pride. Tree Lighting, Orgo Night, even primal scream: these events have provided me with some of my fondest moments at Columbia.

To those unencumbered by biblical restriction, Columbia truly seems to offer more than adequate opportunity to share in a spirited community.

Of course, as my Discourse & Debate colleagues note, maintaining a sense of pride in our community and school does not preclude criticizing it. Indeed, love and criticism maintain an inexorable link—we critique the things we love most. Nevertheless, criticism ceases to be of the patriotic form when it assumes the sole expression of a relationship. Mediums such as columbia buy sell memes, which peddles in a particularly noxious brand of stress-culture glorification, provide a poor replacement for the positive manifestations of school spirit that exist at other colleges.

Why does buy sell memes’ anti-Columbia spirit possess such purchase over our community? A reading from Contemporary Civilization offers us a plausible explanation. In On the Genealogy of Morals, Nietzsche remarks that people “will rather will nothingness than not will.” Profound, surely, but unintelligible. What does he mean? Human beings crave freedom and creativity. The vast majority is incapable of willing true greatness, and so people transform their own degenerate state into an ideal. Unable to will positive creative things, they will their own deprecation. Human beings, in Nietzsche’s view, often choose suffering and self-abnegation as a means of demonstrating, paradoxically, their vitality through the simple exercise of their will.

Columbia’s campus is particularly suited for the spread of negative school spirit. Situated in the urban expanses of Manhattan, with its looming skyscrapers, intolerably mathematical grid design, and faceless mass of residents, the city is a breeding ground for anomie. No doubt, Columbia’s intensive courseload only exacerbates this effect. Memelords rise to prominence by selling students a fantasy, promising them a faux antidote to their despair in the form of a perverse celebration of their own suffering.

We only fool ourselves by denying that Columbia’s mental health problem isn’t worsened by this embrace of stress culture. The pessimist asserts, “Eat, drink, and be merry, for tomorrow we shall die.” But impending death is not at all why we engage in school spirit. We partake in such elemental forms of revelry as wine and meat in concert with experiencing eternity; we eat and drink in community, as the rightful sons and daughter of alma mater. Neither the dead nor the dying celebrate.

If Columbians wish to dance in the moonlight, they ought to take part in our vibrant traditions—transcending the boundaries of time—centered around (paradoxically) ancient texts, rituals of yore, and campus myths.

Columbia students enter campus free, but everywhere they are in chains. A cursory glance at the contents of Columbia-related Facebook groups will convince the reader that Columbia is little more than a glorified Hanwell. Op-eds in Spectator dissect the myriad of ways in which Columbia’s culture and administration actively harm students. And, for some reason, many of us revel in this. While discussing the prompt with a number of my fellow panelists, I was astonished by their fervent defense of “negative school spirit”—the unifying force of mass commiseration.

As an Orthodox Jew, I find many students’ embrace of anti-Columbia spirit perplexing. Upon the setting of the sun on Friday evening until dusk the next day, Columbia’s Orthodox community will not be found on the ramps of Lerner participating in club activities, nor will its members be counted among the many students attending the school-wide events that inevitably occur on weekends. Our weekend is spent in prayer, song, and ritual meal. Prevented by my observance of the Sabbath from partaking in the celebratory energy of Homecoming or the Dionysian rush of Bacchanal, I cherish the few opportunities afforded to me to bear the white and blue with pride. Tree Lighting, Orgo Night, even primal scream: these events have provided me with some of my fondest moments at Columbia.

To those unencumbered by biblical restriction, Columbia truly seems to offer more than adequate opportunity to share in a spirited community.

Benjamin Apfel is a senior studying philosophy at Columbia College. Before arriving at Columbia, he spent a year in an ultra-Orthodox seminary in Jerusalem where he studied Talmudic texts in Yiddish.

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By BENJAMIN APFEL
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Alison Li / Staff Illustrator

Discourse & Debate: Does Columbia have school spirit?

Columbia students often rally around negative aspects of student life—a (historically) losing football team, the war on fun, our inadequate mental health culture—and many of the traditions fostered 50 years ago no longer exist. Does Columbia have school spirit?

Like the other Ivies, Columbia has always been associated with the wealthy. Because of this, many of the traditions that Columbia holds dear cater to the likes and desires of this particular class. Orgo Night was probably a lot funnier when the band told its jokes about marginalized groups to a homogenous crowd of men who did not take them to heart. Football was the shining emblem of intercollegiate rivalry that brought the campus together right in front of Butler. And tearing down the gates in front of Barnard must have been a real hoot.

