He has been called "one hell of a journalist" by Village Voice columnist Nat Hentoff and been harassed in Broadway Hall's elevator by students for comments made in his columns. In his four years at Columbia, Jaime Sneider, CC '02, has become known for his conservative beliefs and opinionated pieces which have appeared in newspapers as diverse as The New York Times, the Daily News, and the New York Sun. Although writing is his passion, Sneider appears bemused when asked what rules he keeps in mind when producing a good editorial. "A point" he said, "is what most journalists should strive for because too few actually make one worth reading."
Sneider's "points" have stirred controversy during his tenure at Columbia, where he has been a pivotal member on the boards of many campus publications inclding Spectator and the Columbia Political Review. Sneider's term as the Editorial Page Editor on the 124th Managing Board of the Spectator led to the creation of one of its most widely read editorial pages in recent years. He claimed he weathered many "crises" during his Spectator term, including editorials that denounced University Professor Edward Said for throwing a rock across the Israel-Lebanon border.
In the move that caused him to come under fire from some campus activists, Sneider was one of the first journalists to criticize the University's revisions to the Sexual Misconduct Policy, prompting Hentoff's effusive praise in a column dating from November 2000. "If I were editor of a newspaper, I'd keep track of Jaime Sneider," wrote Hentoff in the Village Voice.
Sneider has seized on a host of other issues in his pieces, including Mumia Abu-Jamal supporters and anti-death penalty activists for the winter issue of the Columbia Political Review, for which he also served as publisher on the CPU's executive board. In a comment that kept the Political Review's writers laughing for weeks, Sneider answered one staffer's comment on what to write about by jumping out of his chair, eyes wide, quoting former editor of Talk magazine, Tina Brown: "Anything hot! Hot!"
Sneider's conservative tendencies and his propensity to point out the weaker facets of many campus groups earned his Spectator editorial page notoreity and earned Sneider the reputation as a rare outspoken conservative voice at Columbia, a predominantly liberal campus.
Commenting on Columbia's left-wing activists, Sneider characterized them as extreme and says that "They're not interested in reflection or debate," referring to an incident in December when Columbia students harassed former National Review columnist Ann Coulter after a talk at Columbia to illustrate the Columbia student body's distaste for conservatives.
"The reaction [by activists] to conservatives Ö is such that they don't address your ideas so much as dismiss them as conservative or extreme," he said, adding that "I don't think they're examining the issues that they're disucssing."
Sneider brought in many conservative speakers for the CPU, whose non-partisan orientation he feels assists in allowing conservative speakers to be heard by a broader range of students who may not ordinarily attend College Republican events.
"Jamie is often identified as a conservative--a rare quality at Columbia," said Yoni Applebaum, CC '03 and the former General Manager of the CPU. "But he might easily be identified as a committed leader, an incisive thinker, or a true friend--a qualitier rarer still."
While Sneider takes his writing and political opinions seriously, his friends also know him as a witty and humorous individual with a spastic energy that makes him literally jump and gesture vigorously. He is quick to share his opinions about movies. With a self-proclaimed "sappy" love for movies, Sneider said he liked the latest Star Wars installment ("Yoda fights!") and hated Iris ("no plot").
"[Jaime's] irreverent sense of humor never ceases to amaze, and many of his friends have heard it come up over and over in discussions of film, gossip, and in the hours and hours that Jaime spends on the phone daily," Sneider's friend, Rachel Forster, CC '02, said. "He is talented at cheering up his friends, whether it be through leaving ëmotivational voice mail messages' for his freshman floormates or through attempting, however unsuccessfully, to make Jello for a friend in need of a study break."
A native of Scarsdale, N.Y., Sneider will move to Sacramento, Calif., in the next few weeks to take a job as a speechwriter for Republican gubernatorial candidate Bill Simon. Clearing papers and boxing his endless piles of notes on Columbia in his Broadway Hall room, Sneider joked, "In 30 years if you're lucky I will be speaking at the Blue Pencil Dinner," referring to the Spectator's annual fundraising lecture.