Presidentially correct? Demystifying the fireside chat
While I have never been to a fireside chat with PrezBo during my two and a half years here, I was pretty impressed by the hard-hitting questions that were asked during Tuesday’s session. They can be found in this article from today’s Spectator, and the ‘let’s question those in power’ idea immediately stuck out to me as one of the truly important things that the administration seems to be catching on to.
If you’re a political science major or a learned hard-Core-educated skeptic, you may discount it as being a farce: mere appeasement to keep us happy by giving us token answers every now and then. But social science skepticism aside, it’s always interesting to see how people, especially powerful ones, react when faced with tough questions. And it’s not everywhere that college presidents decide to shed the enigma and let us in to their heads, if just for an evening.
Much like a press conference that only a few lucky journalists get picked to attend (by the luck of the draw, no less), the fireside chat is not something we’re all tuned in to. But after reading the article, I think some important takeaways are worth a mention.
- On racial diversity: An uncomfortable but important question about students of color feeling a “lack of support” on campus. But it was largely left unanswered, it seems.
- On students taking medical leave for depression: PrezBo says the admin is “addressing these issues,” and says they don’t “like hearing things like that at all.” But if there’s nobody to listen, where does one go? Having had friends battle the same problems, it seems acceptance of the hard reality may be the only way to move forward. This is a stressful place, and no amount of warm fireplace conversation can make up for that.
- On WikiLeaks: It’s OK for journalists to publish confidential documents if they’re given the right to do so. But no comment on Julian Assange‘s entitlement to that right. Perhaps you should take his class (or sneak in next week) to find out.
- On anonymous blog comments: It’s a “really very ugly” world, and I think we tend to agree. Cyber-haters know no mercy. But it obviously throws up some conflict with the notion of anonymous free speech, he said.
- On the Global Centers: This one personally interests me, having visited two of the Global Centers (Beijing and Santiago) this past summer. According to PrezBo, every student should be able to visit these centers. But, um, where’s the money at? That aside, the mission of the Global Centers is still hazy to me. A glossy office in Beijing with a stellar staff—but what exactly does that mean for us students? It would be fantastic to see the Global Centers organizing more student-centric programs and exchanges with local universities.
So with that, I encourage you to perhaps read the entire article, and feel the tinge of pride I did when I saw my fellow Columbians’ unapologetic, in-your-face questions that begged an honest answer. Or better still, enter the lottery for the next fireside chat (where is the fireplace, exactly?) and ask some questions of your own. Even if you’ve spent just a semester here, you’re bound to have some.
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