Columbia Daily Spectator                      February 28, 2001  

OPINION

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.