Campus community needs to let Columbia unite

By Editorial Board

Columbia’s spring semester was contentious for the campus community. The prioritization process has been an exhaustive evaluation of the college’s programs, and emotions have run high on all sides. Administrators in particular have faced serious criticism from students and faculty, and multiple conflicts, debates and arguments have erupted.

But a recent argument between sophomore marketing communication major Toni Andreina and John Kavouris, associate vice president of Facilities & Operations, showed that sometimes both sides need to take a step back to see the bigger picture. Andreina met Kavouris in his office Feb. 28 to talk about a rooftop garden on campus. “Tempers flared,” and Andreina and several colleagues were kicked out of Kavouris’ office, as reported by The Chronicle on April 23. Allegedly, once Andreina left the office, Kavouris said he would like to “beat the s–t out of that girl.” Kavouris denies this.

Even if the alleged incident did not occur, the frayed tempers and lack of civility displayed at the meeting is regrettable for both sides, especially after the controversy at President Warrick L. Carter’s State of the College address when both students and Carter exchanged angry, petulant words.

The meeting between Andreina and Kavouris showed that under the college’s new “One Columbia” initiative, communication between administrators and students needs to be a pathway for progress rather than a war of wills. Andreina’s idea for a rooftop garden is innovative and would help establish Columbia as a green campus. On the other hand, a rooftop garden could be unsafe for students and funds might be better spent on academic departments that will see prioritization cuts. When looked at practically, it’s easy to see why a rooftop garden wouldn’t be an urgent priority.

Perhaps it is time for Columbia students to put a little more faith in administrators and approach disagreements and arguments in a cooperative, open manner rather than communicating with a “Me vs. Them” mentality. If Columbia really wants to “be one” and unify, it must start with that attitude. If students feel administrators are the bad guys, then there is no hope for One Columbia.

Likewise, administrators should remain professional when talking to students and treat them with respect, even when feeling exasperated. Sometimes it’s easy to forget that we are all part of the same community because our focus is narrowed by individual departments, disciplines and concentrations.

But as events like Manifest show us, Columbia is a large, diverse community that requires cooperation. We must work together to move Columbia into the next phase of progression.