Updated: Aug 2, 2021
By Jasmine Park
You might not know the following figures—but you should. In Campus Characters, the Blue & white introduces you to a handful of Columbians who are up to interesting and extraordinary things and whose stories beg to be shared. This issue, we bring you two people with interests in social justice. If you’d like to suggest a Campus Character, send us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org
Karim Nader, CC ’17, can make himself look pregnant. We’re sitting in the lounge of the seventh oor of Carman as he bulges his stomach and pats it gleefully. Everyone passing through the hall- way calls out a “Hey Karim!”; one stops for a quick chat. An RA in a freshman dorm doesn’t sound like a particularly appealing gig, but Karim seems to make the most of it. He respects the space that they share, and makes it something of a home.
He had sprinted down the hallway 15 minutes after our interview was scheduled, frozen yogurt in hand, returning from basking in the alarmingly warm February day. Karim has a friendly demeanor; a lot of his small talk is bookended with exclamation points. However, there is something deliberate in his words and motions, not in a way that’s calculating or insin- cere. It is just as if he’s minutely aware of the space he occupies and the ideas he’s imparting.
Born and raised in Lebanon, Karim Nader came to Columbia contemplating a math major, but “heard a philosopher speak once, and was like ‘I want to do philosophy now.’” He enjoys being involved, something that drew him to the Student Governing Board three years ago. Also a member of the Arab Students Association and the Columbia Queer Alliance, Karim is heavily involved in student activism on campus. A few weeks prior to our conversation, he’d organized an event discussing student activism and its merits, a discussion he believed all Columbia groups needed to come together and discuss. He remarks on the important history of activism in Columbia, discussing the larger narratives of student voices, methods of activism, and the expression of opposition. Karim emphasizes the importance of groups from different ideologies coming together through the common belief in the importance of activism, noting that this acknowledgement and meeting of different perspectives is particularly lacking at Columbia. On a campus filled with loud voices from every corner, Karim is more interested in making a space for dialogue than in resolute shouting. He calls it “meta-activism”: “doing activism to make activism easier”.
Illustration by Jennifer Bi
When asked about his other activities, he talks about his involvement in EAAH (Everyone Allied Against Homophobia), which organized a two-day conference for high school students to discuss activism in their high schools, and “what it meant for them to have a space in their high schools where they felt supported as LGBTQ people, but how to balance that with family and the understanding of their identity.” He called it “probably the most beautiful thing [he’s] ever done on this campus.”
As an RA, he works to foster a space with a strong sense of mentorship. He’s clearly contributed a strong sense of community to his oor. For our interview we’re sitting in a lounge still lit with fairy lights and with a fake Christmas tree in the corner now missing its holiday stockings for each resident. A common theme in Karim’s actions on campus seems to be the creation of spaces, an environment to encourage discourse, to be an activist, to be vulner- able, and to become stronger and more knowledge- able from it.
Beyond activism, Karim also loves anime. A philosopher to his core, he lists a few favorites (Fullmetal Alchemist, Deathnote) as he gushes over the dif cult questions and moral dilemmas presented within them. And as far as any advice for incoming/ current Columbia students, he cringes at his own cliché: “It is what you make of it.”