The Student Governing Board’s Executive Board, representing approximately 100 campus groups, issued a statement yesterday discouraging the use of the Faculty House until appropriate negotiations with workers have been made. Last week the Student-Worker Solidarity coalition braved the elements to rally for their cause of “economic justice” for local workers, particularly now for Faculty House workers’ living wage, though they were concerned with this cause as far back as December, too. SGB Chair David Fine said that the E-Board does not usually hold events in the house, so the move is mostly symbolic—individual student groups might have used the space, however. Here’s the statement.
The Executive Board of the Student Governing Board of Columbia University (SGB) has voted to officially discourage our groups from reserving space at Columbia’s Faculty House venue until the University resolves its ongoing labor disputes with a significant portion of Faculty House workers, effective immediately. Though groups are technically able to continue using the space as a venue for their events, we discourage them from doing so because the treatment of the workers at Faculty House fails to uphold the standards we expect from the entire Columbia community.
The mission of the Student Governing Board is to represent and serve the needs of Columbia University student organizations whose concerns are religious, spiritual, political, ideological, activist, humanitarian, or identity-conscious in nature. Established on January 10, 1969, the Student Governing Board is dedicated to the principle of community self-government, and believes that students’ needs are best evoked, defined and articulated by the students themselves. In order to accomplish this, the Executive Board of the Student Governing Board oversees and provides support to its student organizations. In addition, the Executive Board of the Student Governing Board works closely with the Division of Student Affairs, College Activities Office, Office of the University Chaplain and SGB student organizations to create a dynamic sense of community that is widely recognized within the Columbia student body by facilitating multi-faith, inter-group and community building programming and dialogue. Today, SGB represents more than 100 student groups on Columbia’s campus.
We believe that Faculty House’s treatment of its workers does not contribute positively to that “dynamic sense of community” which we hold dear. Though we recognize that Faculty House, like any other business, must earn a profit, it is also contingent on them as members of the Columbia community to treat their workers fairly and ensure they are paid properly. The Faculty House is not cultivating a better community by mistreating its workers. It is our mission to maintain and promote an atmosphere where students, workers, and faculty can all come together to create the dynamic Community that makes Columbia great. Unfortunately, the Faculty House fails to live up to that ideal. We discourage our groups from using the Faculty House for any events until the dispute is settled, and we will hold no SGB Executive Board events there as well.
According to statistics provided by the Student-Worker Solidarity coalition, there have been little or no pay increase over the last two contracts signed by workers, the university fails to pay a living wage to many workers, the Faculty House charges a mandatory 22% service charge for its food and catering services but workers never receive any part of that money, and many Faculty House employees work 80-hour weeks to support their families. The University does attempt to provide assistance for some of these issues, offering jobs at Columbia Catering during the summer, and benefits to part-time workers (who often work 40 hours a week), but it is clear the University is not doing enough to provide Faculty House employees with a fair pay and a proper work environment. The University is currently in negotiations with workers to address these issues, and we hope that both sides come to a fair compromise as soon as possible.
The Executive Board of the Student Governing Board represents a community with a plurality of opinions. This statement does not necessarily reflect each opinion of our groups, but rather a decision made by the SGB Executive Board. It is our strong belief that at a university with an over $8 billion endowment, and a motto that states, “In thy light shall we see light,” we should spread light to those closest to us first and foremost.
David Fine, Chair
Maryam Aziz, Vice Chair
Maliha Tariq, Treasurer
Rakhi Agrawal, Secretary
David Offit, Representative-at-Large
Nita Ponnaganti, Representative-at-Large
Fatima Diallo, Representative-at-Large
Raj Gupta, Representative-at-Large
Abdul Hanif, Representative-at-Large
Adam Wilson, Representative-at-Large
SWS supporters via Student-Worker Solidarity Tumblr