Strike remainders: rhetoric edition

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We know you’re tired of it. Bwog’s been a bit busy laying out the November issue, but we promise we’ll get more non-striker coverage up soon. Meanwhile, some noteworthy news bites, next to the Octopus that Ate Affordable Housing:

octopus1. Take Back the Night
has issued a statement in support of the strike. Interesting, considering they declined to participate in the Columbia Coalition speakout on Ahmadinejad Day, saying they were a “non-political” organization.

2. The Center for the Study of Ethnicity and Race–one of the strike’s potential beneficiaries–has also issued a statement of support, arguing that “internal conflict at Columbia exhibits deeper tensions in the U.S. body politic and its education system.”

3. Aretha Choi wants “the adminstration to know that 4 days was obviously too long of a time for me to wait while they are on their little vacations to Cape Cod or wherever they go to escape their responsibilties.” Also that a CAVA member mocked her and the hunger strike as she was taken to the ER, and that “the students who care enough about Columbia University to want to change enough to starve and to hurt for it, will remain strong.”

4. In an e-mail sent to 33 listservs asking clubs to help with outreach, a strike organizer enumerated the hardships the strikers have so far endured. “But as Bryan has said, we cannot confuse those who are simply weak-willed and prejudiced, with those who we can potentially reach and educate about our demands,” she wrote. 

Is it just us, or is Mr. Mercer turning into something of a prophet?

UPDATE, Monday, 9:30 AM: At the abovementioned strike organizer’s request, the full paragraph from which the quote was taken has been posted after the jump.


“That said…those who stand against us think that they can dampen our spirits by beating us down.  We are getting attacked by bad press (and lacking press as well), drunk passerbys knocking stuff over at our tent sites, hecklers shouting egregious things like “mmm I want a nice juicy burger right now”, Columbia administration officials giving negotiators blank stares at a meeting when we reported Aretha’s rushing to St. Luke’s Hospital because of low blood sugar, and perhaps the biggest blow to our our faith in our peers, and a terrible thing to see from our fellow students; anti-strikers websites that have propped up and counter-rallies with racist, homophobic, and xenophobic rhetoric being held right by our tents in public.  But as Bryan has said, we cannot confuse those who are simply weak-willed and prejudiced, with those who we can potentially reach and educate about our demands.  That said, we ABSOLUTELY NEED folks to help us do outreach… there’s a lot of misconceptions floating out there right now about what our demands are, and we need to address them.  And just to reiterate, our demands are rooted in a campus in which 1) our core education reinforces the norms of a system that marginalizes people of color, people of faith, queer folks and other groups; 2) Ethnic Studies programs in which we learn about the histories of our own communities (most of which was founded after the 1996 hunger strike led by Latino, Asian American, Black, and American students for Ethnic studies)  are under-resourced and swept aside by this university; 3) the administrative organization of our university right now does not allow adequate/ prompt responses to hate crimes, such as t he noose that was hung on a black professor’s door at TC; 4) an official expansion / eviction plan that will displace 5000 residents of West Harlem and will be voted on early December, a plan that bulldozes entire communities in Harlem and uproots real people.”

(Bolding in original) 



  1. goeo  

    what's with the octopus?
    -someone who has been inside all day

  2. so...  

    aretha choi wants to get results from the administration by making stupid comments like that?

    way to rally the support!

  3. Aretha  

    Choi went to Phillips Academy. I would wager a fair sum of money that the Chois own a house in Cape Cod.

  4. ooo  


  5. wow

    if that's all aretha has to say, the best thing she can do for the strike right now is to keep her mouth closed. i'm sure her self-congratulatory comments aren't helping to convince any people to start supporting her cause.

  6. on the flip side...  

    Aretha Choi could stand to lose a little weight.

  7. wow

    While vehemently anti-hunger strike both for its demands and its strong-arm tactics, I did feel sorry for Aretha Choi when I heard she had succumbed to hunger. But not anymore. After a quick turnaround and aid from a Columbia medical service, that she has such snide, self-righteous things to say (did God really want you to hunger strike?) any ounce of sympathy has gone out the window.

