So, here I am on a Sunday morning, nursing a mild case of the Irish flu, watching reruns of Beverly Hills, 90210. And then I get sent this link, a New York Post story on how an injured Iraq vet was booed by his fellow Columbia students at a forum discussing ROTC possibly returning to campus.
So much for following the travails of Brenda Walsh.
First, I wasn't at the forum in question. Maybe it really was as bad as The Post makes it sound. Then again, it's The Post. Second, I don't really qualify as a Columbia student right now, since I'm in the midst of switching programs, possibly/maybe staying there, maybe not. That said, I did spend some quality time there last semester, both with fellow vets and just normal undergrad/grad students. And as someone borderline obsessed with civ-mil relations in our time, of course I have some opinions on what went down!
The overwhelming majority of Columbia's community is no different than America as a whole - they're intrigued by veterans, unsure of what the right questions are at first, and grateful in a "thanks, hollow caricature man" kind of way. Then, just like the rest of our nation, in-depth, nuanced discussions bridge gaps otherwise thought impossible. So, my initial reaction to The Post piece - much ado about not(h)ing. (Shakespeare joke. A lame one, admittedly.)
That said however, there is a strain of thought in the Columbia legions that they must be against anything military-related, because they are Columbia, after all. This is a leftover from the 60s, when Columbia became Columbia with their in/famous Vietnam protests. Some of the faculty still walks around viewing the world through this black-and-white prism, and occasionally, one will stumble across an undergrad who feels the same way. Or, more accurately, feel like they need to feel that way, because they Wikipedia'ed Columbia after getting accepted, and a perverted sort of romanticism followed. It's as organic as most anything else in 2011, i.e. a regurgitated derivative from an age deemed more "real" and "authentic." These kids are clowns, obviously, but certainly not indicative of the student population as a whole.
We'll see how Columbia responds to all the bad publicity this garners. On Twitter, Alex Horton expressed desire for an editorial in the student newspaper denouncing the hecklers, and I'm expecting one. Just remember, before the inevitable anti-Ivy League backlash occurs, that Columbia has gone above and beyond their fellow Ivies in terms of GWOT veterans outreach. The last numbers I saw had more than 300 Iraq and Afghanistan veterans on campus. That matters a hell of a lot more than a couple of discontents acting out some hippie fantasy.
Update: I reached out to some friends who were there, and while they said The Post piece was sensationalized, the heckling "still happened." Silly, soft posers. They can't even find something new and generationally-appropriate to protest.
Update 2: As predicted, the Columbia Spectator wrote an editorial in support of ROTC returning to campus. Good for them. Wish they had directly responded to the heckling incident, though.