Strikers camp out

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vigilAt noon today, the Solidarity hunger strikers were in high spirits, hanging out and joking with their friends on the Steps like any other carefree students on a sunny autumn day.

But by six that evening, darkness and a chill had set in. The five, still surrounded by friends and supporters, were hunkered down like arctic birds, their bodies wrapped up in warm clothes and blankets and pressed against the side of a Low fountain.

Some had been going to class regularly– striker Aretha Choi, BC’10, claimed to have had “a normal day”– but all had begun their diet of “diluted Gatorade, enough for electrolytes,” one auxiliary student said. She added that the five–down one member from last night– had been checked out by medical personnel. Still, they’re keeping a bathroom scale on hand to make sure none fall below critical body weight.

Those who have walked by Butler in the past three hours would have noticed their makeshift village where they plan to spend the next week or so, if they can make it. Festooned with banners and full of cushions and survival supplies–we noticed a few jumbo rolls of toilet paper–the three-ring tent complex has seen a steady flow of visitors and curious passersby.

Each night of the strike, supporters led by Sam Rennebohm, GS’09, plan to convene for a candle-light vigil. Tonight at 9 pm, nearly 70 pro-strike students met at the sundial to listen to the protesters deliver personal statements and supporters like Peter Gallotta, CC’09, president of the CQA, give statements of support. “Close your mouth against food… Be empty of worrying,” he read, quoting the poet Rumi.


The assembled lit their candles in a circle and proceeded to the Steps, where they lined up like recent graduates from activist high school. Andrew Lyubarsky, CC’09, said he and several other students, including College senior Christien Tompkins and juniors Desiree Carver-Thomas and Ryan Fukumori, have formed an ad hoc “negotiating committee” to speak with administrators. Fukumori noted that he spoke with Vice President for Arts and Sciences Nick Dirks that day, and that Dirks had agreed to a “cluster hire” of three tenured senior faculty in the Center for the Study of Race and Ethnicity.

But, he added, Dirks has been planning on doing the hires for some time, since at least the University’s publication of its inquiry into racial hiring practices last May. “The impact of the strike itself prompted the meeting [with Dirks today], but he had been working on CSER before that,” he said. Muslim Students Association president Adil Ahmed, also a College junior, said he was aware that some of the demands, like increased power for Ethnic Studies and funding for the Office of Multicultural Affairs, have been in the works for a while and look like they will be met soon. Fukumori acknowledged that the administration was somewhat “receptive” in contrast to past incidents, like the 1996 hunger strike, in which negotiations had not started until the ninth or tenth day of deprivation.






  1. asdf  

    I propose that the culinary society set up a makeshift kitchen and cook all sorts of delicious protest the coming of winter...or some other b.s.

  2. asdf  

    and that the kitchen be adjacent to the hunger strike headquarters

  3. cool!!  

    I'm holding a candle in the picture. Guess who?

  4. 123124  

    Using hunger strike is so... whiny.

  5. support

    i don't get how the strikers can be called "whiny." how many more times do they have explain that this is not an act of martyrdom, but a productive and creative addition to an ongoing movement before people understand?

    • because

      it is just that, an act of supposed martyrdom. a hunger strike in public is, despite what they might say, a publicity stunt. just like the moronic, bigoted copy cat crimes have been. there's not an immense tide of hatred seething below the school's calm surface (you do not pick a diverse, LGBTQ-friendly school like Columbia if you're a indoctrinated bigot), and the institution of Columbia certainly is not racist. the idea that the Manhattanville expansion is somehow built upon race is a feature of their reasoning for including it as a demand, but that is also patently false. it's a matter of economics above all else, and the fact that the community with the cheapest real estate overlaps with a predominantly black neighborhood is a crime caused by the state of socieconomics in the country, not one perpetrated by Columbia, who I think is being far better to the residents than the companies that would move in their in the future might.

      also, a hunger strike is neither productive nor particularly creative. it's been done in the past, as has been stated, has little to do with the issues at hand, and is another effort to demonize Columbia for putting these students somehow at risk when they deprive themselves of food.

      and I know it's been said, but: Gatorade as a supplement? weak sauce, weak sauce indeed.

      we're supposed to be here for higher education. why can't people seem to understand that? these vigils and walkouts and what have you are loud, obnoxious, and preventing at least a few bystanders and certainly the strikers themselves from enjoying the possibilities afforded by one of the preeminent universities in the world. get over yourselves. fighting moronic efforts to inflame our political correctness with publicity stunts is not the way to go, especially not when similar efforts for the same demands have been staged year after year.

      and as for the necessity of those demands, let's not even get started...

