Columbia Spectator

If you want to peruse any records associated with your admission to Columbia University, you’ll be quite limited in what you receive.

What Columbia junior Frederic Enea got back when he made a request to do just that included his original college application and an email sent to the school by his high school guidance counselor, but “any documents created or comments made by Columbia admissions officers were missing from his file.”

This is policy, it seems.

The Columbia Daily Spectator reports:

Dean of Undergraduate Admissions Jessica Marinaccio said that in the admissions process, admissions officers create a written assessment of the student’s application called a “reader rating sheet.” That document is shared with the admissions committee, which may add comments.

“We have a document retention policy here at Columbia that has been in place for a little while,” Marinaccio said. “And part of that document retention policy is that we do delete, we remove those reader rating sheets before a student matriculates.”

According to Marinaccio, those records are destroyed to provide students with a clean slate when they begin college.

“If we feel they’re going to be good fits here and they’re admissible and they make the choice to come, [their reader rating sheets] shouldn’t necessarily follow them throughout their entire career here,” Marinaccio said.

Columbia is the latest institution known to liquidate such documents.

Stanford began doing so shortly after the anonymous group Fountain Hopper “sent emails to its subscribers encouraging them to request access to their admissions records.”

Yale has eliminated such records, too.

The group Students for Fair Admissions has sent letters to all Ivy League schools but Harvard (with whom it’s currently involved in litigation) requesting they retain their admissions archives. SFA says “schools should not be able to ‘destroy evidence essential to judicial review of its admissions policies,’ especially if such policies were racially discriminatory.”

Unfortunately, currently there is nothing in the Family Education Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) that prevents universities from extinguishing student admissions forms.

NOTE: This story has been updated to correct the year of student Frederic Enea, and to note that his college application and counselor email were not the exclusive contents of what he received from Admissions.

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A group of some 220 students at Barnard College want the school to require a “more diverse and critical first-year curriculum.”

The petitioners, led by senior Claire Bouchard, say “the current curriculum ignores marginalized perspectives, does not provide enough opportunity to question the academic canon, should provide a better understanding of the construction of identities, and should take a more global approach.”

Bouchard adds that “[t]here was a need to incorporate some sort of critical thought and incorporate the ability to contextualize what you’re looking at, and being able to analyze the assumptions that go behind the works you’re looking at.”

Sounds as if either Barnard isn’t doing its job, or it’s just more of the silly “I can’t relate” message all too prevalent at colleges today.

It appears the latter is more likely.

The Columbia Daily Spectator reports:

“We read a piece about one Korean princess and that was it. We didn’t read any marginalized voices, except Juana Iné de la Cruz. Everything else was just European, Western, white women or men,” [student Ami] Sosa said. “Including other voices would be really beneficial to see other points of view and different versions of feminism.”

“As a woman of color, I have difficulty identifying with some of the reading material. First-year English options are limited in many ways. The topics are geared and related to the white man or white woman, and people of color have little to no voice, and if we are given a voice it is most likely going to be through a white man’s perspective,” [student Lauren] Babb said.

Fortunately, some students feel it’s worthy to maintain course material on Western canon:

Naina Sahrawat, BC ’18, who is currently taking the first-year seminar Legacy of the Mediterranean, said she worried that veering away from teaching the Western canon would inadequately prepare students for the world.

“If we suddenly changed the canon to include only books from Zora Neale Hurston, Margaret Mead, and Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, and you went out into the world and said, ‘Hey, look at this canon I know,’ people would say, ‘That’s nice, but there’s no frame of reference for it,’” Sahrawat said.

Sahrawat says the petition is “irresponsible” due to it being too vague with no way to implement it.

Bouchard counters that the vagueness is purposeful.

“What we intend to set forward are learning objectives simply because we don’t know what it takes to set a professor’s curriculum. We don’t believe it’s our place to tell our professor how to teach a class.”

Regarding the desired change, she adds that “everyone knows it’s necessary.”

Indeed? 220 people is “everyone?”

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Over 450 Columbia students sent school administrators a “letter of noncompliance” regarding the school’s “sexual respect” program — which all students were to have completed by March 13.

