Written by Bwog Staff
Following the release of a joint statement on the agreed-upon academic concessions–posted after the jump, in all its wonky glory–the four remaining hunger strikers will start weaning themselves off not eating after a vigil and press conference, same time same place (9PM at the sundial).
Anything happen on Manhattanville? Nope.
The story on that will come out when we can pry it out of people.
UPDATE, 9:35 PM: According to Feditor Chas Carey, a “group of individual students” sent an open letter to the strikers, listing their grievances and questions, about a half an hour before the strike ended. Hey, it’s never too late to be friends!
In the first instance it needs to be recognized that the faculty are in charge of the academic curriculum through the standing departmental and interdepartmental committees. Administrators convene many of these meetings, we have been assured faculty wish to hear from you, and we have arranged for them to do so.
(i) CSER – IRAAS and related issues
As a result of regular meetings this fall between Claudio Lomnitz, Director of the Center for the Study of Ethnicity and Race (CSER) and Nicholas Dirks, Vice President for Arts and Sciences, and as part of ongoing meetings with concerned students about the future of Ethnic Studies that began in the spring of 2007, the following new investments have been made. First, a search committee for senior positions in Ethnic Studies has been authorized to recruit up to three senior faculty from its current interdepartmental search. These positions are incremental to the junior lines already allocated to CSER. Second, the recruitment of a scholar in Native American Studies has been authorized. Third, one senior hire in the field of African American studies is currently being conducted by IRAAS. Fourth, incremental resources have been committed both for programs directly conducted by CSER and for the development of a collaborative programmatic relationship between CSER and two other units: the Institute for Research in African American Studies (IRAAS), and the Institute for Research on Women and Gender (IRWAG).
Finally, we have committed to a review of CSER by the Academic Review Committee. This review will include in its mandate relationships between CSER, IRAAS, and IRWAG. Although student participation is a routine part of these academic reviews, we will ensure that student voices will play an especially important role in this review given the particular history of CSER as the outgrowth of student interests, concerns, and activism. The Ethnic Studies faculty have invited you to work immediately with them to formalize your participation in the long term academic review of the Center and in the hiring processes already underway. This review, along with the ongoing search, are precious opportunities to establish a consistent student input in the direction and governance of the CSER. Vice President Dirks has received the agreement of Claudio Lomnitz to move this process forward in the following way:
- Renewed participation of student representatives in the current search. They will have unprecedented input in the process and are invited to the next meeting of the search committee on December 4.
- A meeting with students and the leadership of the Center will be held early next semester to discuss the intellectual project guiding current changes, views of the future, and commitments to guarantee continuing student participation in the governance of the center.
- Academic review of the center.
- One student representative will sit on the committee that will draft the self-study of the center. This representative of the students will also guarantee the continuing consultation with students throughout the research and writing of the study. The ARC guidelines provide the basic structure of the items to be covered in that study (including current status of the program, plans for next five years, and areas where consensus has not been achieved). The review has been scheduled for the 2008-2009 academic year. This will allow the spring of 2008 for the production of the self study.
- After the self-study is delivered to the ARC, students will participate individually and collectively in the review through meetings with the Internal Review Subcommittee in Fall 2008.
- Students and faculty of CSER will advise ARC on the composition of the external review committee which will work and issue recommendations during the Spring of 2009.
- Students will participate in meetings with the Vice President of Arts and Sciences in Spring 2009 to discuss recommendations of the final ARC report. Since this report is confidential, ARC, CSER and the VP of Arts and Sciences will determine, in consultation with student representatives, which parts of the reports can be discussed in the community of the center.
- Students will then discuss with CSER faculty the implementation plan that will be the response to the final report.
- Students will participate in the monitoring process of the implementation plan from Fall 2009 through Spring 2011.
Major investments over the last three years, totaling now over $20 million, have been directed specifically to increasing the diversity of the faculty in the Arts and Sciences, and many of the faculty hired through this initiative have already begun to work closely with CSER, IRAAS, IRWAG, as well as with other units on campus that contribute broadly to the work and concerns of these units (including new programs in the Institute for Social and Economic Research and Policy (ISERP), and the re-opening and strengthening of the Institute for African Studies).
