Tuesday, November 20, 2007
We are writing to support your courageous protest. We are survivors of a 14-day student hunger strike in 1986, which not only ultimately led Columbia to abandon its investments in companies doing business in South Africa but also boosted a growing national movement for divestment. In the end that helped the anti-apartheid movement prevail in South Africa.
When you act from conviction, you get the only results that count. So be strong and know that you are carrying on a proud tradition.
Let us know if there's anything you need.
Yours in solidarity,
Monday, November 19, 2007
What the Next Five Years will bring is….
For the Center for the Study of Ethnicity and Race (CSER):
• Three senior faculty hires
• Increased student participation in hiring process
Senior faculty hire for IRAAS (the Institute for Research in African American Studies)
Recruitment of a scholar in Native American Studies
Resources toward strengthened ties between CSER, IRAAS and IRWAG (the Institute for Research on Women and Gender)
Student participation in the Academic Review Committee on CSER allowing for student input in CSER's development
Office of Multicultural Affairs and Administrative Reform
Review of the OMA and the School of the Arts and Sciences to:
• Identify the unmet needs for the Office of Multicultural Affairs
• Access to the OMA for the School of General Studies
• Identify the needs for a Multicultural Affairs officer in the Arts and Sciences
• Create more safe spaces for a number of campus communities
The new location of an expanded Intercultural Resource Center will be announced and funded at the end of the semester
The Annual orientation for new faculty will include perspectives that address the power and privilege
Diversity education and training for Public Safety staff
The Core and Major Cultures
Increased student participation in the re-examining of the Core beginning this semester
Commitment to funding new Major Cultures seminars when approved by the Committee on the Core and the Task Force on Undergraduate Education
Faculty, Student and Alumni Oversight
A committee of faculty, students and alumni to ensure the progress of these concerns
We've gotten the ball rolling, Columbia. We've put these things on the table and won a commitment to raise the money so that they will actually happen. Now it's up to you, students and faculty of the entire university, to shape it.
Friday, November 16, 2007
November 16, 2007
*Tonight all remaining Columbia hunger strikers will break their fast*
Contact: David Judd, Student Organizer, firstname.lastname@example.org , 646.326.0944
Contact: Annie Salsich, Student Organizer, email@example.com , 508.314.0422
Contact: Linnea Hincks, Student Organizer, firstname.lastname@example.org , 646.388.0603
Official website: www.cu-strike.blogspot.com
VIGIL 9PM, NOV. 16TH, SUNDIAL ON COLUMBIA UNIVERSITY'S CAMPUS, W. 116TH ST., BETWEEN BROADWAY AND AMSTERDAM
In response to the concerns of the Coalition to Preserve Community and prominent community members for the Columbia University hunger strikers' health, the remaining hunger strikers will break their fast at tonight's 9pm vigil. Although, at the urging of community members, they will change their form of protest, the individuals who have been on strike and those who have mobilized around this movement are committed to continuing their struggle for an ethical expansion by Columbia into West Harlem.
Negotiations on the strikers' demands relating to Columbia's expansion took place yesterday. The administration's response to student demands was patronizing, and led to nothing but a restating of the university's current positions, demonstrating continual resistance to engaging in constructive discussion with its students. Ryan Fukumori, CC'09 and a student negotiator, noted that, on the issue of expansion, "This administration is in a moral crisis when its financial interests surpass the greater needs of the community." He added, "Despite significant advancements made in the areas of administrative and curricular reform, we have unfortunately not seen the same cooperative attitude from administrators on the topic of expansion."
Community members have expressed their greatest appreciation for the student movement that escalated into a hunger strike ten days ago. The administration's appreciation for the community is less apparent: community members were asked by present officials to leave the gathering of silent observers at yesterday's negotiation. It had been agreed at student insistence that negotiations would be made public, but it had not been explicitly specified whether community members were included in this agreement.
Students maintained their resolve over their demands regarding Columbia's expansion. The points brought by students to the negotiations yesterday were compromises from the students' original positions. Demands include: that Columbia take eminent domain completely off the table; that it promise to negotiate with tenants and the Local Development Corporation rather than landlords and city politicians; and that resources be allocated to creating affordable housing for the 5035 people who are living in unsubsidized housing in the area of expansion.
We would like to begin by reminding you how we got to this point. But first, we want to state why we're not here: we're not here because a small group of students decided to hold the university hostage. We're not here requesting a laundry list of concessions, or else. We're not here for our own selfish whims. We're here because this semester we saw hate far and wide on this campus. We heard President Bollinger the face and head of our university make inflammatory remarks. We've seen incidences of racist, Islamophobic and anti-Semitic language in our community and we've experienced the personal attacks on Teachers College faculty in the form of swastikas and nooses. This is unacceptable in our community, but even less acceptable is the administration's lack of response. These acts and our university's inability to address them have only illuminated the vast inadequacies of this institution on numerous levels. We're here to address the ways in which this university contributes to the marginalization of communities.
