Thursday, November 08, 2007

The November 2007 Columbia Student Hunger Strike

Thursday, November 8, 2007

New online petition!

I'm posting outside the tents at 3:30AM as the strikers sleep. It's freezing out here... but the strikers seem to be well-protected.A new online petition can be found here. Please sign it, and tell your friends!Ryan

Posted by Heiroku at 3:31 AM

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Statement from the Strikers

Why We Strike...
We are on hunger strike because we want change and because we believe that change is worth sacrifice. We strike against a university that seems not to care for the well-being of its students or of its community. We strike because we feel the urgency of a student voice that is continually being marginalized. We strike because we don’t want students in the future to have to resort to drastic measures to affect change in this institution.
We strike because student input on these issues in meetings, through protests, and through other avenues of vocalization has been ignored or patronized, and the response to our demands for change has been woefully insufficient. 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. We strike because these are not matters that will, nor can, wait.
We have no more words for this university administration. Hunger striking is an ideal course of action because it does not inflict harm on others; moreover, it offers strikers the opportunity for introspection and self-examination. We strike for the opportunity to reflect. We are peaceful.
We strike because we have inherited a world in which racist, gendered, and sexualized hierarchies dominate the way power flows. We strike because the administration consistently resists implementing structural changes that will allow us to challenge these hierarchies. We strike because the university does not recognize that the lack of space for the critical study of race through Ethnic Studies, the lack of administrative support for minority students and their concerns, the lack of engagement with the community in West Harlem, and the lack of true reform of the Core Curriculum are harmful to the intellectual life of its students. We strike because we want the administration to understand that these needs are as fundamental to students’ intellectual lives as food is to the human body.
We strike to reimagine the university as a more democratic place, where individuals are not isolated until communities are attacked, where we are at school in the City of New York, not making New York City more like this school, where students have a deciding say in this university, and where we are not called to a civilizing mission, but rather, to a process of liberation.
We are not striking to be martyrs for anyone or for any cause. We know that some may misunderstand our actions, but we strike with the faith that students questioning, challenging, and taking their own actions to shift the dangerous path that this university is pursuing should serve more to unite us than to divide us.
There has been tremendous unrest on campus this semester, these past few years, this past decade. And people here feel psychically hurt by Columbia’s indifference to our heartache, to our struggle, to our rumbling need for a better university. With luck, Columbia will see the starvation of our bodies as a bellwether of our growing desperation on this campus. It’s a shame that Columbia was not more alarmed when we said our minds, hearts, and spirits were starving, too.

Posted by b. mercer at 9:09 AM

1.) Why now?
The recent acts of hate on this campus have lent urgency to a long-existing effort to address this university’s climate of marginalization. Furthermore, we coordinate our efforts around the City Planning’s decision on Columbia’s rezoning proposal for West Harlem, which is due in less than two months. Lastly, we act in solidarity with the students that recently mobilized around the Jena Six case, which we see as a larger struggle against racism and injustice.
2.) How do acts of hate affect and relate to campus climate?
On September 24, controversial Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad visited campus, and Columbia President Lee Bollinger delivered polarizing introductory remarks, dividing the world between "civilized" and "ignorant," and feeding into a national drumbeat to war. Less than two days later, racist and anti-Muslim graffiti appeared in SIPA. Within the weeks that followed, a Black Teacher's College professor found a noose hanging from her office door, and anti-Semitic graffiti defaced Lewisohn Hall and the office door of a Jewish professor at Teacher's College.
That the University’s policies and structures inadequately reflect a commitment to understanding and thinking critically about race, gender, culture, and power only mirrors and reinforces the atmosphere stirred by the recent acts of hate.
The Office of Multicultural Affairs lacks the staffing and space to sufficiently handle the scope of its responsibilities. The Center for the Study of Ethnicity and Race and the Institute for Research in African American Studies are understaffed, underfunded, and have little autonomous power with which to extend their programming. The Core Curriculum marginalizes issues of racialization, colonialism, sexuality, and gender in a way that further marginalizes students themselves. And Columbia's current expansion plan would displace at least 5,000 people (according to the University's own estimate) and bulldoze almost every structure in the area. The cumulative effects of the Universities’ action and inaction send devastating messages about its notion of community, power, and cultural understanding.
3.) What's a noose at Teachers College got to do with institutional change at Columbia?
The Teacher’s College is a part of the university community and bureaucracy should not distance our neighbors. The noose is not an isolated incident and what happens at Teacher’s College effects and contributes to the atmosphere on our campus. Vital is our ability to respond and understand as a unified community.
4.) What are we demanding?
We demand that Columbia expand ethically, support Ethnic Studies, reform the Core Curriculum, and improve administrative support for students of color, students of faith, and LGBTQ students:

