Hello, freshmen! (For future reference, it’s best to go with ‘first year.’) This issue should find you in your dorm (I congratulate you on your choice) as your fan cools your sweaty brow after a crowded elevator trip up to your barren and questionably stained matchstick box. Welcome to Columbia! Don’t worry if you hate it; everyone else here does too.
The rhetoric of College means an immense amount of expectation sits on the young shoulders which grip (via some arms, presumably) this volume. There are expectations of you - to be a leader (Admissions decreed nobody in the Class of 2019 shall ever, ever be a follower), to make bank with that Econ degree, or to discuss Sophocles at that hypothetical cocktail party looming massive on the horizon. And there are expectations you have of this institution, which has tried, with brochures and rankings and emails and expensively produced videos, to win your heart in advance.
Here’s the trick: the institution is a floating signifier, which is a theoretical phrase you’ll find yourself using as you become increasingly obnoxious during your undergraduate career here. We realized this fact last issue, when we asked Dean James Valentini what Columbia College was, and he referred us to a website. In our Conversation with professor Christia Mercer, she tells us that the Core is not a static thing you inherit, but something you create as you study it. There is no one Columbia that will build you—you build your college for yourself. It’s choose your own adventure—just look at our CU twin study, our NSOP flowchart, or our radically different takes on whether or not we’re going out tonight.
While you’re making your own Columbia, perhaps you might make it better, as Professor Mercer insists we have the power to do. And perhaps you might grow to love it, madly. I hope so.
Hallie Nell Swanson