Each April as we look back on a full year of reporting and writing, the expanse of the landscape of story topics on which our writers have tread always amazes me. This year, the expanse of our journalistic wanderings, both on campus and off, makes me particularly proud.
This year, we turned outward to the neighborhood and scrutinized Columbia’s intransigent influence on it. We learned about rezoning and air space rights and the infrastructural future of Morningside Heights. We thought—a lot—about the way Manhattanville is changing, and delved deeply into the issue of displacement of long-time residents and of businesses alike. We parsed through the Community Benefits Agreement, the document that enshrines Columbia’s commitments to the neighborhood to compensate for its encroachment on Manhattanville, and began to follow streams of funding from the University to some of their manifold end-points.
We walked up and down Broadway many, many times and examined the extent to which the Columbia spaces opening up on 125th street, like the Wallach Art Gallery, belong to the neighborhood, too. Then we walked around Columbia’s Greenmarket and West Harlem’s annual Anti-Gentrification Street Fair and Riverside Church’s Harlem Fine Arts Show and thought about the extent to which those spaces belong to us and how we can make sense of our personal relationship with our neighborhood.
We walked back to campus and examined “space” some more: whether there’s an end in sight to Columbia’s perennial housing problems, whether the big, ugly building at the center of Barnard’s campus (Altschul) will be able to sustain STEM scholarship into the future, and what will happen to the big, ugly building at the center of Columbia’s campus (Uris), once it empties.
We took a close look at the state of student affairs in various pockets of community around campus: We sat in the storied studios of WKCR for two months to understand its modern history. We sat at the back of KCST rehearsals for weeks to understand how a piece of student theatre comes together. We chronicled the creation of an esports team and a women’s wrestling team. We wrote about the cyclical rise and fall of Columbia’s student government election bodies and the rise and fall and rise again of the Special Interest Community system. We wrote—a lot—about the state of activism on our campus: how it found its way into the independent bookstore on 113th, how undergraduates are engaging with the graduate students’ fight to unionize, how activism is evolving.
We asked questions about and launched investigations into Columbia University’s more inscrutable systems, policies, and infrastructures: Why does the difference between a department and a center and an institute matter? How do the University’s libraries keep pace with a constant output of written knowledge? What picture do Public Safety’s Clery Crime Alerts paint of crime at Columbia? How do you fix the broken pipeline at the college of physicians and surgeons? What is enabling sexual harassment in lab settings to persist? What is enabling the mental health crisis among Columbia postdoctoral researchers to continue?
We also turned inward: we thought and wrote about empathy, about intertextuality, about marginalia, and about art hoes. We explored the pressure that being at college puts on our tethers to our hometowns, the experience of watching the Olympics at college, and the endurance of tragedy both here and far from here. We wondered where the birds are, and about ghosts.
Throughout all of this reporting, we sat in on Senate plenaries and SGA meetings and CCSC meetings and Community Board Nine meetings. We trekked to New Jersey to wander around a high-density library stack system and to the Dodge gym pool to conduct a cultural analysis of the “fast” lane. We called up city officials, hunted down alumni, and perched ourselves in front of Butler to interview the steady stream of students going in and out of the building. We had conversations with renowned scientists at shitty metal waiting room tables in Penn Station, with bored neighborhood kids on basketball courts and in pizza joints, with SIC residents on their bedroom floors and at their dinner tables. We spent hours and hours and hours in the archives.
As the semester comes to a close and we reconvene after having traveled far and wide, we emerge with something of a portrait of Columbia and its neighbourhood—fragmented, disparate, but ours and yours. We can only hope that everything we’ve researched, reported, and written helps you engage with it and love it and challenge it like we try to.
See you in four months,
Managing Editor of The Eye
Read Spectator’s full Year in Review here.