Monday, December 04, 2006

Columbia and Expansion: A Recipe for Disaster

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Columbia and Expansion: A Recipe for Disaster
By Jordi Reyes-Montblanc

Columbia University is a great institution: for 250 years, it has been among the premier institutions of higher education both in the United States and in the world. Columbia says it needs to expand, and most reasonable people agree-not just the University's spokesmen. And West Harlem is an ideal expansion target because Columbia already owns a substantial number of the properties there and it is within walking distance of the Morningside Heights main campus.

But West Harlem is also one of those unique areas of New York where many different people live together in a fairly harmonious way. Non-Latino whites, non-Latino blacks, Latinos, English-speakers and Spanish-speakers of many different origins, cultures, and ethnicities thrive in the most diverse community of two languages in the city of New York. This is where "Columbia University in the City of New York" coexists and wants to expand. After over a hundred years of being located in West Harlem, you would think the Columbia University Board of Trustees would have a good understanding of, sympathy for, and empathy with our communities.

Unfortunately that is not the case. The Board of Trustees is made up of highly successful, powerful, wealthy people who only have a vague recollection of their student days in Morningside or Washington Heights; they have no rapport or desire to really understand our communities. Their only concern is the expansion,

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