Now, More Than Ever.

By: Virpratap Vikram Singh

In watching the speeches and comments made during the orientation of new students at SIPA, I couldn’t help but feel like something was missing. A message about who we are, and where we’re going…

Hello SIPA! My name is Virpratap Vikram Singh. I’m a second-year ISP and TMaC student. Over the last year, I’ve worn many hats as I’ve met you: a member of Seeples Group F, a possible candidate for SIPASA General Secretary (I dropped out), the Vice President of the Digital and Cyber Group at Columbia University, a Research Assistant for SIPA Cyber, a Mismanager for SIPA Follies, and a Peer Advisor the incoming Class of 2021. And finally, who can forget that I was the guy who filed an impeachment motion against the SIPASA President, and subsequently quit.

I’ve taken to The Morningside Post to share an important thought with my thousand-ish fellow students:

What are we as SIPA students – future policy leaders – waiting for?

Look at the countries that you are from, or that you visited this summer. Take a look at the headlines from around the world that you read over the summer. Chances are there are more than a few issues that made you say: The fuck? or Fuck! or Fuck.

All of us came to SIPA for different reasons. For some, it was to pursue their passions, or to grow professionally. For others it was just to get that master’s degree, or even to find love with a rich CBS student. I can however, say with some degree of confidence, that if you chose to come to SIPA - a policy school with a hefty price tag - it was because you were willing to commit yourselves to this fundamental challenge of ‘it can be made better’. 

The ‘it’ is subjective. But the feeling is mutual. 

We’re all here to make a difference in our world, big or small, that’s why we chose SIPA. The painful truth that many of us witness is that the world is not on pause while we’re here. Poor policy and shitty politics continue to happen every day which is degrading and harming the very world that we have to live in, and, ultimately, we have to fix.

I ask again: What are we waiting for to start make that difference?

I, for one, blame the #SIPAbubble. 

SIPAbubble [see-pah-buhb-uhl]: A sociological phenomenon in which students attending SIPA are encircled and ensnared by SIPA activities, events, and classes. Highly contagious.

Honestly though: I’m a second year, I’m jaded, I can blame this entire thing on the fact that I did “all the things,” while simultaneously fighting off my inadequacy complex, which ultimately left me with an amazing resume but left me lost as the world moved on. 

We hate the SIPAbubble. For the most part, it’s because of this Ivory Tower created by Columbia here in West Harlem, a byproduct of the privilege that an Ivy League education provides us. We should hate it. At the same time, can’t we just change it?

We stand at the start of the new academic year, with some 500 new students. We have an opportunity to fundamentally change what SIPA students experience here – regardless of whether we’re new, or the ghosts of Lehman. Because you see, all this needs is you, me, and a few hundred of our friends to change that SIPAbubble.

The SIPAbubble can only be a problem if we let it remain as this ‘insular’ phenomenon – where all we apparently seem to care about is Publique coffee (which still hasn’t changed btw.) 

Let’s challenge ourselves to change that. To make SIPA a place which is not just to study policy, but to ideate and experiment with it on a larger scale. What if we actually tried to have policy-based SIPASA elections? What if student groups started focusing less on filling rooms for events, and more on writing policy papers? We might not be able to change the world overnight, but we can make a difference, from IAB, to Morningside, and to who knows where!

And if you think that’s not possible, let’s run through some numbers:

  • We have almost a thousand students here, who’ve chosen to come to policy school.

  • We have 70 student groups, which cover pretty much every conceivable policy region and issue.

  • We have hundreds of faculty members, experienced professionals who exist in that real world, and have chosen to come and teach us.

  • And let’s not forget, we have more than 22,000 alumni spread all over the world, who’ve been exactly where we are.

So, to those skeptics and in-betweeners, I say: We absolutely can. We definitely have everything we need to start.

This is the part of the conversation where someone complains about more assignments, the events they’re planning, the inescapable stress of the internship/job hunt, or the simple confusion of “isn’t this what the capstone is for?”

Yes, there is work. Yes, there’s the academic and professional grind. Yes, there’s so much stress. I feel you. 

The world is not waiting for us to be in our power suits, well-rested, and ready for the fight. When we leave here, all we will be doing is fighting a never-ending set of battles. At least here, we have our friends, our allies, and our mentors. Here, we are SIPA.

And if SIPA doesn’t start fighting here and now, then we stand to lose more than we can imagine. That loss is something that goes beyond one’s concentration or specialization, or any other subdivision that exists at SIPA (Hey there MPA-DP, EMPA, MPA-EPM, MPA-ESP, PhD-SD – I see you!)

It has to be now, more than ever.

And it has to be us, because we’re all we’ve got.

With that, I’d like to invite anyone to whom this article spoke to, to meet in Ancel Plaza at 6pm on Wednesday, the 18th of September. You’ll find me, and hopefully other likeminded students who are committed to make things just a little less awful in the world.

 Welcome back SIPA.