Letters to the Editor

Thank You, Alex

Traditions matter. They define and bond us. Columbia College is no exception to this principle. We have, among others, the Core Curriculum, Convocation for first-years, the Senior Dinner and Class Day for seniors, sitting on the Low Steps on sunny days, and long days and nights studying in Hamilton and Butler, respectively.

Another tradition we have is an excellent alumni magazine, Columbia College Today, which is published quarterly. About 19 years ago, after a successful career as a sports journalist and author, Alex Sachare ’71 became its editor. This development was the College’s great fortune.

From the start, Alex understood the importance of emphasizing consistency and respect for the College’s rich history while incorporating novel and entertaining features that appeal to our varied constituencies and generations. Each issue featured Alex’s and/or the dean’s message, Around the Quads news items, reports on our athletic teams’ achievements, a message from the Columbia College Alumni Association, updates on new books penned by alumni and professors, Class Notes and Obituaries. Alex and his staff, plus a team of freelance writers, wrote in-depth articles about alumni, students exploring the world, rising faculty stars — as well as legendary professors — and campus issues.

Thank you, Alex, for your many years of great work and service to the College community. I hope this is not a full “retirement” and that occasionally you’ll still put on your writer’s hat and contribute your wisdom and warmth to CCT.

Brian Krisberg ’81, LAW ’84
New York City

In 22 years as a class correspondent, I’ve worked with two Columbia College Today editors, both of whom were terrific: Jamie Katz ’72, BUS’80 and Alex Sachare ’71. I almost missed the news of Alex’s retirement in the last issue, with his modest farewell.

Alex joined the magazine after a distinguished career in the world of sports journalism, including positions with the NBA and AP, another shared alma mater, and of course Spectator, where he was sports editor. (After I met Alex, my challenge was remembering how to pronounce his last name.) [Editor’s note: It’s “saa-share.”]

Alex, thank you for your support of the class correspondents during your 18-plus–years tenure. I’ve always especially appreciated your help in publishing photos to commemorate events, such as the annual gathering of the new Roger Lehecka Summer Fellows. All best wishes for your retirement!

Janet Lorin ’95, JRN’96
New York City

The Trustees of the Columbia University Club Foundation have long been cognizant of the dedication and outstanding service that Alex Sachare ’71 had devoted, since 1998, to Columbia College Today as its editor, and we wish him well on his recent retirement.

We learned late last year that University Archivist Jocelyn Wilk had desired to digitize all past issues of the magazine in order to preserve them for reference and ease the ability of anyone wishing to research them. Therefore, the foundation was pleased to have made a significant donation to help Vice Provost and University Librarian Ann D. Thornton, Wilk and CCT to undertake this project, and we have done so in honor of Alex.

Arthur M. Delmhorst ’60, BUS’64, president
Bernd Brecher ’54, JRN’55, vice president

The Trustees of the Columbia University Club Foundation

Thank you, Alex Sachare ’71, for your many years of service to the Columbia College community as editor of Columbia College Today. I have eagerly awaited every one of the 87 issues that you have edited. It’s amazing how well a magazine can continue to keep our College experience alive.

As the correspondent for the Class of 1963 for the past 14 years, I thank you for expanding the Class Notes section and allowing class correspondents to help our classmates stay in better touch with one another. You have kept me honest through the years by ensuring my notes are accurate without exerting a heavy editorial thumb. You and your staff have graciously accepted my natural procrastination and gently encouraged my submissions past deadline without making me feel too guilty.

You and I have shared a love of Columbia’s past and present, and happily, on your watch, the online version of CCT has become a true archive and an extraordinary source of information about Columbia and its history.

Thank you for your friendship, for all you have done for CCT and for your promise to continue as a contributing writer.

Paul Neshamkin ’63
Hoboken, N.J.

Ignorance of Bias?

In the Winter 2016–17 issue, professor of political science Robert Y. Shapiro writes, “Another reason [Barack] Obama [’83] rates highly is that his administration has been strikingly free of scandals.” I don’t remember having even one professor in the early 1960s who was so ignorant or biased that (s)he would make such a claim. My fellow students would have detected sarcasm and laughed. Mr. Shapiro, just as an example, what do you think about Obama using the IRS to conduct political warfare? Watergate was a Sunday school transgression compared to Obama’s lawlessness.