      • 2342334  

        You are that voice of conscience that I so want to marry. Just fuck me with your words!

        "3. We demand institutionalized, mandatory, full day workshops on issues of race, ethnicity, gender, sexuality, power and privilege for all incoming faculty, and public safety; and that the training focus on anti-oppression, rather than sensitivity and diversity."

        This already exists. We have that pointless "Under One Roof" workshop at the beginning of freshman yr. Oh, bureaucrats...

  6. Jennie

    The pictures are great, BWOG!

  7. "Creative Response"  

    How is this creative, they are undermining a tactic that has been utilized for critical mass movements from ending Apartheid to oposing the military dictatorship in Burma. O and yes, I am a CC student but still managed to learn this while taking the core. Also, what the protestors fail to realize is that there is a reason Ethnic studies isn't a full department, it isn't that popular. Many students take a combination of courses in Anthropology, Human Rights, Africana Studies, MELAC, to name a few, resulting in what is probably better respected and more diverse major.

    Secondly, isn't it ironic that in proposing a mandatory seminar for all "non-western" philosophy, these protestors are undermining the value of distinct and diverse cultures. How could a seminar touch on the major philosophy of the Middle East while simultaneously seeking to cover Latin America? You can take seminars on these very cultures for list C of major cultures, just put in some effort tracking them down.

    In "democratizing" both the core and ethnic studies, they are giving students power they don't have for a reason! What if four years down the line a new set of students came in that hated ethnic studies and voted against it? O and did they not do their homework and realize that their are two student representatives on the core committee?

    While I definitely recognize the need for some of these changes, I think that the approach is counter productive and not very well thought out. They ultimately look "whiny" because they are naive and unrealistic.

    • hmm again

      Did you ever think that maybe it isn't that popular because it's not a full department? The restrictions that places on the Center prevent them from offering a lot of classes or hiring faculty that would potentially make the major much more attractive. Part of the problem for current seniors is that many of them are just getting to take the intro class because they haven't had the faculty to teach it in a couple of years.

  8. tina fey

    attention columbians: no, you may not be the wga. you fail.

  9. confused

    from the strikers' demands:

    "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."

    uhh, as a college senior and a minority student, I can honestly say that I have never felt marginalized or traumatized by the core.

  10. wait a sec

    "where they plan to spend the next week or so"

    i thought this strike was until demands were met?

    already showing your cards?

    if a week is all you got, i'm sure bollinger can outlast y'all.

  11. umm  

    "3. We demand institutionalized, mandatory, full day workshops on issues of race, ethnicity, gender, sexuality, power and privilege for all incoming faculty, and public safety; and that the training focus on anti-oppression, rather than sensitivity and diversity."
    what the fuck does this even mean?

  12. liz lemon  

    i'm not racist! I love colored people!

  13. what?

    dropping below critical weight? its only been a day. grow up. nothing will come of this.

    • ddddddddddd  

      also, isn't that sort of the point of a hunger strike? if you're not making some sort of sacrifice (i.e., putting a burden on your body), that's not really a hunger strike, it's dieting.

      you gonna try and be all gandhi and shit you really should try not to half ass it like that.

  14. colllllumbia  

    I have a bunch of demands, I think I'm totally going to hold a bunch of people hostage until they agree to them because I'm a masochist and people will think its their fault if I put myself in pain! wooooo

  15. Also  

    I want to know who came up with this hunger strike idea, and whether that person is one of the strikers.

    It's not unlikely that one or two of these strikers were coerced by political pressure to do this.

  16. alum

    Wow this is absurd. I don't know what's worse, the self-righteous kids who will eventually eat, or those who are 'backing' them.

    Without the expansion, Columbia will eventually be the 8th-best Ivy, and probably behind NYU among city schools. Is that what these strikers want their degree to mean when they put it in front of employers? This is assuming the University caves and doesn't make them die of starvation... in which case the point is moot.

  17. All I have to say  


  18. wow:  

    never has a time-honored tactic reserved for the most extreme of injustices been so thoroughly hijacked by self-righteous college kids.

    i don't say this not out of concern for you: please don't be idiots and hurt yourselves, you are hurting rather than helping your cause and it really isn't bollinger's responsibility to fix things in time for you not to do harm to yourselves

  19. Googler  

    I was intrigued by the Rumi quote, because that was almost quasi-intellectual and Columbian enough to justify the entire endeavor. I mean, it's pretty cool to quote Sufi poetry in general, although it would have been much cooler in the original language. Alas, being president of CQA does not make one a literate. A quick Google search reveals that the poem is all about finding support in community and in God. In particular, disregarding transient concerns like the loss of a lover. I mean, I guess you could note that hunger strikers like community as well as much as Gatorade, but I really don't think "taste the lover's mouth in yours" is quite what they were going for. There's nothing religious or spiritual about this farce, and a poem about the transience of Earthly pursuits really puts their 'struggle' into perspective, no?