How is it that students on our campus can say that other students are overreacting when they are outraged by nooses in our community? What is the responsibility of our university to provide resources to create a safe, inclusive and just campus community and responsible world citizens? We don't think our opinions differ so vastly on these points.
What we have laid out are ways we believe we can encourage this university to be accountable to its students and community, and specifically how we can (re)envision a process, administration, and university that will lead to this safe, just and inclusive community we imagine.
Unfortunately (re)imagining the process by which we operate is not simple and unfortunately it can not be satisfied by placing checkmarks next to a laundry list of requests. Further, considering the significant difference of power between students and administrators, it is rather unfair and impractical to expect us to trust that these concerns and commitments will be followed through on without having the proposals and time tables by which these commitments will be implemented. We see our current agreements over the document as a first step in ensuring our trust in the process as we move forward.
As to those many places where we have not made agreements or where we must defer to faculty, reviews and other processes, we would simply like emphasize the importance of the blue ribbon oversight committee proposed and agreed upon. It is simply unfair to expect students to become experts on the complexities of your bureaucratic system. In the future when approached with proposals, as we have in the past, we would ask you to tell us what you can do within your purview, if our proposals don't work, to help us to make our vision for what this community can be a reality.
We would hope that your commitment to our community would extend beyond the discrete proposals we have made- beyond, even, the discrete issues we have brought up to truly interrogate how you can use your power to play a role in affecting change at every level of this institution. We expect this to be a starting point, not an end point, but we need to see that this is understood by your side as well.
Just to reiterate this clearly, the student organizing in the past weeks was not just about how many hires we can get out of this process or specifically how much funding we can secure. Rather it should have been about you coming to us and saying "I may not be able to do this but I can call a meeting" or "I can start making calls to donors" or "I can have this or that discussion with the relevant administrators."
Please understand that this is about being able to see your commitment for a new vision of our community in a tangible way, not trying to coerce you into acquiescing to some self-interested and un-negotiable demands. In that spirit, we hope that you yourselves will, in the future, be making recommendations to students above and beyond our own to make our community a safer more inclusive place, but we'll leave that to you for now.
Rahel Aima, CC'10
Yadira Alvarez, CC'10
Desiree Carver-Thomas, CC'09
Ryan Fukumori, CC'09
Vivian Lu, CC'10
Andrew Lyubarsky, CC'09
Sam Rennebohm, GS'09
Julie Schneyer, BC'08
Andrew Tillett-Saks, CC'09
Christien Tompkins, CC'08
with the concerned students organizing around the hunger strike and demands of Autumn 2007
The administration recognizes the deep seriousness of the student strikers' commitment to institutional changes that will reduce the marginalization experienced by some of our communities and enhance inclusiveness for all.
The students recognize the strength of the administration's commitment to advancing change through the channels that represent the interests of the whole Columbia community.
We have worked hard together to bring these two imperatives into complementary relationship and we are confident we have succeeded.
Coming to this agreement has required a great amount of trust; trust that we must continue to build and sustain together.
***** FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE 11/16/07 *****
WEST HARLEM COMMUNITY GROUP ASKS HUNGER-STRIKING COLUMBIA STUDENTS TO WITHDRAW DEMAND REGARDING UNIVERSITY'S PROPOSED EXPANSION
Tom DeMott: 917-969-0669
Nellie Bailey: 646-812-5188
Luis Tejada: 212 234-3002
Five days ago, on November 11, the Coalition to Preserve Community (CPC), a four-year old West Harlem community group opposing the Columbia University expansion plan, asked the Columbia students who had been on a hunger strike since Wednesday, November 7, to withdraw their demand that the University recall its 197C rezoning application. They rejected our request at that time, but today we are asking them again.
We do not want the students' health and welfare to be sacrificed in waiting on Columbia to engage in an honest dialogue and negotiation with the community on the rezoning application. For that to happen, President Bollinger and the Board of Trustees would have to respect the ten points raised by the Community Board as necessary to bring the Columbia plan into conformity with the community plan. The students are correct when they say that this could be accomplished, and they have done a great job bringing the true nature of Columbia's eviction plan out in the open, but we have all seen over the past five days that Columbia is stonewalling them, as it has stonewalled the community, on this issue.
The students attempted to focus in on six points concerning the expansion, and Columbia would not even make the basic commitment to negotiate a Community Benefits Agreement exclusively with the Local Development Corporation. This refusal reveals Columbia’s underhanded strategy of dealing with elected officials in back-door 11th-hour negotiations in order to circumvent the comprehensive demands developed on LDC committees by grassroots people. Columbia and its politicians want to sweep the work of community members under the rug and invent some last minute deal that will be put forth as purported "mitigation" of the devastation the Columbia plan will wreak in the community. The students should not starve themselves any longer trying to change this bought-and-paid-for scenario. It is clear that the fix is in regarding Manhattanville.
