I spent all of this past summer watching Mad Men.
What can I say? I love a good period drama. Mad Men had me enchanted; every night, I would lie in bed, torpid, laptop on my stomach and wineglass in my hand, to watch Don Draper seduce some poor broad onscreen. The ’60s, at least according to Mad Men creator Matthew Weiner, were overrun by pointy brassieres, workplace alcoholics, and cheesy print advertisements—daily inanities that were occasionally interrupted by the assassinations and wartime horror stories that came to define the era.
When we talk about institutional memory at Columbia, so many of our conversations center around big, sweeping changes—the 1968 protests, Columbia’s decision to go coeducational (at last!), the shift of power from one University president to the other. These are the stories dutifully recorded in the rapidly browning pages of Spectators past filed away in the same office I’m writing this letter in.
That’s just the nature of remembering: We forget about the brassieres and the ads while the assassinations and wars are seared into our collective consciousness. Make no mistake: It’s incredibly important to remember Columbia’s watershed moments. But that’s no reason to completely eschew the day-to-day realities of individual Columbia students.
For a long time, I thought the tiny details were lost forever. As it turns out, however, the tiny details are oftentimes the most difficult for Barnard and Columbia alumni to forget. The following six pieces, each written by a Barnard or Columbia graduate, aren’t meant to represent their respective decades wholesale.
Instead, they’re all about the little things.
Editorial Page Editor