Don’t stop the fire; or, ESC kicks ass and takes names

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RIAAAs 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.

Administrative reform

(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.





  1. Pretty sure...  

    ...that's the Capitol Building.

  2. again...  

    if you are not in agreement with the strikers, for whatever reason, be sure to join

  3. The capitol building  

    Yes - it is the capitol building.

    --Ron (AKA the capitol building)

  4. JJV  

    I'm a DC native, but I thought that it looked more like the Jefferson Memorial.

  5. everyone  

    needs to read the statement ESC just emailed about the hunger strikers. It is brutal.

  6. Alum

    The link about the endowment's performance goes to a subscribers-only page at the Chronicle of Higher Education. Unless people on campus have free access, my guess is that few readers will be able to see it.

  7. administration!  

    Leave the Core alone!

    I fully understand the core is a living thing and must evolve over time. But pleasepleaseplease don't dilute its current focus on Western Civilization (especially in Lit Hum and CC!). That would only dilute its purpose and significance.

  8. I'm not

    going to read all of that, but my eye did catch the last sentence which pretty much says it all about the strikers in my book:


    (i) None of the demands or issues raised have not been addressed."

    bold demands, vagueness, and poor grammar abound! well played, well played. I'm glad to hear the expansion demands and issues have been addressed, this is going smoother than I had expected.

  9. wow

    a well reasoned response (for a change).

    now things get interesting.

    nevertheless I stand by my earlier belief. everything here requires 2 things. money and space. pray tell, where are they coming from? at who's expense? Columbia's academic units operate independently, so all the money is going to have to come from the Arts and Sciences budget. Tell us, which departments are you going to ask to downsize in order to expand yours? Much of the current growth is funded my directed donations- for example the Riggio's donated $5 million to endow two new professorships in Art history and fund graduate fellowships and undergraduate internships. You can't make Columbia give you that money. All you can ask for Columbia to commit to expanding in the long term and hoping they find the money.

    Or like I've suggested umpteen times, instead of bitching now, get back to class and be the agents of change in the only way that's guaranteed to work- get a job and donate $$$ with as many strings attached as you'd like.

    As for space, well there's always Lerner 6, right? I don't see that in your demands yet...

  10. Ron  

    Bravo to ESC for calling a spade a spade.

  11. Clap clap clap  

    Wow, ESC and Kulawik are now voices of reason on this campus. Has hell frozen over?

  12. wow  

    I love ESC! Thank you for writing this!



  14. Humanitarian  

    I have gained much respect for my numerate brethren.

  15. The Dink  

    I'm disappointed in you, ESC. that's a lot of ignorance about causes and effects.

  16. Random question

    What happened to the four other people that said last week they were going to join the hunger strike?

  17. The Dink  

    ESC, and much of this campus, needs to read some MLK.

  18. actually....  

    the oma was created in 2004...

  19. an engineer  

    ugh. the ESC seems to always take the most pro-administration line of the councils... from Gilchrist to Ahmadinejad to bias incidents to this, it's consistent.

    • which means  

      that their tactical concerns and advice, which mostly frame this statement rather than the strikers' demands, sound really pretty disingenuous. if you're not on the side of the strikers in the first place, dont fake concern about how their tactics are counterproductive.

    • hmmmmmm.....  

      do you think it has anything to do with the fact that esc isnt even elected? theyre an appointed board. i wonder if the administration wrote the statement for them....

  20. The Dink  

    (sorry if i'm monopolizing this thread)

    But the Strikers do need to show that this hunger strike has been a long time coming. The reason for the hunger strike was that other more conventional options were NOT working in achieving real discussion and progress on these issues. Now discussion is happening with the administration, and though ESC sees no progress, the negotiations are far from over. Have a little patience before you write off this movement, and consider that maybe incredibly slow change that doesn't occur within 4 years is actually a problem.

  21. O Irony [CC '09]  

    Does anyone else find it comical that the ESC statement is infinitely more articulate than that of CCSC? I mean aren't we supposed to be the literary ones?

    I think this illustrates how poor the leadership on CCSC is, I mean Michelle, though a great girl, hasn't really done anything this year beyond making ocaisional statments, and the '09 student council is horrenduous, they don't do anything.

  22. YES  

    THANK YOU ESC - I am slowly but surely re-gaining my pride in the Columbia community. (& the facebook group not-in support of the strike has just reached 500 members!!!)