(ii) Core Curriculum
President Bollinger convened a major Task Force on Undergraduate Education in the autumn of 2006. The Task Force is made up of senior faculty and administrators along with student leaders, and has undertaken an extensive review of the entire undergraduate curriculum and experience. Four working committees have been established, on the structure of the curriculum, on the issues around teaching and learning in Columbia classrooms, on the challenges of globalization for the undergraduate experience, and on science. As part of this review, the Core curriculum is being re-examined, in particular the kinds of requirements it entails in relationship to majors and electives, the demands it makes on instruction, the relationship it has to a changing world, and the demands this world makes on what students should learn and encounter during their undergraduate years.
There is already widespread agreement that the Major Cultures component of the Core needs to be strengthened, bringing it into parity in terms of classroom size and curricular importance with other parts of the Core. At the same time, the Major Cultures section of the Core is also currently under review as part of the work of the Committee on the Core. Immediately after Vice President Dirks has received approval from the Task Force and the Committee on the Core, departments will be invited to submit new Major Cultures course proposals, and efforts will be initiated to secure the necessary funding. Though students already sit on these committees, further arrangements will be made to enable concerned students to address these committees and contribute to their deliberations. Specifically, to enable you to address your requests to faculty committees as soon as possible:
Your representatives were invited to yesterday’s meeting of the Committee on the Core so that your opinions could be heard;
Professor Grieve, chair of the Committee on the Core and the Committee on Major Cultures, has agreed to put on the agenda of the December meeting of the Committee on the Core discussion of your views on student participation in the committee’s work;
Vice President Dirks has received agreement from Professor Martha Howell, chair of the Working Group on Curricular Structure, that your representatives will address the next meeting of the committee, later this semester.
Last month, Dean Nair informed student leaders that a professional consultant has been engaged to assist the Office of Multicultural Affairs and the Division of Student Affairs to conduct a review of the OMA and its services. This consultant was involved with recent reviews of both the Center for Career Education and the Center for Student Advising. These reviews have resulted in the development of action plans to enhance student services, hire and train new staff, and establish the need for additional space.
The OMA review process will incorporate a wide range of student voices, including yours, along with those of alumni and staff. It will also include data already collected from multiple student surveys, program assessments, and strategic planning done by the staff of OMA. The review will result in an action plan for the further development of the office, and as soon as that is established, efforts will be begun to provide the funds needed to implement the plan.
In the light of your concerns, this review will be extended to incorporate consideration of the need for, and possible function of, a Multi-Cultural Affairs officer in Arts and Sciences. Dean Colombo has confirmed that the Office of Multi-Cultural Affairs is open to all undergraduates including those from General Studies.
Expansion plans for the Office of Multi-Cultural Affairs and the Inter-Cultural Resource Center continue to move forward, as students involved in the planning are aware. The Division of Student Affairs has been working closely with Columbia University Housing and Facilities to secure suite-style housing contiguous to the Intercultural Resource Center (IRC). We expect to announce by the end of the semester the exact location of the IRC extension, and the launch of an initiative to secure the necessary funding.
The annual orientation program for new faculty will incorporate more extensive discussion of diversity issues, incorporating perspectives that address the socio-historical legacies of power and privilege.
The Office of Public Safety has primary responsibility for responding to incidents of possible hate crimes. Among their responsibilities are: documentation of the incident, notification to the relevant deans, and, in the case of criminal acts, notification to the N.Y.P.D. for investigation. These protocols are discussed more fully in a pamphlet prepared by the Division of Student Affairs, titled, “Community Support: Responding to Acts of Bias and Hate.” Dean Colombo has confirmed that the Office of Public Safety has agreed to meet with students to discuss staff diversity education and training, as well as other issues of mutual concern. Every effort will be made to meet before the end of the semester.
Given the importance of these agreements and their multi-year implementation, an oversight committee of faculty, students, and alumni will be created to monitor their progress over the next five years. We hope we can all now agree that the points made above are consistent with the views and aspirations of the concerned students you represent, that they can serve to bring these discussions to a speedy conclusion, and that our students can return to their residence halls and classes.
LETTER TO THE STRIKERS FROM “A GROUP OF INDIVIDUAL STUDENTS”
To The Strikers:
We understand that you wish to meet privately with members of our group, off-the-record, to begin a conversation about our concerns regarding the strike.
