Baruch College hosted its “Lunch with President Wallerstein” on Thursday, Dec. 8 in NVC 14-270.
The luncheon, which featured Baruch College President Mitchel B. Wallerstein, takes place twice a semester and allows students to meet their president, bring up any matters that they think require his attention and talk to him casually.
Lasting from 12:30 p.m. to 2 p.m., the event took place in a small room with a set of tables, allowing everyone sitting to see all the people present and giving a more personal touch to the lunch.
There was a variety of chips, cookies, drinks and sandwiches at a table along the wall, which all the attendees took advantage of when they came in and settled down.
Wallerstein took up a chair in the back, away from the door and at the center of the table. After sampling his choice of lunch, Wallerstein began by explaining how the event has worked in the past. The lunch would start by having every attendee take turns stating his or her name, major, year and ethnicity.
After the introductions, Wallerstein would take over to talk about things that are happening around Baruch; any updates, future plans and points of interest would be mentioned. After his short news brief, Wallerstein said the floor would be open to casual conversation, where everyone was welcome to talk about anything that they found important.
Wallerstein kicked off the news brief by expressing remorse for the recent harassment of Baruch Student Yasmin Seweid, who was antagonized by three drunk men on Thursday, Dec. 1.
The Muslim student was on her way home when the men started screaming “Donald Trump,” throwing anti-Muslim slurs at her and tried ripping off her hijab. No one came to her aid. Wallerstein spoke energetically about how the incident was unacceptable and how he could never have foreseen such events happening, even when considering the turnout of the presidential election.
“I hope in the coming months that Mr. Trump will realize this is not going to help his chances of having a successful presidency and that he will move away from this disturbing rhetoric. He has encouraged people who are very far to the right,” said Wallerstein.
He closed his statement about Seweid by saying that Baruch is determined to help people who are affected and the college is working hard to protect its students.
The topic shifted to immigration, a topic for which Wallerstein also had some comforting words. He reassured attendees that students were the college’s priority and stated that under no circumstance would Baruch give out the information of its immigrant students.
Later on, Wallerstein allowed a student, who had expressed his desire to share his harassment stories, have the floor. Darren Pasha, a public affairs major, opened by saying that he was gay and Muslim.
His first story was about a woman who harassed him for how he was dressed when he was exiting a train station. She told him that it was too bad he would not be allowed to dress the way he did after Trump’s election—the irony of this was that he was wearing a men’s cardigan from J.Crew.
Pasha’s second story was a bit more jarring. This story told of an altercation he had with three people in Times Square. One woman began antagonizing him for how he was walking and, soon after, two other people joined in. Pasha ended up getting punched in the face. Luckily, he got the vast majority of the encounter filmed on his phone camera.
What he missed were the hateful and racist remarks that were slung in his direction, meaning that the crime could not be written down as a hate crime by police, and instead, was only given the denomination of assault. Wallerstein and the attendees offered Pasha their condolences once he relinquished the floor.
Wallerstein brightened the remainder of the luncheon by shifting the focus of conversation to happier topics. He mentioned the renovation of the 25th Street Plaza, which will take place throughout 2017 and into 2018. The ultimate goal is to make the plaza an urban space for students to enjoy.
“What you see out there now is only called the interim plaza. It’s just a closed street,” said Wallerstein. “We’ve raised over $5 million and we’re going to convert that area into a beautiful permanent public urban space, with trees, benches and a performance space.”
Wallerstein also mentioned the plans to build a student center for clubs in the basement of the U.S. Postal Service building, located across 24th Street from the NVC. Baruch is also trying to gain access to a partitioned space on the ground floor of the building to make a study space for students.
Afterward, students took turns speaking their minds to Wallerstein. They brought up concerns about class difficulties as well as issues with how some of the large lectures are graded.
Wallerstein listened attentively, taking in every concern. When the event concluded at 2 p.m., Wallerstein hung around for any students who wanted to speak with him one-on-one. In his last remarks, he thanked everyone for attending and encouraged all students to come again to any of the future luncheons.