Students complained that the program “did not address failures in the University’s sexual assault policy and was unclear in its overall purpose.”

A day before the official due date for completion, the Columbia Daily Spectator had detailed the frustration many had with the new mandate.

This latest turn of events, however, has activists focused more on the (supposed) shortcomings of the college’s sexual assault policies, rather than the hassles many had experienced in attempting to fulfill the obligation.

The Spectator reports:

“We’re being asked to participate in these requirements by a University administration that has not acknowledged that it’s under federal investigation, let alone apologized for the failings for which it’s under investigation,” Alix Rule, a sociology Ph.D. student in the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences who drafted the letter with other students in her department, said.

“Overall, it puts responsibility on the individuals, but it takes away responsibility from the institution,” Olivia Nicol, a sociology Ph.D. student in GSAS who helped draft the letter, said. “The problem is that Columbia has not recognized clearly what happened, logically publicized it, or admitted any guilt.”

Andrea Crow, an English and comparative literature Ph.D. student in GSAS, said she signed the petition because she saw the program and its use of phrases such as “sexual respect” as a way of sweeping existing issues under the rug.

Rule added that “The people who signed on are not lazy or evading the issue. They [administrators] should regard our non-participation as the conscientious expression of our position on the institutional handling of the issue of sexual assault. We’re disappointed.”

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A month ago Columbia University revealed its “sexual respect” education program — a requirement designed “to reinforce that community citizenship is a critical part of being a Columbia student at any school, and that sexual respect is integral to what it means to be a member of this community.”

There are several ways for students to meet the requirement, even including submitting an art piece.

But it seems the program wasn’t put together very well, which is bad thing considering students were to have completed it by yesterday.

The Columbia Daily Spectator reports that “a number of issues have surfaced with the program’s implementation, from technical difficulties with signing up for workshops to student complaints about the content of some workshop options.”

For example, eight survivors of sexual assault had showed up for a workshop back on February 25, only no one from the university was there to run it.

Some other concerns are more of the PC variety: Some students of the “working group” that helped put together the program are upset that an option of watching a video and “reflecting” on it was added early this year:

“The content being discussed in these workshops and in these videos and these reflections is so specific and so complicated, and people will have so many misconceptions about that going in that students will benefit most from a workshop,” working group member Abby Porter, CC ’17, said.

In other words, “we’re upset because the video option doesn’t allow us to ‘re-educate’ students and to direct them to the ‘proper’ mode of thinking.”

If you’re skeptical of my bit of editorializing there, then check out how these working group folk felt about the art option: “Some student members of the working group expressed concerns that the arts option was a less effective and less educational way to learn about sexual respect in comparison to the workshops.”

How dare these leaders diminish the learning style of those who prefer to express themselves artistically!

The Spectator’s Dan Garisto says that even the very definition of “sexual respect” can be found nowhere on the school’s website, nor in any university press release.

Looks like he’s right — here’s Columbia’s Sexual Respect website.  Maybe they’ve added a definition since Garisto’s column, but I don’t see it.

And as Garisto says, “… how about we actually define ‘sexual respect’ and stop using it as a buzzword?”

But perhaps most embarrassing is this ridiculous video about the program. Tell me President Lee Bollinger doesn’t look like he’s thinking “What the &*%@ am I doing here”?

He’d rather be rearranging his sock drawer.

Not to mention, the production value of this thing seems to rival that of any public middle school. Hell, the academic “rigor” of this entire program appears to rival that of a middle school.

At best it’s akin to the material from a typical ed school or an assorted “studies” class.

Check it:

“This is an opportunity to create art about the connection between sexual respect, and membership in the Columbia University community”? and “We encourage the expression of all identities and all … ‘villages’?


This is from the Ivy League, folks.

Dave Huber is an assistant editor of  The College Fix. (@ColossusRhodey)

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IMAGES: airsoenxen/Flickr, YouTube screencap

Last Sunday The College Fix reported on how a (USC) Daily Trojan columnist called out the College Republicans on that campus for inappropriate comments made about radical Angela Davis.

