Let me start off by saying that I get it. Columbia students are busy people. The person impatiently tapping his feet while waiting in line at Ferris probably has a class starting in ten minutes and the student who sweeps through the lounge and ignores your greeting is most likely running late for an interview.
We all deserve the benefit of the doubt. The rude behavior that you unfortunately have had to experience may just be the thoughtless action of a mostly innocent, highly frazzled individual. By no means should you subject the poor fellow who happened not to hear your chirpy "good morning" to a tirade about how rude it is to ignore someone.
After the fifth door slammed in my face over the course of one day, however, I thought the time had come for our community to be reminded that politeness, though not a virtue, is pretty damn important.
As members of the Columbia community, we have plenty on our plate. According to prospective students, all of us are genii who will go on to cure cancer, be Supreme Court justices, and, depending on whom you ask, either courageously save the world or watch it be consumed by climate change while we let out evil cackles and roll in our piles of money. However, in the middle of all of our busy, busy lives, I am sure that we can find the time to extend a little politeness to peers, professors, and staff alike.
Contrary to what appears to be popular belief around here, good manners don't cost anything. So no, holding the door open for five extra seconds so that the guy juggling three coffees can go about his day without receiving a face full of door will not cause you to spontaneously lose that coveted internship, or spot on the executive board, or the meager credit score you have managed to build.
It seems to me that many of us are so hell-bent on achieving academic excellence, joining the right clubs, and generally cramming as much as possible into our days that we have lost sight of our basic decency. We are so wrapped up in the haze of our own stress that we often do not even pause to think of others. A simple act of politeness can cheer someone up (well, at least it has cheered me up), while a moment of rudeness, no matter the intent, can hurt people.
To be fair, many people I have met here have been nice and most have been at least civil. But I have seen too many cases of flat out rude behavior to let it slide (yes, by penning this op-ed, I am emulating the League of Nations by selecting public expression of disapproval as my weapon of choice).
By blatantly prioritizing saving ourselves a few seconds over the feelings of all other individuals in the area, we contribute to the dog-eat-dog stress culture that is already too prevalent on campus. We are members of the same community and all have our own struggles. By being patient and polite when we can physically and mentally manage to do so, we can create a culture where we, too, will receive that treatment on our down days. It only makes sense to do a little something that makes everyone better off in the long run.
So the next time you enter a residential hall, please don't just throw your card at the public safety officer behind the desk—greet them, or at least find it within your cold, dead hearts to say thank you. If someone enters the elevator with their hands full, offer to press the button for them (unless they're going to the fifth floor of John Jay, in which case you give the best looks of silent judgment you can muster). If you run into someone in Ferris and spill their food, at least offer to grab tissues. In fact, just use a simple rule: Ask yourself what that asshole who built a mini-house out of a Butler desk would do and then do the exact opposite.
I'm going to end this article by taking the opportunity to extend my deepest gratitude to all the polite souls who I know exist on this campus—apologies if you have had to unnecessarily sit through this piece—and encouraging the rest to follow their example of always holding the door open, greeting those around them with socially accepted noises, and generally not being asshats.
The author is a Columbia College first-year with prospective majors in economics and political science.
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