  23. durrr  

    Raise your hand if you wish to major in Native American studies.... now raise your hand if you can think of a single alumnus willing to donate money to fund said program.... okay, that's what I thought.

  24. The Dink  

    Sooo, all I'm trying to say is that even though the ESC doesn't realize that its view on this issue is ignorant, they still are very ballin' in making such a statement!

  25. The Dink  

    If done randomly 106 people is probably a pretty good sample of the CC population. Can someone with better stats knowledge than me "confirm or disconfirm", as Brandt said?

    • 106 is not enough

      There are over 4,000 students in CC, all of whom would be affected by curriculum changes to the Core, and many more students in other schools that take courses in departments that may lose funding if the university were to direct so much money towards CSER. A 106 person poll is not sufficient. If these people want to represent students, they should be elected to do so. Or, at the very least, hold a campus wide referendum.

      • Additonally

        The front cover of the PDF version of the spec on the website breaks down the question of 'do you support the hunger strike' as follows:

        Yes: 51%
        No: 52%
        No: 3%

        The question of 'do you support the strikers demands' as:

        Yes: 67%
        No: 32%
        Don't know: 7%

        And 'will the strike be successful' as
        Yes: 25%
        No: 76%
        Don't know/didn't answer: 5%

        So they did not in fact interview 106, they went above and beyond the cause of duty and questioned 106% of the population. I retract my concerns.

        • Hmm

          Cause of duty? I'm more tired than I thought.

        • hmm...

          I don't really know where these numbers are coming from. I really don't know that many people who are pro the strike.

          I know a lot of people who are virulently against it.

        • I would guess  

          ...they meant those to be straight numbers instead of percentages, in which case each total equals the sample size (106). But yeah, well done.

          If the poll were for the entire undergrad population (8000 across the four schools), the margin of error would be 9.46 with a confidence level of 95%. It shrinks a little bit to 9.39 if they limited it to the 4000 CC students. (Nifty little MoE calculator here:

          That's pretty high for a poll, but even at the extreme of that MoE, it appears a higher percentage of students generally support the demands than the breakdown of Bwog & Spec comments alone would suggest.

          • but

            again. when the strike originally happened, i said to myself..yeah. i generally support their demands.

            however now as i have examined them more i have a lot more problems, and more importantly the way in which this has played out has left a bitter taste in my mouth

    • Alum

      Even if the poll accurately reflects the views of CC students, why should their views be the only ones that matter? There is no reason to let just one of Columbia's sixteen schools make decisions for the entire university, and certainly not to leave it exclusively to the *students* of that school. (Then there's the question of why that one school should be CC instead of, say, GSAS.)

      A number of these issues -- Manhattanville in particular -- affect the university as a whole. Should the business school's ability to relocate hinge on what a bunch of undergrads in the College want? If your answer is yes, how can you jusitfy it?

      As others have noted, even seemingly College-specific issues like ethnic studies depend upon allocation of resources that would otherwise be used for other programs; even if these other programs are within the Arts & Sciences they impact more than just CC.

      Columbia is what it is today because (mostly) competent administrators and trustees have been the ones making decisions for 253 years. If students had been calling the shots all along -- or even at just a handful of critical junctures along the way -- they likely would have sacrificed the long-term interests of the university in favor of whatever priority they felt was most important at the moment. That's a terrible way to run any organization, no matter how well-intentioned the students might be.

  26. tragedy  

    tragedy of the commons. the plight of the few enacts benefits for those who don't care or are apathetic. perhaps we should say federal funding for multiple sclerosis should be cut, because it only affects a few people - and we ceratinly arent all rallying for those afflicted. hmmm. the majority of people didnt want airbags either - but because of the struggle of a few, we all benefit today from those who one time did. everything regarding diversity on this campus came out of one movement or another that wasnt delivered via the opinions of the majority.

    • absurd

      wow. i mean there are so many fundamental problems with this paragraph that i don't know where to begin.

      MS funding likely primarily happens through pork and NSF grants. Not at all applicable.

