Updated: Jun 29, 2021
By Michelle Cheripka
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. If you’d like to suggest a Campus Character, send us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
As I sit in Brad’s, waiting to meet Sammy Roth, CC ’14 and former Editor-in-Chief of Spectator, I notice a head full of hair through the window—it seems to make an entrance before he does. In the words of Finn Vigeland, CC ’14, who worked alongside Sammy as Managing Editor, “Most people know Sammy as Editor-in-Chief or as that kid with a lot of hair.”
Aside from his hair, Sammy has made a name for himself as a reporter. During his freshman year, he established himself at Spec when he wrote a series about the Northwest Corner, discussing the projected plans for what the building would house, from its faculty to its labs and classes. The series gave him the foundation for his position as Deputy News Editor of Academics & Administration, where he covered topics such as the revival of the ROTC program.
Reporting changed the way that Sammy saw and interacted with Columbia: having such intimate knowledge of the university’s inner workings, it’s hard to ignore the very things that make Columbia a more stressful and difficult place to be. “I have a very acute sense of ‘here are the things that are wrong with Columbia,’” Sammy admits. He sincerely believes that the news has the potential to make changes. “I’m really into uncovering what was hidden in the Columbia bureaucracy.”
The tone isn’t one that you’d hear from a more cut-throat journalist, but according to Finn, “Sammy is understatedly bold.” He recalls when The New York Times broke the news about the SEAS faculty revolt against Dean Peña-Mora in 2012 after their concerns about space and class sizes had been repeatedly ignored. Though Spec was not the first to publish the story, it was the first to get information directly from Provost Coatsworth: Sammy’s first instinct had been to call him on his home phone number, before proceeding to call every single member of SEAS faculty, as well.
Sammy’s passion for hearing and telling stories makes it all the more surprising when he apologizes for speaking too much, telling me that he doesn’t typically get to talk about this. As Editor-in-Chief, he was primarily responsible for giving feedback. At the same time, it’s easy to lose touch with the reporters, with the content that goes into each issue. “You can’t micromanage and be involved in everything that you care about or have an opinion about because that would be way too overwhelming. You have to prioritize in a big way.”
It makes one thing clear: as passionate as he is about hearing and telling stories, he is equally passionate about the people who tell them. “When you’re debating where to put a comma or framing a quote in the best way that it needs to be framed, you form really strong bonds that way,” he says.
When I ask him what he would tweet if he had to sum up his experience at Spec in 140 characters, he pauses for a moment before saying, “Wish I could do it again.”