Columbia Daily Spectator                      January 16, 2001  

OPINION

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.