Columbia profs blame student suicides on Trump
- Professors at Columbia University want space to discuss their “distress” over Donald Trump’s election, saying they don’t know anyone who isn’t “chronically and deeply” upset by the result.
- The letter to university president Lee Bollinger even blames election-related fears for a recent wave of student suicides.
- UPDATE: One of the authors denied that the letter was blaming student suicides on Trump's election.
Professors at Columbia University want space to discuss their “distress” over Donald Trump’s election, saying they don’t know anyone who isn’t “chronically and deeply” upset by the result.
In a letter to Columbia President Lee Bollinger, professors Robert Pollack and Letty Moss-Salentijn, the co-chairs of the Columbia Faculty Affairs Committee, say Trump’s election has cast a “malaise that sits like a fog over Columbia” that not even George Orwell’s classic 1984 can adequately address.
“We know no one at Columbia who is not upset, chronically and deeply, since the election,” declare Pollack and Moss-Salentijn, who even go so far as to blame the result for recent student suicides.
“We know this is true of the administration, and your letter certainly embodies this distress,” they continue, referring to Bollinger’s statement responding to Trump’s executive order on immigration. “We know it is true of our students, and the cluster of suicides this month can have no other meaning.”
“But what of ourselves, and what of our colleagues; that is, what of the faculty?” the professors query piteously. “So, Mr. President, we are asking you how we, the faculty, may embody what the university values, with a sense of full obligation and with the assurance of full recognition.”
Specifically, they want Columbia to provide links on its website to “all sites that serve the purpose of protecting and sustaining our freedoms,” which apparently includes information on getting the government to help pay student loan debt in exchange for public service.
In addition, the letter demands that the school provide physical spaces for faculty members to engage in “difficult conversations” about their “fears,” suggesting “some of the most visible public spaces on campus” so that the conversations can take place “in the presence of the rest of the university community.”
“Faculty do not have places, times, or administrative permission to acknowledge our own fears to each other,” the letter laments, noting that “venues for such quiet, difficult conversations are very hard to find on our campus.”
Such spaces could include auditoriums, the student center, “and of course the lounges in every dormitory,” they suggest, noting that faculty members are currently barred from entering those spaces without a special pass.
“Faculty are human beings, and as such, may feel intimidated,” Pollack stated while presenting the missive. “There’s no point or place for the expression of that anxiety.”
UPDATE: Pollack, speaking for both himself and Moss-Salentijn, sent a belated response to Campus Reform denying that the letter was intended to insinuate that recent student suicides have been a result of distress over Trump's election, even though the sentence in question came in the context of describing the universal "distress" at Columbia ever since the election.
"We agree with you that we cannot know the cause of the recent spate in [sic] suicides, but even if it has been wholly a coinicdence [sic], it nevertheless has added to what we call the 'fog' that has effected [sic] so many of us at this complicated but caring community of faculty, students, and administrators."
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