We have supported the advocacy efforts of the students on their other important demands for a democratic and inclusive education and those talks have been concluded. We will continue to work with them as we advocate for real community planning that does not cause displacement nor depend on the use of eminent domain.
Coalition members are extremely concerned for the well-being of the students. Having dealt with the Columbia administration for four years on its proposed expansion plans, the CPC is fully aware of Low Library's intransigence, deceitfulness, and cold-blooded ruthlessness. Accordingly, the CPC calls upon the students to withdraw their demand regarding Columbia's 197C application with its reliance on bulldozing a community and eminent domain and to concentrate on their other advocacy.
The striking students and their supporters will be conducting a vigil and press conference tonight at the sundial on the Columbia campus at Broadway and 116th Street.
As an alum of the Fu Foundation School of Engineering and Applied Science, I write in solidarity with those taking and supporting direct action. The need for direct action has been a long time coming, and I am inspired by the sacrifice of the strikers. They continue Columbia's proudest tradition, selflessly speaking truth to power, no matter the personal expense. I wish the expense was less, but in my experience and in the experience of countless others, the administrations of the University, Columbia College and the School of Engineering and Applied Science have, both jointly and separately, neglected to respect more conventional communication.
The University and its schools exercise their powers in a manner that systematically marginalizes people of color. Development powers, curricular powers, faculty-hiring and tenure-granting powers and student life powers are among those abused at the expense of neighbors, faculty, and students. The most troubling instance of this abuse of power might be the University's refusal to incorporate the principles of its neighbors' own plans for the future of Manhattanville. Here, the University chooses to unilaterally reject the community's rightful input on neighborhood development (197A) simply because land use laws allow marginalization. If expansion is to be successful, Columbia must invest in a campaign of inclusion and empowerment, not just capital.
None of these abuses--development, curricular, faculty hiring/tenure, student life--are intentional. However, the University and its schools have persisted without significantly changing their approach to power in the face of multiple race-related scandals each year for the last several years. The University and its schools have persisted without change in the face of 5 hate crimes in a 4 week span. The University and its schools have persisted without change in the face of local, national, and international media attention. Most importantly, the University and its schools have persisted without change in the face of years of cautioning, advocacy, negotiation, and protest by concerned neighbors, faculty, students and alumni. Their persistence is repulsive and unbecoming of a well-regarded institution.
However, without darkness, we would not know the light. Without obstacle, we would not learn the power of struggle. I hope that each of the strikers and their supporters takes time to reflect on the education they receive through struggle. Sadly, marginalized people coming together and taking direct action is a rare occurrence. It is among the most unique and valuable experiences they will have at
I pray that further escalation is not needed, but that if it proves necessary, then that it is brief and successful. I pray for the health, strength, and faith of all involved in making a more responsible and moral Columbia. God willing, their sacrifice will pay dividends for us all.
“Whosoever of you sees an evil action, let him correct it with his hand; and if he is not able to do so, then with his tongue; and if he is not able to do so, then with his heart." -Prophet Mohammed (Peace be upon him)
Peace to you all,
Sakib Khan SEAS '07
Statement of Solidarity: The Equal Rights and Access Committee of the Graduate Employees and Students Organization (Yale)
action to institute greater democracy on your campus.
Your struggle also speaks to other universities. Like you, we face a university that plays an increasingly dominant political and economic role in its host community and seeks to reshape it in its own image. This manifests in the forms of escalating gentrification and policing. Our administration, like yours has disregarded the voice of students, workers, community members, and faculty, and has failed to address the systemic discrimination that exists on our campus. We at Yale are also confronting articulations of white supremacy. The noose at Columbia manifests through hateful graffiti at Yale. Your example assists in providing encouragement for us.
We thank you for your determination, and most of all, your vision.
In solidarity and hope,
The Equal Rights and Access Committee of the Graduate Employees and Students Organization (GESO)
Yale University, New Haven, CT
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
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
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.
Thursday, November 15, 2007
Gary Y. Okihiro
Professor of International and Public Affairs
I do hope everyone—the administration, the faculty, and students who might be reluctant to support the strike—understands that the hunger strikes and the movement of which they are a part are offering a vision that would make Columbia University a better place. In struggle they have created a blueprint for what all institutions of learning (higher or otherwise) ought to aspire to be. And that is, a safe place for all students irrespective of difference, a place where knowledge is expansive and challenging, a place that engages, supports and partners with it’s neighbors rather than steam rolls over them, and an institution that places social justice at its core.