Because our cause is multi-faceted, our demands call for change on all levels and ask for a spectrum of responsibility:
• a more systematic response to hate crimes from Public Safety
• a more collaborative expansion effort from the administration
• a revision of the Core that encourages critical engagement with issues of racism and colonialism
• more resources and support for the Center for the Study of Ethnicity and Race (CSER), the Institute for Research in African-American Studies (IRAAS), and the Office of Multicultural Affairs (OMA).
We don't just want new programs or changes and improvements to existing programs. We want lasting changes in the power dynamics between the university, its students, and its community.
For a more detailed list of demands, see
5.) Why so many demands?
Why shouldn't students want more say in their life at the University?Not one thing will change an institutional culture and not just Bollinger is responsible. Students experience life at Columbia in a number of spaces and ways, and only looking across issues will make a substantive change. We are looking toward not just Bollinger, but the Trustees, the Committee on the Core, and the Vice President of Arts and Sciences to help us in our efforts. Administrative reform, the Core, Ethnic Studies and the expansion are just the beginning of the problems with this university, but at least these four concerns begin to question the roots of them.
6.) Why this tactic?
We strike because student input on these issues in meetings, through protests, and through other avenues of vocalization has been ignored or patronized, and the response to our demands for change has been woefully insufficient. Hunger striking does not induce harm on others, and it offers strikers the opportunity for reflection, introspection, and self-examination. A hunger strike is also a physical symbol of our intellectual and spiritual starvation under the university administration's current policies.
7.) Who are we?
We're not a campus group. We identify with the past four, twelve, twenty and forty years of student struggle. We know these issues are not new, but we know these issues well. We experience these issues in our daily lives on campus. We're here for the future generations on this campus – students of color, queer students, allies. We are the students who searched for safe spaces after the visit of Ahmadinejad, the harassment of an Asian-American student by the NYPD, the scrawling of graffiti in SIPA, the hanging of a noose on a Teacher's College professor's door, the spray-painting of a swastikas and anti-Semitic caricatures. We're students who've heard too often the anti-democratic platitudes of the administration. We stand in solidarity with each other, and we stand in solidarity with other students who identify with these issues.
8.) What are ways to help?
• Tell a friend
• Tell your family
• Tell the institution how you feel
• Come out to the tents any time during the day
• Join the vigils 9pm every night at the sundial
• Visit our site for more ideas, updates and information:

