Tag Archives: Columbia

A low-key return to blogging

It’s been an embarrassingly long hiatus, from which I had intended to return on several occasions. Alas! The unforgiving demands of adulthood always found ways to rain down on the blogging parade.

Exactly a month ago, I left the chaos and unpredictability of New York city to return to the hot, clammy tropical oven that is Singapore – where, fifteen years on, I am still worse off than a bright-eyed, just-off-the-plane tourist when it comes to directions. In that sense, I miss Manhattan’s orderliness of numbered streets and avenues; it was much easier to acquaint myself with my surrounding by searching for the street and avenue markers at the corner of every block. As for the climate, I have enough grievances about Singapore’s tropical humidity versus Manhattan’s “cray cray” weather to fill up an encyclopedia. I mean it snowed on the first day of Spring for goodness sake!

On the first day of Spring, it snowed for six hours straight.

On the first day of Spring, it snowed for six hours straight.

Like every other survivor of academia, emerging from graduate school with puffy eyebags, sleeplessness, and an insatiable caffeine addiction, there was a need to find gainful employment. Through a few wonderful contacts, things fell into place with ease and I started my real-life newsroom adventures at CNBC International at the start of this month.

The graduation ceremony was quite the spectacle!

The graduation ceremony at Columbia was quite the spectacle!

Fitting in nearly 30,000 people comprising graduating students, parents, family members, & faculty in the Low Plaza was quite the feat.

Fitting in nearly 30,000 people comprising graduating students, parents, family members, & faculty in the Low Plaza was quite the feat.

In honour of the graduating class at Columbia, the Empire State Building turns their lights blue every year. The best viewing sites include roof top bars like this one.

In honour of the graduating class at Columbia, the Empire State Building turns their lights blue every year. The best viewing sites include roof top bars like this one.

At Columbia’s famed journalism school, founded by Joseph Pulitzer, where the highly prestigious Pulitzer prizes are given out, the faculty prepared us for many things – such as writing breaking news, interviewing laconic newsmakers, lugging heavy video equipment in sub-zero temperature, or navigating the bureaucratic juggernauts that are government agencies among others. But nothing prepared me for the experience of being part of the news team that puts out a 3-hour live show every Monday to Friday, which happen to be a flagship program for CNBC. Or the fact that I go to office in the dead of the night and finish the day’s work by lunchtime.

Nothing was more beautiful than experiencing the first sun rise back home.

Nothing was more beautiful than experiencing the first sun rise back home.

Though I will terribly miss the beautiful view from my dorm room on 109th and Riverside Drive; overlooking the New Jersey, the Hudson River, and the George Washington bridge.

Though I will terribly miss the beautiful view from my dorm room on 109th and Riverside Drive; overlooking the New Jersey, the Hudson River, and the George Washington bridge.

In the one month I’ve spent here, I learned more about honing news judgement senses, working with 12th hour deadlines (read: less than five minutes before a video story is scheduled to air), and paying close attention to detail than in the 10 months at Columbia. That is not to say graduate school was a bust – far from it, Columbia was a lengthy exercise in personal and professional development to understand our calling better.

Speaking of personal development, there is a list of blogging topics which I have put on my to-do list with, perhaps, naive determination; one could hope at least two of the entries, one of which comprises doling praises to Chris “no longer the chubby guy from Parks & Recs” Pratt and the entire cast of Jurassic World, will get written and posted. Jury’s still out though.

First brushes with sub-zero (degrees) winter

As the city thaws and the last traces of snow melt away, beckoning the arrival of Spring, this evening is a good time to be reflective as the day folds into night over and across the Hudson. It’s been seven months and two weeks since I packed a part of my life into three big suitcases and left the warm, tropical “comforts” of home in Singapore.

New York has been amazing so far.

Overlooking the Hudson River

Overlooking the Hudson River

The city really does not sleep. Uptown. Midtown. Downtown. I live in a room that has “a million-dollar view” said my superintendent once when he came to fix a window. It overlooks the Hudson River and the George Washington Bridge; there’s a beautiful Riverside park across the street, which looked magnificent in the winter.

This was my first proper winter that made the 15 degree Celsius Indian winters look like a paper boat in a vast ocean. On the coldest days, the weather languished somewhere between -15 to -20, with wind chill going as low as – 25 and a 35mph wind blowing from the river. There were days I could not feel the muscles in my face until after I had come home and spent considerable time thawing by the heater. It’ surprises me that I did not end up with frostbites on at least three occasions.

There was even a misplaced blizzard warning in January, which ended in many foiled plans for a 48-hour Netflix marathon with hot chocolate, mac-n-cheese, and every other type of comfort food one can think of; but classes were cancelled nonetheless, long lines formed at grocery stores as New Yorkers picked up their last-minute comfort snacks to live out the freezing evening, and for the first time in its history, the subway shut down by nightfall. I remember the exciting game of Cards Against Humanity that everyone on our floor played.

Total whiteout.

Total whiteout.

The eve of the "Blizzard"

The eve of the “Blizzard”.

When it snows for hours at a stretch

When it snows for hours at a stretch.

When it snowed, however, all of the menacing cold weather was forgiven as the neighborhood went underneath a white, almost comforting blanket of snow. It was beautiful. I went to an impromptu snowball fight that was organized on college walk at campus – the wide pathway through the Low Memorial and Butler Libraries. Being hit in the face by snowball wasn’t something I relished but hitting friends and schoolmates with them was full-on fun.

It was like the Hunger Games, only less lethal.

It was like the Hunger Games, only less lethal.

The aftermath of snow was disgusting. The gray-and-yellow snow, slippery ice on footpaths, and deceptive, ankle-deep slush puddles at every street corner formed the holy trinity of everything bad and inconvenient about snow in the city.

Still, as I see the snow, even the disgusting type, melt away into the grass and on footpaths, signaling the passing of another season, I feel a pull of nostalgia in my heart. Has it really been seven months?

Protest against sexual assaults on campus

Yesterday, a large group of students gathered at the plaza outside the Low Memorial library to protest against the university’s handling of sexual assaults on campus. This came after senior Emma Sulkowicz started carrying a mattress around campus as a form of protest against how the university handled the situation when she was assaulted by a fellow student, and until the student leaves the school.

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Students brought out several mattresses to the plaza and held up placards bearing messages of support and solidarity for Sulkowicz and other sexual assault survivors on campus.

The university’s policies to handle sexual assault on campus was called to question after an unnamed student was cleared of charges accusing him of raping Sulkowicz. The decision attracted national media attention after Sulkowicz, along with 23 other Columbia and Barnard students, filed a federal Title IX complaint earlier this year against the university, in which they accuse Columbia of mishandling their cases. Since then, several other students have reportedly come out accusing the same unnamed student of similar sexual misconducts against them.

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After the Obama Administration introduced new measures earlier this year, making universities more accountable for looking after the safety of their students, there has been mounting pressure on the university to make reforms and update their policies. This was later supplemented by a bill from the Senate aimed to curb sexual assault on campuses across the country. To be fair to Columbia, the Office of Gender-Based Misconduct has been making changes to their policies both to prevent and to handle sexual assault. Whether it bears fruit in protecting students is yet to be seen.

Meanwhile, many student groups recently co-signed a letter that was sent to the university administration highlighting some of the changes they would like to see with regards to sexual misconduct on campus. The dominating theme in the letter was a call for greater transparency in how the university handles each situation and to ensure adequate support is given to every student to cope with the trauma. The letter can be read here.

Huffington Post published a response from Columbia here (scroll down near the bottom).

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