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Columbia College Today May 2003
Cover Story
Rushdie: In
    His Own Words
Five Alumni Honored
    at John Jay Dinner
Twists and Turns
    in a Liberal Arts
Michael Kahn ’61:
    All the World’s
    a Stage

    Turns 100

Love in Lerner


Alumni Profiles





This Issue




Around the Quads



Campus was relatively quiet during the first days of the war in Iraq, primarily because many students were away on spring break. But that changed upon their return, with several rallies and demonstrations taking place on campus, mostly by those opposing the war but also by supporters of the U.S. government’s position.

Columbia drew national attention after a faculty-organized anti-war teach-in was held in Low Library on March 26. Some 30 faculty members spoke at the six-hour event, and at one point, the line of students waiting for admission snaked out of Low, down the Steps and onto College Walk toward Broadway. Among those who spoke were Alan Nevins Professor of History (and Provost-designee) Alan Brinkley, DeWitt Clinton Professor of History Eric Foner ’63, Kevorkian Professor of Iranian Studies Hamid Dabashi and Ruggles Professor of Political Science Ira Katznelson.

But it was Nicholas De Genova, assistant professor of anthropology, who became the focus of the media’s attention when he reportedly said at the teach-in that he hoped for “a million Mogadishus,” a reference to the city in Somalia where 18 American soldiers were killed in 1993. De Genova also reportedly said that Americans who call themselves patriots were imperialist white supremacists. Some who attended the teach-in said the audience was largely silent upon hearing De Genova’s remarks, and several professors who spoke after him denounced his position.

“Professor De Genova’s speech did not represent the views of the organizers,” Foner, one of those who organized the teach-in, told The New York Times. “I found it quite reprehensible. The antiwar movement does not desire the death of American soldiers. We do not accept his view of what it means to be a patriot. I began my talk, which came later, by repudiating his definition of patriotism, saying the teach-in was a patriotic act, that I believe patriots are those who seek to improve their country.”

President Lee C. Bollinger issued a statement on the day after the teach-in, saying he was shocked by De Genova’s statement and that it was the position of an individual who was exercising his right of free speech and not the position of the University. One week later, after the media publicized De Genova’s remarks and the University received numerous messages about them, Bollinger issued another statement amplifying his position. Following is the text of that statement:

“I am appalled by Assistant Professor Nicholas De Genova’s outrageous comments. I want to assure you that his comments in no way represent my views nor anyone with whom I have spoken at the University. His comments were not made in a classroom, but rather at a teach-in, an informal gathering where faculty and students come together to discuss and debate the pressing and important issues of the moment. They are not authorized or officially sanctioned classroom experiences.

“Assistant Professor De Genova was exercising his freedom of speech when he made those remarks. However, free speech does not insulate him from criticism. Our faculty and students, regardless of their position on the war, have not been silent in their denunciation of his remarks.

“While Nicholas De Genova’s words properly invite anger and sharp rebuke, there are few things more precious on any University campus than freedom of thought and expression. That is the teaching of the First Amendment, and I believe it should be the principle we live by at Columbia University.

“At a time of war, when American troops are in harm’s way, his comments are especially disturbing. I am particularly saddened for the families of those whose lives are at risk and who must endure the pain provoked by his statements.”

One of the students in De Genova’s “Latino History and Culture” class during the spring semester was Rebekah Pazmino ’05, who also is an officer-in-training in the Marines. She said she was “shocked and very upset” that De Genova would say “such ignorant and hateful things,” but when asked by Fox News interviewer Sean Hannity whether De Genova should be fired for his remarks, she, like Bollinger noted that the remarks were made at a teach-in and not in a classroom setting and said this was an important distinction.

“I don’t know if I would go so far as to say he should be fired, but I really think that he should have rethought the comments that he made and make a public apology,” Pazmino said. When pressed by Hannity, Pazmino added, “The interesting thing is that Professor De Genova had never actually said anything that radical in his class, from what I know of. I feel that, while he said these things outside of class, he’s still in some ways protected under academic freedom, even if he did cross a line.”