Posted by Heiroku at 8:33 PM
Friday, November 2, 2007

Student Activism Timeline
FALL 2007 -- Columbia announces the largest Capital Campaign of its time, with a goal of raising $4 billion. Students from a number of campus organizations come together an in attempt to create student input in where these fund go.
APR 15, 2007 -- Students in Ethnic Studies release a report on the state of the programs at Columbia and how they compare with peer institutions, recommending a department for Ethnic Studies.
FEB 15, 2007 – The Columbia Coalition Against the War 300 students walk out and hold a teach-in against the continued war in Iraq and future U.S. military aggression.
OCT 4, 2006 -- The Columbia College Republics invites the founder and head of the Minutemen Project, Jim Gilcrhist to speak on campus. The group is a vigilante organization that ‘patrols’ the Mexico/US border harassing, detaining, and shooting migrants. He was meet by protesters from throughout the city and inside Roone Arledge several students went on stage to unfurl a banner where they were responded to by blows from the Minutemen. Several censures were dealt out by the University, only to Latino students who were involved.
SPRING 2006 -- A student returned to her dorm in Ruggles to anti-homophobic, racist and anti-semetic graffiti. Students organized a response under the adhoc group Stop Hate on Columbia’s Campus, with demands for the university’s response to hate crimes, funding for intercultural programming, and university advisors for the queer community.
SPRING 2006 -- Students organizing Financial Aid Reform (FAiR), culminating in a week long demonstration that guaranteed the elimination of loans for students from families earning under $50,000 a year.
SPRING 2005 -- A film, Columbia Unbecoming, released by the David Project levels accusations against professors in the Middle East Asian Language and Culture department. The professors were found not at fault, but this causes the leave of several faculty and silencing of the debate on the Israel/Palestine conflict.
SPRING 2004 -- A comic strip, “Blacky Fun Whitey” released in the Fed during Black Heritage Month sparks a week of protest against racism on campus. The Columbia Concerned Students of Color demand what becomes the Office of Multicultural Affairs.
FALL 2003 -- Columbia announces plans to create a 17 acre campus expanding into West Harlem. The plan is meet with opposition from the community who worked for the previous 15 years on their own development plan for the neighborhood.
SPRING 2003 -- 500 students walk out against the war in Iraq. The largest anti-war showing since the first gulf war began. A university professor who spoke out against the war was meet with death threats and national outcry against his criticisms.
APRIL 1, 1996 -- Four students pitch a tent in the center of campus and begin a hunger strike, demanding that Columbia University establish a department of Ethnic Studies and reorganize its Western-oriented core curriculum. These protest led to the creation of the Center for the Study of Ethnicity and Race, majors in Asian American, Latino, more funding for African American studies and the list C Major Cultures option.
DEC. 14, 1992 -- About 150 students demonstrate at Hamilton Hall to protest the university's plans to turn the Audubon Ballroom, where Malcolm X was assassinated, into a biomedical research center. These protest lead to negotiations for a Malcolm X memorial and employment opportunities for Harlem residents.
APRIL 6, 1990 -- Several Columbia Law School Students end an overnight sit-in at the dean's office to protest a lack of racial minorities, women and homosexuals on the faculty. Gaining more women, LGBTQ and faculty of color.
APRIL 13, 1989 -- About 200 students occupy part of the law school's main building to protest the feared closure of a clinic that offers free legal help to the victims of AIDS discrimination and practical experience for credit to the students who represent them.
APRIL 21, 1987 -- Fifty people, including an assistant professor and two alumni, are arrested during a daylong demonstration to protest racism. Nine arrests occur when almost 70 people chain themselves to the doors of two of the three main entrances to Hamilton Hall. The protest stemmed from complaints by black students about the university's inaction in disciplining four white students accused of attacking black students and shouting racial epithets. These protest lead to the creation of the Intercultural Resource Center.
APRIL 25, 1985 -- Students, along with some faculty and staff members, end a three-week sit-in on the front steps of Hamilton Hall, demonstrating against the university's holdings in companies that do business in South Africa. These protest succeed in making the university divest its stock holdings in the South Africa.
APRIL 21, 1979 -- Several Columbia University students demonstrate to demand that a nuclear reactor on campus be dismantled.
APRIL 21, 1978 -- About 300 students demonstrate against the university's investments in corporations that do business in South Africa.
FALL 1972 – Students of Gay People at Columbia sit in on an unused lounge space in Furnald hall demanding the recognition of what is now known as the Stephen Donaldson lounge.
MARCH 21, 1975 -- Fifteen members of the Revolutionary Student Brigade, protesting the arrest of six Iranian students who were passing out leaflets against the Shah of Iran on campus, are arrested after locking themselves in the deans's office.
MAY 12, 1972 -- Black and latino students end a 17-day takeover of several university buildings. This leads to changes to increase admissions of black and latino students.
MAY 2, 1972 -- Campus police clear Hamilton Hall of student anti-war demonstrators who held the building and several others for a week.
APRIL 21, 1972 – Black students sit in on the NROTC office in Hartley Hall, creating the Malcolm X Liberation Center.
MAY 22, 1968 -- A month-long occupation of the president's office and several other buildings ends. Complaints include racism and links to defense-related research. About 1200 are arrested as trespassers, and 30 are injured in scuffles. Strikers shut down the university for the semester.
For more history and resources on student activism, take a look at the OMA/IRC archive project – housed in the basement of the IRC at 552. W. 114th st.