    If one really must make literary allusions, I'm sure we're all thinking of a certain Kafka short story. Does anyone recall what happened to the Hungerk√ľnstler in the end?

    The poem, from

    A Community of the Spirit

    There is a community of the spirit.
    Join it, and feel the delight
    of walking in the noisy street,
    and being the noise.

    Drink all your passion,
    and be a disgrace.

    Close both eyes
    to see with the other eye.

    Open your hands,
    if you want to be held.

    Sit down in this circle.
    Quit acting like a wolf, and feel
    the shepherd's love filling you.

    At night, your beloved wanders.
    Don't accept consolations.

    Close your mouth against food.
    Taste the lover's mouth in yours.

    You moan, "She left me.""He left me."
    Twenty more will come.

    Be empty of worrying.
    Think of who created thought!

    Why do you stay in prison
    when the door is so wide open?

    Move outside the tangle of fear-thinking.
    Live in silence.

    Flow down and down in always
    widening rings of being.

    There's a strange frenzy in my head,
    of birds flying,
    each particle circulating on its own.
    Is the one I love everywhere?

    Drunks fear the police,
    but the police are drunk too.

    People in this town love them both
    like different chess pieces.

  20. Tent Enthusiast

    I support the hunger strikers' tent erecting efforts.

  21. Alum

    "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."

    You know what, Columbia makes no pretenses that its core is anything other than it is. You read the fucking description, you probably wrote on your application why it appeals to you. You don't like the core, go to some other fucking school.

  22. thats a nice poem  

    its a public exhibition when they're drinking gatorade and getting checked by a nurse and are worried about falling below critical weight. That means they really have no intentions of taking this issue onto their bodies to the full extent, just enough for it to "qualify" as a hunger strike

    In terms of diversity training, does anyone really gain anything out of those types of sessions? Usually, its a repetition of what those people already know. If you've ever had a job at a company that has diversity training, you'd know what I mean.

    At least my lithum and cc classes both touched upon the issue of colonialism, gender, etc. Just make sure professors discuss those issues in class in connection to core material. To have a general class on ethnic studies as part of th core would probably mean sacrificing a major cultures requirement, and that would mean a loss of depth, and that teachers unfamiliar with the material would probably have to try and teach it.

    mm i think i'm hungry.

  23. aretha  

    choi is Barnard...

  24. The King of Spain  

    Well my CC class spent a day on and had a good argument about the Valladolid debate between de las Casas and Sepulveda. Being that that was a debate about how the books of the Canon were used to both exploit and defend non-whites, it was an interesting debate.

    It was a very glorious moment in the history of my court.

  25. fullstriker  

    This is a private university, nobody is forcing you to pay tuition. If you really hate it enough to starve yourself, why don't you just save tens of thousands of dollars and leave? Seriously, go somewhere where you are more happy, you obviously must be miserable here. A private institution has no obligation to give in to random peoples' demands

  26. Random people?  

    Is it really that hard to wrap your brain around this? Are we so jaded and full of pessimism that we are quick to see people as ignorant and naive?

    No, nobody is forcing anyone to go here. You're absolutely right. But is not possible to at once love Columbia and everything it offers and still see a myriad of obvious problems? This kind of thinking is the same that says, "if you don't like America then get the hell out!" Should we get out of your America because we disagree with its policies? Should we get out of your Columbia because we disagree with its policies?

    Regardless of the answer, I think you'll find a lot of people are unwilling to leave this university despite our differences with its policies. This Columbia is our Columbia too--we got in and have just as much of a right to it as you do.

    • Here's the thing

      The core is such a huge part of the Columbia education. It is, for the most part, about the Western canon. Fact. End of. The majority of the Western canon is made up of dead white men. I just cannot understand why anyone who is so insistant that the lack of diversity in the core is so abhorrant to them that they have to starve themselves would consider Columbia an appropriate choice of school. Yes, they got in here, but quite frankly, I think they should have done more research and thought harder about whether this is where they would really be happy and fit in. But the same token that someone who wants to major in finance and knows this would not necessarily come to Columbia because it is simply not offered here, someone who's criteria for college includes some where which has a strong ethnic studies department and a more diverse curriculum probably should not have come here. They did, and if they didn't do the adequate research, that's their fault. It's not like Columbia promised them something it didn't deliver.