Black Alumni Heritage Reception

More than 200 alumni, students, faculty and administrators gathered in Low Rotunda on February 12 for the 18th annual Black Alumni Heritage Month Reception. The festive event, which included a performance by Columbia student gospel singers, honored David A. Patterson ’77, minority leader of the New York State Senate. At the reception, Dean Austin Quigley (center) chatted with Dr. Tamara R. Dildy ’92 and the Honorable Joseph A Greenaway Jr. ’78, U.S. District Court judge and chair of the Black Alumni Council.


In February, Columbia embarked on a year-long campus planning study to determine how to best make use of its existing resources in Morningside Heights, Washington Heights, Lamont-Doherty and Manhattanville. The study allows for the development of a strategic plan to identify options for new space for the University’s long-term academic growth as well as determining how it can double its usable space across the next 50 years.

The study will be completed by two urban architectural and planning firms, Renzo Piano Building Workshop and Skidmore Owings & Merrill. RPBW has designed a number of venues and buildings around the world, including the reconstruction of the Potsdamer Plaza in Berlin. It is working on the design for the headquarters for The New York Times and the Morgan Library addition. SOM, known for its landmark projects in New York, including the new Pennsylvania Station in the Farley Building, also has been engaged in a number of campus planning studies and projects for institutions such as Harvard, Yale and Memorial Sloan-Kettering.

The team will evaluate the best uses of existing space, which programs within the University need more space and how these needs should be addressed. The team also will be charged with developing strategies to enhance the relationship between the Morningside Heights campus, the University’s Health Sciences campus in Washington Heights and the Lamont-Doherty campus in Rockland County.

President Lee C. Bollinger reiterated Columbia’s commitment to New York City and said that the campus planning efforts will focus on the west side of Manhattan. “We are Columbia University in the City of New York. Since our inception, Columbia has been integrated into the fabric of New York City. The campus of New York is a tremendous asset for Columbia’s faculty, researchers and students, and the Columbia campus is a tremendous contributor to the intellectual and economic vitality of New York. As we consider options for expanding our campus, we will work closely with government officials and our neighboring communities and their leaders on the West Side,” Bollinger said.

Columbia has about 16 million square feet of space among its three campuses, including 12 million square feet at the 36-acre Morningside Heights campus, four million square feet at the health science campus and 300,000 square feet at Lamont-Doherty. It has added about 1.2 million square feet in the last decade.

Columbia has less square footage per student than any of its counterparts in the Ivy League. Historically, the University addressed space needs by relocating, which it did twice before moving in 1897 to Morningside Heights.

Columbia’s expansion at times has been a source of friction with its neighbors. Its 1968 plan to build a gymnasium in Morningside Park helped set off stormy protests. A recent plan to expand its school of social work on West 113th Street also met with opposition, and Columbia moved the building to Amsterdam Avenue, between West 121st and West 122nd Streets. Robert Kasdin, senior executive v.p., said that the campus plan that the firms would develop may not totally remove such friction, but that he hoped the University had become more sensitive to the community.


Professor of Political Science Anthony W. Marx has been chosen as the next president of Amherst College. He will succeed Tom Gerety, who will step down on June 30 after nine years as president.

In addition to his teaching duties, Marx directed an initiative financed by the Gates Foundation that establishes partnerships between public schools and colleges and universities. He said that a priority at Amherst would be to make the college more active in seeking to improve American public education. Other priorities, according to Marx, will be to encourage students to engage in more community service and to review the Amherst curriculum with its faculty to see that it is working across all disciplines.

Marx, 44, was born in Manhattan. He earned his bachelor’s degree from Yale and master’s and doctoral degrees from Princeton, the latter in 1990. He joined Columbia that year. During the 1980s, Marx lived in South Africa, and he has drawn on those experiences in several books, including Making Race and Nation: A Comparison of the United States, South Africa, and Brazil (Cambridge University Press, 1998), which was awarded a 1999 prize by the American Political Science Association.


