Don’t stop the fire; or, ESC kicks ass and takes names
Written by Bwog Staff
As hard as it may be to believe, there are still other issues around campus besides striker stuff that people care about. If you were outside between the hours of 11:00 AM and 1:00 PM today, you might have noticed a large cardboard dollar bill and a halloween-worthy Capitol Building. The connection may seem vague, but the Free Culture kids (now with a new improved website!) were protesting something pretty specific: a Democrat-sponsored bill in Congress threatening to yank financial aid money for schools that don’t actively deter and provide alternatives to illegal file-sharing. Which seems not all that progressive to Bwog.
Also this evening, the Columbia Coalition Against the War planned to have a rally at the Sundial in support of its divestment campaign right before a meeting of the Socially Responsibly Investing committee, which makes recommendations to the Trustees about how they should invest the University endowment (currently not doing so badly!) in better, more do-goodery ways. According to organizers, their protest permit was thwarted, so the rally turned into a “covert poster-making session”.
But you can’t get away from the hunger strikers entirely. Word is that negotiations that started at six were still in progress at 10:30. News to come, we’re sure. The General Studies Student Council is in solidarity, and they really really want in on the OMA.
Meanwhile, tomorrow the GOP will be rallying on the steps to “eat, drink, voice your opposition to the striker’s tactics, and talk about the issues important to you.” Watch out for flying bottles of Gatorade.
UPDATE, 1:06 AM: Oho, the Engineering Student Council just slammed the strike in a statement of their own, calling it a “show of sensationalism.” It’s much better written than CCSC’s, but you won’t be finding this one on the striker website–as far as we know, it’s the first statement by a n official student body opposing the strike–so it’s pasted after the jump. For good measure, we’ll add the strikers’ responses to Quigs/Dirks (we’re pretty sure they just made a typo on that last point), which you can find in this edition of the Hunger Strike Primary Source Reader.
ESC Statement on the Hunger Strike
November 13, 2007
A hunger strike is a drastic measure usually reserved for the most extreme causes; it is currently being used on our campus in a manner that is inappropriate and self-defeating. Regardless of the merit of the demands made by the strikers, the tactics being employed have completely overshadowed the issues that they have sought to resolve. Not only have these actions undermined any progress that could have been made towards these goals, they have endangered the health and well-being of several members of our community. Although we have nothing but the best wishes for the individual members of our community and their prompt return to normal collegiate life, we cannot support institutional change based upon intimidation.
Had the strikers approached the administration in a spirit of cooperation, they would have discovered that many of their demands were already being addressed. Furthermore, the current protest has thus far failed to produce any results beyond meetings. The faculty hiring actions that have been announced within the past week were part of a cluster hire that had already been planned. Many resources are available to promote and facilitate student interaction with the administration, including the undergraduate Student Councils and the University Senate Student Affairs Committee, none of which were approached for support, administrative contacts, or guidance before the hunger strike began.
Institutional change takes time. The most recent hunger strike that took place on our campus in 1996 resulted in the creation of the Office of Multicultural Affairs and the Center for the Study of Ethnicity and Race. Significant reforms to both of these organizations are among the strikers’ list of demands. Sensational activism results in band-aid solutions that eventually prove inadequate and ill-formed, and in many cases the four-year span of an undergraduate’s time at this University is not enough to see change happen. The recent reforms made to Columbia’s advising system have been many years in the making and were made with the full support of the student body. The students who began the conversation that resulted in these reforms as well as the students who continued those conversations had long been graduates when the changes began, and yet the full change is still not complete. Meaningful change in the university requires purposeful, direct, and continued actions toward well-defined goals, not overly broad and general demands rushed to completion.
The hunger strikers have taken our community hostage in a show of sensationalism. They have chosen self-harm to promote their agenda instead of working with their fellow students, the faculty, and the administration towards mutually beneficial and agreed upon change. These fallacious arguments have not allowed for dissent in an open forum that facilitates a fair, equal, and respectful discussion. The ESC calls for an immediate end to the hunger strike and requests that interested parties proceed through legitimate and proven University channels to motivate institutional change. At that time, the ESC will gladly support the dialogue surrounding any and all issues on our campus.
Strike Committee response to Quigs/Dirks
Ethnic Studies / IRAAS
(i) While we appreciate the commitment to hiring three faculty, we would like to point out that two of these three promised faculty were committed to Latino Studies over two years ago and that this “new development” refers to only one new faculty line. This is insufficient in truly meeting the needs of CSER as a vibrant part of the university/
(ii) We appreciate the authorization of the Native American Studies professor search, however it is important to recognize that this hire should be expected to establish a program and major around Native American Studies which would require not just the single hire of this scholar, but the resources to build a program which includes further hires
(iii) The one senior hire listed in IRAAS is simply a replacement for a senior faculty member currently on leave from the university that will most likely not return. This is not seen as an investment in IRAAS.
(iv) We appreciate the increased resources for collaboration between CSER, IRAAS and IRWAG. This should not be confused with resources for faculty hires or hiring power.
(v) Our demands ask for an Academic Review Committee that includes ethnic studies scholars within and outside the university in order to compare with and learn from our peer institutions.
(vi) The diversity initiative has resulted approximately in 15 faculty hires. However many of these hires have occurred outside of CSER, IRAAS, IRWAG, and ethnic studies-oriented work, at a time when these programs have lost faculty and therefore this point is irrelevant to our demands.
(i) There has not been a written commitment and guarantee to securing the funding necessary to reform Major Cultures into seminar format.
(ii) The demanded class on racialization and colonization is not addressed.
(iii) The enhancement of student power on core committees has not been addressed.
(i) Concrete commitments towards the creation of additional safe spaces and programmatic resources can be agreed upon and added before review.
(ii) This past semester has clearly showed the need for such resources that need to be addressed immediately.
(iii) While the expansion of the Intercultural Resource Center is exciting, a concrete timeline of construction and programming is still lacking. Funding must be secured.
(iv) We understand that public safety already has a protocol however we demand a review and revision of that protocol.
(i) None of the demands or issues raised have not been addressed.