    Kick these kids off the lawns and back into the classroom where they only get to irritate those unfortunate enough to find themselves in their immediate vicinity and not the campus at large with irresponsible, uninformed politics and needless vitriol. It would also save them from the savagery of the clear majority of public opinion as demonstrated by commenters on this blog whose words are far nastier than mine.

  8. Maybe  

    if all the hunger-strikers and the rest of the "activists" at Columbia asked their parents to pool their money together, they could buy Manhattanville. Aretha Choi's family could definitely afford a few buildings, and a few others could definitely afford Harlem real estate. Oil fields, comfort food diners, all in the grand scheme of things.

  9. also

    on the lame ass octopus: did they not think that the "affordable housing" would be snatched up sooner or later. If Columbia was not the face of gentrification in the area, some corporate entity inevitably would be. I can only think that higher education at a world class university is a greater ideal and will better serve mankind than the corporate graft that would move into the neighborhood from the east along 125th. It's inevitable people, I suggest you pick your spots as Columbia will be far kinder to the residents with monetary compensation, housing, and jobs opportunities than other possible future landlords with dollar signs in their eyes would be.

  10. well

    as much I think that her childish statement utterly destroys any credibility she may have had a campus spokespoerson, let's not jump to conclusions. last I checked, even the elite private boarding schools had students on full scholarship. ms. choi is clearly a brat, but that doesn't mean she was priveleged. (oh the irony...)

  11. ummmm  

    I consider myself pretty liberal but this is getting ridiculous.

    1. She doesn't go to Columbia, what right does she have to talk about the Core? Talk about the 9 Ways of Knowing or whatever they have across the street.

    2. Maybe CAVA "laughed" at you because you're a self-righteous brat. I doubt they did laugh at you though. They probably knew that there could have been people on campus that needed medical attention more they took care of you Aretha Choi, someone who chose to make herself ill.

  12. further  

    if these protesters think they're so moral, why didn't they tell their former anorexic friend to NOT participate in this for her own health?

  13. also  

    how many of these people come from non-gentrified areas? it's not like gentrification is great or anything, but come on. as a ny native, i find this all a little funny - prep school kids talking about ending gentrification when they've probably never been to non-gentrified neighborhoods.

  14. Wow

    This protest and the rhetoric being used by those taking part is just downright offensive. Yes, a lot of comments here are childish and offensive etc, but no less so than saying that anyone that doesnt agree with you is weak will and prejudiced. These people are making a mockery of themselves and Columbia, and the sooner the administration tells them where to go the better. Quite frankly until the admin has ascertained campus support/lack thereof for the protestors, I don't think they should even meet with them.

  15. I can't wait  

    until this whole thing is over and all these attention-whores..ahem, "activists" are out of the spotlight for a while.

  16. Uh...  

    What exactly does "the students who care enough about Columbia University to want to change enough to starve and to hurt for it, will remain strong." mean?

  17. I sincerely

    hope these idiots suffer all the physical consequences of starvation. That is perhaps the only way to get the FUCKING MORON out of them, because an Ivy League education hasn't been able to. If I didn't know that CAVA is a really great group of people, I would urge for them to refuse treating these assholes, so they can pay the bills for their own stupidity.
    In retrospect, how could any of us have expected the strikers, of all people, to have ANYthing intelligent to say? Intelligent people use their brains, not their bodies.

  18. haha

    upon second reading of this bwog post, what i find really interesting is the colonial-esque language mr. mercer uses, separating those who do not believe in the strike as either "weak-willed" and "prejudiced" or just plain uneducated, as if we were children waiting for the strikers to open our eyes so we can embrace the "True Knowledge" and "Justice" that they clamor for. Ironically, this kind of condescending and self-righteous attitude is not dissimilar to those shown by christian missionaries towards colonized peoples in the 19th and 20th centuries.

  19. lala  

    Blah, at least someone had fun last night. Actually, 400 people the Ahimsa/HSO Diwali Celebration!

  20. awww  

    That nasty administration, making Aretha "wait" so long! Don't they know how sensitive she is??



  22. It's hard:  

    to know what to say here.