      Airbag restrictions are made through the work of the NHTSA which bases its recommendations on scientific studies--completely not analogous to this situation. Furthermore, there was no widespread opposition except that championed by the powerful automobile lobby. Here's its the powerful socialist/revolutionary lobby which is trying to squelch the voice of the students.

      the tragedy of the commons in inapplicable here as there hasn't been any delineation of who the 'commons' are, why the strikers are the intellectually enlightened ones who should rule over these commons in terms of decision making and because the tragedy of the commons is completely separate from the tactics of enforcing the overarching interest

    • durrr  

      Except multiple sclerosis and car accidents kill people... a school's lack of ethnic studies doesn't.

      By totally blowing their demands out of proportion with a hunger strike, something that by its very nature puts the health and safety of fellow students in danger (especially given some of their preexisting conditions), they've effectively ended any real debate that occur over the matter - which I suppose suits them, since they're not interesting in a debate, they're interested in making "demands" - by what authority they believe they are entitled to make demands has yet to be explained.

    • There is  

      a difference between what affects the needs of the few (MS funding) and the desires of the few. BTW how dare you suggest that the medical needs of a person suffering from MS are anywhere near comparable to the whinings of these self-righteous brats camped out on the lawn?

      Demanding that the University add Native American Studies as a MAJOR (as of right now Native American Studies isn't even being offered as a COURSE, where are we supposed to get the means to expand to a major?? Maybe we should take it out of financial aid packages!), is absolutely ridiculous. Didn't these people do their homework when applying to colleges? If a college doesn't offer something you want to major in, for christ's sake pick another FUCKING school! It's like applying to SEAS and then when you get there you complain that you can't major in philosophy. I am sure I offended all 6 people that want to major in Native American Studies. I am sure that their are plenty of schools that offer this as a course of study, why force Columbia to when it does not have the resources?

      A single college cannot offer a major in everything, including Columbia, especially since the hunger strikers don't allow for the EXPANSION necessary to accomodate most of their other demands.

      Bravo ESC, for calling the strikers out on their bullshit. If only CCSC had the balls...

    • Economist  

      Think you mean "public good," not "tragedy of the commons." Public agitation for research, etc. that benefits society at large because the costs (time and energy) are concentrated and the benefits (better medicine) are diffuse.

      • Economist  

        Public agitation for research, etc. that benefits society at large IS A PUBLIC GOOD because the costs (time and energy) are concentrated and the benefits (better medicine) are diffuse.

        I can't write.

        On topic, way to go ESC -- they articulated my own thinking on this rather better than I myself have so far.

  27. ugh

    a 1000 times no. People were enraged when the minuteman head came to talk on campus.

    I sure as heck will get angry when a bunch of students who are self proclaimed activists get together and create a coercive spectacle which purports to speak on my behalf and issues ultimatums to the administration on what they want done--all done with the threat that the university would consequently be depriving them of sustenance if they didn't accede to such demands. Don't tell me to stfo when you had the gall to go out and co opt my voice for your revolutionary fantasies.

    And 2/3rds said they agreed w/the general gist in a poll which had no given methodology, had a poor understanding of how charts are used and which asked no questions about the strikers tactics (not to mention that it sampled less than 2% of the undergraduate body and probably and order less of the columbia student populace--not to mention the self selecting nature of phone respondents which likely ensured this wasn't a random sample)

    There are a couple demands I can understand, even possibly yeah, i'd say i generally support the strikers ideas. However, this has been managed in a such a despicable way on a public relations angle and now is coupled with a sanctimonious 'don't question how i do it, contest why' that any support the strikers may have sought from somebody like me have been completely reversed in the opposite direction.

  28. The Dink  

    The Tragedy of the Commons actually refers to a depletion of a resource that is held in common and can be exploited by all. For example, a fishery where fish stocks get depleted because each individual fisherman tries to catch as much as he can because his goal is to gain more than his neighbor, not to maintain a stock that he doesn't own. This is solved by proper management of the resource, often through collective ownership of it or taxation on catches.

  29. ESC

    is the shit.

    It takes real strength to discuss these matters honestly as those who disagree with the strikers demands tend to be labeled racist, ignorant, etc.

    I'm really proud of you guys.

  30. The Dinke  

    They have the authority of any student who wishes to see his or her university run in a better (as he or she perceives) way. They actually have started much debate on these matters, both among students, and with the administration, none of which were they able to accomplish through more conventional ways over the past couple years.

    • what

      'They have the authority of any student who wishes to see his or her university run in a better (as he or she perceives) way.'

      I want to see my university run in a better way. This is not their way. They do not have my authority.

      Seriously, what the hell does that even mean.

