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Editor's Letter

Welcome to the summer issue of Columbia Magazine, a publication that showcases the intellectual rigor, creative spirit, and global influence of the alumni, faculty, and students who make up the Columbia University community. The one publication that reaches more than 320,000 alumni worldwide, this magazine has a single, simple mission: to serve its readers. We create content with your interests and needs in mind.

Accordingly, you’ll notice a few changes in the following pages, all of them informed by feedback from thoughtful readers. You asked for more features on alumni, so we created Network, a section where you can catch up not only with Columbians in the news but also those flying under the radar. (If you would like to suggest an alum for inclusion, please contact us at magazine@columbia.edu.)

At Columbia Magazine we also recognize that our readers are lifelong learners. You told us that you enjoy hearing about the cutting-edge research and groundbreaking studies underway across Columbia’s schools and institutes, so we expanded the Explorations section. And because this University has the capability and commitment to take on complex, global questions, we have added The Big Idea. This Q&A asks key researchers to give us greater insight into those questions. In this issue we interview David Rosner, a professor of history and the codirector of the Center for History and Ethics of Public Health, about the national implications of the Flint water crisis.

Along with these and other tweaks, we are also debuting a refreshed design. Our art director, Jeffrey Saks, sought to preserve the integrity of the original magazine but modified its templates to accommodate a wider range of both long- and short-form features and multiple strong images. You may notice that we have also improved the quality of our paper and made greater investments in photography and illustration.

We hope you like the changes, and we welcome your feedback. Indeed, our goal is to build a community of readers who will actively engage with the editors and help shape future issues of the magazine, both in print and digital form. (Don’t forget to download your free app on the App Store or Google Play.) If you have thoughts on this issue, suggestions for future stories, or comments on particular features, please e-mail us at magazine@columbia.edu or send a letter to Columbia Magazine, 622 West 113th Street, New York, NY 10025. We’re looking forward to hearing from you.

Spirits of '68

Thanks to the readers who responded to my call for memories of the 1968 campus protest. Your efforts have already yielded much - two interviews lined up, lots of phone conversations, and even some photographs - and represent immeasurable contributions to the Columbia '68 research project.

Paul Cronin '14JRN
New York, NY

Rites and Lights

Columbia Magazine Spring 2016

The research that is going on at Columbia’s DeathLab is long overdue (“Making Light of Death,” Spring 2016). I have long felt that traditional burial lacks any real meaning, though I appreciate memorial services with photos of the life of the deceased.

When I told my children that I thought primitives had better methods, such as burying the body in the earth as is, for natural recycling, I got the equivalent of “Eeew!” in response.

What happens to my body when I no longer need it is not of great concern to me; my children will decide. I am saving the article for them to read! Thank you!

Helen Cornell Koenig ’43BUS
Bernardsville, NJ

I was pleased to read about Columbia’s DeathLab in the Spring 2016 issue. This initiative highlights a frequently ignored or minimized aspect of combating global warming: namely, that the global population must be stabilized or even reduced. Usually, the discussion involves increasing acreage for food production and shelter as the population rises. Cemeteries are never discussed, but they are an important component of the vicious circle in which increasing population leads to the need for more land for food production, cemeteries, and housing, and so on. Another article, in the Explorations section, discusses the looming water shortage (“Reduced snowfall could cause water shortages for 2 billion people”). It would at least be ameliorated if the population were stabilized.

Ivan Huber
Madison, NJ

Strong Reactions   

I was distressed by the College Walk article “Strong Opinions” (Spring 2016), which reports on a recent panel discussion on op-eds sponsored by the Undergraduate Writing Program. While the examples listed provide compelling evidence that the University Writing curriculum is effective in producing published authors, the article led me to question why the course doesn’t give equal instruction in responding to opinions.