    It would be nice if Columbia students wouldn't get so nervous any time someone dares to make a stand for something. While I can't claim full agreement with the demands of the strikers, it seems obvious enough that their stance is part of a long Columbia history according to which non-violent political protest is the harbinger of change. That so many of the commenters on this page seem to think moderation an end in itself is both disappointing and ominous. I stand with the hunger strike, and I do so proudly.

    • ddddurrrr  

      Just because their chosen form of protest is "non-violent" doesn't mean it's NOT mindbogglingly stupid.

      When Gandhi engaged in his hunger strikes, it was because he had exhausted all other forms of non-violent protest, and the reason WHY his protests worked is because he had the popular support of the vast majority of the Indian people. The hunger strikers in this case do NOT have this popular support and by engaging in this hunger strike they're trying to sidestep the fact that the vast majority of people on campus either oppose or are apathetic to their demands - probably even more so since they've engaged in this stupidity.

      • The King of Spain  

        Gandhi also had the support of all of the newspapers back in Great Britain, thankfully something that the strikers can't claim.

      • ghadhi also

        was prostesting the actions of the government of which he was a citizen, not the policies of a private institution to which he had chosen to pay a shitload of money and from which he could walk away at any instant. why is the university obligated to create a new dept / terminate all expansion plans / change its core for any handful of publicity-seeking stunt-pulling students? how much undergrad access to --- and command of --- the entire university administration is too much?

        i mean, even if there were 100 students who supported their demands, which seems a high estimate, that's still .4% of the overall student population of the university.

        • this shit  

          about a "private institution" is kind of weird. do the several posters who have mentioned it really think they themselves - assuming they are students - deserve no say in the running of Columbia? the administration could do whatever the fuck it wanted and you wouldn't feel entitled to complain?

          the allergy to activism here seems to be making people irrational even in terms of their own self-interest.

          • pay attention

            the point is that neither extreme is valid.

            you write "do the several posters who have mentioned it really think they themselves - assuming they are students - deserve no say in the running of Columbia? the administration could do whatever the fuck it wanted and you wouldn't feel entitled to complain?"

            in reply to a post that read "why is the university obligated to create a new dept / terminate all expansion plans / change its core for any handful of publicity-seeking stunt-pulling students? how much undergrad access to --- and command of --- the entire university administration is too much?".

            the post is asking the question of how much responsiveness to the disparate desires of each individual student out of the 25,000 or so is too much, not arguing that there should be none at all.

            i think it'd be worth discussing the question, not arguing against a hyperbolic indefensible caricature of it which no one suggested in the first place.

          • there  

            were two separate arguments in the original post. one, about what the majority of students feel, has some validity - though it's hard to see how it applies to, say, expansion, where it's the Harlem community that strikers claim to represent. the other argument, that Ghandi "was prostesting the actions of the government of which he was a citizen, not the policies of a private institution to which he had chosen to pay a shitload of money and from which he could walk away at any instant", is bizarre. like paying a lot of money for something decreases your say.

          • also  

            At this point if you don't know about the Core, although little Aretha goes across the street so who knows, when you decide to go to Columbia, you're dumb. If you don't know about the lack of Ethnic Studies or the controversy around it here when you decide to go here, you're dumb. Honestly, do your research before picking a university that you find to be "corrupt" hunger strikers.

  23. CAVA

    Just as the actions of this protestor are incredibly stupid, the allegations that she levies against an unnamed CAVA employee are very serious. They should be held to a higher standard of professionality.

  24. mystery

    Incidentally, where have all the liberals gone? I thought I was in communist territory just a little over a month ago.

  25. now

    Now I seem to be in Larry Kudlow's America.

  26. anonymous  

    Wow. Aretha really can't write for shit, she sounds like such an idiot. What the hell did she do at Andover?

    • the excuse

      Guys guys! Come on! I mean, she just came back from the hospital, having been sent there in the first place because she was found unconscious.

      Maybe there was some momentary oxygen-deprivation. Maybe some opposing ER worker thought he'd take matters into his own hands by putting the wrong medicine into her IV.

      Or maybe she writes like a brain-damaged five-year-old already.