But as the University changed over the years and the student body began to diversify, traditions and conventional shows of school spirit began to evolve as well. The Core, one of the longest lasting Columbian traditions, has found a way of contradicting itself and fueling a new type of school spirit. Students are taught in the Core to think critically about what they read and how they can build on those ideas—and that exact line of thinking is what helps students critique the effectiveness of the Core, the football team, and other rituals at this institution. In a paradoxical way, the protests against Orgo Night and the running jokes about our football team have brought the student body together and created a new form of school spirit that critiques the conventional ideas of a typical college campus.

When somestudents protested Orgo Night, others saw them as lacking school spirit and perpetuating the war on fun, but I believe that there is nothing more spirited than wanting your school to be accommodating and inclusive. Just because a tradition has been around for years does not mean that it is beneficial to the whole student body. Every generation that has gone through Columbia has changed or altered the University in a way that fits with its social trends, and sometimes that means changing or updating traditions.

Personally, I knew that I did not want to come to a school that was dominated by blind school spirit. I have never really been a fan of the large colleges that revolve around football, secret societies, or drinking parties, and I think that is why Columbia was such a perfect fit for me. The school spirit that Columbia students show is genuine because it is grounded in what the students want.

The cynicism that prevails around campus is, in its own odd way, a true form of fellowship. If we do not like something happening on campus, we are vocal about it, whether through op-eds, protests, or class discussions. You could say that protesting is one of the most Columbian things a student can do here. The newer generations of students refuse to be complacent in the face of traditions that were not created for them in the first place or no longer hold a personal connection. We as Columbia students would not try to change or make fun of this institution if we did not want it to get better. While other college students mindlessly cheer on their schools, we show school spirit through our desire for improvement.

Like the other Ivies, Columbia has always been associated with the wealthy. Because of this, many of the traditions that Columbia holds dear cater to the likes and desires of this particular class. Orgo Night was probably a lot funnier when the band told its jokes about marginalized groups to a homogenous crowd of men who did not take them to heart. Football was the shining emblem of intercollegiate rivalry that brought the campus together right in front of Butler. And tearing down the gates in front of Barnard must have been a real hoot.

But as the University changed over the years and the student body began to diversify, traditions and conventional shows of school spirit began to evolve as well. The Core, one of the longest lasting Columbian traditions, has found a way of contradicting itself and fueling a new type of school spirit. Students are taught in the Core to think critically about what they read and how they can build on those ideas—and that exact line of thinking is what helps students critique the effectiveness of the Core, the football team, and other rituals at this institution. In a paradoxical way, the protests against Orgo Night and the running jokes about our football team have brought the student body together and created a new form of school spirit that critiques the conventional ideas of a typical college campus.

When somestudents protested Orgo Night, others saw them as lacking school spirit and perpetuating the war on fun, but I believe that there is nothing more spirited than wanting your school to be accommodating and inclusive. Just because a tradition has been around for years does not mean that it is beneficial to the whole student body. Every generation that has gone through Columbia has changed or altered the University in a way that fits with its social trends, and sometimes that means changing or updating traditions.

Elise Fuller is a junior in Columbia College majoring in anthropology. She serves as the inclusion and equity representative for CCSC and the campus liaison for BSO. You can always find her in Café East discussing the nuances and diversity of bubble tea flavors.

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By ELISE FULLER
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When the brothers of the Ohio State University Alpha Gamma Sigma chapter paint their faces and strip off their shirts and destroy five kegs of beer in support of their football team, is it due to their unshakable conviction that the Buckeyes stand unparalleled in skill, dedication, and might? What of the 22 train cars that assemble for an annual University of South Carolina tailgate tradition? Do these “Cockabooses”— USC’s mascot is Cocky the Gamecock—symbolize the school’s pride in the high volume of academic research it outputs as an intellectual powerhouse? What about when over 100,000 Penn State fans congregate for the largest tailgate in the country? Perhaps they would all contend that the Keystone State (that’s a double entendre), host to the original Constitutional Convention, among other significances, ought to be considered the greatest in the nation, and it is this that galvanizes their pride in the state flagship university. And yet, do not these spirited fans, like most college students and alumni, owe their respective affiliations to completely random and arbitrary sociological and geographical variables?

Maybe they’re all crazy. Or maybe that’s just the point of school spirit. The way I see it, the defining characteristic of school spirit is absolute irrationality. And, in this way, Columbia will have none of it. Indeed, concerning athletic competition and everything beyond, Columbia takes its fixation on details nearly to the point of neurosis. That is, few aspects of Columbia are without reason, intention, or critique.

When Baker Field reached an unprecedented 10 percent of maximum capacity at the homecoming game this year, it owed nil to conventional school spirit. If it had, fans would have attended whether the team flunked or flourished. Today, Columbia at least appears to finally possess a modicum of school spirit not because we unconditionally love Alma Mater, nor even because our team’s skill is objectively outstanding, but because we are witnessing a resurrection only the most chiliastic disciple of the Lion could have anticipated. It is the sheer hilarity of this newfound domination that, quite rationally, rouses Columbia to new heights of animation.

