Columbia’s Private Perk

When it comes to perks for the faculty members of Ivy League schools, Columbia University is about to offer a doozy: a private-school education, at half the market rate, for children of Columbia instructors. The university’s trustees have just approved such a school, for kindergarten through eighth grade, which would open in 2003. The university deserves praise for its honesty in tackling a real problem-namely, that the notorious quality of New York City public education discourages top professors and researchers from moving to New York. But the plan’s risks counterbalance its virtues.

The first thing that must be admitted about the Columbia University School is that it will be exclusionary. Out of 700 slots, about half will go to children of Columbia faculty, at half-price, with no need to apply; the others will be filled by students from around the city, who must apply and pay the full fare. The university has tried to play down the elitist aspect by announcing that 70 places will be held for neighborhood children, who will receive scholarships. Even so, the school will further polarize an already polarized neighborhood. Local parents are rightly worried that public schools that currently benefit from educating the bookish sons and daughters of Columbia faculty will likely lose those students.

At the same time, the school makes sense. Jonathan Cole, dean of faculties for Columbia, told The New York Times, “A lot of people don’t even come to Columbia because they feel that the quality of some of the public schools are not the quality that they’re seeking for their children.” Also in Columbia’s favor is that the entire city benefits when its universities can lure the country’s best minds.

But is all of this a welcome trend? Imagine if Goldman, Sachs or Condé Nast announced they were building private schools for children of their employees. By further separating the most educated New Yorkers from those most in need of education, Columbia may end up doing a disservice to the great city that surrounds it.

Our P.C. Female Pols

On the matter of the criminal sexual assaults on dozens of women after the Puerto Rican Day parade, you’d think the city’s female officeholders would direct their outrage towards the miscreants. Instead, they’re blaming the police. Yes, the police. Some 20 women holding federal, state and local offices held a news conference on July 5 to express their anger over what they regard as lenient treatment of police officers who didn’t respond aggressively enough during the rampage. Representative Carolyn Maloney, a Democrat who represents the Upper East Side, organized the event after the Police Department took action against several officers. Odd that nobody held a news conference to protest the conduct of those who committed the crimes. Or to protest the lawless climate of the parade, in which paradegoers treated the route as one vast garbage pail.

That the news conference was but an exercise in pandering and cop-bashing was evident in the remarks of City Council member Annette Robinson, who suggested that the police officers would have joined in the rampage, had they not been constrained by their uniform. Ms. Robinson has apologized, but has not seen fit to resign her position as chairwoman of the Council’s Subcommittee on Police Performance and Community Relations.

Ms. Maloney and her colleagues could have used their forum to assail the odious conduct of the rampagers and those who chose to videotape the proceedings rather than to help the victims. They could have issued a statement about the breakdown in values that led to this appalling business. The misogynists in Central Park were not wearing blue. What a shame our top female politicians didn’t have the courage to make so elementary a point.

Summer Romance

Each year, the long summer days and warm ocean breezes conspire to take perfectly reasonable New Yorkers and afflict them with that most thorny of viruses, the summer romance. What seemed like a silly, or just plain stupid, idea in November suddenly blooms into the very image of romantic perfection. Those who have come down with this nasty summer bug might want to listen to Upper East Side resident Dr. Helen Fisher, author and Rutgers University anthropologist. As The New York Times’ John Tierney recently reported, she’s been using an M.R.I. machine to scan the brains of New Yorkers in the thrall of early romance. She found that infatuated lovers resemble people suffering from obsessive-compulsive disorder-an indicator of low levels of serotonin. Dr. Fisher also reports that love’s first blush may indicate high levels of dopamine. In short, those who find themselves starry-eyed on a starry night resemble a high school chemistry experiment gone awry.

What about the future of your poolside fling? Dr. Fisher says the love drug wears off after about a year. At which point we only stick with our beloved if they qualify as long-term mating material. But “long-term” is relative: Dr. Fisher found that in most societies, the highest rate of divorce occurs in the fourth year of marriage. She believes that is because our brains are still wired as they were when we lived on the grasslands of East Africa, and four years is how long our ancestors needed to stay together to get their children ready for life. But if a human couple chooses to bond for longer than four years, we again have chemicals to help: Dr. Fisher says cozy couples are riding a wave of vasopressin and oxytocin, which are associated with attachment. The problem, of course, is that all these chemicals can be firing at once. “You can feel deep attachment for one individual while you feel romantic love for someone else while you feel lust for a stranger in a magazine,” Dr. Fisher told The Times.

But for all this romping about in the grasslands, New York men might want to take a clue from Dr. Fisher. “We’re about to have a tidal wave of baby boomers reaching menopause,” she recently said. “In every culture anthropologists have studied, postmenopausal women become more assertive and socially powerful … Young girls want to please. Old women tell you how it is-and how it’s going to be.”

Columbia’s Private Perk