On April 1, the Supreme Court heard arguments for and against affirmative action in oral arguments for two cases challenging admissions policies at the University of Michigan. President Lee C. Bollinger, who was president of Michigan when the cases were filed and is the named defendant in both suits, argued that affirmative action is vital to upholding the court’s ruling in Brown v. the Board of Education, the 1954 case in which “separate but equal” standards were held to be unconstitutional. The Rev. Jesse Jackson was among numerous celebrities who spoke in support of that position, while outside the court, several thousand demonstrators, including an estimated 300 from Columbia, voiced their opinion in favor of affirmative action.

One suit was brought against Michigan’s undergraduate admissions policy, which assigns applicants specific points for various criteria, including race. The other suit was brought against Michigan’s law school, which also considers race in the application process, but in a less structured way. The court is expected to rule in June.

“The legacy of Brown v. the Board of Education, which has set an ideal for the society that’s an integrated society, remains a part of mainstream America,” Bollinger said. “It is the basis for the educational judgment that we need to prepare our students for this world.”


The Center for Environmental Research and Conservation (CERC) is expanding its SEE-U (Summer Ecosystem Experience for Undergraduates) program this summer, adding a session at a new site, Punta Cana in the Dominican Republic, to two sessions in Brazil.

The goals of the five-week SEE-U program are to provide training in the methods and principles of field ecology, and to ensure that students master the practice of scientific inquiry. The SEE-U program supports the development of global understanding and field ecology by allowing students to study individual biomes — large-scale environments where similar climates have produced similar biotic communities — in local, regional and global contexts. Students attend lectures, participate in field work, laboratory work and Web-based exercises, and regularly interact with students at other biomes through a virtual learning platform of network simulations developed by CERC and the Center for New Media Teaching and Learning.

“It’s like science boot camp,” says Don C. Melnick, professor of ecology, evolution and environmental biology and CERC’s executive director. “Students come in and have to design a research project. They come up with a hypothesis they want to test, they design the experiment, they learn some statistical testing and probability theory, and they present their research to the rest of the class, which critiques it. You can learn a lot about science not only by having a lecturer talk to you about it, but by going out and applying it. We’re demystifying the science.”

Students earn six credits by completing the “total immersion session,” as Melnick describes it. SEE-U, which began as a pilot program in 2000, attracts science majors and non-majors alike. “We’ve had kids who have avoided science like the plague come and have an amazing experience,” says Melnick. “Some said that if they knew that this was what science is about, they would have become scientists instead of majoring in something else.”

SEE-U is just one program offered by CERC, a consortium of Columbia and four other institutions: the American Museum of Natural History, The New York Botanical Garden, Wildlife Conservation Society and Wildlife Trust. CERC is a member of the cross-disciplinary Columbia Earth Institute, which lists its mission as “preparing the next generation of environmental leaders through scholarship, training and research.”

For more information on the SEE-U program, please visit For more information on CERC, please visit


President Lee C. Bollinger visited India in January in a show of support for the launch of its new Commission on Macroeconomics and Health. Bollinger was joined at the January 9 launch by Professor Jeffrey Sachs, who directs the Earth Institute at Columbia, and Mailman School of Public Health Dean Allan Rosenfield.

The Indian government formed the commission based on a 2001 report issued by the World Health Organization’s Commission on Macroeconomics and Health, which Sachs chairs. The report found that improvements in health in the developing world would improve economic growth and lessen population growth. The commission will target health sector concerns to encourage economic development and will work with WHO and Columbia’s Center for Global Health and Economic Development to find methods to sustain increased health care investments. Sachs and Rosenfield formed the center to research ways to improve health care in developing nations.

Bollinger, who met with India’s president and prime minister, said that the project is an example of the Earth Institute’s potential for global impact. “The Earth Institute demonstrates Columbia’s fervent commitment to address this century’s most encompassing global challenge: the sustainable development of the planet,” he commented.


John F. Szwed, an anthropology professor at Yale and the author of So What: The Life of Miles Davis (Simon & Schuster, 2002), has been appointed the 2003–04 Louis Armstrong visiting professor of jazz studies. The Columbia appointment is supported by a grant from the Louis Armstrong Educational Foundation, which supports jazz education. Szwed, who will teach two courses on jazz next year, has been at Yale since 1982 and has served as director of graduate studies in anthropology and acting chairman of African-American studies.




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