Poor, misunderstood Columbia. No one seems to get the story straight–not even campus media sometimes–and the Hunger Strike of Fall 2007 was no exception. We’ve compiled what we’re sure is a woefully incomplete list of inaccuracies.

truth\We’ll let Columbia Assistant Vice President for Public Affairs La-Verna Fountain explain what was wrong with the bit about the $50 million for Major Cultures figure in a Nov. 16 New York Sun article, in a statement she released to CB9 Chairman Jordi Reyes-Montblanc, posted after the jump.

“The Sun has informed us they intend to run some kind of correction of this inaccurate story, but for reasons known only to them have decided to wait to publish this in their next edition on Monday. We look forward to seeing it,” she wrote snippily.

While they’re correcting, the Sun might want to note that Emilie Rosenblatt is a senior, not a junior, and that the striker who dropped out is named Aretha, not Victoria.

Besides being generally noxious, the New York Post had a similar problem with the $50 million number:

“Columbia agreed to raise $50 million to beef up ethnic studies and expand programs for multicultural students, strike organizers said, but refused to budge on the protesters’ biggest demand – killing the school’s proposed expansion into Harlem…Columbia’s concession will expand the school’s multicultural student center and expand the required freshman ethnic-studies class from a several hundred-student lecture to small seminar groups.”

Also, the strikers didn’t directly want to kill the expansion plan, just withdraw it for revision. And the “freshman ethnic studies class” is neither a freshman nor an ethnic studies class. Too bad it’s already reached the right-wing masses!

From the world of possibly less legitimate media: the Workers World isn’t factually inaccurate, it just reads like it was translated from another language.

Over at Spectator, it’s fair to point out that Bryan Mercer’s statement:

“When the administration told me I had to stop [the strike] because of my health, I was totally unwilling,” Bryan Mercer, CC ’07, said. “Hearing from the community their concerns and seeing the administration make no move forward on the expansion demands meant that it made a lot of sense to move onto new tactics.”

…is somewhat misleading, considering that Chairman Reyes-Montblanc sent strike organizer Andrew Lyubarsky an e-mail (reprinted on the CB9 blog) on the day the strike started asking them to not go forward with their “extreme” action. Conveniently, Reyes-Montblanc reissued his request eleven days later, right before the strike ended–as did the Coalition to Preserve Community, which itself had asked for the strike to stop five days previously.

On this article, there’s a debate about how many students in fact gathered at the anti-strike rally a few days ago. Protests from the anti-strike organizers did result in one of the better corrections Spec‘s done in a while, though.

Finally, in a more enigmatic slip, we think the source of the following quote may not actually exist:

“It’s too cold for a hunger strike,” Lenger added. “When Gandhi was doing hunger strikes, he was doing it in a balmy, sub-tropical area. … Unless we can see your ribs sticking out, then it’s, really, in a PR perspective, sub-optimum.”

A people search for Mark Lenger, SEAS ’09, turns up no results. But this phantom student has now showed up on Huffington Post and Ivygate, and potentially elsewhere. Could Spec have been fleeced again?



Statement by University spokeswoman regarding the New York Sun article:

“The New York Sun story erroneously reports that, after faculty approval, the strike could cost the University $50 million in spending to pay for a restructuring of the College’s core curriculum that would add faculty for enhancement to the Major Cultures component of the core and other initiatives.

Apparently based on an earlier inaccurate story in the Spectator, The Sun’s story mistakenly confuses $50 million of endowment funds that could be raised in the current capital campaign for undergraduate education (a $865 million goal) with new “spending” resulting from conversations between administrators and the striking students. But faculty committees on undergraduate education have already been planning such enhancements to the Core as part of the effort to add greater global perspective to the curriculum. In all events, any potential “spending” here is a small fraction of this hypothetical $50 million and is not the direct result of the student strike. It also has not even been decided whether such Core enhancements, if actually approved, would be funded through endowment income or other sources.

The Sun has informed us they intend to run some kind of correction of this inaccurate story, but for reasons known only to them have decided to wait to publish this in their next edition on Monday. We look forward to seeing it.”

Request from Community Board 9 chairman that the strike not go forward

Date: Wed, 7 Nov 2007 13:21:10 -0800 (PST)

From: “J Reyes-Montblanc”

Subject: Re: Student Hunger Strike at Columbia

To: “Andrew Lyubarsky”

CC: “Patricia Jones” , “Rev. Earl Kooperkamp” , “Sarah Martin” , “Tom DeMott” bfrappy24@aol.com

Although I am most grateful for the support your group is giving our 197-a Plan I must try to dissuade you from this step at this time. Such actions as you propose are extreme and should be considered only as a last resort. I am not convinced that we have reached such a point in time in the ongoing [ULURP] negotiations.

There are many other protest means available to you and the community at this time before such drastic measures are needed.I beseech you to reconsider and to exlore other effective and headline grabbing means of protest.I will be away for 3 weeks, y’all should to attend the next Manhattanville Rezoning Task Force Mtg and hear the up dates and results of the City Planning Commission decisions on both the 197-a and CU’s 197-c Plans.