• Chloë Gottlieb

Encomium for the Email

Updated: Mar 3

An upperclassman’s bloated inbox inspires heartfelt reflections on the clubs that got away.

By Chloë Gottlieb


My inbox is an ever-welcoming graveyard of perpetual emails from clubs I probably maybe was going to join freshman year, when I handed out my uni at the club fair like it was condoms and I was PPGen. And while I commend EcoReps’ voracity, they would do well to add an unsubscribe button to the end of their perennial emails. For two years now, I have sat idly by as a deluge of cyber waste accumulates on my @columbia.edu. It doesn’t end with EcoReps. CU Sign. DoubleExposure. Gadfly. And whoever Avi Edelman is. My Spam and Low-Priority Email Digest has nearly surpassed the word limit of a UWriting formal draft.


These emails reflect subscriptions to potential futures at Columbia. Admittedly, some of my hypothetical club affiliations are more ambitious than others. The Columbia Space Initiative, for example, is most likely out of my league. I’ve never taken Calc and I certainly won’t start now. I like to imagine myself showing up to meetings, FroSci astrophysics formulas memorized, offering my indispensable expertise as an art major to NASA’s astronomical operations. (I’m not actually sure NASA has anything to do with their meetings, but I sure hope so.) If The Endeavor ever urgently needs a sardonic comment on a mission, or for someone in a cool coat to stand around in group pics, they’re in luck. Just don’t even think about asking me what an integral is.


How I wound up on the Columbia Financial Investment Group listserv remains an enigma even to myself. With a name like that, it feels safe to assume that the club would lead lengthy colloquiums on the recent GameStop stock mutiny (about which, in a radical act of class solidarity, I absolutely refuse to learn). I worry that if I were to attend a CFIG meeting I would not only be turned away at the door for cuffing my jeans, but I'd undermine my leftist views with a total lack of financial literacy. Really, though, why can’t we just print more money? Join me in defying Ivy League stereotypes and simply decline to understand how exactly the NASDAQ works. Bimbo rights!


Illustration by Julia Lin

Other clubs I “joined” make much more sense; I really did want to be a part of CU Film Productions—honest!—but I was too painfully aware of how cringeworthy student films are. Ditto for improv, Third Wheel members who write for this magazine excluded. (Or are they?) Envisioning attempts at avant-garde cinema through the collegiate gaze is almost too much to bear. I know I couldn’t handle the artistic demands of filmmaking myself, but I certainly enjoy judging and even, occasionally, throwing things from my peanut gallery seat at the bottom of the email list. But any more Fellini-inspired short films with the lighting of an Instagram Reel, and I may even unsubscribe from that. I don’t enjoy sounding like the mean food critic from Ratatouille, truly. Film majors are just the very worst of the lot. That’s not offensive—I’m allowed to say it, I took Intro to Film.


As a young first-year, it was sensible, you might even say brave, to join a sports team. Rugby, however, was perhaps a tad quixotic. I’m five foot one on a good day, and never broke a nine-minute mile in high school. My stature and speed earned me explicit instructions to join athletics that “use the opponent’s strength against them.” After giving the women’s team my email, I learned that rugby very much does the opposite; in fact, it uses the opponent's strength against me. No dice. Maybe I’ll reach out to crew and see if they need a coxswain. Or the golf Team, if they’re cool with Jews.


Picturing the possibilities of where these extracurriculars could take me is limitless—rather, it approaches infinity, to borrow my hard-won Space Initiative lingo. So, EcoReps, if you’re reading this, scratch what I said before. Keep those emails coming, without an option to unsubscribe anywhere in sight. I dream of meeting you all at a Greenborough party, cup-from-home in hand (to limit plastic consumption, of course), laughing about those long email listservs. Until then, maybe I’ll see you at the club Zoom. Probably not. But maybe! And I think that’s beautiful.


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