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Helen Yang / Senior Staff Illustrator

The Columbia Daily Spectator is excited to announce the introduction of our new advice column, Ask Alma. Columbia is not only a notoriously unfriendly place (see any of these op-eds), but also a place that does not necessarily teach us how to ask for help. Alma is not a substitute for a mental health professional, emergency resources, or even an extremely devoted friend, but she is a safe space where readers can solicit advice for personal or academic problems big and small. She is, to put it simply, here to help.

Who is Alma? We know she’s the infamous statue outside Low Library, created by sculptor Daniel Chester French in 1903 to welcome guests to Columbia. Philosophically, she represents the “caring mother” of the University, which stands in sharp contrast to Columbia’s now prevailing reputation as a place that does not necessarily take excellent care of its students. For our purposes, Alma is an anonymous fellow student. But just as she is anonymous, you will be, too.

Your identity will not be published, nor any details you prefer to keep private. Are you stressed because you don’t know how to tell your parents you’ve changed your major? Are you trying to find a way to avoid Joe Coffee after the fling you had with a barista? (Spoiler: There are many other coffee shops near campus!) Are you three years into your degree and still feel like you don’t belong here? Have you smuggled a cat into your dorm and worry your best friend, who is a resident adviser, will end up tattling on you? These are all equally valid issues! And they deserve answers! So let’s try something a little different here at Columbia—let’s try sharing our problems and see where that leads us. We’ll meet you there.

Submit your questions to Alma here!

Over and out,

Caitlin McCormick

Columns Deputy Editor

Ask Alma is the advice column of the Columbia Daily Spectator. All questions are answered by Alma. To respond to this piece please email

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