Ethnic Studies with professors and hiring power
Major Cultures with classes on colonialism and race
responsibly through community input
Increase administrative support

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Monday, November 12, 2007

Press Release: Monday, November 12, 2007

Support for the Columbia University hunger strike grows as Barnard professor joins fast and cardboard octopus takes over South Lawn
Monday, November 12, 2007
Contact: Jamie Chen, Student Organizer,, 240.305.7628

Students met with Columbia University administrators today at 6pm to address demands issued by an ad hoc coalition of students calling for a change in the way the university deals with issues of race and marginalization. The coalition includes four students who are concluding their sixth day of a hunger strike, undertaken to emphasize the urgency and import of these demands. Students are pushing for daily negotiations in order to reach a consensus, given the timely nature of the strike and the pressing need for change felt by students and faculty alike. The administration did not set a time to meet until 3:30 pm on Monday.

Spurred by a slew of hate crimes on campus this semester and years of unproductive meetings with administrators, the coalition issued its demands on October 30, 2007, asking for more faculty support for ethnic studies, an ethical expansion into West Harlem by the university, reform of the Core Curriculum to address the marginalization of nonwhite peoples within the West, and a stronger Office of Multicultural Affairs that covers all undergraduate students.

Professors from Columbia University’s Center for the Study of Ethnicity and Race (CSER), the Department of Anthropology, Barnard’s Department of Political Science, and the Department of Comparative Literature, as well as professors from other universities have issued statements of solidarity with the demands and actions of the hunger strikers and supporters. Campus student groups including the Muslim Students’ Association, the Black Students’ Organization, Take Back the Night, and the Asian American Alliance Political Committee have also announced their support. A rally on Saturday afternoon drew about 200 students and community members from Harlem and elsewhere who condemned Columbia’s reluctance to address the critical needs of students and the community alike.

A statement from CSER stated its concern “about the health of our institution in responding to these actions.” Professor of Political Science at Barnard Dennis Dalton has been fasting since last Thursday in an act of solidarity with the student hunger strikers and to push for the demands to be met.

Over the weekend, Columbia University administrators refused to meet. Aretha Choi, a Barnard College sophomore, was admitted to St. Luke’s Hospital on Saturday evening. She will not continue her hunger strike for medical reasons. A cardboard octopus that “eats affordable housing” has also appeared on South Lawn, provoking discussion on an expansion that will likely displace thousands of people in Harlem.

Students continue to meet every night at 9pm at the Sundial on W. 116th St. between Broadway and Amsterdam to show their support for the strikers.