Robin D. G. Kelley
Professor of History and American Studies and Ethnicity
University of Southern California
to loose the chains of injustice and untie the cords of tyranny,
to set the oppressed free and shatter all bondage?" (Is. 58:6)
The Progressive Jewish Alliance stands in solidarity with the brave
The PJA supports a quest for a curriculum that will educate the student body about the world in which we live, with proper attention paid to all cultures and ethnicities represented in this "global university." As members of a people historically diasporic for 2,500 years, we are appalled at the university's callous plan of expansion that will cause 5,000 people to be displaced and will utterly ruin a rich community. Lastly, as victims of recent bias incidents, the Progressive Jewish Alliance speaks out with great fervor against the appalling slew of expressions of hate and support the strikers' attempt to force the university's administration to do its duty and take care of its student body.
Our prayers are with the strikers and all their supporters, wishing them a speedy resolution and good health. Thank you all.
Two students to end hunger strike after winning concessions; four others to continue fast
Thursday, November 15, 2007
Contact: Jamie Chen, Student Organizer, email@example.com, 240.305.7628
Contact: David Judd, Student Organizer, firstname.lastname@example.org, 646.326.0944
More information: http://cu-strike.blogspot.com
The students' decision was made last night after the
The two students who are ending their fasts made this decision after thorough discussions with the remaining strikers and with other allies. The students will begin eating once more both for medical reasons and as a sign of good faith in response to administrators' concessions regarding curricular and administrative reform. Emilie and Bryan were warned yesterday that Columbia Health Services officials judged them to be in serious medical danger and that they would be placed on involuntary medical leave for the remainder of the current semester should they refuse to end their strike. The two strikers were prepared to continue regardless, but when further negotiations produced acceptable results, they decided to transition to other methods of struggle.
A meeting is scheduled for 4pm today at which students will negotiate with administrators regarding the major outstanding issue,
Since the founding of the first Ethnic Studies programs in late 1960s and on, faculty and students have continuously faced institutional challenges. We struggle to uphold the principles Ethnic Studies was founded on, the right to education, to redirect resources at higher education institution to our communities, and to connect with the grassroots movements. We have received backlashes at traditional, elite institutions. Our Studies has become inaccessible and academic because of the traditional framework of higher education. Our services to our communities are not valued, quantified or qualified for the "standards," made by people who intend to shake our beliefs, who want us to abandon the movements that have preceded us and will come after us.
As students of color in Michigan, we share the same struggles as students at Columbia University. Our faculty of color, not only in Ethnic Studies but across in various departments and disciplines, are being let go one by one. The same reasons are told to us each time we request an explanation: the faculty member's research is not qualified, given the context of the prestigious research institution; their work focuses on the community, not on research that allows the university to continuously be perceived prestigiously; their research only concerns a small minority group, not the society at large. These reasons only raise more questions: Who are the people who set the standards? Who decides what is prestigious and what is not? And furthermore, why should one be punished, not rewarded, for spending tremendous amount of time and effort in the community, outside of one's research facility?
The colonialism existing in the traditional academia framework greatly hurts students. If Columbia University claims to embrace diversity and freedom, then the diversity cannot be validated solely by having students of color on campus. The administration needs to recognize that diversity goes beyond numbers and community input is crucial in improving campus climate. The curriculum needs to be diversified, allowing knowledge in different fields, including Ethnic Studies, which promotes knowledge that has been traditionally suppressed because of colonialism. Students have the right to learn about the history and importance of people of color in building this country, founded on colonial principles. Students have the right to demand the university's support for acquiring such knowledge, if the university truly embraces diversity.
United Asian American Organizations Board
Eric Li, Co-Chair
C.C. Song, Co-Chair
Anisha Mangalick, Advocacy
George Dong, Community Historian
Katherine Takai, External Relations
Ashley Manzano, Internal Relations
Jeff Meng, Finance
Vivian Tao, Programming
Ravi Bodepudi, Service
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.
Wednesday, November 14, 2007
*** FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE***
Students win concessions in hunger strike negotiations; strikers to continue fasting until all demands are addressed
Wednesday, November 14, 2007
Contact: Jamie Chen, Student Organizer, email@example.com, 240.305.7628
Contact: David Judd, Student Organizer, firstname.lastname@example.org, 646.326.0944
RALLY, NOVEMBER 15, 2007, 12 NOON at the Sundial at
The administration has committed, subject to approval by the Task Force on Undergraduate Education, to raising fifty million dollars in order to staff a seminar format for the non-Western portion of the Core Curriculum. Currently, every other Humanities requirement in the Core is taught in capped seminar format. Administrators will also put out a call for proposals from faculty for new courses for the Core Curriculum.
The administration has agreed to raise funds for the expansion of the Office of Multicultural Affairs, to the extent recommended by a review by a consultant firm. Administrators offered a blueprint for student involvement in the academic review committee for the Center for the Study of Ethnicity and Race, which will decide the future of the Center. Finally, administrators guaranteed that there will be no disciplinary action brought against any hunger striker.
