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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Friday, November 16, 2007

Words from the Negotiation Team

Yesterday we, the negotiators, met with Maxine Griffith, Executive Vice President of Government and Community Affairs, to receive her responses on the points of compromise that we had presented the day before. To our great disappointment, the meeting was characterized by a disturbing incident of excluding the greater community, and a complete lack of progress on any of the issues under discussion.

At the start of the meeting, Ms. Griffith requested the removal of Dr. Vicky Gholson, a member of Community Board 9, on the grounds that she felt uncomfortable with the presence of community representatives, as silent observers, in an open negotiation meeting. The ground-rules agreed upon with the administration allowed for open observation by the student body, but did not specifically address community participation. The facilitator asked Dr. Gholson to leave, despite his own personal unease and the objections of the student negotiators. We are greatly troubled by the implications of this action, which implies that the administration rejects the presence of the very people whom the expansion most affects. We reject the artificial division between the student body and the broader community that Columbia has so unreasonably defined on this issue.

Thereafter, we played a recording of CB9 consultant and former city commissioner Ron Shiffman, who confirmed that, contrary to prior statements made by Ms. Griffith, direct negotiations between the Community Board and Columbia have not occurred since August, and that CB9 stands by its 32-2 vote against the 197-c plan. Ms. Griffith’s response was nebulous.

The negotiation itself confirmed our worst fears. It became evident to us that instead of engaging in a good-faith negotiation, Ms. Griffith preferred to restate the administrative position and merely clarify the functioning of various city processes with which we were already familiar. While we have been willing to compromise from our original position, we have not seen a similar commitment made by the administration, and have only been met with empty rhetoric and answers that continue to allude to vague commitments to future change.

While we have accomplished a tremendous amount in the last week, we see that this administration is in a moral crisis when its financial interests surpass the greater needs of the community. We, as students, demand that the University behave responsibly in its role as an institution of learning, rather than as a developer in a single-minded drive for its own narrowly-defined interests. Until then, the struggle for justice in Manhattanville continues.

-the negotiators