We have received the tip that an Activities Board at Columbia (ABC) representative has raised concerns about possible bias in the board. The representative, via email, claims: “We are done sitting through meetings where our diverse voices are singular; Meetings where our culture is not respected; Meetings where our values are deemed insignificant; Where insensitive comments are rampant and all I can do is sit there calmly and listen.”
They then cite specific issues of friction, such as ABC’s claim that Manhattan House is supported by other indigenous groups (disregarding the considerable overlap of membership in these groups), the dismissal of the Black Students’ Organization’s bonding trip by one representative as relatively unimportant, and a lack of urgency in distributing funds and handling logistical matters (such as changing the name of Chicanx Caucus on LionLink). They also criticized the president’s comments on the University of Missouri, suggesting that the statement “student activism brings about change if you can rally voices” is dismissive of the events that led up to protests at that school. The essence of the email is that there is a “gulf of ignorance that lies between ABC and the cultural groups that exist” and that ABC does not support students of color.
The final demand is that racial diversity should be fostered through the creation of three new positions: (1) the Black Student Groups Representative, (2) the LatinX Student Group Representative, and (3) the Native American Student Group Representative.
ABC responded by allocating time to hearing similar concerns at their meeting on Wednesday, November 18, at 7:45 pm in the East Ramp Lounge in Lerner.
Update, 1:55 pm: The representative sent out an email to campus cultural groups urging them to meet on Sunday (yesterday) to “discuss our approach to this ABC meeting and Columbia at large.”
Dear Cultural Groups on campus,
You are first and foremost a cultural group, but by virtue of inhabiting a space that was not created for Students of Color, you are also political. After attempting to address these concerns with the Activities Board at Columbia, it is clear that our issues are insignificant to them (I have included my initial email to give all other cultural groups/allies context). Their failure to include an actionable item on the agenda is an indication of how little importance they grant our voices.
President Lee Bollinger’s response to the events that have occurred on other college campuses is nothing more than an intimidation tactic. His concise message is a clear way to attempt to shut down all feelings and all movements, but we, as students of color, we NEED to leverage this and make demands. Columbia’s commitment to “overcoming racism” is not real. After working on behalf of and representing ABC Black, Latinx, and Native students, I ask that we mobilize. He skipped offering support, being defensive, and went directly to attacking our actions and belittling our concerns. He has a reason to be afraid.
I ask to meet with your group’s leader and political chair on Sunday at 9pm in Casa Latina EC H504 to discuss our approach to this ABC meeting and Columbia at large. While this is an important meeting, if you cannot attend, I will host another meeting on Monday at 9:00pm in Casa Latina to go over minutes from the last meeting.
I have a preliminary list of demands but ask that your group draft a letter with your grievances and send it to me by tomorrow, Saturday at 9:00pm. The letter does not have to be long but long enough to show that we mean business. I will then compile all of our groups’ individual demands and draft a letter that we can discuss/edit/change Sunday evening to send to ABC and the Columbia Administration. It is imperative that you contribute as much as you can. Now is the time. Now is the time. NOW IS THE TIME.
Among some of the possible demands that you can include in your letter (that I have heard during my time as your representative) include:
The inclusion of a plaque/changing the name of a building on Morningside Heights Campus recognizing the land as Lenape Territory.
The creation of a Latinx student lounge, similar to BSO’s Malcolm X Lounge.
The creation of a Native student lounge, similar to BSO’s Malcolm X Lounge.
Stronger support for the Black community on campus (immediate response protocols).
Restructuring of student faculty complaints. Students should feel comfortable/safe reporting a professor for racial microaggressions/slurs/insensitivities etc.
Conversations on the school-to-prison pipeline, specifically how it affects men of color.
More support for LGBTQ Students of Color.
Support for women of color specifically under sexual violence support for women of color.
More women of color staff on SVR.
Greater mental health support for Student of Color with an increase in diverse psychologists and psychiatrists.
The expansion of the Office of Multicultural Affairs to include additional staff.
The creation of a Student Center for Students of Color on the Morningside Campus (not a living space like the IRC).
Including students of color (Black, Latinx and Native) in the conversation when allocating space on the Manhattanville Campus.
The expansion of ethnic studies to include all cultures: making stints of progress to include more cultures.
The restructuring of the Global Core [e.g. why is a class about immigration in the U.S. global core]
Reevaluating the Core to be inclusive of all people.
Increase in Faculty Diversity and the creation of a space for Faculty of Color
Cultural/Financial Understanding training for all administration and faculty.
Required Ethnic Studies distribution requirement, the Global Core is not all encompassing.
Greater financial support, accessibility, and transparency for first-generation, low-income students (More funding for Dean’s Student Assistance Fund).
Expanding ABC to include Black Student Group Representative, Latinx Student Group Representative, and Indigenous Student Group Representative and more representatives to increase diversity.
Greater racial diversity in Student Advising and Student Engagement, isolating all people of color on the OMA is not an effective way of instituting change.
The attacks on our identities will never stop. Our struggles will continue—unless we can work towards a better campus climate. This is a very small window of opportunity. Dialogues and discussions are not enough. Change will not happen unless we mobilize.
I remind you that self-care is most important. If you are unable to commit to this fight I encourage you to delegate to one of your members and have them contact me. We welcome any participating member of these groups to take initiative and join us at this meeting.