By Laura Schreiber
PUBLISHED NOVEMBER 19, 2007
The 10-day hunger strike, waged by students opposing numerous administrative policies, ended Friday night, following a request made by the Coalition to Preserve Community for the strikers to rescind their final demands.
At the strikers’ 9 p.m. vigil, about 70 students, alumni, and neighborhood residents gathered as the remaining strikers—including four students and Barnard professor Dennis Dalton—broke their fast by eating bread.
“When the administration told me I had to stop [the strike] because of my health, I was totally unwilling,” said Bryan Mercer, CC ’07, who broke his strike after receiving a medical warning on Wednesday. “Hearing from the community, their concerns, and seeing the administration make no move forward on the expansion demands meant that it made a lot of sense to move on to new tactics.”
A total of seven students and one professor engaged in the hunger strike to demand changes to University policies regarding academics, administration, and the proposed Manhattanville expansion, at various points since Nov. 7. Following a series of initiatives posed to strikers by the administration on Wednesday, the protesters revoked all demands except for those regarding the expansion.
“It’s the best resolution because we end the strike out of victory with the administration and respect from the community,” said Victoria Ruiz, CC ’09 and one of the strikers. Earlier in the day, the strikers had released a joint statement with the University’s administration. “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,” it stated. “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.”
The CPC, a neighborhood group opposed to Columbia’s Manhattanville plans, lauded the strikers’ success in publicizing their concerns about the expansion, but said they believe students’ health would become at risk before Columbia would agree to their demands. “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,” the Coalition wrote in a statement.
Strikers emphasized that their protest of the expansion will persist, despite the end of their fast.
“The day after the revolution is just as important as the revolution itself,” hunger striker Emilie Rosenblatt, CC ’08, said. “Our work is just beginning.”
Local activists present said they have strong faith in the students’ continued support in their fight against the expansion.
“We await for them after the land-use proposal to stand with us, and with the Harlem community, in front of the bulldozers,” CPC member Tom DeMott said.
“This is the end of phase one of student activism to demand changes necessary to make them not only 21st century professionals but 21st century citizens,” Community Board 9 member Dr. Vicky Gholson said. “I was very disappointed that Columbia could not collectively come together.”
Not all CB9 members supported the strikers’ tactics.
In a message to the strikers, CB9 chairmain Jordi Reyes-Montblanc said that while he respected their efforts, he did not feel it was the best method of affecting the expansion plan. “I again beseech you to stop your hunger strike as it pertains to the CU Expansion issues,” Reyes-Montblanc wrote on Nov. 15. He issued a similar statement at the beginning of the strike. “The ULURP process is alive and well and I am confident that your personal sacrifices have been noted and opened some eyes at both the City Planning Commission and the City Council.”
“It would be highly detrimental if your health deteriorates and places your lives in danger with the onset of inclement weather,” he continued. “We need you healthy and in fit condition for the struggles still ahead.”
The strikers initially demanded that Columbia immediately recall the 197-c rezoning plan for Manhattanville, now going through the city’s public review process, and revise it until it met with local community approval. They later presented a list of six more incremental demands on the expansion, including that the University forego the use of eminent domain to acquire private property.
“Five days ago, we were prepared and ready to let them [the strikers] off the hook because we saw the handwriting on the wall,” DeMott said. “We did not want them to waste their energy for too long in futile negotiation.”
Ruiz thanked all those who supported the strike and acknowledged a small group of students who stood near the vigil holding signs stating “650+ Columbia students disagree,” referring to a Facebook group which was launched in opposition to the strike.
“We get to work and community build until those signs don’t exist,” Ruiz said.
An anti-strike movement organized over the course of the strike has questioned the hunger strikers’ commitment to representing all students’ views, claiming that their demands should not necessarily have been prioritized by the administration when many students may not agree with them.
“I don’t think that the negotiations were made in a fair or democratic manner or were representative of the student body,” Josh Matthew, CC ‘09, said.
The undergraduate student councils are currently discussing hosting a town hall where students can ask questions and air grievances about the strike.
“I have no problems with their demands—the big issue lies with legitimacy,” Tim de Swardt, CC ’08, said, who helped organize a rally protesting the strike last Thursday.
“No one knows if they’re an elected student group, and their demands affect everyone.”
Dalton described the rally of several hundred in support of the strike Wednesday night.
“Of all the moments I’ve had on this campus that has to rank at the top,”“You are building a spark of hope in a world full of atrocity and I’m deeply grateful for the wonderful things you’ve done here,” Aubrey Brown, a former Columbia graduate student who was arrested during the 1968 protests, told the strikers.
Subject to faculty approval, Columbia has committed to several academic initiatives.
These include the shift of Major Cultures to a seminar-style class and an “unprecedented” level of student input in the faculty hiring process for the Center for the Study of Ethnicity and Race.
TAGS: 10 Days, Hunger Strike, Protest of CU Policy
View Comments ( 10)Post a Comment
Really?Neither the hunger strike nor the movement against it has the slightest thing to do with Afrikaner nationalism in independent South Africa. Whether you agree with the strikers or not, please keep the debate real and focused.I am mystified why this rambling and inaccurate piece was posted.-Tom de Swardt
Posted by: anonymous (not verified) November 19th, 2007 @ 11:19pm
why it was posted?
did u read it?
this is what happens to institutions when they become polluted by multiculturalism--and the strikers were all about "diversity" and lowering standards for low IQ populations
u don't see this?
