Saturday, March 31, 2012


New job new job new job! I'm an associate editor at the Columbia Journalism Review. My first piece for them is here. Two other recent published bits, at, are here and here.

Unrelated: I was going to find someone to pay me to rant about how people shouldn't desert Komen even though yes, their actions vis-a-vis Planned Parenthood were despicable and yes, they emphasize screening much more than scientific research when it should be the reverse. But someone else did it first.

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Tuesday, March 06, 2012

same old story

Since Barnard College announced a few days back that President Barack Obama would be the school's commencement speaker this year, I've joined fellow alumnae in rejoicing in our school's lucky opportunity. Barnard—a prestigious women's college in a city with a disproportionate amount of media—is indeed the perfect place for Obama to address the war on women's health, which is gaining steam in Washington just as he prepares to run for reelection.

The reaction in Columbia University's undergrad community, on the other hand, has been a storm of insults and ill-will passing between undergraduates at Columbia College, the storied liberal arts school at Columbia University, and Barnard, which is both an independent women's college and another of Columbia's four undergraduate schools. (The other two are the School of General Studies, where older students can matriculate, and the engineering school.) The issue is that Obama is a Columbia alumnus, and his decision to speak at Barnard reads as a snub to many Columbia's students and a coup to Barnard's. Pair those perspectives with a long-standing legacy of teenagers shit-talking one another across the Broadway divide between the campuses, and there's fodder for bottomless horrid Internet commentary. 

This old issue—as an undergrad in 2006-ish, I wrote a story about the Barnard-Columbia relationship, and it was ancient history then—wouldn't be news except, as the White House realizes, things that happen at New York City institutions are covered in publications with national audiences. So when The New York Times published a story yesterday headlined "After Barnard Gets Obama for Speech, Tensions With Columbia Bubble Up," people noticed.

And by people, I mean the website Jezebel, which ran a post today quoting some of the evil name calling found in the comments of a couple campus publications. (Other local pubs, like Gothamist and The Village Voice, also published pieces, but Jezebel's made me angsty.) The post scolded Columbia and Barnard administrators for characterizing the unpleasant sentiment to the Times as a small slice of the student body ranting in the wee hours: "It's pretty fucked up that Barnard's president would dismiss the comments as the ramblings as '19-year-olds,' given that 19-year-olds are the people spending hundreds of thousands of dollars to attend the college over which she presides," they wrote.

But the presidents, Deborah Spar and Lee Bollinger, are right. The anti-Barnard bullshit—the quietly pervasive sentiment that Barnard students were back-door entrants to Columbia University who steal College students' spots in classes and nab all the men—abates after about sophomore year, as students mature and realize that they really are a part of one big, diverse intellectual community. One of my best friends from Columbia spent two years living in Barnard dorms. I took one of Columbia's core curriculum courses (not technically open to Barnard students, but I have my methods) and thrived there. Five years after graduation, my college friends and I reminisce about our joint college experience regardless of which schools we attended. The fact that Obama's politically-strategic decision would be seen as a snub and then ignite vitriol really is because undergrads are young and immature, and they lack perspective. Like all of us before them, they'll graduate and enter the (shitty) job market and realize that a.) they're still starting their professional lives at the bottom and b.) they're doing so with brilliant, driven, amazing people from all sorts of backgrounds and all sorts of colleges. Then they'll put on their grown-up undies and be thrilled with the opportunity they had to spend four years in a place that the leader of the free world would consider a plum location to make a statement.