In the late afternoon, administrators issued a demand that two student hunger strikers end their eight day demonstration, or be forced on medical leave for the remainder of the semester. Administrators further threatened that if strikers did not accept a specific set of proposals offered at 7pm, the administration would walk out of negotiations.
While these threats hung in the air, at 9pm, approximately two hundred students gathered for a previously scheduled vigil. Upon hearing the administration's position, students spontaneously formed a rally and marched across campus, gathering in front of Hamilton Hall, where administrators were convened. Hamilton Hall has been the location of student sit-ins several times in the last decades. At this point, the administration resumed negotiations.
Outstanding demands of the coalition of students and faculty include a critical revision of
A larger rally is scheduled for Thursday at noon, to coincide with a luncheon between administrators and major donors to the university.
FROM THE GENERAL STUDIES STUDENT COUNCIL
We, the undersigned members of the General Studies Student Council, wish to affirm our support for progress within our Columbia community. At this moment, four students from Columbia and Barnard Colleges are engaged in a sincere and serious act of protest against racist and prejudicial practices, activities, and words. They have chosen a hunger strike as a tactic of last resort because they feel systematically marginalized by the administration. Our concern is for the health of our fellow students regarding the marginalization of their voices. We therefore stand in solidarity with our fellow students in their efforts to eliminate some of the myriad forms of racism, sexism, homophobia, ethnocentrism, ageism, and elitism found within our campus. Just as the administration has a responsibility to engage in fruitful dialog with the strikers, so too does the student body have an obligation to critically engage with the concerns proposed by the student strikers. The scope of the issues brought forth by the groups involved pertain to all.
For these reasons, we stand in solidarity with the hunger strike and with all who seek progress within our academic community. The kind of nourishment our fellow students need is that of support. To that end, we humbly offer this statement and hope that our campus will move in a progressive direction as a result of the efforts of these dedicated students.
The SGA also recognizes that the demands being made of the Columbia administration affect Barnard students. The SGA acknowledges that many members of the Barnard community, students, faculty and departments, have been active in the strike and in response to the strike, both voicing support and dissent. Although the strike is addressed specifically to the Columbia University administration, the SGA supports the call for changes that will improve the academic opportunities and quality of education that Barnard students receive.
Moreover, the SGA officially calls for various curricular and institutional changes at Barnard College that are in a similar vein.
The SGA expresses its support for the following:
1.The SGA calls for the Committee on Instruction to move forward on the creation of an Ethnic Studies major. Towards this end, the SGA would like to see a thriving, well-funded and administered Center for the Study of Ethnicity and Race (CSER) at Columbia that can support an influx of Barnard majors. In the long term, the SGA supports the creation of a center at Barnard dedicated to the study of racial and ethnic power dynamics, similar to the Barnard Center for Research on Women.
2. The SGA calls for the incorporation of discussion of racial and ethnic formation into the 9 Ways of Knowing. For the short term, the SGA plans to facilitate the creation of a more diverse First-Year English reading list. In the long term, the SGA supports the Committee on Instruction in reviewing how to better incorporate these issues into the 9 Ways of Knowing, particularly looking at the Social Analysis, Cultures in Comparison, and Reason and Value requirements.
3. The SGA calls for the appointment of a Provost for Diversity. Many of our sister schools, as well as many Ivy League universities, have such an office. A Provost for Diversity will work closely with the deans and the President of the College to ensure fair hiring, tenure, and curricular practices.
4. The SGA calls for better communication between the Office for Multicultural Affairs at Barnard and the Office of Multicultural Affairs at Columbia.
The SGA continually seeks student input, concerns and support on all of these initiatives and hopes that Barnard students feel empowered to work with the SGA. While institutional reform does take time, student voices are heard and ideas are supported by the administration through the SGA. The above mentioned goals are also part of discussions being held by Barnard faculty and administrators. The SGA does recognize the need for immediate and tangible examples of progress. From the SGA student representatives on the Committee on Instruction to all of the participants at our Town Hall, Barnard students have been actively engaged with this debate all semester. Please be encouraged to join your fellow students in these discussions by contacting email@example.com or by attending our weekly Representative Council meetings, held every Monday at 7:45pm in the North Tower.
We feel that a variety of tactics are necessary for effective protest and to engage in the University in new and creative ways. We hope that the ends to this justify the means, and support the demands around West Harlem, as well as the non-racist principles for which the movement advocates.
We hope that all of these students, strikers and supporters, come out of this action unscathed, mentally and physically, and hope that Columbia students can continue to hone their skills as effective activists on campus and in the future.
Students for Environmental and Economic Justice (SEEJ)
As an alumna of Columbia University I am proud to stand in solidarity with the hunger strikers and those who work so tirelessly to support them. The demands of the strikers, continuing the struggle of so many student activists before them, are in no way novel. Their existence is proof of the evasiveness and insulting disdain of an administration that counts on promises of committees and meetings, and the short stay of most undergraduates to maintain the status quo. Today's hunger strikers and organizers have taken a bold step to emphasize the severity and urgency of the situation at Columbia; their demands must be met and their call for change supported.
