Op-Ed: Against the Secularization of Bacchanal

It began with calls to ‘decolonize the core’ and move focus away from the great philosophers of Plato, Aristotle and Virgil. Then, the pristine Mediterranean architecture of Morningside Heights was abandoned in the construction of the Manhattanville campus. The attacks on the Columbia Core’s Greco-Roman roots never cease—and nowhere is this embodied more than in the disgusting secularization of Bacchanal.

What was once a celebrated festival in the honored tradition of joy and ecstasy has degraded into a meaningless musical exhibition for a school without spirit. In the place of the wines of the Italian Peninsula we find warm White Claws shipped from Vancouver. No partygoer is disbarred from military service due to his debauchery. Not a single student is metamorphosed into a Dolphin for their hereticism. The Romans would burn sacrifices and revel in celebration of their victories against the Germanic tribes in the name of Bacchus—now, the students of Columbia wallow in the defeat of seeing their midterm grades and drown out their sorrow to the dulcet tones of Rick Ross. 

Columbia’s Core Curriculum is built on a foundation for respect towards the pillars of Western Civilization and Greco-Roman tradition—in a metaphorical and literal sense. When one looks upon Butler Library to look upon the fathers of intellectual thought to when students circle in their classroom to appreciate the knowledge gifted upon us by the great thinkers of Athens. We learn to respect the Gods in our readings of the Homeric Epics. Have we so quickly forgotten how the Gods decided the Trojan War? Have we forgotten how Poseidon punished Odysseus and his crew away from Ithaca for not paying his respects? Are we so arrogant as to believe that Dionysus would not do the same and compel you to show up to your next interview wasted and hungover? The hubris of the ancient Greek kings was their downfall—yet Columbia is happy to ignore all prior warnings and continue their disrespect of the gods.

Once can only imagine the reaction of Bacchus to the ticketing process, where celebration is locked behind a web of random drops and scalpers. The Romans cited Bacchanalia as a prime example of moral degradation, yet even Bacchanalian celebrations still worshiped the divine pantheon above the dollar. The “moral degradation” the Romans fear has been degraded far beyond their wildest nightmares: even the intoxication and jubilation of their gods has been transformed into a marketplace of stress and greed. The very meaning of Bacchanal has been uprooted at its core. 

Columbia’s bacchanal celebrations are beyond any redemption: they must be torn down and rebuilt from the foundation: a foundation of Greco-Roman faith and divine respect. This may take generations to redeem our institution in the eyes of Bacchus, yet in the face of divine retribution, what other choice do we have? The revelers of Low Steps have doomed us all, and dealt unknowable damage to Columbia’s chances at ever reaching Elysium. There is one thing I remember from Percy Jackson, and it was the presence of Mount Olympus atop the Empire State Building—undoubtedly looking down on Morningside Heights with disgust. 

If there is any consolation to be found, it is that the sacrilegious revelers on college walk will once day cry out in desperation to return to the shores of the River Hudson as they drown in the currents of the River Styx.