When intersectionality hurts effective activism

Activists preparing for a rally on Low Steps, Columbia University

Columbia University has always been known to be a so-called “activist” campus, in the sense that there are many groups of students on campus who champion social-justice causes. Many of these causes are recognized to be systemic issues in the United States (e.g. the marginalization of minority races, the colonization of native lands, the prevalence of gender bias in academia and industry, LGBTQAP rights, etc.), while others are more specific to the direct effect of Columbia’s presence in the world financial markets and its physical location on the border of Harlem (e.g. divestment, gentrification, etc.). Some activists care about all of these causes, others care about only a small subset.

Traditionally, collegiate activism has used the public opinion as a tool by which to force decision-makers to take issues of social justice into account. After all, an administrator charged with maintaining a safe and educational environment can hardly afford to present an image of discrimination and injustice—especially at a university which claims to be a world leader in diversity and acceptance. Each year, almost like clockwork, a new incident occurs in the public sphere which galvanizes activist groups to organize protests, rallies, and similar gatherings to draw the public attention to a new (or old) issue. This year, we’ve seen the events at Yale and Mizzou serve as that catalyst; last year, they were Emma Sulkowicz’s “Carry That Weight” mattress performance and the handling of sexual assault that preceded it.

Still, there is a silent majority of students who don’t care enough to voice an active opinion. And it is these students who activists need to convince to achieve effective change: the activists themselves are invariably a small subset of the overall population, and decision-makers rarely act without a belief that there is widespread discontent with the status quo. It’s important, then, that any activist movement carefully maintains its relationship with the wider student body.
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Apparently it was supposed to be a huge blizzard throughout the last couple of days. Didn’t quite happen, but snowy campus is pretty amazing, too!

Snapshot from John Jay
A panorama of South Field

Fall is here

And we have a curiously sunny day…

Over the hedge

It’s almost as though we’re peeking over the hedge into the future!

On making a difference

Disclaimer: I wear many hats. This post, however, represents only my personal views, not those of any of the organizations I am a part of

To the first-years:

So you’re a first-year at Columbia with big dreams and (possibly) plans for the future. You might have planned out your trajectory at school, whether that be finding lucrative internships for yourself or participating in social activism. Or maybe you haven’t — I know I certainly didn’t come in with anything more than a vague notion of what I wanted to do.

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Flowers and Happiness

It’s the week before finals, and it still feels weird to think that my time here at Columbia is almost half over. I was wandering around campus the other morning, and decided that I’d take a few pictures of the flowers that have started (finally) blooming, despite the inconsistent weather we’ve been “enjoying” for the past couple of months.

Some pink at the edge of College Walk

In any case, it seems like a good time to reflect on this past year. I’ve made new friends, learned new things, experienced a little more of New York, and (hopefully) grown a little.
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