Over my four years as an undergraduate I sat with fellow concerned students in meeting after meeting, with committee after committee to achieve important, but limited successes. The administration's failure of us and our predecessors has led to the need for the hunger strikers' actions today.
Columbia University has an alarmingly long history of devastating disregard for marginalized communities both within the university and in the neighborhood that surrounds it. Columbia as an institution, comprising members of the university at all levels, has chosen silence and a nearly stagnant rate of change in the face of demonstrated racism, homophobia, classism, religious prejudice and other forms of bigotry. At times, the university itself has perpetrated these very injustices through direct action or through appalling lack of concern. A better Columbia necessitates a strong student voice on the side of justice and an inclusive, responsive, and accountable university, and these students have taken the necessary steps to demand their voice be heard. Administrators, faculty, alumni, and other students must in turn stand up for what is right and just and lend their support to these brave and stead-fast strikers and the vital changes they call for.
Jennifer Oki, CC '07
We fail to see the histories and struggles of our people properly legitimized and embraced in our administrative offices, our classrooms and in our community in Harlem.
We think it shameful that students must risk and sacrifice so much for something so basic. Our prayers and actions are with the strikers, their well-being and the well-being of this campus.
When the university forces students into a silent corner – it exercises power, not freedom.
When Western culture continues to dominate our education – it extends its power, not freedom.
When racist individuals join forces with racist institutions – they benefit from power, not freedom.
When diversity is showcased by those who still dictate the same rules – this demonstrates power, not freedom.
When professors are vilified and fired – this is the familiar face of power, not freedom.
When administrative staff and maintenance workers are ignored and overworked – they are the recipients of power, not freedom.
When the president of a U.S. institution of higher learning (“America at its best”) “criticizes” the president of a country targeted for the next war – he inflicts power, not freedom.
When corporations destroy the lives of individuals and communities – they practice power, not freedom.
When Columbia expands, and the community is told to move on – this is the doing of power, not freedom.
The tradition of the oppressed teaches us that power knows nothing of freedom, nor can it claim it for itself. Power is not freedom. Power is power.
And truth must be spoken to power.
Thank you for striking for all of us, and for speaking truth to power.
Department of Middle East and Asian Languages and Cultures
Tuesday, November 13, 2007
We stand in solidarity with the students who have courageously given their bodies to a movement for student power. We pray for their health and well-being, but recognize that focusing on this particular action would be unjust to their cause. We stand in solidarity with the larger movement that engenders not simply an appreciation of diversity – be it religious, racial, ethnic, class – but a critical understanding and sincere respect of the character of each and every individual.
On behalf of RESCUE Association/Fund, please convey our most sincere & deepest support to the Hunger-Striking HEROS - Bryan Mercer, Emily Rosenblatt, Victoria Ruiz, Aretha Choi, and Sam Barron - who are using their BLOOD, SWEAT & TEARS to end the continuing Apartheid-Style Racism of the Bollinger Administration.
We FULLY (100%) support their Extraordinary COURAGE to take a stand against the all-powerful Bollinger Administration. We sincerely hope and pray for their continued leadership in taking a stand for this noble cause and issues of Racial Inequality & Subjugation and, hopefully will encourage the other
Most Black and other minority employees at
Due to the various lawsuits and motions pending before the Federal Court against the Bollinger Administration, RESCUE is most regrettably unable to participate in the Hunger-Strikes and other protests at the present time, but we are most anxious to pursue these struggles on behalf of the minority students, faculty, and administrative staff of
Thank you very much for your courage and God Bless All your efforts!!!
Racial Equality Struggles For
(RESCUE) Ad Hoc Committee
Across the country, universities have failed to take a stance against injustice, discrimination, displacement, and oppression. But with this hunger strike, you have taken a stance, and it is a just, a dignified and a courageous one. Your action is a powerful example for the forces of change on campuses all over the United States.
Why do students have to go on hunger strike to engage their university? Why do students have to physically stop eating in order for their university to listen to them? The answer is clear: We are their most precious commodity. When we put our health and our lives on the line, we threaten their claims to legitimacy and their hold on power. The hunger strike shatters the illusion by striking at its heart. Complacency is not a lesson worth learning. Solidarity is a lesson worth sharing. Dissent is a lesson worth sharing.
They say they are "for" us, but our universities are not "of" us or "with" us. They are not ours. These are not democratic institutions. These are not places of true learning. But they could be. With every action, with every strike, we are taking back our universities, and we are standing with those who will not let their communities be taken from them.
