Sunday, November 18, 2007

the BWOG: Poor, misunderstood Columbia. No one seems to get the story straight--not even campus media

Media Check
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Poor, misunderstood Columbia. No one seems to get the story straight--not even campus media sometimes--and the Hunger Strike of Fall 2007 was no exception. We've compiled what we're sure is a woefully incomplete list of inaccuracies.

We'll let Columbia Assistant Vice President for Public Affairs La-Verna Fountain explain what was wrong with the bit about the $50 million for Major Cultures figure in a Nov. 16 New York Sun article, in a statement she released to CB9 Chairman Jordi Reyes-Montblanc, posted after the jump.

"The Sun has informed us they intend to run some kind of correction of this inaccurate story, but for reasons known only to them have decided to wait to publish this in their next edition on Monday. We look forward to seeing it," she wrote snippily.

While they're correcting, the Sun might want to note that Emilie Rosenblatt is a senior, not a junior, and that the striker who dropped out is named Aretha, not Victoria.

Besides being generally noxious, the New York Post had a similar problem with the $50 million number:

"Columbia agreed to raise $50 million to beef up ethnic studies and expand programs for multicultural students, strike organizers said, but refused to budge on the protesters' biggest demand - killing the school's proposed expansion into Harlem...Columbia's concession will expand the school's multicultural student center and expand the required freshman ethnic-studies class from a several hundred-student lecture to small seminar groups."

Also, the strikers didn't directly want to kill the expansion plan, just withdraw it for revision. And the "freshman ethnic studies class" is neither a freshman nor an ethnic studies class. Too bad it's already reached the right-wing masses!

From the world of possibly less legitimate media: the Workers World isn't factually inaccurate, it just reads like it was translated from another language.

Over at Spectator, it's fair to point out that Bryan Mercer's statement: "When the administration told me I had to stop [the strike] because of my health, I was totally unwilling," Bryan Mercer, CC '07, said. "Hearing from the community their concerns and seeing the administration make no move forward on the expansion demands meant that it made a lot of sense to move onto new tactics." somewhat misleading, considering that Chairman Reyes-Montblanc sent strike organizer Andrew Lyubarsky an e-mail (reprinted on the CB9 blog) on the day the strike started asking them to not go forward with their "extreme" action.

Conveniently, Reyes-Montblanc reissued his request eleven days later, right before the strike ended--as did the Coalition to Preserve Community, which itself had asked for the strike to stop five days previously.

On this article, there's a debate about how many students in fact gathered at the anti-strike rally a few days ago. Protests from the anti-strike organizers did result in one of the better corrections Spec's done in a while, though.

Finally, in a more enigmatic slip, we think the source of the following quote may not actually exist:
"It's too cold for a hunger strike," Lenger added. "When Gandhi was doing hunger strikes, he was doing it in a balmy, sub-tropical area. ... Unless we can see your ribs sticking out, then it's, really, in a PR perspective, sub-optimum."

A people search for Mark Lenger, SEAS '09, turns up no results. But this phantom student has now showed up on Huffington Post and Ivygate, and potentially elsewhere. Could Spec have been fleeced again?


Statement by University spokeswoman regarding the New York Sun article:

"The New York Sun story erroneously reports that, after faculty approval, the strike could cost the University $50 million in spending to pay for a restructuring of the College's core curriculum that would add faculty for enhancement to the Major Cultures component of the core and other initiatives.

Apparently based on an earlier inaccurate story in the Spectator, The Sun's story mistakenly confuses $50 million of endowment funds that could be raised in the current capital campaign for undergraduate education (a $865 million goal) with new "spending" resulting from conversations between administrators and the striking students. But faculty committees on undergraduate education have already been planning such enhancements to the Core as part of the effort to add greater global perspective to the curriculum. In all events, any potential "spending" here is a small fraction of this hypothetical $50 million and is not the direct result of the student strike. It also has not even been decided whether such Core enhancements, if actually approved, would be funded through endowment income or other sources.

The Sun has informed us they intend to run some kind of correction of this inaccurate story, but for reasons known only to them have decided to wait to publish this in their next edition on Monday. We look forward to seeing it."

Request from Community Board 9 chairman that the strike not go forward

Date: Wed, 7 Nov 2007 13:21:10 -0800 (PST)
From: "J Reyes-Montblanc"
Subject: Re: Student Hunger Strike at Columbia
To: "Andrew Lyubarsky" CC: "Patricia Jones" , "Rev. Earl Kooperkamp" , "Sarah Martin" , "Tom DeMott"

Although I am most grateful for the support your group is giving our 197-a Plan I must try to dissuade you from this step at this time. Such actions as you propose are extreme and should be considered only as a last resort. I am not convinced that we have reached such a point in time in the ongoing [ULURP] negotiations.

There are many other protest means available to you and the community at this time before such drastic measures are needed.I beseech you to reconsider and to exlore other effective and headline grabbing means of protest.

I will be away for 3 weeks, y'all should to attend the next Manhattanville Rezoning Task Force Mtg and hear the up dates and results of the City Planning

Commission decisions on both the 197-a and CU's 197-c Plans.
November 18, 2007 @ 12:09 AM 19 comments Post a comment

Posted by anonymous: [#1] [reply] [track]
( posted November 18, 2007 at 12:54 AM )
It's time for Ethnic Studies now!So let's expel the students who went on strike (clearly letting them in was a mistake) so they can form their own research center, acquire their own funding, and engage in whatever pseudo-academia their little hearts please.They can even publish their own journal, titled "The Following are Racist", in which they name every institution, group, and person they can think of.

