New coalition coalesces, makes a list

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On Tuesday night, the newly-formed “anti-racist coalition” on campus met in Hamilton to host a teach-in and make public a list of demands on salient issues. The coalition, largely a conglomeration of old SHOCC hands, SCEJ members, and Ethnic Studies majors, is a self-declared response to the bias incidents that have occurred this semester and a self-conscious revival of prior demands made by SHOCC and Columbia Concerned Students of Color. Their banners and emails speak of revolution on campus, students taking back the University, and a new era of student participation and protest. They are cryptic, however, when asked about their immediate plans. Will they have a name? Will they stage protests or other actions beyond tentative sundial vigils? The campus at large is just going to have to wait and see.

At the teach-in, recent grad Jenny Oki and current super-senior Bryan Mercer spoke to the assembled students about the history of bias incidents and efforts like SHOCC over the past few years. Students in the room took turns reading the list of stated objectives (reproduced after the jump) that includes demands for bureaucracy reformation, new bureaucratic posts, withdrawal of the University’s Manhattanville plan, and Ethnic Studies empowerment. (All in all, there are a lot of “musts” in the list, which should go over well with the powers that be.) Even some coalition affiliates seemed somewhat unclear as to the current direction of the group– they’re going places, but they’re not telling anyone but the most intimate circle where.


Administrative Reform

1. We demand more advisors and counselors for cultural groups, students of color, the LGBTQ community and communities of faith, with student involvement in the hiring process of said personnel. We ask that the Office of Multicultural Affairs be expanded physically and responsibly, and that more support for collaboration between the Office of Multicultural Affairs at Columbia and the Multicultural Affairs Office at Barnard be given by the University administration.

2. We demand a Vice Provost for Multicultural Affairs to administrator and direct the University’s policies affecting students within all the schools of the University.

3. We demand that Columbia’s Public Safety announce instances of hate crimes when they are reported and issue and an annual report of reported bias incidents and hate crimes and how they have been addressed.

4. We demand 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.

Ethnic Studies

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, show through a vote, must be give 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 of 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.

The Manhattanville Expansion and Community Accountability

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.

The Core Curriculum

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.

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.




  1. Teach in?

    More like sleep in.

    Someone throw a noose in and stir things up a little

  2. i'm

    pretty sure that many major culture classes (and other classes at columbia) already explore the theme of colonialism and racialization. what more do they want?

    and how many more offices of multicultural affairs can we make?

  3. hahahahha  

    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.

    In other words: We, the Black students of Columbia University, would like White Students to have to sit around and think about how terrible they are. We feel this is crucial.

  4. "scej"=  

    student coalition on expansion & gentrification

    nice bwog.

  5. Manhattanville?  

    What the fuck? Sorry but your "Get more staff in to make student programming more difficult" (more advisors = more bureaucracy) was bad, but you really lost me at Manhattanville. Please do not conflate hate crimes with the University's expansion.

    Wow, these incidents really played nicely into the hands of the "Fuck the Core" reformers. While I'm ranting, I might as well ask how exactly a reformed core will affect students to the degree that these crimes stop.

    • Manhattanville  

      I agree that more bureaucracy can't possibly help.

      As for Manhattanville, it's imperative that we add a discussion of race to the larger discourse. The plans call for a mostly white, rich institution to move into a mostly black, poor neighborhood. How can we not talk about race?

      The whole debate is sad, because I think a lot of people who support Manhattanville wouldn't support a similar project anywhere else. They support it here because Columbia's intentions are so worthy. But even if the final goal is a worthy one, you still must consider whether the means justify the ends.

      • wirc  

        It has little to do with race, except consequentially. It's barely a neighborhood, displacement will happen over 30 years, and it's a convenient place with relatively cheap real estate.

        If they were poor white folks the economic impact would be the same. Unless you can prove some malice or bigotry, as there was with Butler and Kirk, it seems like the race problem is more an indication of the poverty blacks have been forced into, rather than discrimination. With or without Columbia, it will be white and well-off before the first shovel hits the ground.

        Lastly, the 197-a plan is crazy and would further gentrification by underdeveloping the area with unprofitable businesses and overly restrictive rules that prevent research. Please read it. Columbia's plan actually meets most of the points of design.

        Activism should be focused towards getting a really good benefits package, with education and jobs, to those in the area.

      • anonymous

        "As for Manhattanville, it's imperative that we add a discussion of race to the larger discourse. The plans call for a mostly white, rich institution to move into a mostly black, poor neighborhood. How can we not talk about race?"

        You're completely right. We SHOULD be talking about race and racism.

        In particular: What filthy racists you anti-gentrification 'activists' are.

        You barely try to hide the fact that what you REALLY want is to keep 'Whitey' in his place.

        I hope the administration expels everyone in this ridiculous coalition. There's no room at Columbia for students groups whose mission includes the goal of keeping X Race out of Y Neighborhood.

  6. Coolio

    so basically this group is headed by a collection of former shocc/iso columbia graduates who refuse to graduate/move on and now plan to suck at the teat of columbia as a vocation and as a socio-political scene for the rest of their life?

    How is this any better than a pseudo intellectual version of van wilder?

  7. I wonder

    if struggle was there that night

  8. all

    your manhattanvilles are belong to us.

    because the end always justifies the means.

  9. ws123  

    It's funny:

    * When whites move into a "black" neighborhood, it's gentrification, so the whites are racist.