Nathaniel Haas wrote in the DT:

While Davis might make for an easy target because she is a public figure, the sort of incendiary mudslinging could easily backfire for the College Republicans in another context, in the form of a lawsuit for online defamation.

The College Republicans should issue a written statement on behalf of the group, addressed to the Black Student Assembly and the Speaker’s Committee, that apologizes for calling Angela Davis a “murderer” and suggesting that she should have never been invited to speak. Anyone in the group’s executive leadership who wrote or sanctioned the post should immediately resign from their positions.

I agree that use of the term “murderer” was inappropriate. (And, as reported, the College Republicans removed the word, and others, from their Facebook page.)

“Murder” has a specific meaning: “the crime of unlawfully killing a person especially with malice aforethought.”

Ferguson, Missouri’s Officer Darren Wilson was cleared this week of any wrongdoing in the death of Michael Brown.

That the federal Department of Justice concluded such is telling, given its stances on issues like voter ID and proportionate (racial) discipline in schools:

In an 86-page report released Wednesday that detailed and evaluated the testimony of more than 40 witnesses, the Justice Department largely corroborated or found little credible evidence to contradict the account of the officer, Darren Wilson …

Unfortunately, many of our nation’s college newspapers — along with myriad students and faculty — didn’t see any need to wait for an actual investigation into the Ferguson matter.

And notice: What term stands out in particular in the excerpts below?

From Chisom Onyea of the Columbia Daily Spectator:

However, I reasoned that such a distant event could not possibly be affecting him in such a manner, especially since the lawful murder of black people is not a new narrative.

Dunni Oduyemi and Tracey Wang, also of the Spectator:

Columbia neither supported us through nor apologized for the NYPD’s unnecessary presence. The protest called attention to the recent decisions to not indict Darren Wilson and Daniel Pantaleo for the murders of Michael Brown and Eric Garner, but the protest also confirmed just how Columbia views its students of color.

Brown University Minority Peer Counselor Jieyi Cai:

“It’s very easy today to say that we live in a post-racial society, (that) ‘we have a black president, therefore these murders do not have anything to do with race’ … We’re trying to show that it has everything to do with race.”

Speaking of Brown, here’s The Brown Daily Herald’s Armani Madison:

Instead, the tragic murders of Michael Brown and countless other unarmed victims of color over the past few months are violations of the highest order.

Continuing with the Ivy League, here’s The Cornell Daily Sun’s Philip Susser:

Brown was not the first, and probably not the last black man to be wrongfully murdered by a white cop.

David Zha, also of The Daily Sun:

Due to recent events, the Acquitted Trigger-happy White Police Officer and the Dead Unarmed Black Teen are something of stock characters in the urban legend of America. We live in a society where our guardians gun down our own people regularly based on how they look.

The editorial staff at The Harvard Crimson:

The demonstrations are part of the continuing reaction to the murder of 18-year-old Michael Brown by police officer Darren Wilson on August 9, 2014.

With still more from the Ivy League, here’s The Daily Princetonian’s Shruthi Deivasigamani:

A single police officer should not have the authority to carry out capital punishment — especially on a whim. The fact that there was a heated scuffle and that everything happened within the span of a few minutes doesn’t take away from the fact that Brown’s death sentence was doled out without a fair trial or really any trial at all.

Guest columnist Brea Baker in the Yale Daily News:

I salute the flag of a nation that will allow a man to murder a boy in broad daylight, leave his body lying in the street for four and a half hours, and go on paid vacation until a grand jury ultimately decides not to even arrest him. The murder caused enough pain.

Also in the Yale Daily News, guest columnists Henry Chapman and Stacey Lawrence:

Terrifying images of Missouri police firing rubber bullets and smoke grenades at protesters have circulated widely since Aug. 9, the day Michael Brown, an unarmed African-American teenager, was murdered by Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson.

A Yale Daily News report about a campus rally:

Carrying signs reading “Hands Up, Don’t Shoot” and “Murder is Illegal,” the marchers walked to the New Haven Green and sat silently for a few minutes, before returning to the Beinecke.