Posted by hmmm: [#2] [reply] [track]
( posted November 18, 2007 at 1:03 AM )
That email from the CB9 chairman sounds suspiciously like "We're just holding out for more money; I feel bad that you're hunger striking for us."Anyway, guess what guys. This strike was AWESOME. Why? Because the University totally forgot about the War on Fun! We can still drink and be merry.

Posted by Oh yeah: [#3] [reply] [track]
( posted November 18, 2007 at 1:19 AM )
Poor misunderstood hunger strikers. They certainly deserve our pity.

Posted by The King of Spain: [#4] [reply] [track]
( posted November 18, 2007 at 1:40 AM )
Really, "withdrawing it for revision," in the context of the extreme and self-serving demands of the Pratt Center-for-Community-Development-written 197-a plan would probably end up killing all of the actual benefits to humanity that the expansion would offer. Oh and offer a lot of band-aids to all the the minorities that have already been forced out by gentrification while a few rich developers in Harlem benefit from mindboggling grandfather clauses.
And whatever, I was in Calc III with Mark Lengler sophomore year (which I guess was his freshman year).

Posted by Wow, Amazing: [#5] [reply] [track]
( posted November 18, 2007 at 1:47 AM )
Can we talk about the fact that, in an article about correcting things which were wrong in the hunger strike coverage, Bwog incorrectly states that Emilie is a junior.She is, as her facebook page confirms, a senior.[ external link to ] Can't we all just get along?

Posted by Lydia (Site staff): [#6] [reply] [track] (in reply to #5)
( posted November 18, 2007 at 1:51 AM )
Whoops, you're right. It was the Sun that got it wrong, not the Post.We never pretended to be perfect, only to correct our mistakes faster...

Posted by cecil rhodes: [#7] [reply] [track]

( posted November 18, 2007 at 1:53 AM )
was the award in my name bestowed upon goeff aung or emma kaufman?

Posted by side note: [#8] [reply] [track]
( posted November 18, 2007 at 2:15 AM )
two columbia students won the rhodes!

Posted by Bwog!: [#9] [reply] [track]
( posted November 18, 2007 at 2:21 AM )
thank you for pointing out and correcting how much of the media misrepresented and straight up lied about the hunger strike. Although the B&W did put out a pretty decent article on the Minutemen protest, their was never an effort to debunk all the misinformation fed to the so called "right wing masses" in that case. Is this a new found mission? Or did you not find it problematic that virtually every major article written about the protest contained misinformation and lies.

Posted by Lydia (Site staff): [#10] [reply] [track] (in reply to #8)
( posted November 18, 2007 at 2:27 AM )
We're working on the Rhodes confirmations...

Posted by rhodes: [#11] [reply] [track] (in reply to #10)
( posted November 18, 2007 at 2:48 AM )
[ external link to ] jason bellogeorge olivecongrats, guys!!

Posted by To be fair: [#12] [reply] [track]
( posted November 18, 2007 at 4:31 AM )
...Bwog reported the $50 million figure:[ external link to ] ...and that Aretha Choi "has been carried out on a stretcher by about 10 CAVA staffers" (I was there—it was 4):[ external link to ] ...and that the Daily Bruin is the student paper of Brown rather than UCLA:[ external link to ] ...among several other inaccuracies, some (but not all) corrected in strikethrough.My point is not that the above mentioned media errors are insignificant, or that it's at all bad for outlets to keep each other in check—in fact, it's a good thing. But it's worth noting that Bwog's record (like the Spec's, the Sun's, the Post's, etc.) is imperfect.Okay, I take that back: the Sun and the Post are just f**king crazy.

Posted by congratulations: [#13] [reply] [track]
( posted November 18, 2007 at 4:34 AM )
I'm glad that you all implicitly appreciate the fact that the masses are right-wing. To be fair, you didn't quite say that, but "right wing masses" is a start on the road toward acknowledging that the views held by the majority here are in the distinct minority in this country.

Posted by anonymous: [#14] [reply] [track] (in reply to #13)
( posted November 18, 2007 at 10:36 AM )
You're so racist!

Posted by Solution: [#15] [reply] [track]
( posted November 18, 2007 at 11:59 AM )
There's an easy solution to most of these problems: create a new undergraduate school with an emphasis on ethnic studies. The Columbia University School of Ethnic and Cultural StudiesThis will be separate from CC, SEAS, GS, etc. It will be its own college with its own degrees and its own hiring/admissions staff like all the other schools. Students of this new school will take an altered version of the core that better fits their ideology but will not be recognized as students of Columbia College (just as students of GS are not.) However, they will still have access to virtually any undergraduate course just as GS students do but will simply not be required to take things that they despise.After they graduate, they'll have to put Columbia University School of Ethnic and Cultural Studies on their resumes. If no one wants to hire them because such a degree has "this person will file a class action lawsuit against you over something stupid within the first six months of employment" written all over it, so be it.

Posted by Herodotus: [#16] [reply] [track]
( posted November 18, 2007 at 12:49 PM )
I second the motion that "ethnic studies" isn't a real major. I mean, 32 points of analyzing the political implication of peoples' differing levels of melanin content?

Posted by hrm...: [#17] [reply] [track]
( posted November 18, 2007 at 12:59 PM )
Regarding the Jester-heist, who else was it that reported on that...Oh, that's right.[ external link to ]

Posted by anon: [#18] [reply] [track]
( posted November 18, 2007 at 1:08 PM )
Mark Lenger, SEAS '09, you are my hero. Reveal yourself!

Posted by lol: [#19] [reply] [track] (in reply to #14)
( posted November 18, 2007 at 7:05 PM )
That gave me a good laugh. Are you really unable to think of different words for the different things that you oppose?
Bwog is compiled by the staff of The Blue and White, Columbia University's undergraduate magazine. [ more ]

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