Obama’s Choice of Barnard Angers Columbia
Published: Thursday, March 15, 2012
Updated: Thursday, March 15, 2012 08:03
If you didn’t know already, the student bodies of affiliated schools Columbia University and Barnard College have a pretty complex relationship.
Recently, news sites have reported that Columbia students had published ghastly comments on campus blogs attacking students at all-women’s Barnard, after it was announced President Barack Obama would speak at Barnard’s commencement, despite the fact that his alma mater is Columbia University.
The comments are unapologetically misogynistic. One student wrote that “Barnard women need to shut their [expletive] holes and just be happy that Columbia let Barnard pretend it was affiliated for this long.”
Columbia women even joined in the criticism. One female Columbia student wrote, “It’s Feminazis like you that give us women a bad name.”
In Columbia’s defense, the quotes only represent several bitter, enraged Columbia students – not the college’s opinion as a whole.
According to interviews conducted on both campuses last Monday by The New York Times, students and administrators were extremely embarrassed by the comments made by Columbia students.
Despite this, I was surprised and disappointed by the way in which the president of Columbia University reacted to such hateful comments. Among other things, he said that these comments “reflect the views of hardly more than a few people.” He added, “It’s completely understandable.”
This tepid response to such blatantly hateful comments is clearly nothing more than a thinly veiled PR move. Perhaps it’s understandable that the president of Columbia is unwilling to go out of his way to stand up for victimized women who attend Barnard. After all, we’ve all seen our fair share of snarky, biting antics on college blogs or on the Internet at large.
More disappointing is the response by Barnard’s president. Her evaluation of the hateful and repugnant comments was even more lukewarm and dismissive than those of the Columbia president. She said, quoted in the same New York Times article, that the online commentary was “probably 19-year-olds writing at 4:30 in the morning.”
This may be partly true, but I still can’t help but flinch in regards to the overly benign way in which President Spar reacted to such hateful comments. There could be many reasons why Obama chose to speak at his half sister’s alma mater instead of his former stomping ground: political reasons, or the fact that he has said his time at Columbia was not “particularly happy.”
Regardless of his reasons, President Obama’s choice should not fuel this kind of embittered, misogynistic resentment toward the women of Barnard, even if it’s only coming from a few students. Furthermore, both the presidents of Columbia and Barnard should not have completely trivialized the incident; they should have handled it with the seriousness that this attack on female students deserves.