I transferred to Columbia with one goal: graduate. After attending a claustrophobic conservatory program in Seattle and a community college in Southern California where I was going nowhere fast, I just needed to finish getting a degree and Columbia was my last resort—in hindsight, not the mentality one should have going into college.
Though I arrived with the credits of a sophomore and scored high on the COMPASS test, I was instructed to take classes typically reserved for freshmen. Halfway through my first semester at the college, I received a call from an advisor informing me that the credits I had brought with me from previous institutions had “finally” transferred, meaning all of my then-current classes would be designated as electives and would not move me any closer to graduation.
I came to Columbia embittered—the education industrial complex and the insurmountable debt I had already incurred only served to entirely dishearten me. The revelation that I had spent an entire semester taking classes I did not need or that did not help me grow artistically left me feeling stunted and resentful, only adding to the feeling of disillusionment I already carried with me.
The first year was hard. I was an older student surrounded by much younger students in the dorms, since I had not had the time or resources to find housing prior to starting at the college. The fact that I was taking useless classes filled me with apathy and I had a very hard time finding friends in a campus where I felt increasingly disconnected as time went on.
Maneuvering against the bureaucracy of Res Life in order to get anything done was exhausting and futile. After the Counseling Services higher-ups assessed my adequate level of “need” for counseling in my second semester, the counselor I was assigned to offered little to no help—save for an empathetic smile and a consent form that allowed her to use my sessions in her dissertation. Whether college advisors were too busy or too disconnected from students to care, it was never a resource I returned to—though the college’s many resources were one of the reasons I chose to attend.
That said, Columbia changed my life for the better. It was at the end of my first year at the college when I realized the hundreds upon thousands of dollars I was spending just to get a piece of paper was going to be worth it.
The college’s faculty and students—the unsung, underappreciated heroes—are why I will be proud to carry a degree in Comedy Writing and Performance from Columbia. And yet, these individuals—who work tirelessly to make Columbia the college it should be—only suffer under the new administration and its high-minded ideas for the future of the college.
No administrator has ever helped guide me in my education at Columbia. No administrator has ever counseled me on what classes to take or how to deal with life in the art world. No administrator has ever listened to my concerns about my art or my education. No administrator has ever collaborated with me to create work that I am proud of or helped me make crucial connections in my field of study. No administrator has ever attended any of my performances or classes. No administrator has ever shown any interest in me as a student or as a human. No administrator has ever encouraged me to honor my truth and discover my voice.
But Columbia’s astounding faculty—with some exceptions—and its impressive student body—when it applies itself—have done all of this and more. The college has gone above and beyond in its duties for me, even in the face of an administration that looms like an ominous specter, only appearing when it’s time to talk business.
The administration values Columbia’s students and faculty by their expendability. This fact has never been more apparent than in the recent actions of the administration and in the draft of the Strategic Plan—the latter of which is couched in the fluffy promises of a student center and improved curricula to trick students into thinking it’s about “them” and not actually about meeting the bottom line.
It may not be the administrators’ job to lead students by the hand through their time at college, but it is ignorant to think it views students as anything other than profit centers in the business of education. I have never once felt the administration views me, or my fellow students, as individuals worth listening to or worth fighting for.
As the administration moves forward with its plans, I urge students to pay attention and speak up. Complacency and apathy are our greatest weaknesses when students are more than capable of effecting positive change.