Last May, Harvard students staged a hunger strike for workers' rights, for an end to poverty wages and the abuse of security guards on campus. Our strike was part of a broader movement among the students of this country to refuse to accept what is being done in our name, and to struggle for another kind of university. Our campaign was won, and we are confident that you, too, will win your demands. Justice is on your side, and so are we.
Some people may, as they did at Harvard, try to make you feel alone in your work, in your passion, in your struggle. But know that you are not alone. You are many, they are few. You have more supporters and allies, brothers and sisters than you may know, in your city and around the world. This statement of solidarity from the Harvard hunger strikers comes from Boston, comes from New York, comes from England, comes from Mexico.
There's an old saying from the labor movement: We'll hold out one day more. One day more than the bosses. One day more than the administration. We know you will. We are with you, and we will be with you to the end.
Alyssa Aguilera, Javier Castro, Michael Gould-Wartofsky, Kyle Krahel, Ben Landau-Beispiel, Kelly Lee, Jamila Martin, Jose Olivarez, Matthew Opitz, Kaveri Rajaraman, Jennifer Provost, and Supporters Geoff Carens and Austin Guest
Students and faculty decry serious faults within Columbia University's administration
Tuesday, November 13, 2007
Contact: Jamie Chen, Student Organizer, firstname.lastname@example.org, 240.305.7628
After Columbia University administrators refused to meet negotiators over the weekend despite an ongoing hunger strike, students sat down with Columbia University administrators Monday evening at 6pm. This meeting addressed the 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 administration's offers echoed conciliatory language of past negotiations that often failed to resolve the crux of students' grievances. Students will continue to meet daily with administrators until a compromise on the demands is reached.
A Statement of Concern from the Columbia University Faculty Action Committee was publicized on Monday evening as well, directly accusing President Bollinger of failing to uphold core university principles (but not mentioning the strike directly). The statement was signed by 70 faculty members, including such scholarly notables as Eric Foner, Mahmood Mamdani, and Nicholas De Genova.
Campus student groups including the Muslim Students' Association, the Black Students' Organization, and Take Back the Night have announced their support of the strike and the demands. A rally on Saturday afternoon drew about 200 students and community members, condemning Columbia's reluctance to address the critical needs of students and the community alike.
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. 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 of the strike and supporters.
The Core Curriculum, CCSC Advocates for…
The reformation of the Major Cultures requirement to contain a variety of courses in a seminar format.
More student voices and seats for the Committee on the Core and the Committee on Instruction, as well as voting power for students on both committees, and that their process of selection be better publicized.
Ethnic Studies: CCSC advocates…
Support and autonomy for Ethnic Studies and the departmentalization of the Center for Study of Race and Ethnicity and the Institute for Research in African American Studies
Administrative Reform: CCSC Advocates that…
Columbia’s Public Safety announce instances of hate crimes when they are reported and issue an annual report of reported bias incidents and hate crimes and how they have been addressed. A clear definition of what a bias incident is
The expansion of the Office of Multicultural Affairs with more communication and collaboration between the Office of Multicultural Affairs at Columbia and the Multicultural Affairs Office at Barnard
The hiring of a Vice-Provost of Multicultural Affairs to administer and direct University policies affecting students within all of the schools of the UniversityMandatory anti-Oppression training for all incoming faculty and public safety, with full day workshops, on the level “under1roof”, on issues of race, ethnicity, gender, sexuality, power and privilege.
The Columbia College Student Council has been doing research and gathering information on the expansion through its expansion committee. The council is not in a position to take a position on the expansion this semester.
Monday, November 12, 2007
We should not accept a Core Curriculum that presents a top-down view of the development of "Western civilization" as a story of the evolution of the ideas of the ruling class, which misinforms us regarding the driving forces of history and the ability of ordinary people to affect it. We should not accept an Ethnic Studies program without the ability to hire its own professors, which cannot defend them from the attacks of the neo-McCarthyite right. We should not accept a University without a systematic or centralized way of responding to hate crimes on campus. And we should certainly not accept an expansion plan that places the costs of Columbia's growth on the shoulders of the working people of Harlem, a community already under assault by the neoliberalization of New York City policies on housing, crime, and education.
Columbia is a profit-seeking corporation, and substantive change will not come by rational argument or moral suasion alone. A hunger strike is a desperate tactic but a product of necessity. It is past time that progressive students at Columbia unite to force the administration to act.
There are clear and specific ways to address the problems as outlined in the Coalition's Administrative Reform demand. Students should have significant representation on a committee for student group advising with hiring and firing capabilities. The current system of disconnected offices with poor communication unnecessarily hinders our efforts to improve life on campus.
The CU Democrats will continue to advocate for these reforms. These proposals are nothing new; the Columbia administration has witnessed repeated calls for a more robust student presence in the advising offices. Annual inaction on the part of the administration has the unfortunate effect of forcing students to confuse bureaucratic inadequacy and ineffectuality for disinterest or disregard. It saddens us to see that our peers are forced to resort to drastic measures in order for their voices to be heard, and we wish them health and success.
