Tuesday, April 24th at 10 a.m. marked the initiation of the Columbia Graduate Workers-United Auto Workers (GWC-UAW) strike against the Columbia administration and its refusal to come to the bargaining table....
1968 to Now: Closer relationships lead to more cohesive protesting for graduate and undergraduate students
This story is part of a series on the 1968 protests at Columbia and their present-day implications fifty years later.
Allow me to begin with a provocative quote I found while procrastinating on Facebook by Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen: "There are not a hundred people in America who hate the Catholic Church. There are millions of people who hate what they wrongly believe to be the Catholic Church—which is, of course, quite a different thing." How does this quote strike you? Do you put yourself in the category of the hundred "who hate the Catholic Church"? Do you scratch your head, wondering if your perception of the Catholic Church is the correct one? I think the quote highlights a major issue that ought to be more widely addressed. I am in the rare position of being an active member in both the Columbia Catholic Undergraduates group and InterVarsity Christian Fellowship, which is one of the many Christian groups on campus whose members have mostly Protestant convictions. Thus, I cannot help but feel the tension in considering the contradicting convictions Catholics and Protestants have. Given the plethora of religious organizations at Columbia, this tension only builds. How does one weigh the claims of Christians, Jews, Muslims, Buddhists, Hindus, and atheists, among others? There are three main ways you may respond to this tension (I know because I've responded in all these ways). You may hope it never comes up in conversation, you may seek to discover what is common among all religious traditions (an admirable pursuit), or you may jump to conclusions and strike down the strawman that you raised. All of these ways, however, run the high risk of ignoring or underestimating the real differences that exist among perspectives. Much work has already been done to try and face these differences head-on rather than ignoring them. The Interfaith Collective hosts events geared toward understanding different religions as applied to questions such as social justice, suffering, and the afterlife. ROOTEd is a group that promotes honest and open discussion of controversial issues (a recent topic was abortion). The Veritas Forum is a group dedicated to addressing "life's hardest questions" in religion, politics, and philosophy, inviting all opinions and perspectives to the table with the understanding that those opinions will be respectfully challenged in the search for the truth. However, these organizations serve small groups of students, and the fruits of their labor haven't impacted the student body as a whole. Why is that? Is it a lack of interest among most students about this issue? If so, why don't many people feel the tension that I do surrounding these differences? Is it that our overwhelming workload doesn't give us the time to step back and consider the question of which faith, if any, has it right? Why is this a big deal? Because what we believe has profound implications for our decisions, our identities, and our lives. If the pro-life crowd is correct, we are condoning the mass murder of thousands of human lives every day. If the LGBT community is correct, a huge number of people are being discriminated against. If Jesus actually physically rose from the dead, the eternal state of our souls hangs in the balance. If the atheist is correct in asserting that none of the claims about transcendental entities are true, there are billions of people who are deluded and wasting their time. There is no room for "agree to disagree" because the stakes are too high. Thousands of lives, the civil rights of others, and the eternal states of our souls are all issues of such gravity that it would be unwise to ignore the competing claims that impact them. Many Christians on campus, myself included until recently, have ignored the tension between Catholicism and Protestantism. That is why I am trying to form a niche within the Catholic leadership to be a sort of "interfellowship liaison" wherein I would promote informal and formal dialogue between my peers in each group to truly weigh the differences of our faith traditions (Christians, consider this an open invitation). My claim here, though, is that most Columbia students are ignoring the tension inherent in these questions, whether such tension arises among Christian sects or among perspectives as different as Judaism, Islam, Buddhism, Hinduism, atheism, etc. If you don't feel the tension, I challenge you to seriously reflect on this now that there's a post-midterms lull. College, especially Columbia, is a great place to acknowledge and attempt to resolve the tension, and I wouldn't want anybody to miss out on this opportunity. Ask your friends about their beliefs. Carefully consider yours and why you believe them. Be open to challenges, and be respectful when you challenge others. Face the tension rather than ignoring it. It isn't a comfortable place to be, but since when has comfort trumped lives, civil rights, our souls' eternal states—in a word, truth? The author is a Columbia College junior majoring in biochemistry....
What is it like being a Catholic student at Columbia? What are the challenges faced by the typical Catholic college student? Well, have you seen The Exorcist? The Boondock Saints? It's exactly like that. Just kidding. Seriously, though, in order to answer this question honestly, I need to explain that I was not raised in a prototypical Catholic environment (if such a lifestyle exists). My church had gay and lesbian families attend Sunday services. Before all teenagers were confirmed, they were informed that not believing in Jesus did not make them any less of a Catholic. I was certainty not told that unbelievers were going to hell as a result of their lack of belief. With that being said, I can honestly say that because of Columbia's environment, I am sufficiently prepared to tackle any obstacles put before me, whether academic, social, or spiritual. The Columbia Catholic Undergraduates have made weekly masses and other events available, welcoming, and comfortable, and their meetings give a student some stability in their week. I have grown from an especially clueless first year to a slightly less clueless second-semester first year purely on my faith in myself, in those around me, and in this University. After having had a grueling week of classes, a poor performance in sports, or an embarrassing weekend, I know all of that will be absolved on Sunday evening when I go to mass at St. Paul's Chapel. An added bonus? One can be purified of any crippling guilt from the weight of sins committed during the week. This makes mass a particularly cleansing time in addition to a calming one. The accessibility of the 5 p.m. mass time is so convenient (who wants to wake up for mass with a hangover on Sunday morning?) that I sometimes catch myself looking forward to this respite from college life. And that is the most important component of my life as a Catholic at Columbia: that all of a sudden, I am motivating myself to go to church. The image of my youth, with my mother practically dragging me out of bed and throwing my church clothes at me, coaxing me out of the house solely with the prospect of Dunkin' Donuts after mass, is slowly fading. With the realization that I am independently creating a relationship with God, and that I have been given an opportunity to do so freely at Columbia, I can say how grateful I am to United Campus Ministries for creating such an accepting environment. Now it is the little things that affect me: when I hear to the strikingly beautiful harmonies from the church choir, when I am repeatedly surprised at the large number of students at Communion, waiting in line behind me, or when I listen to the post-mass announcements at St. Paul's, which are comfortingly reminiscent of announcements made after Communion at church at home. Then, I begin to understand. As I listen to the news of the weekly Sunday dinners, of the opportunity to live in Catholic housing as a graduate student in Earl Hall, of the commitment to saying the rosary on a daily basis, or of helping nuns tutor underprivileged children in Harlem, I realize that there are many others whose faith have been fostered at Columbia. With this faith and this strength, they are doing wonderful acts. I am enlightened. Realistically, there may never be such a lively student-run organization like Hillel for Catholics at Columbia. John Jay and Hewitt will probably still serve meat on Fridays during Lent. Catholic students will most likely never be excused from class for Ash Wednesday and must instead simply receive quizzical stares aimed at their foreheads throughout the day. But all of that is fine, for within the silent, welcoming structure of Catholicism, a Columbia student can find all of the strength and support he or she needs. And that is something all Catholic students should know: that they will always have a place at this University, and be supported in all their endeavors. As I am only beginning to realize this for myself, I can now discern why my parents, relatives, and friends all carry on the tradition of forcing their children to go to church on Sunday and attend CCD (Sunday school). The purpose is to equip the children with the faith and courage to meet life's challenges optimistically and with a feeling of support. This way, they can learn to nurture their own faith in a personal and unique way and find the desire to continue the Catholic traditions. We Catholic students are neither faint of heart nor meek in mind, and our faith is divinely resolute. With Columbia continuing to support such devoted individuals, the possibilities for students to grow intellectually and spiritually are practically limitless....