More generally, critical Columbia students have ruthlessly demanded justice from their administration (and rightly so). The 1968 protests, exceptional among peer institutions, embody Columbia students’ near-militant punctiliousness. Since then, my peers continue to protest in the spirit of 1968, and take great pride in having toppedthe Princeton Review’s rankings as the most politically active student body. Today, nearly every action taken by the administration continues to incite excoriation from the student body.

The scrupulous ethos of Columbia pervades, too, the less social features of the University. For example, most students choosing to attend Yale or Princeton do so not out of their excitement at the prospects of spending four years in New Haven or a New Jersey suburb—they do so in spite of such settings. But Columbia’s location is quite intentional; when students choose to attend Columbia, they invariably take into rational account its New York City location. It’s even in the name.

Even the campus architecture demonstrates intentionality. Columbia’s Morningside Heights campus exhibits the late Victorian ideal of a “City Beautiful,” each edifice carefully designed and Cartesianally placed in relation to one another in pursuit of a beaux arts grandiosity. In contrast, the layout of other college campuses might be described as “gothic sprawl.”

But perhaps no better feature epitomizes Columbia students’ fastidiousness than WikiCU, a crowd-sourced chronicle of Columbia kvetching, documenting everything Columbia from the 118th Street coffee cart, to Bill Kalfass, CC ’37, to housing strategies (all provided with droll commentary). No comparable university possesses a similar site.

Columbia has school pride—about this there is no doubt. But it is unlike most other school spirit. Columbians take pride in our school not simply because it is our school but because, every so often, having inspected the details, we think our school merits some pride.

When the brothers of the Ohio State University Alpha Gamma Sigma chapter paint their faces and strip off their shirts and destroy five kegs of beer in support of their football team, is it due to their unshakable conviction that the Buckeyes stand unparalleled in skill, dedication, and might? What of the 22 train cars that assemble for an annual University of South Carolina tailgate tradition? Do these “Cockabooses”— USC’s mascot is Cocky the Gamecock—symbolize the school’s pride in the high volume of academic research it outputs as an intellectual powerhouse? What about when over 100,000 Penn State fans congregate for the largest tailgate in the country? Perhaps they would all contend that the Keystone State (that’s a double entendre), host to the original Constitutional Convention, among other significances, ought to be considered the greatest in the nation, and it is this that galvanizes their pride in the state flagship university. And yet, do not these spirited fans, like most college students and alumni, owe their respective affiliations to completely random and arbitrary sociological and geographical variables?

Maybe they’re all crazy. Or maybe that’s just the point of school spirit. The way I see it, the defining characteristic of school spirit is absolute irrationality. And, in this way, Columbia will have none of it. Indeed, concerning athletic competition and everything beyond, Columbia takes its fixation on details nearly to the point of neurosis. That is, few aspects of Columbia are without reason, intention, or critique.

Joseph Siegel is a sophomore in Columbia College studying philosophy and economics. If what you read of his today makes you at all angry, please be sure to avoid directing feedback to any Joseph Siegals, Seigels, or Spiegels.

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By JOSEPH SIEGEL

When you live just an hour away from the University of Michigan, you inevitably get a taste for what fanatical attachment to a school can look like. The Michigan fanbase is so rabid that when one football player made a dumb blunder during the rivalry game with Michigan State, he had to take a break from school because of all the threats he received. Alumni plan their years around the homecoming game and proudly display flags on their lawns. Current students are constantly strutting in their maize and blue, and there is a true sense of pride associated with being a Michigan student.

When I accepted my place at Columbia, it was with a tinge of regret, as I knew that I wasn’t going to a place that would inspire such devotion. In fact, it seemed as if I had chosen a place completely devoid of collegiate athletics, with the only thing inciting genuine feeling across the student body being our criticism of the administration. Only with time was I able to appreciate this about Columbia.

No, Columbia is not the sort place where people paint their faces and gladly pack into the student section every weekend, but do we have to be? Many traditions typically associated with “college spirit” are also associated with heavy drinking, glorification of traditional notions of masculinity, and a mass of people thinking the same things. While this football season’s miraculous winning streak for Columbia has shown college sports can bring us together, we shouldn’t be fooled into thinking that this is the only college experience worth having.

Columbia is a place where you carve out your own sense of community and form a bond with the school that is highly personal and thus deeper. The communities that I hold dearest to me have been my two best friends, my friends from Carman 6, the people from every show I work on, my pre-law board, and my sorority family. Each is relatively small and rarely overlaps with the others, but allows me to connect with people for different reasons and thus express every facet of myself. My sense of school spirit comes from the fact that I chose to be in a place that caters to me as an individual.

It is not like there aren’t collective experiences to be had here. When I look back on my Columbia experience, I will have equally fond memories of watching my XMAS! cast performing at tree lighting ceremony and the delirious morning of Bacchanal. But at each of these events, I tend to feel closer to the friends I went with than to some vague notion of an abstract Columbia community.

