• Sam Needleman

Letter from the Editor, Orientation 2020

Updated: Mar 3

Sam Needleman


This month, in his profile of Anjali Verma (Off-Campus Characters, p. 12), Staff Writer Jaden Jarmel-Schneider writes about a list of demands for the University written by Columbia Mobilized African Diaspora (MAD). As Jaden tells it, Verma and her co-authors are asking President Bollinger: “You’ve sent us the requisite emails about racial diversity and community involvement—did you mean it?” In the wake of the police murders of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and so many other Black Americans, MAD is calling on Columbia to “follow through on its promises to the Columbia and West Harlem communities, divest from the NYPD, reimagine public safety’s role on campus, remove the criminal history box from Columbia’s application, and hire more Black faculty members.” In addition to garnering thousands of individual signatures, MAD’s petition has been endorsed by student groups from Barnard Prison Abolition to SigEp. After a vote by the Editorial Board, this magazine joined the list, too.


Publications—especially those that include reportage—don’t always align themselves with political causes. My justification for our signing is two-fold. First, The Blue and White is not only a publication, but a student organization, and MAD has rightly called for student solidarity as they work to abolish structures of anti-Black racism at Columbia. But the second reason practically supplants the first, even if it is germane only to a few signatories (SigEp not among them): Contributors to publications must see themselves not merely as recorders of radical change, but as agents of it. And while we’ve learned from the generations of journalists who have renounced the golden mean fallacy that documenting change can be agential in tone and style and all the rest, we believe that sometimes solidarity must be explicit–especially on a campus as cloistered and clandestine as ours.


First-year readers—welcome, by the way!—will quickly find that Anjali and MAD are hardly our journalists’ only sources of inspiration this month. Our Blue Note writers (p. 7) are looking back on their personal experiences to help our newest peers look forward, even though the grammars of in-person and online experiences continue to feel irreconcilable. Then there’s Ornella Pedrozo’s extraordinary work with TwentyEight Health (Off-Campus Characters, p. 14), the prospect of authentic and constructive learning experiences this semester (The Conversation, p. 36), and the tenacity and vision of the students activists and organizers of Minneapolis, among them a rising Barnard first-year (Letter From Minneapolis, p. 16). Far from myopic, these occasional optimisms might feel, to the reader isolated on Amsterdam or in Amsterdam, like sustenance.

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