Thursday, May 11, 2006

GS Lit-Writing Senior Thesis Reading @ Columbia - 2006

In 2005, after hearing about a friend's thesis project for many months, I discovered she would not be able to participate in the department's year-end reading because she was a non-traditional student. Although students of the School of General Studies were then the only Columbia students eligible to major in Literature-Writing, they were not permitted to enroll in the honors classes, a prerequisite for participating in the school-sponsored readings.

The following year, I attempted to get the department to include GS students in their readings, but was reminded of the department's Grandfather Clause -- readers were drawn from the honors classes, which remained closed to majors/GS students in the department. I was told the reason GS students were excluded was because we "had no audience" and "no one will come." I found this notion absurd, as GS students in my writing classes had a wealth of life experience to write about. This kind of class inequity was commonplace, although most students came to GS to broaden their opportunities.

Fortunately, I was a member of student council and had friends on The Observer literary journal. Both organizations were happy to sponsor the event, but could not fund it. I applied for a Sainsbury Support grant (from Lord & Lady Sainsbury, now called a Gatsby Foundation grant) through the Columbia Arts Initiative. I was working at A&E and asked the Community Affairs department if funding was available. To my delight, both organizations offered grants to sponsor the event. The GSSC agreed to receive the funds and we got to work promoting the event.

The group poster. Readers autographed the posters, which were given as gifts to CU Arts and A&E.

Each writer had individual posters to draw their friends on campus and to email out to their email lists.
Lee's had a cupcake, because the reading was on his birthday.

Vintage Facebook online event page

Grant report to CU Arts and A&E/The History Channel

Screenshots of the program

Guest book pages. We had 50-60 attendees, 2-3 times the number at the department-sponsored reading. While the assumption had long been there was no audience for GS writers, we found that our audience, like GS, was composed of working adults, parents and others who simply needed advanced notice in order to attend.
Standing room only. Photo by Irena Wolner.

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