Columbia MBAs to Undergrads: Scram!

Courtesy Columbia University

MBAs at Columbia Business School have a message for undergrads: Stay out of the business school library!

After more than a year of negotiations between the administration and student leaders, the school has agreed to limit access to the Watson Library during finals—this year, from May 5 to May 17—to CBS students and undergraduate economics majors.  (The upper floor has been off-limits since April 15 and will remain so until May 15.) It’s the first time the business school has banned undergrads from the library, but similar bans are observed by other libraries on campus, according to CBS spokesman Christopher Cashman.

The Watson Library has been contested turf at Columbia for years. The dispute boiled over in recent weeks with the publication of a Tumblr page depicting undergraduate students at Watson doing all the things that annoy MBAs, mainly eating, sleeping, and taking up space. The captions, supplied by the photographers, express the frustration CBS students have with undergrads. “It’s bad enough that undergrads take up half the table,” reads one. “Do they have to use gum wrappers to save their spot for an hour as well?”

On April 29, the Columbia Business School Follies, a student-run club that produces a variety show each semester, posted a South Park-style video to YouTube about the issue.

On April 30, the editorial board of the Columbia Spectator jumped into the fray, publishing a snarky editorial, presenting the issues as an “end of semester problem set,” something business school students could no doubt relate to. “Make a compelling argument for either embracing the capitalist ethos of the free market or allowing the regulation of seats and space,” reads one essay question. “Keep in mind that one of former President George W. Bush’s former chief economic advisers, current Business School dean Glenn Hubbard, will be reading these essays.”

Braxton Bragg, president of the Graduate Business Association, and Karishma Habbu, president of the Columbia College Student Council, could not be reached for comment. Danika Simonson, an undergraduate student in the School of Engineering and Applied Science, told the Spectator that Watson was the only library she uses because it allows her to study with friends. She wasn’t happy about the ban.

“To me, this seems like a university space with people from all schools, not just a business school one,” Simonson said. “I’m a little bit surprised, because I know they have the room upstairs, which is reserved. I’m also confused because undergrad professors will reserve books here for us.”

Starting May 5, undergrads attempting to enter Watson will be greeted by a sign directing them to other libraries on campus, the Spectator reported. If undergraduates need a book from Watson, a librarian will fetch it.

The  clash over Watson is emblematic of the need for space on the Columbia campus, which won’t be resolved until new business school buildings are completed on the uptown Manhattanville campus expansion. Columbia will get two new buildings as part of the expansion.

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