The Big Ass Blue Whale has arrived on Low Steps
Since 9 a.m., Caroline Blosser (who is also an opinion blogger for Spec) has been sitting out on the steps in front of Low Library. She’s protesting the negative atmosphere that has existed between Barnard and Columbia students. “We’re trying to encourage positive cross-college interaction, and build more support of community,” she said.
She’s got a beautiful day for it, and a handful of students from both schools are sharing the steps with her. “It’s going really well. We’ve talked to a lot of people, mostly students, but we’ve also talked to some prospies and parents,” Blosser said.
As students come by to talk to her, she pulls out a yellow notebook and starts asking them about their experiences at Columbia. Folks have had a lot to say. “There’s been a lot of talk about the culture on campus and how to change it. Mostly people have been talking about self-centeredness—everyone is striving for success out of this personal sense of ambition, but the way we’re measuring success is at the expense of others. So it’s a zero-sum game, where you’re building yourself up by tearing others down. Even if it’s not conscious, that’s how we’re treating each other.”
Some of the problems, Blosser thinks, are institutional. “There’s also this concept of isolation and barriers across campus. There’s no space for spontaneity, because to get any space on campus you have to book it or be a part of a student group,” she says, adding: “We’ve talked about Lerner as a big failure as a student center.”
But some complaints seem to be the same no matter who she is talking to. “One is a concept of stress. Every campus has stress, but there’s something particular about the way it’s managed and valued here that is unhealthy.”
Then there’s the question of the relationship between Barnard and Columbia as institutions and how people feel about that. “Probably the biggest thing is this dichotomy between being proud of your individual college identity, but also being part of this larger community. It’s a big question, and it’s also sort of a young question when you consider that Columbia didn’t integrate co-eds until pretty recently. So it’s kind of expected that we would have to deal with some of these issues.”
She doesn’t expect to find a solution to these problems today. “My theory is before you solve a problem you need to diagnose it, and before you can diagnose it you need to investigate it.” That explains the notebook.
Gracie Winship BC ’13, has also been here all day and helped in the organizing of the event. “I read Caroline’s article and a lot of what she said resonated with me, so I shot her an email and asked how I could be a part of it. … It’s been a little hard to get students’ attention, but we’ve had a diverse group of students, people from SEAS, CC girls, and we’ve had good productive conversation about our experiences.”
The sit-in will continue until 9 p.m. this evening. If you have thoughts on how to improve the community here, Caroline and Gracie say they’d love to talk to you.
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