A Striker Speaks
Written by Bwog Staff
Mulling over the merits and drawbacks of a hunger strike, Bwogger Sara Vogel G-chat with a striking member of Columbia Solidarity [link to strikers’ blog added 12:44 am] who wished to remain anonymous. It’s been edited a bit – IM conversations are always disjointed.
SV: Sorry to bother you! I’ve just been thinking a lot about this hunger strike. I don’t really know what to think, actually. And I thought you’re really involved, and could give me some perspective.
StudentStriker: After reading bwog…it is so important to have these conversations about it
8:18 PM SV: To many, a hunger strike is a really symbolic action that calls to mind people like Gandhi and Guantanamo Bay prisoners. Is that something on strikers’ minds?
8:24 PM StudentStriker: So the thing is there is a “why we strike” statement [reproduced after the jump- ed.] and this statement is a collection of the strikers’ personal feelings. It is a culmination of individual statements, not to put us on the same level of prisoners who are without rights, expressions, food, or freedom. However, there is the sentiment that if all things were relative, students are in a way robots of this school.
The idea is, the core curriculum is so beautiful and so empowering, a social tool and a social weapon, so we should use it to make intelligent citizens and reform it with input from current events–such as the 5 hate crimes in less than a month. But the administration oppresses idea likes this or ethnic studies or expansion…. and they [the ideas] are literally put into a vacuum. We have had meetings with Bollinger where he outwardly doodles flowers on the demands
He has walked out on meetings with students. He has rolled eyes at students. It is really quite disgusting
StudentStriker: There is a feeling that students are oppressed because we have had hunger strikes in the past for similar issues that have been “successful” (although it should never have to come to a hunger strike)
SV: Wouldn’t such an action alienate people who may be supportive of some of the demands, but don’t want to commit to a hunger strike?
StudentStriker: It is sort of like that “last step”–a cleansing of the administrative process so to speak. But you’re right, a hunger strike marginalizes the student body. But the hope is that people understand this in response to the demands, not part of the demands.
So if someone else’s response is to sit in a building, or put up art around campus, or talk about these issues in classes, or go to Bollinger’s class and ask what’s up, more power to them!
8:32 PM It is important also to make clear this is not directly linked to any student group. There is no SGB funding or organization to write on a grad school application. This is purely a group of students that have gathered together. We hope that with time and more transparency more will join.
Statement by the strikers of Columbia Solidarity:
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 against the violence of displacing 5,000 people from their homes in West Harlem. 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.