At this juncture, private conversation is not a relevant or appropriate way of engaging with the greater community, since neither we nor any individual can claim to represent the general opinion of those who oppose your unilateral action. If we do engage in dialogue with you, we (or any of the 730 students who currently oppose the hunger strike) can only speak as individuals. The most effective way to engage in dialogue right now, in the absence of elected representatives, is in a public forum accessible to all, where each student can read and respond. Over the last five days, several students have repeatedly submitted questions and concerns to you, both electronically and verbally. We have yet to receive a public response on the record.
Until you provide a written, public response to our concerns, most notably as to the legitimacy of the strike, we do not think it appropriate to engage in private discussions with you. You have unilaterally taken steps to institute sweeping changes that impact every student at Columbia. The onus is on you to engage publicly with the student body such that all viewpoints can be fairly represented.
Private, off-the-record, discussions are inadequate for the following reasons:
- Many students are uncomfortable approaching you individually with their concerns, lest, given the current environment, they be accused of racism or cultural insensitivity.
- There is no guarantee of accountability for your statements, or that you will include our opinions in your discussion with the administration.
- Even if you do take into account the concerns of individuals who approach you, such individuals, in private conversation, have no legitimacy to represent the greater student body.
- Most importantly, it is impossible to disseminate the content of private discussion accurately in the public sphere.
To start this open and publicly accountable debate, we have attached a list of questions that have been previously posed to you in several formats. Please make your answers, the questions themselves, and this letter available on your website and/or any other public forums of your choice.
We were personally very disappointed by the disingenuous comments of Christina Chen to the Spectator indicating that we were uninterested in engaging in dialogue. We are fundamentally interested in engaging in dialogue. Indeed, this has been one of our primary concerns from the outset. The question is how that dialogue should take place. Only in the public arena, where all students can access and discuss all views while participating and holding all parties accountable, can we hope to make any meaningful progress.
We look forward to your swift response to these questions.
Thomas de Swardt
Timothy de Swardt
- How many Columbia students do not support your hunger strike? Can you provide any kind of quantitative data for this?
- Have you publicly acknowledged their dissent, and how will you reconcile yourselves with these individuals, if at all?
- Can you provide any kind of data about how many Columbia students support your hunger strike?
- If not, have you taken any measures to try and get this kind of information?
- Do you have evidence that your views are representative of the entire student body?
- If not, why do you feel that you have the right to impose your vision of Columbia onto those who may not agree with it?
- What gives you the right to negotiate with the administration on issues that will affect, at the very least, the entirety of Columbia College, if you are not certain that you have majority support?
- In your statement, you say that you “strike to re-imagine the university as a more democratic place….where students have a deciding say in this university.” If you have not taken steps to make sure that you are representing the opinion of the majority of students, this appears to be contradictory. How is your vision a democratic one if it is not representative? How do you respond to this apparent contradiction?
- Do you not think that your demands should be channeled through a student organization that is democratically elected?
- Have you created an atmosphere where all students can participate in discussion of your demands, equally and without fear? Why or why not?
- Have you marginalized students who may support some or all of your arguments but question your legitimacy and methods?
- If so, what actions have you taken to reconcile your methods with those mutually-shared opinions, if any?
- Prior to the hunger strike, had you exhausted all other options for furthering your demands? If so, provide concrete evidence and demonstrate what attempts you made to engage the greater student body in these efforts. Did you make clear that non-participation would result in a hunger strike?
- At which meeting was the decision made to go on a hunger strike? How many were present and how did the debate over appropriate action reach this final result?
- If concerned members of the Women’s Studies Department or the Human Rights Program went on a hunger strike demanding the reallocation of the $50 million set aside for a Major Cultures Seminar to their respective under-funded causes, would you support them? Why or why not?
- Returning to your commitment to “a more democratic place” for students, if your demand to allow more student voices on the Core Curriculum is implemented, and the majority of students still do not share your visions for the Core, what will you do?
- In a similar vein, you make the following demand: “Interested Ethnic Studies majors collectively, shown through a vote, must be given 1 or 2 votes (depending on committee size) which will be delivered by the current student positions on all hiring committees for junior and senior faculty to increase student presence and determination of CSER’s direction.” Is there any precedent for this in any other Columbia departments?
- Should this be something that is enacted across the board, or just in the Ethnic studies area? Why or why not?
- What kind of a precedent does a hunger strike set for those who have attempted to deal with these or similar issues in other ways?