Posted by: anonymous (not verified) November 19th, 2007 @ 11:43pm
South African Immigration: A Lesson for Europe
AR Articles on South Africa
Afrikaner Survival Under Black Rule (May 2004)
Black Empowerment (Mar. 2003)
South Africa, 1999 (Aug. 1999)
South Africa under Black Rule (Jul. 1998)
More news stories on South Africa
Dan Roodt, Special to AR News, November 19, 2007
Some years ago the Italian intellectual Umberto Eco blurted out something I found quite shocking. In a little book, wrongly entitled Five Moral Pieces, he wrote: “The Third World is knocking at our doors, and it will come in even if we are not in agreement. . . . Europe will become a multiracial continent—or a ‘colored’ one, if your prefer. That’s how it will be, whether you like it or not.”
Evidently the Italian president, Romano Prodi, has not heeded Eco’s fatalism, because it looks as if Italy will take the lead in Europe when it comes to the summary deportation of undesirable immigrants. But if anyone doubted the devastating effects of illegal immigration, he would need only visit my country, South Africa.
It is estimated that there are between 10 and 15 million illegal aliens from the rest of Africa in South Africa—more or less one quarter of the population! In some parts of the country, such as the Limpopo province near Zimbabwe, up to 80 percent of all crime is committed by immigrants. Nonetheless the president of South Africa, Thabo Mbeki, recently declared that his government “can do nothing” to staunch the wave of immigrants, particularly from Zimbabwe. In fact, discussions are under way to abolish all visa requirements for Zimbabweans, since the vast queues at the border “cause unnecessary delays.”
South Africa was once a Western country. Our stock exchange is older than many in Western Europe. Until recently we had more railways and roads than Great Britain. In the meantime our roads have become pot-holed, and half of our rail lines have fallen into disrepair. This is the result of Africanization, but also of illegal immigration, which has simply overwhelmed our social system.
Once there was a quarter in Johannesburg by the name of Hillbrow, known as the “Manhattan of Africa.” It was a cosmopolitan area where one could hear various European languages. I recall that as students we would have drinks at the Café Wien or the Café de Paris. There were also bookshops, and a record store known as Hillbrow Records, that had a large selection of classical music.
Today, Hillbrow is a crime-ridden slum controlled by Nigerian drug lords. Of the 100,000 Nigerians in South Africa, only 3,000 have legal visas. On any street corner one may buy, apart from heroine, a South African ID book for the equivalent of $100. Often such ID books are sold by corrupt members of the South African Home Affairs Department.
Words can no longer describe conditions in South Africa. Every day in the press we read about yesterday’s spate of murders, rapes and armed robberies. Some robbers even commit crime in police uniform. Sometimes, when victims of crime go to the nearest police station to report an armed robbery, they recognize the assailant behind the counter, wearing the nice blue uniform of a real-life policeman.
All these problems are exacerbated by uncontrolled illegal immigration. And the root of the problem is this: The racial consciousness of our black nationalist president Mbeki prevents him from taking action against illegal immigrants, even if they commit the most barbaric crimes. For him, we law-abiding Westerners of South Africa are the enemy against whom he is directing his arsenal of laws meant ultimately to drive us from the country. Whites may not trade with the state or start a corporation independently from blacks. Our children may not study in the more sought-after university disciplines because they are reserved for blacks. They must also pay exorbitant university fees while blacks may study for free.
The wrongs of South Africa can at least partially be traced to illegal immigration. In the past, millions of black Africans were drawn across our borders to the economic prosperity of our Western country, resulting in their current demographic domination. May Europe be spared our fate, and may Umberto Eco’s prediction not come true.
Dan Roodt is an Afrikaner author and activist. This is the first in a series of regular international columns.(Posted on November 19, 2007)
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Posted by: anonymous (not verified) November 19th, 2007 @ 9:34pm
My brother just showed me this article. As someone who is himself of Afrikaner descent, I find this article offensive, deserving nothing but contempt. Dan Roodt is an apologist for apartheid who is truly an embarrassment to South Africa.
Whoever posted it should have the courage to name him/herself.
I have emailed Josh Hirschland at the Spec to ask that he remove it.
-Tim de Swardt.
Posted by: anonymous (not verified) November 19th, 2007 @ 11:34pm
Josh is CC '09, not CC '08, unless there's something he's not telling us!
Posted by: anonymous (not verified) November 19th, 2007 @ 2:35pm
I still say "let them eat cake"
Posted by: anonymous (not verified) November 19th, 2007 @ 1:24pm
I hope they do host the townhall and repeal every concession the administration made. I do not like my University to be held hostage- by anyone.
Posted by: anonymous (not verified) November 19th, 2007 @ 11:47am
Clarification: I made it clear to the reporter that, while I certainly did question the hunger strikers' legitimacy in representing all student views accurately and fairly, my main issue with the strike was that as a method of protest it was extreme. I felt it polarized the student body and obstructed rational debate. I also made it clear I spoke for no one but myself. I am glad the strike is over and wish the protesters a speedy recovery.Cheers,Tim de Swardt, CC'08.I have written a full explanation of these issues here: http://columbia.facebook.com/note.php?note_id=5704734469You can also read the open letter sent to the hunger strikers just before they ended the strike here: http://www.bwog.net/articles/it_s_over
Posted by: anonymous (not verified) November 19th, 2007 @ 10:46am
All in all the strike was a bunch of sound and fury signifying nothing. A total failure. Furthermore, these students will not follow through and work through established channels to fight for their agenda. Ultimately, they resorted to extreme measures so they didn't have to actually do the hard work necessary to bring about change.
Posted by: anonymous (not verified) November 19th, 2007 @ 9:52am
Wow, they have 70 supporters now? They must have convinced 7 people per day.
So if they go on a hunger strike for three years, they might just have the whole undergraduate body.
Three years might be rough - but if you're cheating and drinking gatorade you can probably survive it.
Posted by: anonymous238 November 19th, 2007 @ 9:00am