Jim O’Brien ’66
Maitland, Fla.

Missing Voices

As a proud Columbia College alumna, I was dismayed to open my last Columbia College Today and see the egregious underrepresentation of women in the cover article (“The Experts,” Winter 2016–17). Out of the 18 “experts” interviewed for the article, only three were women. Moreover, these three women did not appear until the final three interviews of the piece. (For context: The College has admitted women since 1983 and female students now make up 51 percent of the student body.)

I have always valued my College education, in large part due to the strong, smart women who were my classmates, roommates, professors and colleagues. I am greatly disappointed and ashamed that the writers and editors at CCT did not cast a wider net to include more of these women in the piece; we certainly merit a place at the table of CC experts.

Natalie Kimmelman ’06
Brooklyn, N.Y.

Bring Back Orgo Night

In “Rituals, Traditions, History” (“Message from the Dean,” Winter 2014–15), Dean James J. Valentini praised College traditions as “part of our identity and part of the legacy of every College student — former, current and future ... .”

Which brings us to Orgo Night.

An undergraduate admissions brochure, “Columbia Blue,” has included a student’s joyous depiction of that twice-yearly event: “The main study room in Butler Library starts getting packed around 11:30 p.m. ... At midnight sharp ... the marching band storms into the room playing songs and reading jokes while the rest of us are standing on the tables and chairs dancing and laughing.”

Admissions hasn’t been alone in endorsing the more-than-40-year-old tradition. In a Class Notes column for the Class of 1955, Columbia College Alumni Association former president and current class correspondent Gerald Sherwin ’55 cited “the always-sparkling Orgo Night.” On its 250th-anniversary website, the University posted Orgo Night memories from two College alumni. The James H. and Christine Turk Berick Center for Student Advising as well as Columbia Family Engagement recommend attendance as a study break.

So we were saddened and distressed this past December when administrators declared Butler off-limits to the Marching Band because of “library rules.” The brief midnight pause, they said, is too disruptive. Library rules? Really?

Orgo Night has always been like a “Cleverest Band in the World” halftime performance on steroids: more Friars Club roast than tea at Grandma’s. But as hypersensitivity has swept American campuses, the administration has had to field a smattering of complaints from students who say Orgo Night jokes make them uncomfortable. So what to make of the sudden demand for silence in a space where students have gathered twice-yearly since 1975 to laugh, cheer, clap and sing “Roar, Lion, Roar” along with the band?

We find the timing suspect, the “library rules” excuse disingenuous and the execution unbecoming.

On December 15, not content to let the tradition die, the band braved subzero wind chill and performed outside Butler before a crowd of hundreds. If any students remained in Room 209, we doubt their grades were improved by the extra half-hour of quiet time.

Young men and women playing instruments


We applaud band members’ persistence and their fellow students’ appreciation of a valued tradition. (All four Columbia undergraduate student councils and the Spectator editorial board spoke up on the band’s behalf.) We urge administrators to rethink this latest casualty in what students call the “War on Fun.” Students who see their sense of community weakened become alumni who just don’t care, and that’s in no one’s interest. Let’s go back to suspending the rules for a half-hour twice yearly — a reasonable accommodation. Let the band promote school spirit inside Butler as well as outside, in the name of tradition, for the sake of community building, and — dare we say it? — for the love of alma mater.

Steven Greenfield ’83, Samantha Rowan BC’96, Morgan Robinson ’08, Katharine Trendacosta ’10 and Peter Andrews ’14, directors, Columbia University Band Alumni Association; Ed Coller ’63, Dan Carlinsky ’65, JRN’66, J. Donald Smith ’65, Peter Janovsky ’68, Christopher Sten ’77, BUS’79, Dennis Klainberg ’84, Cathy Webster ’87, Liz Pleshette ’89, Betsey Benagh ’94, SEAS’94, Ben Mills ’06, Mark Tabry SEAS’07, Stephanie Tarras BC’10 and Kevin Gould ’12, Advisory Board members, CUBAA
New York City