On February 22, 2014, Grisham Blake, CC ’17, rented a U-Haul truck and drove it down the FDR Parkway to SoHo, where he proceeded to dismantle a bar from a restaurant that was going out of business. He then transported it back to campus and reassembled it in his Carman 8 dorm room. Blake said he thought the bar would be nice to fill the space vacated by his roommate, who had recently relocated to a single in John Jay.
“I got 7 quarts of paint, different colors from Home Depot and a bunch of paint brushes and yeah, I threw a huge party in my room,” said Blake. “It was only supposed to paint the bar, and then the paint got everywhere. You know like obviously, put people in a room like that and the paint got everywhere.”
Painting on residence hall walls is strictly forbidden by Columbia Housing, and that quickly became an issue for Blake. After an RA broke up the party, Blake said that “the wheels of Columbia justice started turning.”
Blake was tried at an Office of Judicial Affairs hearing on February 27th. “It was very cut-and-dry, here is your punishment,” said Blake, “I had people [who] very generously submitted character witnesses. And I went in and said, ‘Here are some character witnesses,’ because that was the only defense I could have for myself. And they’re like, ‘Okay yeah whatever doesn’t matter.’”
Contrary to Bwog reporting at the time, Blake was only initially suspended from campus housing and entering campus residence halls. He was suspended from campus completely after he went to a class in Hartley Hall and attempted to gather his belongings from his room during his initial suspension. “I was persona non grata on campus,” he said, “which meant that if I came on campus and they saw me, I could be arrested by NYPD.”
While his suspension lasted from March 2014 to January 2015, Blake’s second semester of freshman year was still counted on his transcript (even though he did not receive credit for the classes he was enrolled in). “I’m not sure if I’m considered a sophomore or junior,” Blake added.
Blake considers his paint party and punishment beneficial and formative because of all he got to experience as a result of it. After leaving school in March he took some time to decide what to do with his life before moving to Italy to work as an au pair in Cremona. He then moved to Japan where he worked as an intern at an NGO that specializes in helping Japanese orphans. Following this, Blake backpacked Europe and spent time in Cambodia before returning to the United States.
“I don’t really have any regrets. It was a good experience because if I hadn’t done the paint party none of those things would have come to fruition. I have a very vast wealth of experience coming from that,” said Blake.
Returning to life at Columbia has not been easy for Blake. He lives off campus, with no desire to live on campus again. He still hopes to graduate with the Class of 2017, but he said, “Columbia has tried its damndest to not have me come back in a lot of ways.”
When asked what his advice would be to fellow Columbia students, Blake told me, “I don’t want to say anything disparaging to the university, but I don’t know. Take chances.”