Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Dead On My Feet

Its the end of day two of class and I am beat.

I suppose a large chunk of this tiredness must be attributed to the fire drill from this morning. Rather an unkind trick of the University, I thought, waking students up with ringing bells and shrieking alarms after their first night of staying up late to finish their homework; but I suppose it was planned in advance to make sure everyone knew at least what they would have to do in a real emergency. Or at least how to recognize the alarm: I was convinced it was a dream, then that my phone alarm was going off, and it took my fuzzy brain a good two minutes to figure out what this incessant noise meant. I also hadn't planned on being awake for almost another two hours, so it did cut my sleep short (all situations normal here then).

A quick run to the nearby Starbucks with Will and breakfast with the other ILCers raised my spirits as well as lifted the morning fog from inside my head, and I was ready for class. For last night's homework we had been asked to read Federalist papers 10 (dealing with the power of factions and the tyranny of the majority) and 51 (discussing checks and balances and the reasons for separation), as well as two Supreme Court opinions by John Marshall, the first justice to really bring the Supreme Court any power or recognition, as well as one other document from our reader. I must admit that a large part of the information went unprocessed by my brain due to the late hour when I finished, but we discussed all five readings in our morning class and now I'm very confident I understand the importance and legal theory behind each document.

Lunch was quiet today; snag some lunch from the dining hall (the food is actually pretty good; I haven't had that delicious a grilled cheese sandwich in years!) and mosey on over to a stationary store to scope out possible ID holders with no lunch before heading early to the afternoon class.

Constitutional Law this afternoon was very mellow: we watched three videos and took notes, though I was not the only one feeling the temptation to nod off as the third video seemed to drag on. The first two were conversations between justices: O'Connor and Breyer in the more sedate first set, followed by a more heated debate between Scalia and again Breyer. The first conversation had to do with why the government was set up in the way it was, as well as explaining difference in O'Connor and Breyer's opinions: Breyer favored a stronger and more centralized version of government to encourage unity and limit confusion through uniformity, while O'Connor championed the smaller courts and legislative bodies of local and state government as being better suited to deal with the real issues of the people in each area that would arise. The second conversation was quite the jousting match. Coming into this program, I favored a more evolutionary view (thought I did not know the term for it until today) of the Constitution, as Breyer does, meaning that the interpretation of the Constitution should be based in today's society, not a two-hundred-year-old idea that may not hold true anymore, and that the document's interpretation should evolve over time along with society. But as the conversation (which turned into a debate) progressed, I became more and more impressed with Scalia's “originalist” view and lens for interpretation. He rested the power to add or change laws with the elected representatives in the legislature, meaning that the Supreme Court's only purpose was to declare laws unconstitutional. His example was capital punishment: thought he did not voice his own private opinion on the issue, he explained that the amendment that prohibits “cruel and unusual punishment” was written during a period of time when capital punishment was very usual and common, and therefore the Court had no legal (not moral, ethical, or political; the difference is very important when dealing with law) jurisdiction to define the death penalty as “cruel and unusual punishment” unless an amendment was ratified that made capital punishment thoroughly illegal. Scalia argued (successfully, in my opinion) that the Court had no right to impose its own values upon the law unless the justices were elected and not appointed. The last video told us more about the story of John Marshall, the chief justice who essentially gave the Supreme Court teeth and respect.

After class was our daily check-in with Mrs. L, dinner, and a quick trip down to SoHo (the neighborhood south of Houston Street) for some wonderfully touristy shopping. It was a fun trip with all the ILCers except Will, who had stayed holed up in the library to diligently continue his research for his paper, and an experience in how to transfer between trains in New York City. I was greeted at my return to the dorm with cupcakes, as it was one of my suite-mate's birthday today and we had a little makeshift party for her before heading off to bed.

Mrs. L has asked us to focus on water and sleep for the next few days so we can take care of ourselves properly, and armed with a water bottle I'm about ready to hit the sack.

SoHo? What's That?

Yesterday, I had absolutely no clue what SoHo was until I saw on my R.A.’s sign out sheet that two friends on my floor had left for SoHo some 4 hours ago and had not returned. This sparked my interest to find out what SoHo really was, and what it had that could draw students away for 4 hours on the first night in New York City.

After doing some online research, I found that SoHo stands for South of Houston Street and is primarily a shopping and dining neighborhood. Originally, SoHo was known as the cast iron district because it was one of the first areas of the Big Apple to have buildings made of cast iron instead of bricks and motor. It was a relatively cheap manufacturing neighborhood which began to attract artists because of affordable space for studios and galleries. However, the artists didn’t stay for long and were forced to vacate due to high rent and SoHo became the residential area bustling with tourists looking for good food and souvenirs that we know today.

When Milani told our group at dinner yesterday that she would like to get some souvenirs, I immediately remembered what I had just researched and told our cohort what I knew. After asking for directions from R.A.s, we decided that Milani, Beilul, Irene, Masao, and I would travel via subway to SoHo tonight after dinner. The trip down to SoHo was awesome in itself because it was like an adventure. With nothing but scribbled down directions, we walked to the 116th street subway stations prepared to board for the first time without Mrs. L. After a transfer at Times Square and 45 minutes, we arrived at SoHo which I must say, fell short of expectations.

As we window shopped, I was surprised to find that most of the stores were brand names, not the small tourist venues that I had expected. It wasn’t until we had arrived at the edge of SoHo did we find a store that had the “I Love New York” t-shirts we wanted, but even then they cost more than we were willing to pay. Thankfully, Milani’s R.A. provided an alternate solution should we not find what we were looking for. She told us to go to Chinatown, which was adjacent to SoHo. Almost immediately we found what we wanted and quickly paid. I wished we had more time to stroll through Chinatown, but we had to head back because we had Supreme Court opinions to be read, and for the Presidential Powers group, an outline to be made for a 20 page research paper.

