NU0D1084Nolan Thomas / Morningside Muckraker
Dean of Student Services Michelle Greenberg-Kobrin and CLS Student Senate will adorn the walls of Jerome Green Hall with student photographs selected as part of Student Senate’s photography competition.

Jerome Greene Hall (JG) is not as traditionally attractive as many of the other buildings at Columbia University. In comparison to its stately siblings on main campus, our toaster-esque home outside the main gates is a quirky cousin with eclectic and sometimes questionable taste in interior design. With initiatives already underway to address the problematic lack of diversity among JG’s wall accoutrements, Dean of Student Services Michelle Greenberg-Kobrin and the CLS Student Senate began a project with the simple aim of making JG feel a bit more like home, by bringing student art to the walls of JG.

Last year, Student Senate announced a photography competition open to all CLS students, which provided an opportunity for students with an artistic eye to have their works displayed indefinitely on the ground floor of JG. The winners of the contest will soon be on display – Student Services hopes to announce a grand gallery opening across from JG 104 and 106 this week.

According to Dean Greenberg-Kobrin, the idea for this project was conceived while she, in partnership with the Student Senate, “went about thinking what [they] could do to beautify JG and have students take ownership over a place they live.” She also noted that they brainstormed how to “bring to the forefront the totality of who [CLS] students are,” given the different talents among students at CLS. They decided that photography was the most accessible medium for the broadest group of students.

“It was also a way to capture the law school experience through the subjects of the photographs, have them be impactful for the people in the building,” said Dean Greenberg-Kobrin.

The subjects of the selected photographs, which vary from JG itself to experiences of CLS students inside and outside the building, portray the colorful variety of students’ lives at CLS. For example, Patrick Roath (CLS ’14) submitted a photograph during his 3L year that he took during his 2014 Spring Break Caravan. Patrick’s photograph, which depicts the work he did with the Dakota Plains Legal Services Organization on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in South Dakota, is, according to Patrick, “a reminder to students that there are opportunities out there for adventure, and [that students] should take advantage of them while you have the chance.” Meanwhile, for Christopher Dachniwsky (CLS ’15) whose chosen photograph depicts JG’s exterior framed by spring flowers, this contest provided him with the opportunity to spend an afternoon taking photographs with his fiancé, a student at the Teachers College. “Everyone tries to leave a mark on places they’ve been, whether it’s through student groups we participate in, or professors we work with, so this is a nice permanent mark of my time here,” said Christopher.

Student Senate Vice-President Grace Davis, (CLS ’16), described the Senate’s enthusiasm towards fostering student voice through the photos. “Senate exists to make sure that CLS students’ voices are heard, and these pictures are one of the ways through which that happens,” she said. “Students can leave their mark on the school by sharing a photo of a particular place or memory that is important to them, and can graduate knowing that those photos will be there for the next generation of CLS students.”

Students expressed their appreciation of the opportunity to leave a mark on JG, and to have a say in shaping it for future students. “It’ll be a really nice touch to walk through these halls and see not only are students the individuals participating in the learning in the school, but they’re [also] making up the foundations of the school itself,” said Michael Ferruggia (CLS ’15) whose photograph was selected.

Students who had already graduated expressed a more specific appreciation of the opportunity to leave their mark. Paul Park (CLS ’14) expressed his thoughts as a recent alumnus. “I think there’s more significance there, especially because I have left. It’s a way for me to leave my mark on the school,” he said.

Michael Zhang (CLS ’16) who had two photographs chosen, spoke to the importance of sharing unique perspectives with one’s peers, an important concept in the classroom, and also in context of the larger legal community. “We all see different things. This contest encourages us to capture those things and share them with the community,” he said.

Though it remains to be decided whether this particular contest will happen again in the future, these student photos will be a key step towards students shaping JG as their own home away from home for three years.

“There’s a lot of open space [in JG],” said Dean Greenberg-Kobrin. “There is a way we can think about what is on the walls, make it reflective of the students’ experience, make it dynamic, and really have people own the space as though they live here.”