We, members of the Center for the Study of Ethnicity and Race core faculty and faculty advisory board, are very concerned for the health of our students who are involved in the hunger strike, now entering its sixth day, and we are worried about the health of our institution in responding to these actions.
The hunger strike by Columbia and Barnard students was prompted by a chain of racial incidents, but it is directed to longer standing issues, including Columbia's expansion to Manhattanville, inadequate support for ethnic studies, and the failure of the Core Curriculum to engage in a sustained way with issues of race and ethnicity and with non-European cultures.
We concur with the students' sense that recent incidents at Columbia indicate the need to build, bolster, and strengthen the community's investment in research, teaching and administrative practices that challenge racial, ethnic, gender and sexual hierarchies. The university community as a whole needs to be reflexive about this moment: internal conflict at Columbia exhibits deeper tensions in the U.S. body politic and its education system.
The familiarity of the racist symbols that have been deployed (nooses, anti-Muslim slurs, swastikas) belies the newness of the situation that we face. Columbia is experiencing a highly mediated form of politics that test the practice of a key academic value, sustained and open discussion. We believe it is important for the community to be aware of this and to create spaces to address these challenges. Engaging the politics of the present requires investment in research infrastructure, patient and sustained discussion, and a willingness by students, faculty and administrators alike to confront the challenges before us with creativity and perseverance.
We are disappointed that there were no negotiations over the weekend. In order to protect the health of the students and the well-being of the community, we urge the administration and striking students to engage in responsible negotiations immediately.
Nicholas De Genova