While I may have wished to do more, I enjoyed our first excursion out of Columbia.

Two Down

"The door to our suite"

It is only the second day and I'm not getting any sleep. I'm not a full time college student. This should not be happening.

This morning I was abruptly awakened by a noise. I had no idea what is was, but apparently it was the sound of a fire alarm at 7:30 AM. I was not a happy camper at all...

Today we explored Lehman library which is one of our other libraries we can choose to do our research at. The library yesterday was Butler Library. Personally, Butler library is my favorite. Mostly because everything I need to know about Theodore Roosevelt and foreign affairs (my research topic) is found in that library.

"Inside Butler Library"

I think I'm in over my head already. We have a 5-7 page outline and 10 source bibliography for our research paper due on Friday. I might sleep in the library the rest of mytime here from all the research that is required. The amount of books in the library to chose from are overwhelming. Not tomention it is very hard (well for me) to even search through the 12 floors of unlimited book shelves to find the one you're looking for. Thank God for the catalog online and the map of where everything is! I felt like a really college student today, going into the library to study and write reports. I found the library was able to help me focus because of the professional and serious vibe it sent out.

"The books keep going..."

Our first reading assignment is to read the Declaration of Independence, Constitution, Articles of Confederation, and several sections of the Federalist Papers. I believe tonight will be my first all nighter at Columbia University and will for sure not be the last. We must read in order to participate in the morning session of our class, which is mostly discussion.

In the evening Irene, Beilul, Eric, Masao, and I traveled to SoHo by subway. It was a cool experience to travel on our own for the first time. Through team work we were able to figure out how to transfer on the subway and make it to SoHo without getting lost. We bought some souvenirs in Chinatown, which is right next to SoHo. It was not what I had expected since everyone who told me about it said it was the best place to go shopping. It wasn't in my opinion. It was nice to bond and hang out with the cohort. It was a well needed break from the intense second day of class we had.


Tomorrow I will hopefully get more rest. Hopefully. I plan to read as much as I can tonight before I knock out for the night. I need my rest orI can't participate in any of the RA trips! I cannot miss out on all of the excitement.


Fire alarms, Research and SoHo

This morning we were rudely awakened by an obnoxious fire alarm drill. I was planning on sleeping in a bit, but that was not an option.

The Columbia campus is surprisingly wonderful. When I think of a NYC school, I immediately think of a set of buildings spread out through many streets and blocks - not a traditional campus. But Columbia is not like that at all. The school is in its own little world, relatively secluded from the busy city. It’s quite nice.

Our morning class consisted of another library presentation to help us begin researching our topics. Furthermore, we were assigned reading tonight for our first class discussion tomorrow. For our afternoon session, we were given the choice between two libraries: Butler or Lehman. I stayed in Lehman gathering sources for my topic.

After class we had our daily chat with Mrs. Lilhanand and then headed off on our separate ways. Irene, Masao, Eric, Milani and I decided to get lunch at the dining hall and then headed off to SoHo to get souvenirs.

Tomorrow marks our first class discussion and time is running out as our 1st assignment is almost due.

Library Lessons

Day Two, I'm exhausted.

Understandable, granted the entire John Joy dorm house was abruptly awoken by the piercing screech of the fire alarm. It was just a drill... at 7:30 in the morning. It is a suitable time considering one must wake up, prepare themselves, eat breakfast, and be in class by 10:00 A.M., but that is assuming the individual went to sleep at a reasonable time, and the unintentional wake-up would be okay in terms of time. I was one of the proud few who still pulled 8 hours of sleep. Go team.

What the Presidential Powers group thought today was going to be was incorrect. Yesterday was the orientation to class, the introduction and presentation of the syllabus, so, naturally sequential, we thought today would be our first day of instruction.


Our class doubled up on the library tutorials and the use thereof, especially in regards to C.L.I.O. and its many partner databases. I have to say, however, one of those databases was incredible. The World News Connection is essentially an electronic center for news articles and press releases all around the world. Sponsering every single country, a student at Columbia University has access to English paraphrased or fully translated foreign news. Now, for instance, I could not only read about the U.S.'s response to [insert international affair here], I could read about [insert international affair target]'s depiction of the incident, ongoing or passed, as well. The amount of perspective this database offers is serious business, literally.

We were blessed with a feather-weight homework load. All we have to do are read Federalist Papers #1, 10, 47, 48, 51, 67-77, and 85. They are only full-length, university-level essays. Oh, and we have to read the U.S. Declaration of Independence, the Articles of Confederation, and the U.S. Constitution. That's due in about 14 hours. Oh, jeez. I forgot something. We need to have a 5-7 page outline and initial draft of our research paper with apt annotated bibliography by Friday. Easy enough.

In light of our recent homework list, I decided to begin my research in Butler Library after meeting with my cohort and Mrs. L. to touch base. I found myself thinking about life at Columbia University, personally, as a student. Every page turn, notebook flip, sudden yawn, hasty stretch, and bathroom trip, I pondered how I would fit into the school, and how the school with mesh with me.

I concluded that it is just about a perfect fit. Yesterday, even, Milani turned and said, "I could see you going here, Will." A second opinion without inquiry? Yes, please!

Doubts plagued my naive mind before finally settling into Columbia, but now I know where I want to go and what I have to do to get there. And, that's an invaluable feeling. Surely, I'm one-step-ahead of most of my 2012 classmates as is.

I predict success in this class. I can definitely see myself doing well, as long as I put in the necessary time to achieve such splendor. I'll be in the library.