On Tuesday, students at Columbia University protested the lack of female representation in the Core Curriculum by hanging a banner with the names of “female-identifying” authors atop the school’s Butler Library.
Names on the banner include Maya Angelou, Toni Morrison, Diana Chang, and A. Revathi, and these sit atop greats such as Aristotle, Plato, Homer, and Herodotus.
According to the Spectator, the idea for the banner came from Columbia Libraries, which worked in conjunction with the vice president of the Columbia College Student Council to create the Butler Banner Project. The BBP celebrates the 30-year anniversary of an attempt to hang a similar banner at the library, and seeks to include (identifying) women from “every walk of life [who] write about topics ranging from queer theory to black motherhood.”
Angelou, Morrison, et. al. were chosen via a student survey in which over 200 participated.
Project curator Keziah Anderson noted the banner “make[s] up for the shortcomings” of one put up in 1994; then, no women of color were listed.
Project’s leaders Radhika (Rads) Mehta, CC ’22, and Augusta Owens, BC ’22, discussed in an opening speech the need for the primary texts used by the university to reflect the current diversity of the school.
“These libraries are more than just buildings, and the names etched into the façades are more than just tributes to wealthy donors. They’re a constant yet subtle reminder of the values and respects of the institutions,” Owens said.
Event attendee Zoe Ewing, CC ’21, heard about the project from her friends and appreciated the mission of showcasing the voices of underrepresented authors.
“I think that there’s this very authoritative association with the idea of a Western canon, so the fact that you’re included implies that you’re smarter or have more to say,” Ewing said. “So, when we don’t include marginalized groups in that it implies that they have less valuable contributions to society, which is obviously not true.”
This semester, the Butler Banner Project will host a variety of events such as “book clubs” for each of the authors on its banner. Topics include “Iranian Feminist Legacies and Prospects to A Diasporic Perspective” and “Remaking Publics: Gender, Affect, Insurgence, Presence.” There also is an “open mic” night this evening at which “all female-identifying women are encouraged to speak.”
“Come share your work! Listen to other people’s work!” the open mic description reads. “Canonize yourself! Ask “what the f’ck” is a canon anyways”?!
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