Written by Bwog Staff
Low Plaza became a peaceful battlefield this evening as a sizeable crowd of people convened by means of the now 700-member facebook group “We do NOT support the hunger strikers” gathered by Alma Mater just half an hour before the strikers’ nightly vigil at the sundial. Formally, the group stood there for only about 20 minutes, carrying signs with such ironic slogans as “I AM BEING SILENCED.” By and large, those Bwog talked to didn’t have problems with the specific demands themselves, but rather the methods used to achieve them. Also, many of them hadn’t ever been to protests before–but then there they were, standing awkwardly in the cold.
Speaking to the group, organizer Josh Mathew, CC ’09, said: “I feel that in general what’s brought us together is that we haven’t had a voice, and we’d like to have a voice now. We’d like people to know that our presence exists, and we exist outside a facebook group.” Aga Sablinska, CC ’09 and creator of the Facebook group, stood watching.
Earlier this afternoon, members of the strike support team had e-mailed Mathew and Sablinska suggesting that the anti-strike gathering become “a space on Low Plaza for students to engage in open and constructive conversations.” Because of the logistical difficulty of making a collective decision to change the nature of the event, the anti-strikers went on as planned.
Bwog noticed a few Columbia boldface names in attendance, including Hillel President Josh Rosner, Chris Kulawik (no introduction needed), and former Dems president Mike Nadler, CC ’07, who currently works for Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer and who opposes the strike.
“Regardless of the value of the demands, I just don’t believe this is how you go about achieving those aims,” he said, noting that none of the strikers tried running for any representative Student Government post. “Those are the people who have the legitimacy to speak on the students’ behalf.”
But it wasn’t all a late night tea party. A ghostly Professor Dalton materialized as Bwog heard one student calling the strikers “idiots.”
“I’m Dennis Dalton, and I haven’t eaten in seven days,” he said. “Am I an idiot?”
“Yeah, I’d say they’re idiots,” said Paul Stamm, GS ’08.
“I’ve been here for 39 years and never been called an idiot.”
“Well, there’s a first time for everything.”
The discussion, which had grown to a circle of male students around Dalton, proceeded more civilly. Meanwhile, the action had shifted to the Sundial, with the now-familiar succession of speeches and negotiation updates. Representatives from Take Back the Night read a follow-up statement of support, and asked everyone present to take a moment of silence to “think about what makes you feel safe.”
The formally off-the-record expansion meeting this afternoon, Bwog was told, did not go well. “Nothing of substance was offered,” said negotiator Andrew Lyubarsky, CC ’09. “The response was completely unsatisfactory.” The strike committee had tried again to move forward on their six main points–to which the administration responded in writing–and added two more: that the University establish a committee of faculty members to oversee planning for the new campus, and that the currently planned biotech level three facility not be elevated to level four. Executive Vice President Maxine Griffith conceded this last point, which has never really been in question.
The strike negotiation team has posted their account of the meeting here.
Hunger striker Victoria Ruiz, CC ’09, on her tenth day without food, had harsh words for the bureaucrat. “Maxine Griffith said she had a really happy feeling about this meeting,” Ruiz told the candle-holding crowd of about 30. “The only reason she said that is because she thinks that she silenced us, that the negotiations are over. But this is the beginning.”
At the end of the vigil, seven strikers and supporters joined hands, leading the same call-and-response chant they had used at last night’s heady events, the crowd yelling back in a noise that echoed. “It is our duty to fight! It is our duty to win! We must love each other and protect each other. We have nothing to lose but our chains.”
That last part was muddled; a few people said “fear” instead. On the second recitation, everyone did.
Tags: hunger strike