And even more from the Ivy League via The Daily Pennsylvanian’s Nikki Hardison:

Darren Wilson gunned him down because his [Michael Brown’s] very presence elicited an excessive fear and therefore excessive force by the police.

From the senior editorial board of The Daily Californian:

We must demilitarize our police force and put a camera on every cop. We must prosecute murder as murder, no matter what uniform it wears.

The Daily Tar Heel’s Meredith Shutt reporting on “the pride of [her] city,” rapper J Cole:

In the interview, Cole talks about how adolescent passion is often squelched by adult apathy. His initial reaction to the murder of Michael Brown parallels my own: the horrifying sense that nothing can be done.

UNC senior Annasa Harris, from a Daily Tar Heel report on a “hands up, don’t shoot” protest:

Senior Annasa Harris was also upset by the media’s portrayal of the incident. “It opened my eyes to how people think,” Harris said. “This was an execution of an innocent man. The (media) seems to steer away from that.”

Two quotes from professors — from the same article in UCLA’s Daily Bruin:

“We should not be surprised that the murders of Trayvon Martin, Michael Brown and Eric Garner occurred in a suburb,” [Professor Leah] Boustan said.

After hearing about the murder of Michael Brown, Peter James Hudson, an African American studies professor, said his 10-year-old son turned to him and asked if police in other countries killed black people.

Also in the Daily Bruin, Andrea Henthorn writes:

The meeting was in response to recent incidents of police violence highlighted by the media, including the grand jury decisions to not indict police officers whose actions lead to the deaths of Michael Brown and Eric Garner, USAC Cultural Affairs Commissioner Irmary Garcia said.

Lastly, the Daily Bruin’s editorial board says:

The grand jury’s decision in Ferguson, Mo. to not indict police officer Darren Wilson for the murder of Michael Brown, an 18-year-old black teen, led to a resounding call from black communities across the country to rally for racial justice.

Should all of these folks apologize for their choice of words?

Well, sure. But don’t count on it.

Alas, The NarrativeTM is of utmost import in (unfortunate) cases like these. The “Hands Up, Don’t Shoot” fiction was torn asunder fairly early on in the Ferguson story; as a result, the fable quickly morphed into a “symbol.”

Now Darren Wilson will morph into a symbol, too. Despite his innocence and many other facts, he will represent to the “true believers” the force of “the continuing oppression of American white supremacy.”

Dave Huber is an assistant editor of  The College Fix. (@ColossusRhodey)

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Columbia recently instituted a (mandatory) “sexual respect education” program in which students have several options to fulfill the requirement.

One of these options, “consider[ing] the topic of sexual respect through various artistic mediums,” has left some wondering about its “ability to teach students about sexual assault prevention.”

The Columbia Daily Spectator reports:

According to Executive Vice President for University Life Suzanne Goldberg, the arts option is meant to appeal to diverse learning styles while yielding material that can continue a conversation about sexual respect.

“Every student has a capacity to create a piece of art,” social work professor Rogério Pinto—who co-chairs a committee formed to design the arts option—said at a Columbia College Student Council meeting two weeks ago. “We can express a lot of thoughts and feelings by critically thinking about a particular subject and then creating a piece of art.”

Still, some students on a working group of students, faculty, and administrators that advised Goldberg on the program have expressed concern that making a video, writing a poem, or creating a painting are less effective ways to teach students about sexual respect than other workshops.

“There’s really no mechanism to say whether or not a student actually digested the material,” working group member Abby Porter, CC ’17, said. “It’s not that students at Columbia aren’t incredibly smart, it’s just that talking about this requires a dialogue.”

Well, it seems the “learning style” craze has reached beyond the realm of lower education.

Another member of that working group, Nick Wolferman, agrees with Ms. Porter on the “need for required dialogue”: “For our purposes, to self-impose a community standard revolving on self-respect—the workshops should have been the sole and primary means through which we did that.”

It isn’t enough, you see, that the school required this new program; you have to fulfill its mandate the “right” way!

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