      • alum

        in some sense, Columbia really does promise something it doesn't deliver. When recruiting students of color it makes a big deal about how open the school is to issues of race, etc and how the diversity of numbers of students ensures a good environment for students of color. That's certainly part of what I thought I was getting. It really does feel like false advertising, not with regards to the Core but about race in general. One of people's responses to this problem is to use the Core to help correct this "false advertising." It's great that some professors in Core classes had conversions about race, gender, or class, but my professors would divert the conversation whenever anyone even tried to mention it. Putting a course in the Core that focuses on these issues would ensure that the issues are addressed in a way they aren't when professors have such wide discretion in the classroom.

    • Agree with #36  

      While "if you don't like America, get the hell out" is an unreasonable attitude, "if you hate democracy, this probably isn't the place for you" isn't particularly misplaced. Similarly, CU is a school that distinguishes itself PRIMARILY by its work on the Western Canon, really -- so, yes, if you hate dead white guys, it might be a good idea to not go here.

      If you really want to live under, say, a fascist dictatorship, I wouldn't recomment America either, yo.

  27. ...

    I love the Rumi quote... just throwing that out there...

    I'm sure if there were Sufis around, they'd be on the side of the strikers

  28. curious...  

    what do y'all think the value of studying the Western canon is, as opposed to a global canon? I came here believing that the Core would give me insight into the way the West works and thinks, but after CC, I'm not so sure that studying it in isolation is a meaningful experience.

    • uncurious  

      You must be a junior who hasn't taken all that many classes, right? Because you don't study the Western canon in isolation, you study it in relation to everything else you choose at the university, with a minimum of 2 semesters of major cultures. But of course at some point you have to actually hunker down and study the Western canon if you want that insight into the West. The point is that afterwards you should be able to compare and contextualize it. And if after CC, you felt like there was room within CC itself to add more book so that the selections came from the 'global canon' (I dispute that there even is such a thing, rather than many individual cultural or institutional canons), you must not have been doing all your reading.

  29. ugh

    i hate that the strikers and their supporters make grandiose, sweeping statements about how columbia is depriving us "all". i hate how they claim that we are "all" being traumatized (what BS) by the core. As if we were little babies who just weren't smart enough to realize the horrors of Columbia until our saviors, the strikers, came along and opened our eyes. No, not "all" of us feel deprived and marginalized by our classes here. stop treating your demands as black-and-white issues where your opinions are the only right ones and everyone else's is wrong. and don't try to speak out for the entire student body. i'm a columbia student and i don't feel like i've been deprived by the core. who are you to tell me that i'm wrong?

  30. Question

    Aretha Choi is presumably Asian. I'm Asian. I don't feel disempowered or disadvantaged or oppressed or something. What am I missing here? How do I feel as helpless and as unsafe as her?

  31. well  

    aretha choi is an idiot and mentally-imbalanced, she forcefully banged her head against the wall when Calvin Sun broke up with her

    • Hey now  

      I may be making Barnard jokes, but she's still a nice person who was badly treated; no need to be a jackass.

      • WHAT!  

        Badly treated? How dumb of a freshman do you have to be to take Calvin Sun seriously as a boyfriend? He's a popular senior who gets not a little ass. A good with common sense who wants a committed relationship would steer clear of people like Sun.
        No doubt it was a hookup of convenience. He's a campus leader and she's the aspiring attention whore.

        In response to the charge that Columbia does not deliver the diversity it promises to: I kind of get this feeling as well. You'd expect Columbia to be a melting pot of ethnicities and intellectualism. Rather, you see a badly tossed fruit salad - it's the dead white men who get their salads tossed, of course. However, I want to remind you that Columbia is an Ivy. Aside from being known for staffing expert scholars, Ivy League schools are foremost the bastion of the socio-economic and racial elite. This does not justify chauvinism on Columbia's campus, but it should remind you the cultural force that Columbia is wrestling with. By completely denying this elitist part of itself, Columbia is denying its Ivy League heritage. It is precisely because of this proud regard for tradition that students would choose even Brown over, say, Chicago.
        Furthermore, it's not as if Columbia does nothing to deserve its title as a liberal institution. In comparison to peer schools, Columbia is a much more diverse and tolerant place. You might not see as much activism in the daily lives of our other Ivy League peers because the minorities there have reluctantly accepted their lower stratum.

  32. I'm glad

    Bollinger ordered this shit sandwich on the steps of the Supreme Court and you can bet that I am enjoying watching him eat it.

  33. i support  

    i support the strikers. good job guys.

  34. bookie

    does anyone have a roster of the strikers? i've got some people wanting to place bets on who'll last the longest. thanks.

