Hundreds of students packed the campus in a peaceful but boisterous demonstration that decried the university's decision to cut off civil negotiations and resort to threats of force, rallying around Hamilton Hall where administrative deliberations were taking place. As public safety guarded the doors to the building, students and community leaders demanded that the administration continue the negotiation until all issues were satisfactorily addressed. The crowd swelled in size and a continuing lack of communication with administration sources threatened to escalate the situation. Finally, we received communication from the administration that the hunger strike would continue undisturbed, that specific commitments on funding for the transition of Major Cultures to a seminar format and the expansion of the Office of Multicultural Affairs were made, that disciplinary penalties on hunger strikers would not be levied, and that negotiations for the expansion would continue.
As these victories were announced to the assembled crowd, sentiment changed from anger to elation. Scores of people remained at the Sundial discussing the advances of the evening and the necessary steps to follow. While students rejoiced in their triumph, they remained fully aware that much work is left to be done in negotiations on the expansion plan.
As the hunger strike enters its ninth day, students' resolve remains firm on the expansion demands. While the fundamental demand remains that Columbia respect the democratic voice of Community Board 9 and withdraw its 197-c plan to rezone Manhattanville, we have presented six points to Executive Vice President Maxine Griffith which represent a reasonable progression to the negotiation process. To date, we have received no response and no commitment from the administration.
Significant advances have been made, but much remains to be resolved until students return to their daily lives. The victories of the day show what power students organizing for justice can have. Today more than ever, the struggle continues.
- The Strike Committee
The points presented to the administration are detailed below.
Point 1 – Columbia has a responsibility, as stated in the EIS, to mitigate the impact caused by the proposed actions. The body with which the university has committed to negotiating with is the West Harlem Local Development Corporation. However, the university has also reached agreements with other entities on issues of community benefits, most recently and prominently Borough President Scott Stringer, who has a representative on the LDC body. We demand that the University commit to, in writing and on the record, negotiating community benefits exclusively with the LDC, excluding any separate agreements with individual politicians, including but not limited to those politicians represented on the LDC.
Point 2 – The agreement reached with Borough President Stringer is problematic on many levels. First, demand a clarification on what exactly is proposed. Is it a loan or a grant? When does the money get transferred and how does that happen?
Secondly, with an estimate of $200,000 per creation of each affordable unit, this would create 100 units in an area with 5,035 people living in unsubsidized housing. This is an extremely low floor in negotiating an anti-displacement program with the LDC, especially given the cost and potential profit of the project. The students demand that a far more significant commitment to affordable housing be a part of any agreement with the LDC and that Columbia come to the board with a number that mitigates the full effect of its project.
Point 3 – Columbia has pledged officially to relocated the tenants living under the TIL program to equivalent housing. This is a positive step. We demand that any relocation occur as a result of direct agreement with the tenant affected and not through an agreement of property transfer with any city agency or outside entity.
Point 4 – Columbia needs to take eminent domain off the table for the commercial property-owners in the area and reach agreements with them on an individual basis, even if that implies that they are to stay there in a revised development scenario.
Point 5 – Using funding specifically earmarked for the expansion plans or fundraised independently of existing efforts, Columbia should develop and financially empower those parts of the university that provide community programming. The university should provide resources for the development of new programs in the Center for the Study of Ethnicity and Race, the Institute for Research in African-American Studies, the Office of Multicultural Affairs, the Double Discovery Center, Community Impact and other university institutions that would provide services for both students and community members.
Point 6 – Columbia is one of the foremost educational institutions in the country and the world. As part of its expansion, we feel that the university has a responsibility to the community it is effecting, not merely to its own constituency. This responsibility is profound and goes beyond the Secondary School proposal. Students demand that local students be granted access to Columbia resources, including libraries and course auditing privileges. We also call for a scholarship admission program for CB9 residents, and for a comprehensive educational complex that would serve the community's needs, including not only K-12 education but also an infant and pre-K school, a health clinic, and an adult education service. This should be funded directly by the university. The university's resources are vast and can be shared more broadly.