    * When whites move out of a "black" neighborhood, it's white flight, so the whites are racist.

    You can't have it either way with these pinko commie ISO/SHOCCers.

  10. I love

    this pseudo-SHOCC manifesto bullshit. Nothing like shooting yourself in the foot from the get go...please would you do me a favor? Go run mitt romney's campaign...or even better run the RNC...

  11. ws123  

    Also, why do neighborhoods have to be defined by race?

    Since when is Manhattanville "black territory"?

  12. not a pinko commie

    the thing is, this isn't a case of individual white people moving up into harlem. that would be different.

    this is about a huge INSTITUTION (almost a corperation) steamrolling through a neighborhood of people. columbia has had so many under the table dealings with the mayor and the governer, and it's this "old boys," heavy-handed approach that is isolating the people in the neighborhood.

  13. McFister

    Harlem belongs to the Dutch!

  14. Question for BWOG  

    These issues are really important to a lot of people and I think that by keeping comments on, it's demeaning a movement for which people have worked for many years.
    Obviously people cannot keep their mouths clean and their language supportive because they have the anonymity of the internet to protect them.
    In this vein, could comments on this please be turned off? They are offensive. Thanks!

    • yikes

      Silence criticism because it hurts your feelings? Because between the stupid flame responses are some actually good retorts.

      The fact is that the people calling a eurocentric core the root cause, or at least a reinforcement of latent racism are nuts. Then again so are the people who are so adamantly upset by those calls. Guess what, you ARE mind-blowingly ignorant and closed-minded. You're perfectly happy ignoring the fact that the world as it is today was largely shaped by the actions of european imperial powers imposing their wills across the globe. But hey, that's the past right, why can't we just forget about it and move on?

      This was pointed out earlier in another post somewhere- the Upper west side has voted to restrict building heights because people got pissed off about the luxury condo towers built on 100th street and broadway. Do they realize that people willing to pay higher rents will be moving into the neighborhood anyway? And that by restricting developement, it's actually going to increase the rate at which rents increase because now the housing stock is locked in at a low fixed number of units? Good job.

  15. ...

    i find your comments suggesting that we the prohibit the open expression of ideas because we find the particular ideas to be offensive itself to be offensive. thus we should erase your comment.

  16. This is

    Entirely ridiculous. Rising property values will ensure that the gentrification of manhattanville will occur regardless of whether Columbia has any involvement or not. Rent-capped housing is already being sold off for redevelopment on the lower east side.

    Even bringing the expansion into the issue of racsim on campus makes no sense.

    I'm glad the only people who take these "teach-ins" seriously are themselves.

    • yes

      finally somebody brings up the obvious economic argument. attention all: manhattan is an expensive place to live. it's not getting any cheaper. this usually corresponds with more whites moving in and more blacks moving out. it happened white plains, ny already.

  17. Bob  

    Having more Ethnic Studies profs, changing the Manhattanville plan, and changing the Core seem very unlikely to alter the number of bias incidents. I may be wrong about that, but I've never seen any evidence to the contrary. [Also, many of the recent bias incidents were at Teachers College, which has little to do with M'ville, ES, and the Core.]

    It seems to me that unless some evidence can be provided that making these changes will lower the number of bias incidents, these issues should be treated as distinct.

    I understand that some people find it very distressing when people of their ethnicity or faith are subject to a bias incident/hate crime in their university. I think I might feel the some way if placed in a similar situation. I also understand that when people feel very distressed by something like this, they often have a desire to take action and try to prevent these events happening in the future. However, it only makes sense to 'take action' if what you're doing will have some impact in preventing bias incidents in the future. Yet no evidence has been provided that the actions that the concerned people are taking will have an impact on preventing bias incidents. To draw a familiar analogy, lots of people felt that after 9-11, the US had to take action in order to prevent terrorist attacks. Many people justified the Iraq War on the grounds that invading Iraq would help to prevent terrorism. (This was not the only justification people gave for going to war, but it was a commonly discussed justification). Yet evidence was not provided that invading Iraq would prevent events like 9-11 happening in the future.

  18. Go Columbia  

    Columbia is moving into just four(!) blocks over a period of more than 20 years. They are not gentrifying the whole of Harlem. Look at the map! Harlem is a big neighborhood that still has a lot of affordable residences. Columbia is not going to swallow Harlem by taking over three blocks of it. (And even if Harlem were more gentrified, there could still be lots of affordable housing further Uptown in Manhattan). The Medical Center campus hasn't gentrified the whole of Washington Heights.

    Columbia might screw up a lot in its planning and decision making, but it does not seem to be doing anything wrong by picking Manhattanville as a place to expand.

    Also: Columbia is not a business! Columbia is a non-profit institution. Just because it is a 'private' school doesn't mean that it is a for-profit institution. When Columbia tries to raise money, it does so in order to use that money to fund academic research and to support students. There aren't shareholders who will make millions of dollars if our endowment doubles in the next 10 years.

  19. blah blah blah

    What's that, you don't agree with me? You're racist. Huh? You still don't agree with me. Well, you're now even more racist. What? You STILL don't agree with me, you're a super racist. etc. etc. etc. etc. Blah. Blah. Blah. Blah.

  20. Ugh.

    Just tell them to go screw

  21. Wartime

    I wish every black person would drop dead.

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