      • The Dink  

        Any student can demand whatever they want from the university. You have the authority to demand that the university not be run the way the strikers want it run. Any student can make a demand of their university, that's all I'm saying, and any student should do so if they see a real problem somewhere. I'm not saying the strikers are the only authority, or that they speak for all students, but that they speak for themselves and their interests within the university.

        • Yes

          But because I am not starving myself, the administration will not speak to, or negotiate with, me. Does this make my demands any less legitimate? I have the authority to demand that the university is not run in the way the strikers want it run, but unless I set up a counter hunger strike, how will I make these demands heard considering the current precedent for doing so?

        • ignoramus  

          Do you realize how silly this sounds? "Demand" implies that I have some right to expect something. Can I demand a better, bigger room? Better food in John Jay? Why not "demand" a tuition decrease of... let's just say 80%? These demands might seem ridiculous, but they're no less practical than what the strikers want.

          The fact is, these strikers don't have any arguments suggesting that their "demands" are beneficial for the school as a whole, they simply have decided that they want these things really, really bad and decided to demand them.

    • not 51

      but i disagree about the debate thing. They've certainly created palpable anger against the strikers and a limited amount of discussion about correct methods of activist action. However, just about nobody is having a debate on the actual issues. Everybody's either like 'well i generally agree/disagree' or 'that's not what we're asking, let us inform you of our demands'. The few serious questions, like the one long post by that girl in one of the original posts haven't been addressed at all. The strikers haven't even created a report that they can present to the administration to buttress their demands.

      And for all the authority they have as a student to act in a certain way, their peers have that equal opportunity to react.

  31. The Dink  

    #54 is in reply to #51.

  32. The Dink  

    and if actually their demands are as silly and ridiculous as demanding a bigger room, than they will be thrown out, regardless of their method. but their demands aren't that trivial, and there has actually been serious thought behind their actions, and so their demands will be considered.

    For a full year SEEJ demanded the university stop selling clothing made by sweatshop labor, and were totally ignored, despite a very legitimate demand. Only with no conventional option left they entered Low and refused to leave until their demands were addressed. Meetings occurred with the administration, and now Columbia doesn't support sweatshop labor.

    • Yes but

      That's a far more legitimate cause. Hell I think the Georgetown hunger strikers who were striking so that the university would pay all of it's employees a living wage had a good cause. Protesting Columbia supporting sweatshop labor and this are not even close to being the same thing.

  33. freud

    1. big props to esc.

    2. the awful grammar in the response shows that those kids could really use some food.

  34. also

    i don't understand why the university is letting these few students camp out on the south lawn and giving them permission to use university electricity (for those extremely important christmas lights). i mean, what exactly do student tour guides tell parents of prospectives when they ask why a tent city has sprung up?

  35. Alum

    When I was an undergrad in the 1980s, many students demanded that Columbia make its housing available to all employees rather than limiting it to faculty and senior officers. These protests were triggered when the university evicted an employee who was not elligible but who had been illegally sharing a university apartment with her brother, who was. He moved out, she stayed. Columbia tried to ease her out gently but she wouldn't go, and many students rallied around her. This went on for weeks -- even after the university evicted her. I don't specifically recall whether anyone went on a hunger strike over this, but it wouldn't surprise me.

    Suppose Columbia had given in and said that any employee -- groundskeeper, file clerk, busboy, what have you -- could have a subsidized apartment. Would Columbia be as strong today as it is? No way. Apartments that now house grad students and junior faculty would instead house doormen and janitors, while those grad students and faculty would have gone to other universities and made them better at Columbia's expense.

    The simple fact is that the causes students want to advance often aren't causes that will benefit the university. Indeed, they are sometimes causes that will hurt the university substantially. If an idea is worth doing then it is worth doing regardless of whether someone decides to shout, starve herself or hold her breath until it is done. Ideas that aren't worth doing likewise don't become more meritorious because their proponents will go to such extremes in order to make them happen.

  36. question  

    Doesn't the spectator poll by randomly calling ROLM phones? Doesn't this create an inherent bias in all their polls towards losers and dorks?

    I mean, who actually still has one of those outside of the spec?

  37. Life or Death?  

    Hunger strikes are normally reserved for life or death issues. If you are truly hunger striking, you are ready to die from starvation in the fight for your cause. It makes me wonder, even if these issues are VERY VERY important to these individuals, are the issues of the Core Curriculum, OMA, even Manhattanville expansion life or death issues? That is why the means seem ridiculous to me.