      • comments off

        I also love the fact that when I went to the blog to read Aretha's statement, I expected to find at least 100 comments already congregating there, most of them along the vein of those on this site.

        Gee, d'ya think that's why they aren't allowing comments on their blog, because they know they would then have to deal with actually being confronted with someone who doesn't agree with them and has the cloak of anonymity to say whatever he wants, or (God forbid) that they will be made fun of?

  27. Sprinkles

    Since when did Columbia become a haven for the hysterical?


  28. Sprinkles

    And I really wish Aretha Choi (and the other strikers) would stop trying to play the hero. Her melodramatic statement on the blog reeked of it. You chose to starve yourself, and then you demonize Columbia for not running to immediately placate your temper tantrum? The signatories supporting the strike ought to be ashamed of themselves for supporting such immaturity, especially if you look at the strikers' demands.

    You are not Bobby Sands. This is not 1981.

    It's not 1968, either. I feel sorry for the people our age who are getting blown to bits in Iraq as we speak, not for people choosing to starve themselves. As for doing this out of love for Columbia, all I'll say about that statement is that "In lumine Tuo videbimus lumen" does not refer to your own reflection in the fountains on Low Plaza.

    • Anonymous  

      Nah, I don't feel bad for the idiots in Iraq either. A few years ago I did, but now it's just dumb to not go AWOL or something. They may not have volunteered for this shit, but by not doing anything, they definitely volunteered.

      • U.S. Marine  

        You don't have to feel sorry for the men and women in Iraq. Quite the opposite. I pity you, who would suggest deserting your country's military as a reasonable option. I just hope that you can go through life without being tested and exposed to the world as the coward you are.

        • Eh.

          While the GP was a pretty lame comment, you don't have much of a point either. "Exposed to the world?" A lot of us prefer the world we live in, which has incredibly low amounts of killing people. Like your life's only valid if you carry a gun?

          and in re desertion: Being in the military doesn't abrogate all other moral concerns, and thinking it does is just a cheap, socially reinforced escape from common sense. "Oh, in any other circumstances, I'd feel revulsion at fighting for an unjust cause -- but crap, I'm in the US military and therefore it's totally fine!"

          • U.S. Marine  

            I wasn't trying to start a debate, just call out a noxious coward.

            If you really think the war is unjust, there are ways to protest without simply running away. There is nothing redeeming in cowardice.

            Seriously, what do you think the military is doing over there, killing babies? Whatever you think of the reasons we went over there, the current mission is to stabilize the country. I don't see that as unjust, and I think it is morally reprehensible NOT to go over, when you took the oath. My word means something to me.

            "Exposed to the world"- I simply meant that I hope nothing dangerous happens to him/her in which his/her cowardice would be made obvious to everyone. Better to keep that inside.

            On the strikers- I think they are using a sledgehammer on a thumbtack, but to taunt people on a hunger strike with food is pretty low. I am not rooting for them, but I respect the strength of will that a hunger strike takes. They should, however, stop viewing people as either "potential converts" or enemies. I for one am neither.

        • Sprinkles

          Hey, forgive me, but I feel sorry for all people who get maimed and killed. That's just the way I am.

          I don't feel sorry for people who choose to starve themselves, though.

      • Disgusting  

        I hope with every breath in my body that you suffer a horrible and embarrassing death.

  29. waiting  

    Where are the College Republicans to cause controversy when you need them?

  30. furthermore  

    Don't they realize how offensive the octopus thing is - anyone who has studied any kind of war propaganda knows that enemies, typically non-white enemies, were always portrayed as sinister octopuses stretching out across the world. Race conscious my ass!

  31. give me


  32. did we

    really expect a more competent statement from aretha choi? The hunger strikers are already acting like a bunch of 5 year olds throwing a tantrum so naturally she would express herself in childish terms.

  33. CML  

    More importantly, was anyone else originally shocked to find out that Aretha Choi was a skeletal Asian girl? Originally I was kind of envisioning a facsimile of the great R-E-S-P-E-C-T singer myself. Buh'scuse me, mothafucka?

