How the other half lives
The world is divided into two groups: those who are eligible to be a Columbia College Class Day speaker, and those who aren’t. The rules of eligibility are very complicated and rather boring, especially in the context of alumni with titles like “junior secretarial understudy to the office of a moderately important governmental agency,” or “person who got something published somewhere.” Following in the vein of Grace, below are some examples of the clear distinction between “eligible” and “who?” with some slightly more recognizable figures.
- Peter Parker, “Spider-Man” (the movie)
The Marvel superhero, played by Tobey Maguire, enrolls as a physics major at Columbia, where he is bitten by a radioactive spider. Please note that Peter Parker, “Spider-Man” (the comic book), is not eligible, as he is merely a student of Empire State University, which is not only a fictional university but one that I am pretty sure is based on NYU.
- Christian Shephard, father of Jack Shephard, “Lost”
Island medicine man Jack Shephard went to Columbia, which makes Jack’s is-he-or-isn’t-he-dead father, Christian, eligible for Class Day Speaker—in line with previous Columbia College fathers like John McCain and this year’s nominee, Ray Suarez. What would his speech be about? It’s a mystery!
- Jeff Winger, “Community”
Probably. His Columbia B.A. may have been forged and he may have since been forced to take introductory Spanish classes at a community college in Colorado, but nominee Anna Paquin doesn’t have a degree either, having only completed one year in the College, and she’s since been forced to act on a show about vampires.
Both Upper East Siders have been on campus for approximately two days and will most likely enlist their maids to read their Homer and write their lens essays for them, but as current students, both are nevertheless very eligible. Just don’t make them share the stage—someone usually ends up getting a headband thrown at them when they do.
- Blake Lively’s character’s boyfriend, “The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants”
He attended Columbia. Blake Lively played his girlfriend. Clearly, Blake Lively is a de facto alumna at this point.
- Plato, Aristotle, or any of the names on Butler Library
- The children playing on the College Walk lawns who make you smile after a rough midterm
- The person who swiped you into the 116th Street station after you realized your MetroCard had run out and you were already 10 minutes late to your internship
- The guys at HamDel and Koronet who nurse drunk students back to health
- Entertainers like Oprah Winfrey, Jon Stewart, and Lady Gaga
- Artists and scientists like Maya Angelou, Marina Abramoviç, and Stephen Hawking
- Businessmen like Steve Jobs, Mark Zuckerberg, and Muhammad Yunus
- Leaders like Michael Bloomberg, Ron Paul, and Elena Kagan
- Humanitarians like Nelson Mandela and the Dalai Lama
- Military heroes like David Petraeus and non-Columbian veterans and members of the armed services
When you vote on the Class Day speaker poll, think about those names you aren’t seeing: people who have influenced, brightened, enriched, or protected our lives who, for whatever reasons, couldn’t immigrate to New York City, afford the University price tag, or write a compelling enough personal statement about their experiences at summer camp.
By restricting Class Day speaker options to those with ties to the College, Columbia is limiting itself to a very exclusive but unproductive definition of what it means to be a voice for the student community. It privileges people based on their ability to name-drop The Iliad and places like Hamilton and 1020—things Blair and Serena will surely be capable of doing by next week’s episode—while ignoring so many more.
But as long as we’re voting, I’m Team Blair.
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