Posted by Columbia Solidarity at 8:09 PM
Columbia's Core Curriculum has been criticized for decades for not only its Eurocentrism, but its marginalization of nonwhite peoples within the West, and the issues of racialization and colonialism. While there have been additions throughout the years of a Major Cultures requirement, and individual texts such as The Souls of Black Folk, The Wretched of the Earth, and the Haitian Revolutionary Constitution, these efforts to remedy the Core have been insufficient in concept and execution. The Major Cultures requirements often take place in large lectures, where contrasting to the intimate seminars of other Core classes, content mastery can take priority over critical thinking, and the texts and themes that have been inserted into CC, Lit Hum, and Music Hum often seem to be tokenized additions rather than incorporated into a transformed conception of the Core. As such, we call for continued reassessment of all Core requirements, not as simply a matter of representation, but in developing a Core Curriculum that does not marginalize critical thinking about racialization, colonialism, sexuality, and gender.
The Core Curriculum is not only out of step with Columbia's students, but does not even tap into the resources of the intellectual work done by faculty who address the issues marginalized by the Core in their own work. The inadequacies of the Core Curriculum are not only intellectual problems, however. As the Core is one of the central pillars of a Columbia education, its marginalization of the issues of racialization, colonialism, sexuality and gender further marginalizes and traumatizes students themselves.
In this state of affairs, the University must work with greater urgency and consideration of the decades of dedication by students, alumni, and faculty to reshape the antiquated Core Curriculum into one that represents the values of a diverse, global, intellectually vibrant and just University. Towards that end, we recommend:
1. The reformation of the Major Cultures requirement to contain a course in
a seminar format which challenges students to think critically about the issues
of racialization and colonialism, global phenomena which also are at the Core of
the "Western" experience.

Given that these recommendations have been on the table for decades, we
realize that we are saying nothing new, and that more than simply asking is
required for their execution. Therefore, we also call for further measures
of accountability to students. Given that every Columbia student is required
to take the Core Curriculum, we feel that the limited student participation
in the Committee on the Core, the Committee on Instruction, and their
various subcommittees is evidence of inadequate use of the resources of the
student body. We call for:
2. More student voice and seats within these committees, and that their process of selection be better publicized, so that students' passions for changing the Core do not have to flare up in moments of spectacle, but can be incorporated into the constant process of developing the Core Curriculum.

Furthermore, we would like to point out that many Barnard students have similar
concerns about the 9 Ways of Knowing and have been involved in changing the
curriculum both at Columbia and Barnard. However, we are cautiously optimistic
about the initiative shown by Barnard's faculty and administration to address
our concerns. We hope that Columbia faculty and administration can look to and
communicate with Barnard to think about the ways to best be accountable to
student needs, as we all belong to a larger community.
Posted by Columbia Solidarity at 7:11 PM
Demands: Manhattanville Expansion &
Community Accountability

As students of Columbia University, we find it impossible not to take a stand when our university is actively ignoring the rights of the West Harlem community. Instead of engaging the community in respectful and open negotiation, Columbia is pursuing an expansion plan of disruption and displacement. We believe that the community has a right to affordable housing, living wage jobs, and a prominent voice in any development plan for its neighborhood. We believe that Columbia's plan must recognize the rights of all people regardless of their economic background or race.
The problems with Columbia’s plan are as extreme as they are abundant. According to Columbia’s own statistics, five thousand people would be placed at risk of displacement due to rent pressures engendered by the addition of university affiliates to the area – and this number is likely low. The plan seeks to bulldoze almost every structure in the area – including the current location of the Cotton Club and other community institutions – in order to create a 7-story underground "bathtub" upon which its structures would be supported. The university is planning to create buildings that are very tall, contextually out of place with the surrounding community. The university is also pursuing the use of eminent domain against property-owners who refuse to sell their buildings. While it claims to desire a productive relationship with Harlem, it is functionally colonizing a community and remaking the neighborhood in its own image.
The most basic problem with Columbia’s plan, however, is its wanton disregard for the basic principle of local democracy, something that the university’s humanistic ideals should hold as sacrosanct. Community Board 9 undertook a democratic, transparent process of many years to create a framework for development that took into considerations the needs of its residents. This plan conflicts directly with the expansion plan, which the university has stubbornly refused to revise. Despite the nearly unanimous rejection of the plan by the Community Board this August, the university is using its political muscle to push the plan through the approval process. The university’s basic principles should not be sacrificed on the altar of profit. We believe that Columbia must concretely apply the principles of the community's 197-A plan to its planned expansion.
As informed and active members of this institution, we refuse to allow the current expansion plan to go forward in our name. We stand in solidarity with the 10 demands made by the Community Board in August and therefore demand that:
1. Columbia withdraw its 197-C proposal to rezone Manhattanville immediately.
2. After withdrawing its proposal from the review process, Columbia submit its proposal to Community Board 9 for revision in line with the principles of the 197-a plan.
3. After making the relevant changes to its rezoning plan, Columbia negotiate a substantive community benefits agreement which serves to mitigate displacement created by the university’s presence and addresses job creation, environmental problems and university-community relations.

