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  • Writer's pictureThe Blue and White Magazine

Blue Notes, October 2017

Updated: Aug 2, 2021



These cats are cared for.



If you venture down to the carpark adjacent to 605 West.113th St. at 6:00 pm, Swirly and Prince will most likely be waiting. Swirly, a young female feline, will be sitting by the chain-link fence. And Prince, Swirly’s father (named because he was found the day the musician Prince died), will be lingering underneath the lot’s cars. Both members of said ‘colony’ await one of three current and retired Barnard/ Columbia faculty members who come to care for and nurture them.

On October 12th, they waited for an ex-Medieval History professor who Swirly “knows by voice.” Swirly, “doesn’t even like wet food,” but watched as the professor placed canned cat food under the fence. Swirly sniffed it, and then, in a gesture her scholar-caretaker interprets as “calling him over,” meowed to Prince that all was okay. Swirly then proceeded to eat dry food from a nearby automatic dispenser while Prince, on the condition that the professor step aside, ate the wet food. This charade of feral cats and professors occurs daily, and has for the past few years.

It began when a Physical Education instructor known for her cat-whispering ability got a call that a cat on 113th was injured. She happened upon eight abandoned cats, all once pets of undergrads living in Nuss, who had migrated from the dorm’s basement to the streets. She began to trap, neuter, and release these cats (a process known as TNR), even finding permanent homes for three of the eight. Today, she works alongside two other women building shelters, caring for and rehabilitating cats around Columbia’s campus. They hope to stop NYC’s feral cat population from growing, and to stop the spread of feline HIV.

Next time you walk down West 114th, PLEASE DO NOT feed them, but do give Swirly and Prince a nod from afar, because “if you get too close they’ll run away.”

— Ottilie Lighte

Ever wonder why you’re eating with seemingly plastic cutlery at Ferris Booth Commons? While students study about environmental issues behind closed classroom doors, what happens when they are eating? Do students think twice before grabbing a new plate, fork, or napkins?

According to a representative of Columbia Dining, around 6.6 million paper napkins are consumed at Columbia Dining halls annually. That sounds like an absurd amount of napkins, an obscene level of wastage for a school that claims to be so environmentally focused.

But, the good news is that Ferris might be more green than you think. According to the same Columbia Dining representative, “plastic cutlery was used at Ferris Booth Commons only until 2009 when, in an effort to incorporate more sustainable practices into our operation, we introduced the current biodegradable cutlery.” It looks like plastic, but it’s actually not! Furthermore, she clarified that the material is not only green, but also more durable than other environmentally friendly materials (for example, it does not melt or splinter). The representative also explained that the paper napkins are made of “100 percent post-consumer recycled content”.

When asked why Ferris Booth does not use metal flatware like its John Jay counterpart, the representative from dining said it has nothing to do with cost — Ferris cannot use metal flatware because the kitchen’s infrastructure is not suitable for a dishwashing system that could support the number of dishes students use at John Jay and still maintain hygienic standards. While it is a relief to know that Ferris uses eco-friendly cutlery and other materials, there is still a pressing issue of wastage. Even if these materials can be recycled or disposed of correctly, there has to be a lot of energy used to produce them in the first place. After all, 6.6 million napkins is no small number.

— Ayesha Kapur

My freshman year of college, I mentioned to an English professor how much I had enjoyed Tennessee Williams’s plays when I encountered them in a high school English class, the sweltering summer heat, dysfunctional families, the eerie sense of impending disaster that gripped every scene. My professor then mentioned that Columbia University owned a collection of Williams’s eyeglasses. I looked into it more and found out that Columbia’s Rare Book and Manuscript Library had a lot more than just glasses: numerous typewritten manuscripts and scripts, three notebooks, several typewriters, some of Williams’s paintings and equipment for painting, photographs, letters, and the contents of his personal library.

So how did a university in New York City come to possess the belongings of a famous New Orleanian playwright? The answer to this question begins not with Williams, but with a student, Brander Matthews, CC 1871, who went on to become a Columbia professor. While Matthews died decades before Williams published the plays that would earn him international renown, the professor’s lifelong fascination with collecting, as well as his deep interest in theater and performance arts, set a precedent at the University for collecting possessions of artists that would continue long after his death. As mentioned on Columbia’s website, by the time Williams died in 1983, Columbia had been purchasing Williams’s items for more than a decade, and in 1994, the University purchased a number of items that were in Williams’s house in Key West at the time of his death.

The University’s interest in Williams persists to this day— in 2013, Columbia acquired even more of his material to add to its collection. For anyone curious about seeing it for themselves, the collection can be found in the Rare Book and Manuscript Library, located on the sixth floor of Butler Library.

— Pavi Chance


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