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Concerns About ABC Bias Raised By One Representative

Tricky tricky

Tricky tricky

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.

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29 Comments

  • Anonymous says:

    @Anonymous The ABC meeting dedicated to discussing this is actually this coming Wednesday, November 18, 2015 at 7:45 pm.

  • Sorry but that's racist says:

    @Sorry but that's racist You can’t create racial quotas for ABC leadership in the form of racial “representatives”. Ol’ PrezBo can tell us very easily that the SCOTUS made clear that quotas are unconstitutional in Gratz v. Bollinger.

    1. Then change the system... says:

      @Then change the system... …because they already exist. Per the ABC website:

      http://abc-columbia.squarespace.com/current-groups/

      1 BLACK, LATINO, AND NATIVE AMERICAN REP (Speaks for 14 Orgs)
      1 EUROPEAN AND MIDDLE EASTERN REP (Speaks for 10 Orgs)
      1 EAST ASIAN REP (Speaks for 8 Orgs)
      1 SOUTH ASIAN, SOUTHEAST ASIAN, AND PACIFIC ISLANDER REP (Speaks for 9 Orgs)

      Each have 1 vote.

      Demanding appropriate representation on a board that is SUPPOSED to adequately represent and finance the organizations on campus doesn’t sound too radical to me.

    2. Ummm... says:

      @Ummm... You might want to read up on the ABC structure then, buddy, because this ‘racial quota’ already exists. The issue at hand is that in its current format, it’s heavily biased toward certain groups.

      The ABC website:
      http://abc-columbia.squarespace.com/current-groups/

      The 4 existing cultural reps:

      EAST ASIAN REP (8 Orgs)
      SOUTH ASIAN, SOUTHEAST ASIAN, AND PACIFIC ISLANDER REP (9 Orgs)
      EUROPEAN AND MIDDLE EASTERN REP (10 Orgs)
      BLACK, LATINO, AND NATIVE AMERICAN REP (14 Orgs)

      Each rep gets only 1 vote.

      Demanding appropriate representation on a board that is SUPPOSED to adequately represent and finance the organizations on campus doesn’t sound too radical to me.

    3. Well... says:

      @Well... Then you also have a problem with the system in place. This ‘racial quota’ already exists, and the arbitrary groupings that ABC enforces give disproportionate voting power to some at the expense of others.

      An East Asian Rep that represents 8 orgs. A Latinx/Black/Native American Rep that represents 14 orgs. A European/Middle Eastern Rep that represents 9 orgs, etc

      And each rep only has 1 vote. So…adequate representation isn’t really there, is it. Heck, the entire concept of having cultural groups compete against each other for funds, even more against performance groups, is flawed.

  • advice says:

    @advice There are already schools where non-White students get de jure, automatic power privileges and racial quota-regulated leadership roles: they’re called historically black universities like Howard. Columbia, like most 21st century schools, is administratively blind to race once the admissions cycle ends. You don’t get automatic authoritative positions over others and their tuition dollars on the basis of your race here.

  • Thomas says:

    @Thomas Oh look more bitching about nothing from people who do nothing but bitch all day about everything.

  • Wait so... says:

    @Wait so... “Expanding ABC to include Black Student Group Representative, Latinx Student Group Representative, and Indigenous Student Group Representative ”

    So Asian groups don’t get representation?

    1. Gotcha covered: says:

      @Gotcha covered: EAST ASIAN:
      -Asian American Alliance
      -Asian/Pacific American Heritage Month
      -Chinese Students Club
      -Columbia Japan Society
      -Global China Connection
      -Hong Kong Students & Scholars Society
      -Korean Students Assoc
      -Taiwanese American Students Association

      SOUTH ASIAN, SOUTHEAST ASIAN, AND PACIFIC ISLANDER
      -Club Bangla
      -Club Zamana
      -Liga Filipina
      -Malama Hawaii
      -Organization of Pakistani Students
      -Singapore Student Association
      -South East Asian League
      -Thai Club
      -Vietnamese Student Association

      Better?

      1. Wait so... says:

        @Wait so... Those are just groups recognized. They are asking for designated (i.e. quotas) by race on the board!

        1. Actually says:

          @Actually I concede, fair point. I’d get on that, like, yesterday.

          (I mean, I _think_ I may have seen some Asian-ethnic students around campus. /s)

        2. So wait says:

          @So wait Wut? No, those are the reps that already exist.
          1) East Asian Rep (8 orgs)
          2) SOUTH ASIAN, SOUTHEAST ASIAN, AND PACIFIC ISLANDER Rep (9 orgs)
          3) Black/Latinx/Native American Rep (14 orgs)

          The issue is that 14 organizations, from 3 different communities (Native American, Black, Latinx), each of which is already a lumped category with several identities blanketed under it, are being group together to only have 1 Representative (1 Vote/1 Voice) on the ABC Board.