Posted by Columbia Solidarity at 7:06 PM

Ethnic Studies examines race as a social construction that has been shaped throughout United States history at the hands of forces such as policy, violence, law, and media. It includes an analysis of the influences of gender, sexuality, nationality, and class, as well as a critical look at the power structures that have been prevalent in joining together the elements in the formation of race and ethnicity as we understand it today. Especially given Columbia's Eurocentric Core Curriculum, Ethnic Studies plays a crucial role in providing students with tools critical to understanding the formations of race and ethnicity in the United States and provides us with the necessary knowledge to understand the position of ethnicity and race as projects of power.
The state of Ethnic Studies at Columbia is in a critical condition. The Center for the Study of Ethnicity and Race (CSER) and the Institute for Research in African American Studies (IRAAS) are understaffed, underfunded, and have little autonomous power with which to extend its programming. This program has been denied the crucial resources that it needs to sustain itself.
The risk of even further decline will become an even bigger threat unless the power to hire faculty and offer a full curriculum in the University is granted to the Center.
Following its institutionalization, student voices become powerless in determining the direction of CSER. As a result of the 1996 protests that led to creation of Ethnic Studies at Columbia, students were afforded special positions on the hiring committees of CSER. However, in practice, these positions have had no voting power and little influence, and are wholly symbolic in nature.
1. Given the inadequate number of core faculty present next semester, we demand the completion of 2 core faculty hires per year for both CSER and IRAAS until each has 12 core junior and senior professors, which must be maintained indefinitely.
2. The academic review of CSER and IRAAS must begin in Summer 2008 where the board must include only ethnic studies scholars from outside institutions as well as Columbia ethnic studies majors. The academic review must also research the steps necessary for the creation of Queer Studies, which has historically been placed under Ethnic Studies at other institutions, as well as Native American Studies which must be considered by the university following the review's completion.
3. Interested Ethnic Studies majors collectively, shown through a vote, must be given 1 or 2 votes (depending on committee size) which will be delivered by the current student positions on all hiring committees for junior and senior faculty to increase student presence and determination of CSER's direction.
4. To maintain the integrity of Ethnic Studies and the very possibility of its sustained growth, the CSER and IRAAS must be granted the ability to make hires autonomously. This is not a call for the immediate departmentalization of Ethnic Studies. Rather it is a call for the Ethnic Studies programs to make hiring decision on their own accord, without the need of outside departments to lead the hire. We recognize that this is unprecedented for centers and institutes throughout the University, but see it as a necessary step in creating Ethnic Studies classes and research initiatives that are accountable to the field and on par with peer institutions.

Posted by Columbia Solidarity at 7:05 PM
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9PM ~ Sundial @ Low Plaza
WED 11/7
Discussion circles
11AM-5PM - Low Plaza***Wear blue!***
THU 11/8
Campus Rally
12-2PM - Low PlazaTeach-in on expansion & gentrification
7:30-9PM - Hamilton 602
sponsored by the United Students of Color Council
SAT 11/10
Community Rally!
Support the Strike
Send letters and statements of support to as many of the following:
the University President
by phone - 212.854.9970
fax - 212.854.9973
Vice President for Arts and Sciences
Nick Dirksby phone - 212.854.8296
Dean of Columbia CollegeAustin Quigley
by phone - 212.854.2441
VP of Government and Community Affairs
Maxine Griffith by phone - 212.854.6524
by email -

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