Thursday, November 9, 2017

In Defense of Orgo Night #13
Columbia to alumni:  Orgo Night is a “beloved tradition.”  Bollinger to Band:  Orgo Night is over.

          On November 9, 2017 the Columbia University Parent Fund sent out a fundraising email, over the signature of the CC class of 2017 Valedictorian, Michael J. Abolafia.  The purportedly personal message from Mr. Abolafia explained how his life was transformed by attending Columbia, and makes a plea to parents of current students to give to the Parents Fund.  The pitch opens with this message: “Dear {name of Columbia parent}, For all our beloved traditions—Orgo Night and Alma Mater’s owl, the tree-lighting ceremony and long afternoons at the Hungarian Pastry Shop—I wonder if there is such a thing as a typical or “average” Columbia College experience. That’s because the College is more than its traditions or its legacy: it is an ongoing, unfolding set of potential opportunities.”


            The Columbia administration apparently has a deep appreciation for how meaningful it is for students and alumni to share the “beloved traditions” that are unique to the Columbia experience.  First among such traditions, of course, is Orgo Night.  Mr. Abolafia, a member of the class of ’17, had the opportunity to attend six Orgo Night shows before President Bollinger, Dean Valentini, and Head Librarian Ann Thornton decided that the tradition was not worth continuing.  The administration conspired to end the Orgo Night tradition and, over the loud and continuous objections of students and alumni, they have steadfastly adhered to that decision.  Orgo Night is dead, they have decreed.  Never again shall that tradition be allowed.  We need to establish “new traditions,” they have said publicly, even if that means that current students will lose one more connection to the alumni of the past.

            The University has no shame when it comes to soliciting for donations, and it is happy to tug on the heartstrings of alumni, encouraging them to donate money so that future generations can share their “beloved traditions” such as Orgo Night, as if Orgo Night still existed.  Bollinger, Valentini, and the University Administration not only don’t want alumni to know that they have killed Orgo Night, they are affirmatively misrepresenting its continued vitality as if nothing had changed in the last forty years.  That’s the point of the pitch – that current parents should want to pass down these beloved traditions to the next generation.  We agree. 

It’s too bad that Mr. Abolafia’s children, if they attend Columbia, will not be able to share the Orgo Night tradition with their father.  Or, maybe the administration really does think Orgo Night is a beloved tradition, in which case it should be allowed to continue as it has for the forty years before 2016-17.  President Bollinger has dishonestly claimed that his administration is actively engaged in discussions with the Band about the future of Orgo Night.  That’s another lie to alumni.  No member of the administration has reached out to the Band.

So, Presbo, which is it?  A beloved tradition, or a dead letter?  At least be honest with your alumni.

-         Hamiltonius

-  H

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