  38. david bowie

    is there life on mars?

  39. dsk  

    Well, in some respects it is life and death. The tremendously negative publicity for the University if something were to go awfully wrong would be a critical life/death moment for the superb image our IVY walls project.

  40. I love ESC!

    Engineers will inherit the Earth. I knew there was something special about them. One of you, marry me!

  41. on topic

    As for the non-strike business, file sharers who still want financial aid might want to take a look at WASTE.

  42. GAAAH

    The strikers' response is the most inane thing I've ever seen. It almost looks (okay it completely looks) as if they're just trying to think of excuses to keep this up, getting nitpicky instead of accepting that all five-thousand of their demands are NEVER going to be fulfilled exactly as they want them this time around and taking what they get.

    Are you guys seriously this deluded? The dean of Columbia College releases a statement listing all of the things that were already in the works pertaining to their demands (therefore making their hungry-strike pretty damn irrelevant in the first place) and all they can think to do is whine?

    I can't believe they are actually picking on the potential hiring of a "Native American studies" professor by saying that it should be part of a greater effort to begin a department and major around Native American studies. Who the HELL is ever going to MAJOR in that subject and still expect to ever get a job after college? Who the hell cares?

    I am so sick of these people. I think we should advance straight to the stage where we egg their tents; it would give them the added benefit of some food delivered straight to their heads.

    But I'm sure they'd be too self-righteous to even open their mouths.

  43. Statistician  

    There seems to be a lot of confusion about the Spectator poll, so maybe I can summarize:

    1. A poll of 106 people is more than large enough to have statistically significant results. It's fair to generalize from a sample to a population through the law of large numbers - traditionally, this is believed to be true as long as you have at least 29 respondents.

    2. We could report a confidence interval for the true population proportion because a binomial can be approximated by a normal distribution. Those conditions are met here too (with caveat in 3), but the Spec didn't do that, so never mind.

    3. Any generalizations only apply to the specific conditions of the sample unless the sample is completely random, representative, and unbiased. Each response has to be independent of the others.

    In short, this sample is large enough to hold true for the larger population if the survey were conducted perfectly. However, you should NEVER EVER trust a survey that does not report its methodology and take steps to analyze its degree of confidence (by reporting margin of error or a formal confidence interval). Previous posters are right that sampling bias, response bias, and even the wording of the questions make these results pretty much meaningless. Ultimately, they could have asked 500 or 1000 people and these responses still wouldn't be predictive.

    • Statistician  

      Clarification Re: part 1: The law of large numbers states that the sample is likely to approach the true population mean. The idea that you can use the sample average to generalize to the broader population, and the number 29 (though some studies suggest it should be higher, around 100) comes from the central limit theorem.

      • statdork

        actually, its Chebyshev's inequality that we get the weak law of large numbers, and you only need a few assumptions to prove the strong law. the central limit theorem doesnt really have anything to do with it.

        • yawn

          i think it's sad that i find the low-level flame war about statistical significance much more interesting than whatever the current complaint is. it's columbia, it's only a matter of time until we protest for the rights of bigots and for there to be a bigot-oriented ethnic studies option, just to be fair.

    • asdf  

      hahaha. i laughed out loud reading this.

  44. ESC  

    is a self appointed body, and is therefore less representative than CCSC and GSSC who have both issued statements of support.

    • Federal Judge  

      1) ESC e-board is not beholden to the whims of a fickle electorate, whereas CCSC is. In fact this isn't really an engineering issue at all.

      2) ESC represents students in SEAS, a professional school within Columbia University with its own faculty. Most of the strikers demands revolve around the Faculty of Arts and Science.

      3) They're scientists. They have a very different view of the University. In 1968 the science faculty had no idea what was going on. With the grad student strikes, the science grad students largely weren't involved in unionization efforts. Academically, it's a very different, largely apoliticized world.

      4) Spec poll is useless. Their methodology is rolm phone calls. That badly skews their potential sample.

      5) It's funny you say that ESC has balls, when it's led by Liz Strauss!

      6) To person who suggested that we should have elected representatives who stand for the whole student body discussing these issues- we ALREADY have elected reps. Academic Affairs reps and University Senators.