I believe there is a real problem with the way students engage with one another’s opinions. To see what I mean, just look at the online comments on the many opinion pieces about sexual violence published in the Columbia Spectator over the last two years. The student authors of the op-eds do not necessarily agree with one another, yet in sum have provided readers with the nuances of the debate over the fairness and effectiveness of the University’s policies on reporting, investigating, and punishing instances of sexual assault and sexual violence. But the response to these pieces by readers tells another story, revealing that many students do not have the skills of respectful debate and discussion. Even more distressingly, students seem galvanized and defensive to the point of being dangerous to one another, and even empowered by the presence of an anonymous forum to employ hate speech and threats of violence.

While the op-ed may still be a viable form of professional and personal expression for “students raised on the Internet,” students desperately need instruction on how to use the forums the Internet uniquely provides. The option to provide anonymous comments severs one’s association with one’s opinion, and removes the responsibility one has — in a classroom, for instance — to offer comments that are critical and productive to advancing a discussion.  

Sarah Dziedzic ’04CC, ’11GSAS
Brooklyn, NY

Differing Accounts

I was involved in organizing a major discussion of white-collar crimes with University of Virginia law professor Brandon Garrett ’01LAW, author of Too Big to Jail, at Lille University law faculty last May. Your article in the Explorations section of the Spring 2016 issue (“In cooking their books, corporate accountants like a good recipe”) doesn’t make sense: on the one hand you write that accounting professor Shivaram Rajgopal and his coauthors cannot prove corporate intent to cook the books; on the other, you write that his analysis reveals financial fraud and copycat fraudsters.

Robert Kulp ’59GS
Mouvaux, France

Shivaram Rajgopal responds: Proving scienter, or the intent to deceive, is hard unless one has subpoena power. All we can do is to document suspicious empirical patterns that are consistent with “contagion” in cooking the books.

Selective Sidebar

Columbia Magazine usually provides refreshingly diverse and well-informed articles. The sidebar accompanying the interview with Kimberlé Crenshaw (“Cause and Effect,” Spring 2016) was disappointing at best and dangerous at worst. The “stories of police brutality against Black women” were not stories at all — they were cherry-picked single facts from events that made police officers look like random murderers. Using selectively chosen facts to incite anger at the police is deadly for them and for all those they protect, black and white, male and female.

For example, Miriam Carey drove to a White House perimeter checkpoint, ignored the instructions of officers, and sped off, crashing into other cars. Police were called to Meagan Hockaday’s home because of a domestic-violence dispute, and she approached them with a knife. Mya Hall was driving a stolen SUV near the gates of the National Security Agency. These are not details to be omitted casually.

Could the police have done better in these situations? Perhaps. Are these stories of unprovoked brutality? Definitely not. Crenshaw’s interview draws attention to very important issues that need to be explored, but sadly they were undermined by tabloid-style slant.

Amy Tschudin ’00BUS
Chevy Chase, MD

Twist and Shout

I thoroughly enjoyed the Spring 2016 issue, but I wish you had included more information about the twelve-minute yoga routine, completed every other day, that seemed to give older men and women denser bones (“Yoga: It’s Good for Your Bones,” Study Hall). Would you please let me know how I may receive information about which yoga positions those were, so that I may do them myself at home?

Marilynn Talal ’63GSAS
New York, NY

Photograph by Shutterstock / Kletr

The twelve poses in the twelve-minute yoga routine
1. vriksasana (tree)
2. trikonasana (triangle)
3. virabhadrasana II (warrior II)
4. parsvakonasana
5. parivrtta trikonasana
(twisted triangle)
6. salabhasana (locust)
7. setu bandhasana (bridge)
8. supta padangusthasana I
(supine hand-to-foot I)
9. supta padangusthasana II
(supine hand-to-foot II)
10. marichyasana III
(straight-legged twist)
11. matsyendrasana
(bent-knee twist)
12. savasana (corpse)
You can buy a copy of the DVD that study participants used, which includes simplifi ed versions of the poses, at sciatica.org. Columbia physician Loren Fishman, who led the study, strongly recommends that osteoporosis suff erers consult their doctor or a yoga therapist or instructor before attempting the poses. — Ed.

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