          1. So wait wait so so wait... says:

            @So wait wait so so wait... Conceded the point. If I were a member of an Asian student group on campus, I would be on it as well.

            (For those not used to seeing this: The above was admitting an error and changing position as a result of a better understanding of existing data.)

    2. Um says:

      @Um Who cares about the minutiae of which races? The problem is that they’re trying to set aside voting council membership spots for individuals of certain races. It’s literally no different than if each class year elected both a White Students Class President and a Black Students Class President, etc.

      Welcome to Jim Crow 2015 Edition, folks!

      1. Anonymous says:

        @Anonymous No. Before you comment read carefully. There are multiple groups that fall under the “Black” category, under the “Latinx” category, and “Native” category. We are setting voting council membership as groups that fall under those categories. Each rep represents various groups on campus. By expanding the representation you are giving Black student groups a voice, Latinx student groups a voice, and Native student groups a voice.

        1. Thomas says:

          @Thomas So if you slightly, but not substantively reframe it as “giving black students a voice on campus” that makes what he said untrue?
          No. Before you comment read carefully.
          This is literally what it would do. People like you are…foolish to say the least.

  • wait.... says:

    @wait.... I do want to chime in here and say that there is no “they.” The representative sent out this email and asked to open up the discussion and made that demand (as an individual). There is no reason for everyone to vilify students of color on this campus for a rep’s suggestion. Perhaps going to this discussion and proposing a way to improve ABC’s relationship with student groups of color would be a more productive use of time.

  • sigh says:

    @sigh The context here is that the groups in question requested a completely ridiculous amount of money, which was going to be used entirely for internal (for members-only) programming. We’re talking thousands and thousands of dollars.

    ABC told them no, that’s ridiculous, we can’t in good conscience give the 20ish active members of one group $8,000+ in student life fees to just spend on themselves.

    The groups were unhappy with that answer, so they are accusing ABC of racism, and trying to exploit the current events to get disproportionate voting representation on the ABC board in order to vote themselves all the money. The irony is that there are only 2 non-poc on the entire ABC board currently.

    1. Thomas says:

      @Thomas Disgusting, but not surprising given how these people seem to think they control the campus now and are entitled to whatever they want.

      1. Jesús says:

        @Jesús Really… I’d urge you to watch your language and be careful how you refer to our communities. “These people,” also pay to go here and have a right to decide what to do with their funds. They too are Columbia. The only disgusting thing is your complete dismissal of the concerns raised. Check yourself before you wreck yourself.

      2. Anonymous says:

        @Anonymous “These people” are Columbia students. (I could add ‘…just like you’, but c’mon. Sans crown, there’s no way of verifying that.) Their acceptance letters weren’t a prize in a giveaway. These are peers. It’s important to acknowledge your peers _as_ peers, even if you think they’re full of it.

        Anyway. If they _do_ feel over-entitled… has there never been such a thing as an entitled-feeling Ivy League student before?

        (I would consider the idea that an institution you didn’t found was ‘yours’, and that people who showed up about when you did were somehow ‘taking it away from you’ to be pretty damned entitled, for example.)

  • Anon says:

    @Anon ‘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.”

    Did they read Prezbo’s email…?

    1. Anon says:

      @Anon And by “they” I mean “this person.” Also… “The restructuring of the Global Core [e.g. why is a class about immigration in the U.S. global core]”

      Changing 1 class = “restructuring”? I’m curious what a larger proposal would look like.

  • Anonymous says:

    @Anonymous Not sure why black students are trying to recreate segregation. Columbia is a race blind school for clubs. Get used to it.

  • Confused says:

    @Confused Can we also just talk about the logistics of this for a second? The ABC categories were originally created for there to be equal division of labor for the representatives. There are 14 groups in the Black, Latino, and Native American Group category, which is average for ABC. If the category were to be split into 3, how would that be fair to other groups? From a quick skim of the ABC website, there’s something like 17 groups in the Media category and 16 groups in the Music category, for example. The result of splitting the category in question would mean groups would have unequal representation and some representatives in ABC would have much more work to do, which does not seem fair at all. Hello?

    1. Anonymous says:

      @Anonymous Well then what do you propose? Clearly equal division of labor is not a fair way of distributing votes on a governing board…. just saying…

    2. So... says:

      @So... How does that explain the East Asian rep (and that he only has 7 orgs)? How does that address the way these categorizations and arbitrary groupings are giving some communities 1/14 of a vote and less of a voice.

  • Out the rep says:

    @Out the rep He’s already on the ABC website. Why not include his name?

  • Thomas Arbuckle II, ABC Performance Representative says:

    @Thomas Arbuckle II, ABC Performance Representative Just for clarification, since I have been asked about this numerous times, the Thomas above is not me. Thank you.

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