      7) You know what? I'm OK with adding an ethnic studies major and expanding individual disciplines within it. But for the last time already, tell me, where's the money coming from? Which department is contracting? Which department are you going to deny additional funding and space to make this happen? The best you're gonna get is a pledge from the university to develop alumni donors with a mind towards expanding ethnic studies. I resent the fact that you're demanding the University essentially stop funding MY department to start yours. What makes your discipline so much more important than mine?

      8) The reason we're not discussing all the demands is because the assertion of a causal relationship between Lit Hum and incidents of gross stupidity and immaturity is barely worthy of laughing at, let alone a serious rebuttal.

      • SEAS

        SEAS students take much of the Core too, you know. It's definitely still an engineering issue.

        "They're scientists. They have a very different view of the University."

        Oh, yes, everything looks so different through our beakers and test tubes. How could we possibly understand this clear-cut issue?

    • hah

      yeah funny thing about that huh... a non democratic institution (to an extent) protesting the protestors co-opting the democracy and self determination of the students

      • Fed up  

        Since when is direct democracy the only legitimate form of government? ESC is structured almost exactly the same way as the U.S. Congress: elected representatives choose their own leaders. It's called a REPUBLIC, idiots. Political development did not stop in Ancient Athens. Just as the House of REPRESENTATIVES chooses its Speaker, ESC chooses its Executive Board. Honestly. You can debate the merits of that, but stop acting like its some kind of autocracy that's not representative of the students' interests simply because it's republican instead of democratic. Jeez, it's like people think that anything that's not "democracy" must automatically be bad. Republics work quite well, actually, and given the degree of apathy at Columbia, it's no surprise we see a lot more efficiency from the "appointed" governing boards and councils.

        • Still fed up  

          Also, I'm in CC and couldn't care less how ESC is elected, but I'm sick of whining dumbasses who didn't pay attention to their Core readings or haven't taken a political science class.

          You ever wonder why no one suggests direct elections for the heads of SGB, ABC, IGB, etc.? It's because you actually need experience working with the administration and managing budgets and all that fun shit to do it, and the student body as a whole has no way to evaluate that, whereas current members of the boards do. It's the same reason you don't run for, say, Editor-in-Chief of the Blue & White without ever having been a part of the club, and the reason the current club's membership elects the Editor!

          Again, totally up for debate whether or not ESC requires the same degree of experience and whether or not the student body can evaluate that as well as the current board, but to suggest it's "undemocratic" as if that were a bad thing is to ignore the basic principles of representative democracy.

          • hahahahahahah  

            I'm tired of dumbasses who don't know how to evaluate an integral. Political Science, gosh that sounds soooo hard! Want to take my 20 credit SEAS courseload? By the way, I had the highest grade in my CC class even though I was a SEAS student. There is a reason there is a "Physics for Poets" class but not a "Humanities for Engineers" course--Engineers can do all kinds of work, you humanities fools are restricted.

          • meh  

            people please. this is not SEAS vs CC. this is rational people vs. Hunger Strikers.

            stay on topic.

          • history  

            No, I don't want to take your 20 credit SEAS courseload. That's why I'm not taking it. There's some perception that if you're good at math you have to do a lot of work in that area. Fucking whatever. I at least tied you on the Math-IIC and Physics SATs, and the Calculus and Physics APs, I just didn't want to go into engineering. Lots of CC students are the same way.

          • #94  

            WTF, dude. I wasn't talking about CC vs. SEAS. The point wasn't that Poli Sci is "hard" (which it's often not), but that people ought to have a basic understanding of political systems before they go around criticizing them. I wouldn't dream of starting a CC vs. SEAS debate anyway, because that'd be totally irrelevant. I know SEAS students who write like fourth graders and SEAS students who are smarter than I am. And I know CC students who can't figure out the tip at a restaurant and CC students majoring in math and physics and taking more points than you. Myself included.

          • meh  

            wtf dude. Obviously a SEAS student since you couldn't pick up on the sarcasm.

            "CC students majoring in math and physics and taking more points than you. Myself included."

            haha. Nice assumption, ass.

          • question  

            poster 102 said he was taking 20 points, and poster 111 said he had more than that. I don't understand how 111 missed sarcasm or made any assumptions.

        • Ditto  

          On how politics works in England. People elect the members of the party, the part elects its leaders. Currently, the Labour Party could elect at any point to change the Prime Minister if they so desire. Does this mean the British Government is illegitimate or non democratic?