Support for the
Monday, November 12, 2007
Contact: Jamie Chen, Student Organizer, email@example.com, 240.305.7628
Students met with
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.
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,
Students continue to meet every night at 9pm at the Sundial on
Statement of Solidarity: Students for Justice in Palestine, Xinaxtli, Ethnic Studies Undergraduate Student Collective Kalaam (UC Berkeley)
We support your hunger strike, and we support your desire for change that we too believe is worth sacrifice.
As UC Berkeley students, we also feel that our university does not recognize the importance for the critical study of race through all departments on our campus, nor does it provide sufficient resources for our Ethnic Studies Department. We also feel that our university does not offer adequate administrative support for the recruitment and retention of students of color and their concerns.
We support you because we want our university to realize these needs as fundamental to our lives and because we want to reclaim our university as truly ours.
Most importantly, we support you because we want to reimagine the university. We understand that today, education is a matter of personal investment. The maximization of profit and efficiency measure success, and research is fast and reliable. The university and other institutions of higher education thus operate like corporations. We do not want our university to be an engineer of nation states and empires. We do not want a corporate university; we want a people’s university.
Input on these issues in meetings/conferences, through protests/rallies, and through other avenues of vocalization have also been ignored or patronized on our campus, and the responses to our demands have essentially been nonexistent. We overstand your decision to hunger strike and hunger striking as a physical symbol of your/our intellectual and spiritual starvation under the university administration’s current policies.
From UC Berkeley, we offer ourselves to you because we share your struggle and convictions. We imagine with you and we continue the fight on our campus. We stand in solidarity with you, and we are here for you. We learn from you, and your actions motivate us to persist and to resist. We are your comrades, and every day we send you love and positive energy.
Whose university? OUR university!
With our minds, our bodies, and our souls,
Students for Justice in Palestine
Ethnic Studies Undergraduate Student Collective Kalaam
“Until the philosophy that holds one race superior and another inferior is finally and permanently discredited and abandoned, everywhere is at war.”
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
As members of Columbia University, we all have the right and the responsibility to hold our university to the high standards it claims to uphold. Through their hunger, the strikers seek institutional change that will nourish people within and around Columbia University for years to come. The Columbia Coalition Against the War applaud their courageous efforts and call on the administration to provide an immediate response to their demands.
12 November 2007
I am sincerely honored and deeply gratified to salute the Columbia University students engaged in the present hunger strike against the generalized climate of racial hostility and tolerance for racism that pervade Columbia University.
The hunger strike could not be more perfectly or candidly explained than in the strikers’ own proclamation: “We strike because we abhor, viscerally, the failure of current administrators to address student concerns on these issues and because this failure constitutes violence against our intellect.” May there be no doubts about this fundamental truth: These students have been pushed and goaded by the arrogant and condescending intransigence of the university’s highest administrators into these desperate measures. These students’ persistent devotion to their cause has been routinely insulted; their exorbitant patience has been exhausted. Now, they heroically sacrifice their own physical comfort and good health in order to rouse the hearts and minds of the wider community to a higher calling. In so doing, these students valiantly embody some of the most elevated and truly universal human ideals: they dedicate their critical intellects and their moral imaginations – and more important, they put their bodies on the line – to decry and defy the racial oppression that engulfs them in contemporary society, and which is made all the more excruciatingly vulgar by the lofty pretensions and craven dissimulations of our university’s elitist presumptions of scholarly erudition.
Like their peers who, almost exactly one year ago, defied the repugnant paramilitary organization, the Minutemen, when it brought its thinly disguised racist advocacy of vigilante violence to our campus – only then to be publicly denounced and humiliated by the university’s president and then institutionally sanctioned – the hunger strikers represent and enact in practice the most esteemed and glorified aspirations of any university worthy of the name. They deserve only our admiration and encouragement as they truly teach the rest of our community and the wider society essential lessons about political courage and moral integrity, and turn abstract knowledge and theoretical concerns into elementary but fundamental practices of freedom and social transformation.
I am proud to share this campus with these student protesters. May their example flourish and inspire countless comparable acts of liberation!
Nicholas De Genova
Anthropology and Latina/o Studies
(from sabbatical leave in Great Britain)
Today, racism is narrowly understood in ways that obscure rather than reveal its pervasiveness. It is often seen as merely the irrational beliefs or actions of individuals. Your strike redirects our attention toward the institutions, and policies and practices, that reproduce racial inequality and domination.
Is Columbia University such an institution? You are challenging Columbia, as others have done in the past, to fulfill its responsibilities to students, to the community at large, and to social equality and justice.
We are moved and inspired by your insight, energy, and vision.
University of California, Berkeley
University of California, Santa Barbara