  34. saddened

    Reading some of these responses is starting to depress me, really. If you disagree with the demmands / tactics of the strikers then please debate them in a mature intelectual manner, which means no personal attacks. No matter what, the hunger strikers are our peers and deserve the same basic respect due to all human beings. Also, reading posts in general responding to the strike, I´ve noticed a lot of hostility to campus activism. Therefore, a question for discussion: what should students do if they want to change something on campus? Or is campus change in general unproductive and should we just use this time to improve our selves academically and then go out and do what we´re gonna do?

    • George Carlin fan  

      RE: "what should students do if they want to change something on campus?"

      Don't apply or consider transferring. The power of the marketplace will make Columbia alter the curriculum, if it is in the University's best interest. If enough people felt that the current curriculum/administration/expansion plans were ill-advised, then Columbia would alter its ways.

      More people like Columbia the way it is than those that do not. Nobody forced anyone to apply and then matriculate. If you hate the school - don't give it your money or 'intellectual' cache as a qualified student.

      If the average SAT score starts dropping, etc... then the point will have been proven.

      Until then, study. And stop taking minutia so seriously.

  35. since when  

    did many of you (note I'm not including everyone) decide that resorting to ad hominem arguments were the way to go? I too believe the demands of the strikers to be vague and their methods to be ineffective and overly dramatic yet I do not think that discussing Ms. Choi's past health history is relevant to our discussion of this unfolding event.

    Those who feel it necessary to take a swipe at her intelligence or personal problems do not earn my respect (nor, I believe, do they the respect of the silent majority of non-commenting Columbia students). Please, use some restraint and tact when speaking of others; this courtesy and care will lead to the type of community that we so desperately need.

  36. barnard student

    Aretha is one of the most inarticulate and unintelligent students I've ever had to sit in a class with. It's unfortunate that some will take her actions and incoherent ramblings as a representative of what Barnard students are like.

  37. 61

    This digresses from my initial question but your answer raised another one.
    "If enough people felt that the current curriculum/administration/expansion plans were ill-advised, then Columbia would alter its ways."
    This may be true when it comes to student wants in the long run, but it doesn't deal with the voice of people whose lives will be affected by Columbia but who don't actually go here, i.e. the residents of Manhatanville who will be no doubt be affected (positively or negatively) by the administration's decisions. If you go to CB9 meetings you will see that a lot of people in the community feel very strongly about expansion, but of course have no real power to change it since Columbia does not depend on their tuition. I feel that in a truly democratic society an institution (private or public) should not be able to affect the lives of others without their imput.

  38. eiofndo  

    Did the strikers et. al. also put up those headstones around campus? If so, WHAT IS THE CONNECTION?

  39. Wow...  

    ....I DIDNT REALIZE I GO TO SCHOOL WITH SO MANY MEAN SPIRITED PEOPLE. YOUR POSTS MAKE ME SICK. The widespread ignorance at this school is much worse than I had imagined... "oh-no I dont agree with the strikers, that must mean they're anorexic retards, fuck them!"

  40. geez

    As a minority alumnus of Columbia College who works in city planning... the strikers are ridiculous.

    1) Expansion:

    Columbia isn't using Eminent Domain, they announced that forever ago. Get with it. I would have agreed that use of it in this case would be appropriate but they aren't even asking the city to pursue it. Trust me, this area is RIPE for development, or in the catchword of the day, 'gentrification,' which I don't feel applies so much to Manhattanville because unlike what is happening in Harlem much of Manhattanville is actually something of a wasteland and does not have the population density of most of Manhattan -- this is a fact, and I've been in the neighborhood many times -- and besides, Columbia ALREADY OWNS the land. 5000 displaced residents might seem awful but they will be compensated and in contrast with what would happen/is happening with other developments is actually pretty minimal. Furthermore, they've been extremely transparent and open when dealing with the public despite the hostile climate. Columbia will almost certainly be much fairer and more generous with the residents than any private developer who would have bought the land would be and will provide a lot of new public spaces like parts and storefront space. There is NO FREAKING WAY this neighborhood is not changing dramatically in the next 10 years, Columbia or not. Demand in Manhattan continues to far outstrip supply and Manhattanville is right on the "already developed" border.

