Columbia Daily SpectatorFebruary 28, 2001
Hey Emperor, No Clothes
By Karl Ward
Karl Ward is a Columbia College senior majoring in English and comparative literature.
Tradition Worth Saving Upon hearing of the Administration's new attempts to prevent the Orgo Night tradition from continuing after the fire alarm debacle last term, I must say I am not surprised. I still remember Spring 1999's Orgo Night, where the band proudly declared its presence with ''back despite being enhanced and enlarged to the point of extinction.'' I, like the Cleverest Band in the World (TM), know that the Administration is less concerned with fire laws than they are with criticism. If they were concerned about fire laws at all, they would quit enlarging and enhancing the Economics department onto the radiator and the floor at every lecture. No, I guarantee you that fire laws are not what keeps Dean Yatrakis up at night. Instead, what she and the rest of the Administration are afraid of is honest criticism. Who but CUMB was able to stand up, at the Spring 1999 Orgo Night, and declare the true name of Enlargement and Enhancement? Who else was able to hush our criticism of Lerner Hall's neon by telling us that we should just wait until the ''I Love New York / I Love Newport'' sign was installed? Or, back in 1997, who but CUMB stood up and defended SEAS from the Fu? And sadly, who but CUMB can actually fill a room at a campus social event, without even giving the students free beer? Hell, the wildest Lerner parties never even touch the participation garnered by Orgo Night, and they never will, no matter how much free beer Special Events provides. So, the Administration displays its ineptitude yet again, no surprise there. What is surprising is the extent to which the University is willing to go to suppress this criticism. The University has often whined and complained about lack of alumni support, or inability to foster community in the undergraduate schools, while systematically attacking the only Columbia tradition I know of after almost four years here. My own experience with the Administration's inability to face criticism goes back as far as freshman year, and has continued up to last week. As a freshman, early in my second term, my Carman floor had a meeting with Dean Yatrakis about advice for the second term. A poor unsuspecting floormate asked Yatrakis, ''Is Columbia planning to create an advising system?'' Yatrakis nearly bit our heads off, claiming that we could ask anyone for advice, even her. I tested that advice two weeks later, by emailing her a request for academic advice, and I never got a response. And last week, as Chair of the Columbia ACLU Committee on Disciplinary Procedures, I talked in a panel discussion on due process and fairness problems with disciplinary procedures at Columbia. The panel originally was to include Charlene Allen, director of the Office of Sexual Misconduct Prevention and Education, but she informed me last week that she would not be attending and had never agreed to come. Okay, chalk it up to a misunderstanding on my part. But, the fact is the University ''didn't want to hear a bunch of people trashing the [Sexual Misconduct] Policy.'' They ''didn't want to participate in talks with outsiders.'' They thought ''the discussion would be stacked against them.'' Despite the fact that the panel consisted of a Columbia Law Professor, a parent of a recent Columbia graduate, and a current Columbia senior, the panel was apparently composed of ''outsiders.'' In effect, the University said that they did not want to hear criticism of any kind about a Sexual Misconduct Policy so flawed that national media attention and condemnation has come down hard upon them for six months now. Since the Administration won't talk, I turn to the Marching Band for what I guess is the Administration's real response, which I quote from the ''try to kick the Band out of Butler'' Orgo Night of Fall 2000: ''President George Rupp defended the school's Sexual Misconduct Policy, but when further questioned he admitted that he knew little about the policy, but then claimed that he had read a Virginia Woolf novel at some point and had even thought of attending a showing of the Vagina Monologues.'' Nothing will stop Orgo Night, and nothing will stop criticism of Columbia's flawed and biased disciplinary procedures. I just hope that Columbia does not kill too much of our community trying to suppress honest criticism and academic discussion in the process of trying to stifle these tenets of liberal academic thought. I said that Orgo Night was the only Columbia tradition worth encouraging, and I say that for one reason only: it's clear that frank and engaging academic debate on issues vital to the life of our Alma Mater is already dead to the Administration. Roar, CUMB, roar. I'll keep up the noise on my side.