Tuesday, April 11, 2017

How to interpret silence from Low Library?

Dear President Bollinger:

            Since last December, concerned alumni have sent letters and emails to you, to Dean Valentini, and to University Librarian Ann Thornton, expressing confusion and outrage over the decision to stifle the Marching Band’s long-running Orgo Night show.  In response, they have received form letters essentially stating that the University administration knows best and that no action will be taken in response to alumni concerns.  Some of those form letters have repeated the specious justifications originally trotted out to explain the decision, as if repeating false information makes it true.

            Some alumni have attempted to raise the Orgo Night issue in personal conversations with university administrators, but have been politely rebuffed.

            This group of concerned and interested alumni has attempted to engage in a discussion of the issues through a series of essays, which you have received via email and in hard copy, along with Trustees, other high-ranking officials at Columbia, leaders of the Alumni Association, faculty, and Deans.  We have received no response.

            How should we interpret this silence?  Should we assume that the University administration simply has no interest in engaging in any meaningful discussion?  Should we assume that the same University administration that solicits and happily receives our donations has no use for us when we try to participate in how our Alma Mater operates?  Is this how Columbia cultivates interested, engaged, and active alumni?

            On the facts and substance of the underlying issue, there is simply no dispute.  In earlier essays, we have shown that Orgo Night is, and should remain, a cherished and unique tradition at Columbia.  We have also shown that the reasons given for banning the Marching Band from Butler Library fail to withstand scrutiny.  The interests of the many students who welcome the Band’s performances far outweigh the interests of the objectors, especially since alternate quiet study space is so readily available.  You have not articulated any rational basis for the university to suppress the Orgo Night show.  You (and that includes Dean Valentini and Ms. Thornton) have made no attempt to refute these facts or to engage in discussion with us or with the current Band leaders.

It is difficult for any observer not to conclude that the motivation for attempting to silence the Band is to avoid future controversy and appease the small number of individuals who periodically object to some portion of the content of the Orgo Night program.

President Bollinger, you are known as a fierce advocate for free speech.  You often say and do the right thing when that bedrock right is challenged on campus.  Yet, in this case it appears that you have opted for censorship over student speech, and have adopted a heavy-handed approach totally lacking in due process over an open public debate.  You and Dean Valentini have determined that placating anyone who objects for any reason to the content of the Marching Band’s program is more important than the ongoing value of the tradition and the interests of current students, parents, and alumni who support the continuation of Orgo Night.

We are truly puzzled by your seemingly inconsistent stance here, and we find the University’s disingenuous explanations disturbing.  If this is what our Alma Mater has come to, we are truly saddened.

            Where do we go from here?  We are alumni who love Columbia, who actively participate in alumni events and reunions, who return to Columbia for homecoming and Days on Campus, who interview high school students for the Admissions Office, and who attend athletic events to cheer on our Lions.  We are alumni who have in the past donated our time and our money, who purchase Columbia-branded merchandise from the school store, and who proudly announce our Columbia affiliation.  We are alumni who have proudly sent our children to Columbia and continued generational legacies, or who hope to do so in the future.  And yet it seems none of that has value in your eyes.

            What do we want?  We want you and Dean Valentini to stop ignoring us and putting us off with platitudes and form letters.  We want you to address the real issues we have raised and engage in meaningful discussion.  We have suggested two avenues of solution, but we’re happy to consider all options.

            It’s time to respond, President Bollinger.  If you want our support, our time, and our money, you must accept the responsibility of engaging with us when your decisions that affect our university give us cause to wonder whether the current administration still deserves our support.

Below are the names of just some of the many alumni who are waiting to hear from you. Some of us are onetime Band members; many are not.  The Columbia University Band Alumni Association (columbia.band.alumni@gmail.com) would be a good place for you to start an honest discussion.  Or reply to this email.  But continued silence is the wrong way to regain the trust that has been lost.  This is a self-inflicted wound that must be healed.
-  H
We are Hamiltonius:

Ziyad Abdelfattah CC ‘15
Barry Ableman  CC ‘85
Mike Abramowitz  SEAS ‘71
Hilary Baboukis  CC ‘11
Betsey (Fike) Benagh  CC ‘94, SEAS ‘94
J. Tyler Benedict CC ‘13
Joel Brockner  CC ‘14
Paul Bua  CC ‘93
Dan Carlinsky  CC ’65, JRN ‘66
Nicole Cata CC ‘11
Kevin Chapman  CC ‘83, P ‘18
Sharon L. Gerstman Chapman B ’83, P ‘18
Edgar Cheng  CC ‘94
Kathleen Christatos  B ‘07
Steve Coleman  CC ‘83
Michael B Cooper  CC ‘88
Tamsin Davies SEAS  ‘07, MS ‘13
Colin Felsman  CC ‘09
Ashley Kelly Fisher  B ‘04
Barbara Geary CC '87
Dr. David Gerstman  CC ‘56
Samantha Gilbert B ‘15
Barry M. Goldberg  SEAS ‘04
Adam Grais  CC ‘90
Steve Greenfield  CC ‘83
Ziyad Gower  SEAS ‘17
Melissa Harris  B ‘95
Joseph M. Harary  CC ’83, L ‘86
Jaclyn Henderson  B ‘12
Adam Heyman SEAS ‘91, MS ‘92
Howard Hoffman  CC ‘81
Corrington Hwong SEAS ’92, CBS ‘06
Lee Vibhusha Ilan  CC ‘87
Evelyn Jagoda  CC '14
Don W. Joe  CC ‘81
Ron Keller  CC ‘80
Dennis Klainberg  CC ‘84
Olivier Knox  CC ‘92
Alexis Bickford Lambert  B ‘95
Paul Lerner CC ‘11
Jason Lingxuan Li  SEAS ‘14
Michael Marubio  CC '87
Joshua Masur  CC ‘90
Kevin McDonald SEAS ’12, CC ‘13
Sam McPherson  CC '80
Daniel Miranda  SEAS '10
Alexandra Mitchell  B ‘15
Adam Peller SEAS ‘93
Liz Pleshette  CC ‘89
Roy Pomerantz  CC ‘83
Angela Richardson  CC ‘02
Jon Ross CC ‘83
Samantha Rowan  B ‘96
Zachary Ryan  GS ‘06
Joe Schwartz  CC ‘92
Justin Shubow  CC ‘99
Christopher C Sten  CC'77, B '79
Layla Tavangar  B ‘15
Constantino Tobio  CC ‘96
Tim Todreas  CC ‘83
Karl Wagner  CC ‘16
Catherine Webster  CC ‘87
Amanda Wild SEAS ‘11
Lyle Zimskind  CC ‘90, SOA ‘03

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