    2) Core:

    Different schools have different curriculums. If you don't like the Core, nobody is exactly forcing you to go to an expensive, elite Ivy-league university with a well-advertised Core curriculum. Seriously. Stop whining.

    3) Ethnic studies:

    This major seems rather nebulous and vague and any new department is going to be born overnight. If the demand is there, put together a petition and show the University that a significant number of people actually want to major in this topic. "Hunger striking" over it is the height of ludicrocity. It was never promised to you when you chose to come here.

    4) Climate on campus:

    It's a liberal university in New York City. I never once felt oppressed by the administration or the people on campus. Throwing a hissy fit when people disagree with you goes against everything your college education is SUPPOSED to be teaching you. Not to say there is nothing wrong with Columbia, we all know there is--but it is not a cruel conspiracy designed to keep down the little people.

  41. You Suck  

    Fuck you, Aretha Choi. Fuck you, and open your eyes.

  42. havisham  

    If anything justifies the study of racial and ethnic studies here it is the facile idea that texts by people such as Homer, Herodotus, Augustine, et. al. are written by "white" men. This overlooks the fact that many of these texts are the product of intercultural exchange among what today is Eastern Europe, Asia, and Africa (and, strictly speaking, Augustine is an African writer; Herodotus an Asian one). The way contemporary Americans understand race and "whiteness" has nothing to do with the political and economic relations that gave rise to the majority of the multicultural texts of the Core. Simply put, the alleged whiteness of the Core is founded on assumptions that are presentist (i.e. not interested in historical inquiry), anachronistic, and blind to the content of the core texts themselves. It seems as though we need to be a little more specific and nuanced when we claim that something or someone is "white."

  43. ad hominen  

    Why should only one side refrain from ad hominen attacks? When one side calls the other "weak-willed and prejudiced" the other has no right to respond accordingly with "immature and stupid".

  44. also  

    when I read Aretha Choi's comments, I immediately picture Margaret Cho speaking them.

  45. columbiananana  

    I'm a Columbia student who has pretty good knowledge and experience with the Columbia Office Of Public Affairs, and I can tell you right now that re Manhattanville the strikers and in general those who support them have no idea what they are talking about. Read the Manhattanville point in post #73 to actually gain a little understanding. The modus operandi of this hunger strike is mob mentality ignorance. They aren't bad people, they want do something good, they are just dumb

  46. tortoise  

    The hunger strike and the self-importance displayed by the strikers absolutely disgusts me. Rallying to draw attention to a cause that you believe in is one thing, but demonizing the people who disagree with you and the powers that be that waited 4 WHOLE DAYS to respond to you is quite another. If the strikers honestly believe that the administration even has the means to meet their demands in as little time as it takes to be hospitalized for total malnutrition, they must not understand the causes they are actually supporting. None of the issues they are drawing attention to are new ones; I, for one, would rather have change brought about when it is done so rationally and logically, not when it is done to appease several radical students who care more about the rate of change than the change that actually happens.

  47. guys.  


  48. guys.  


    spell it right

  49. you're still...

    ...not paying attention.

    yes; there were two points

    1) you *should* protest actions of governments and, if you don't like the way the city is or is not limiting columbia's manhattanville progress, you should take it up with the city.

    2) i'll try to spell it out for you, although i thought other bwog posters had already illustrated it beyond need for restating: the point about columbia being the recipient of your tuition choice is not that "paying a lot of money for something decreases your say" but rather that if you want a university w/an ethic studies dept, and, moreover, if you want other universities to adopt one, pay your tuition dollars to such a university, by enrolling in (or transfering to) one.

  50. funny

    Antioch University is nearly going under due to low enrollment and they actually had Mumia tape record the commencement speech one year. In other words, the school has gained such a reputation for radical politics that no one wants to go there anymore but a small pod of activistos. Why don't all of these hunger strikers transfer to Antioch where they'll have carte blanche to pursue their radical idealism with full university support while also paying into an institution that agrees with their policies simultaneously? It sounds like a good match to me. No, they have to apply here so they can turn Columbia into another Antioch.

  51. go AAA  

    way to represent AAA

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