  35. Angelines Alba Mata

    Is that what students of an ivy league school reduce themselves to? If you can't engage in a meaningful political and social debate on intellectual terms, that does not mean you have the right to degrade a person's character ("whore") or out her personal business. While I disagree with many people's postings here ( I fully support the strike), at least people engage the ideas, not the person. The first thing you learn in UW is to attack the idea, not the person. By attacking the person you are giving the perception that you are too stupid to debate critically. "The same goes for using words like fucktards." Be an adult. It is not okay to reduce your intelligence to name calling and being mean spirited anonymously. If you are going to call someone a whore or try to spread malicious gossip, I suggest you "man-up" and say it to her, or my, face.


    • rolling my eyes

      are you the same GS student who made the following comment on the spectator site:

      On to more important matters. The euro centric core curriculum absolutely contributes to a nurturing climate of hate and intolerance because there is an implicit value judgment in the promotion of "western thought" as a tradition and canon that everyone must learn. The university is stating that they believe these authors, these political and social frameworks are the most important human contributions, thereby leading one to believe that other traditions are inferior. Additionally, by not looking critically at those texts and engaging in conversation about how specific western ideology has led to/justified the material destruction and oppression of other peoples (i.e. Locke and the taking of indigenous land, smith and the impact of free markets in latin america, etc) you are ignoring the experience of millions of people, many of whose descendants come to this school. Additionally, I believe that not engaging all students early on in their education about how colonialism, racism, class division, etc have shaped the world people will continue to think a noose is an appropriate form of conflict resolution. If we do not learn about how exactly the US was shaped under the pillaging of indigenous land, enslavement of africans, and immigrant labor(among other things), students will still think "go back where you came from" is a logical assertion.

      how many CC core classes have you taken?

      • Angelines Alba Mata  

        Yep, that would be me. To answer your question: Actually, one, and I will be taking two others in the coming semesters. You might want to inform yourself about GS requirements and enrollment in core classes. Try the website. And if you have other personal questions, you can always email me.


        • enlighten me here

          I actually have looked at the GS core (last night--because i like to do my legwork before posting comments--SHOCKING for someone who isn't particularly pro-strike, isn't it??) And according to the website, there is nothing in the GS core that would suggest it as being overly "euro centric", since you have the freedom to choose what literature and social science classes you want to take. what CC core classes have you taken exactly? have you taken contemporary civilization? if so, how did you feel marginalized by it? do you have any evidence that your fellow students actually felt that non-western cultures were "inferior" as a direct result of the content of that class?

  36. yungbuck  

    What is the threat implied by this hunger strike? That if we don't do what these kids say, they are going to die and that will make us sad? Why protract it then, why don't they get on top of a building and threaten to jump off if we don't do what they say? Same threat, requires more balls, less time to sit in the middle of campus and basically get more publicity. You can't hunger strike in your rooms, you have to be outside so you can get pictures taken of how awesome of a martyr you are?

    What if every time we wanted something we threatened personal injury or suicide until we got it? It reminds me of 9 year old logic, "ILL RUN AWAY FROM HOME!!" Why should we be held hostage because people are being extreme? We shouldnt.. even if the demands are reasonable, it sets a precedent for how to get your way. You can try and shape a place, but when that place has no legal or monetary obligation to do what you say, making threats is just resorting to desperation

  37. solid  

    Those people who wrote racist shit in bathrooms are definitely racist, but they were also trying to get a reaction (overreaction) from people. Looks like they won.

  38. the Man

    What none of the strikers realize is that their actions simply hurt themselves by dragging their eventual alma mater's name through the mud. Having a diploma with "Columbia" on it does not havethe same appeal to employers as it did say, 20 years ago.

    The school is losing its association with prestige and elite education (and i mean elite as in good, not in some socioeconomic racism way). Its becoming viewed as a bastion of blind liberal socialism dominated by Ahmadinejad appearances, minuteman protests, and swastikas.

    ~an alum

  39. PS

    and don't think that your having taken ONE CC core class makes your damning judgment of the entire core any more convincing. perhaps your argument would have been more credible if you'd taken the whole core first, but you seem to be pretty against the whole shebang without even having experienced the entirety of it. don't you think that's being a little premature?

  40. @Strikers  

    The fact is, most students appreciate the Core. Only a few loud voices hijack the opinion of the many, as often happens on this campus. Most students would not agree to changing the Core, but they would support improving the way it's taught.
    First do what you can. Nobody wants a badly-taught Confucius class. We don't even have the manpower to teach 200 sections of Confucius.

  41. hmmm  

    is anyone hungry? Pinnacle's open...

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