It is impossible to ignore that Columbia, for many, can feel like an isolating, lonely place. Add to this a workload that ranges from grueling to impossible most days, and it can be easy to become discouraged when there is no overarching community that provides a sense of home. If you don’t quickly find a support system that works for you—good friends, a significant other, or at times a counselor—it can feel like a dark place. And Columbia definitely does have to do better at helping people find their place.

But the Columbia experience is like me as a person: multifaceted and fiercely individual. This means that here, school spirit can be more niche, but I think it brings out a resourcefulness that can lead to stronger connections. Columbia breeds an individualism that can be empowering, and our community seeks to refine and shape the individuals within it, rather than linking us together through a generic experience.

When you live just an hour away from the University of Michigan, you inevitably get a taste for what fanatical attachment to a school can look like. The Michigan fanbase is so rabid that when one football player made a dumb blunder during the rivalry game with Michigan State, he had to take a break from school because of all the threats he received. Alumni plan their years around the homecoming game and proudly display flags on their lawns. Current students are constantly strutting in their maize and blue, and there is a true sense of pride associated with being a Michigan student.

When I accepted my place at Columbia, it was with a tinge of regret, as I knew that I wasn’t going to a place that would inspire such devotion. In fact, it seemed as if I had chosen a place completely devoid of collegiate athletics, with the only thing inciting genuine feeling across the student body being our criticism of the administration. Only with time was I able to appreciate this about Columbia.

Ayo Osobamiro is a senior in Columbia College disappointing her parents by studying history and French literature. You can usually find her on campus schlepping various items for the student productions she works on, cracking cheesy jokes on her URC tours, or binge watching reality TV in Butler.

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By AYO OSOBAMIRO

After hours in Butler, trying desperately to put together an Art Hum paper that’s due in the morning, do you still remember that the people sitting around you are some of the brightest minds of your generation?

When speaking with your professors at office hours, do you ever think about how many people have read their books and would kill to be seated where you are currently?

As you make your way down College Walk on your way to class, do you feel like a Columbia student?

If I’m being honest, I don’t really think about these things all that often, and if I had to guess, I’d say the same for most students here. Students are wary to speak to the incredible facilities, faculty, and opportunities we are privy to during our time here. This may seem like a lack of gratitude, but my view says the opposite. At the point where the New York Times and the Huffington Post regularly sing your praises, it seems less necessary to do it on your own. You could go as far as to call it a defense against condescension; I can tell you personally that I rarely speak to Columbia’s numerous advantages for fear of sounding braggadocious.

There are small points of contact with others, though. They may not seem like much, but they add up. Personally, I feel a sense of school spirit whenever I get into a heated debate over John Jay being the superior dining option, or about the tree lighting ceremony on College Walk. But I feel most connected with others when talking about the changes that we could make.

There is something to be said of critique as a form of school spirit. The fact that we so often discuss what the University could be doing better shows that we are all invested in this institution, that we recognize its benefits, that we want it to be doing more of the good which it does already. Critique shows that you care—if we weren’t invested, we couldn’t care less what the University did. So I’m resistant to the idea that Columbians have no school spirit, as evidenced by a lack of traditional fervor. Groupthink is not an integral part of spirit.

We are the most well-suited group to speak to the inadequacies of the administration, which rarely get spoken about in any official capacity—Columbia is very willing to share the milestones it has reached in terms of diversity but much less likely to explain the shortcomings of how we discuss mental health and sexual assault on campus. We could even say that we are obligated as students to point out the inequities and inefficiencies that we see on campus, since we know the University won’t speak to them officially.

Pride—security in the current state of affairs, considering them to be the right ones—is not inherently valuable, though it has its benefits. The same is true of ambition—disdain for the current state of affairs, pursuing the “right” ones at all cost. We cannot pursue either of these in absolute forms: pride gives rise to complacency, and ambition calls for progress unchecked. What we ought to search for is the mean between the two, a virtue that allows us enough security to recognize the good that we are doing already, but still shows us there is more to do. If this is school spirit, then Columbia surely has it. Roar, Lion, roar.

After hours in Butler, trying desperately to put together an Art Hum paper that’s due in the morning, do you still remember that the people sitting around you are some of the brightest minds of your generation?

When speaking with your professors at office hours, do you ever think about how many people have read their books and would kill to be seated where you are currently?

Dan Driscoll is a Columbia College sophomore studying philosophy and English. His interests include professional baseball, Kurt Vonnegut, and the use of the semicolon. Message him on Facebook if you’re interested in volunteering with Project for the Homeless.

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By DAN DRISCOLL

To respond to this installment of Discourse & Debate, or to submit an op-ed, contact opinion@columbiaspectator.com.

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