  45. spec poll  

    Does the Spec only poll from computers on the campus network? For all we know this could be representative of 106 random people all over the world.

    However, when I voted in the poll yesterday night the numbers were something like 25% in support 55% against with 60-something responses. Not sure why there was such a large swing for support overnight.

    • Statistician  

      There are multiple polls -- the ones on the website are hugely skewed by selection bias because they aren't even random. The one in Tuesday's print edition at least has that going for it, sort of.

  46. not entirely correct  

    according to the esc constitution, only four voting positions on the ESC E-board are "appointed". the other 16 are elected by the engineering student body.

    i would imagine that issuing a statement a like this would require at least a majority, if not a supermajority, vote of approval by the council.

    • agree  

      I think the people appointed to positions were already elected in some previous election and are appointed by elected representatives, at least that's how I think it works. Seems representative of the student body to me.

  47. Anonymous

    I sent the following email to all of the relevant administrators this morning. Please send your own (or feel free to use mine verbatim), if you agree with it.

    Dear President Bollinger, Provost Brinkley, Deans Quigley and Colombo, Vice President Dirks, and Executive Vice President Griffith,

    I am writing to voice my personal objection to both the hunger-strikers tactics and goals. They do not represent the student body in any legitimate form: they were not elected as leaders of its student government, nor as leaders of any recognized campus organizations. As such, I do not feel that it is appropriate for the university's administration to be meeting with them, as the self-proclaimed representatives of a constituency that it, at best, divided regarding both their aims and their protest.

    While they claim to represent over a thousand people, based on the number of petition signatures they have gathered and the size of their supporters' group on Facebook, it should be noted that a majority of their supporters are unaffiliated with Columbia University. There is significant student opposition to the hunger strike, and some form of study or poll should be done to see how much of the student body actually agrees with the strikers before any further negotiations take place.

    In fact, the lone, non-scientific, poll that I am aware of on this issue, which was conducted by the Columbia Spectator, showed that 73% of respondents felt that negotiating with the strikers sets a bad precedent. The poll can be found at

    I truly hope that the strike ends soon, and that no more strikers require emergency medical attention, but I firmly believe that the administration should not proceed by negotiating with them, or capitulating to their demands.


    Michael Nadler
    Columbia College class of 2007

  48. me!  

    i threw blueberries at their tents last night.

  49. Bethmann-Hollweg  

    I'm impressed with the position of the ESC.

    On the other hand, CCSC's nebulous, vague, and ultimately pointless response to the entire affair was to be expected.

    But that said, I haven't actually read their response, nor would I ever show such support to such a broken, inept institution.

    This whole affair is comical. There are currently students perched around outside playing guitar. College!

  50. ...  

    It's all fine and dandy for ESC to make this statement but in a sense this will cause them to abdicate their role as a middle man.

    It is true that CCSC's statement was probably not the most cogent or direct statement but maybe that was done by design. It waffled on supporting the tactic of the hunger strike and it gave general support to some of the demands... It did not go as far as give a carte blanche endorsement of the strike as GSSC did...

    Taking such a posture on the part of CCSC allows it to remain a middle man between the admins and the hunger strikers and it doesn't lose the trust of either side...

    • but meaningless  

      ...and adds yet another statement to the long list of pointless statements that have been made by CCSC.

      if the student councils have been criticized for being weak on campus issues, how does issuing neutral statement after neutral statement change that?

      none of the student councils have been invited to facilitate any discussion involving the strikers, so what does it matter if they remain neutral?

  51. kamal  

    All hail Kamal Yechoor, president of ESC '11.

  52. fark

    fark just picked it up. if you thought bwog was snarky

    I love the colonial dude pictures

  53. Leo

    Oh no! They want more SAFE SPACES! BOO HOO! Do they know what it is they are demanding?

  54. Anonymous  

    liz strauss is amazing, and ESC hit the nail on the head. why cant the other councils have as much sense as they do? for all the grandstanding that goes on here, having one group speak with reason is really refreshing. bravo!

  55. #94  

    Also, I thought the ESC statement was fucking awesome and evidence of the fact that your council is doing a good job. So fuck off.

  56. Query  

    Speaking of workloads, does anyone know if the strikers are going to class or even attempting to fulfill their academic duties?

  57. slackers  

    to "Query": no. How could they have the strength, right?

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