Columbia Daily SpectatorJanuary 16, 2001
By James Thompson
Columbia Daily Spectator
A Night to Forget Orgo Night was a disaster. Columbia's ultimate study break is usually a good time for everyone, a chance for people to come together, forget about studying for an hour, and hear the Marching Band do their thing. There is singing and shouting and climbing on walls, and everybody enjoys themselves. Not this year. This year, the University decided to crack down on Orgo Night, pressuring the band to move the event out of Butler and ultimately limiting the number of students who could attend. The band played to a half-empty reading room, and after a pulled fire alarm and a concert out in the cold, nobody walked away happy. If Columbia continues to crack down, Orgo Night will be dead by the time we graduate. The Band won't be able to draw enough students to Lerner or Van Am Quad, and holding Orgo Night in Butler but capping the number of students who can see it defeats the purpose of having a unifying campus event. Without the unruly spirit that makes Orgo Night what it is, the band will not be able to draw students away from studying, and a Columbia tradition will simply wither away. That is something that Columbia cannot afford to have happen. In a city where it's easy to feel isolated and a University without much social cohesion, Orgo Night is an event that brings hundreds of students together to have fun, celebrate Columbia, and spit in the face of finals. For a brief moment, Columbia is a community instead of a place where students live and take classes. It's the sort of connection that the University feels is lacking at Columbia, the sort of thing that multimillion dollar projects like Lerner Hall and the Living and Learning Center are aimed at fostering. It may seem to administrators as if the band's criticism and the students climbing on bookshelves are anti-Columbia, but the students chanting ''CC '01'' and singing ''Roar, Lions, Roar'' would tell them otherwise. The truth is that Columbia students (and New Yorkers in general) complain about the things we care about. We bitch because we love. The students who complain about Lion's Court or the Living and Learning Center are students who care about the place in which they live and go to school. We hear a lot about Columbia's problems with alumni loyalty, and how the University's treatment of its students years ago is hurting the University now. If loyalty to the University is the issue, the University needs to recognize that Orgo Night is probably a student's most significant moment of connection to Columbia as an institution outside of graduation, and that the Administration's shutting it down will only deepen the impression of the Administration as being monolithic and uncaring. For Columbia to stifle or end Orgo Night is for Columbia to shoot itself in the foot. And let's not pretend that Columbia isn't making the decision. Despite the University's protestations about the fire codes, the truth is that the University chooses whether to enforce them. Places smaller than the Butler reading room get overcrowded all the time--Carman elevators, or John Jay lounge on lottery day--and the University doesn't limit the crowd. Concerns about damage to the library are overblown, and as far as safety risks go, climbing onto a windowsill is not exactly in the same league as building a four story bonfire, or even running a mile naked on the first day of snow. Has anyone ever even scraped an elbow? If the Administration is truly concerned with doing the right thing for Columbia, it will let this semester's Orgo Night go on the way it has for years: in Butler Library, and everyone who wants to come will be able to get in. Sure, it may get rowdy and crowded, and there may even be illicit alcohol there, but the University ought to realize that Orgo Night created the sort of Columbia community that can't be bought, even with new student centers, residence halls, and living communities. It's also not the sort of community that can come about in controlled conditions, with students gathering when and where Columbia tells them to. Orgo Night is one of the few times that Columbia comes together as a community, and neither the students nor the institution will benefit if it dies out. Columbia should let it live.