Barnard College faculty and students are demanding change for the wellbeing of the college community.

Barnard College faculty and students are demanding change for the well-being of the college community.

This week’s SGA meeting focused on negotiations between the faculty union and administration with the strike deadline fast-approaching. Promotion of student health and the creation of new programs have been proposed with an emphasis on using preexisting resources that Columbia is currently underutilizing. 

At last night’s SGA Rep Council meeting, our Barnard student leaders showed us what commitment looks like, with close to two hours of guests, discussions, debates, and projector malfunctions. Though last week’s meeting was disbanded before it began because not enough members showed up to reach a voting quorum, there was nothing stopping these Barnard bosses from pushing through their agenda.

SGA began with a presentation and discussion with members of the BCF-UAW bargaining committee. Georgette Fleischer and Sonam Singh of the English department; Siobhan Burke, Dance; and Maida Rosenstein, president of the UAW 2110 which represents the contingent faculty union sat down to discuss their current negotiations with Barnard’s administration and their plans for the future. The union set a strike deadline of February 21st, and a strike will happen if they cannot reach an agreement before that date. Currently, the union and the administration are far from agreements about wages. The visiting faculty noted that their current proposal, has gone down more than fifty percent from their original ask last spring.

“We’ve moved from equity, but we’re not going to move from livability,” said Singh. “The numbers that the administration are offering are poverty.”

They also discussed their demand for access to health care plans. Currently, adjunct faculty, many of whom are considered part-time employees by the college, aren’t offered any form of health care plan or support from Barnard. In a recent negotiation, the administration offered that adjunct faculty be allowed to buy into Barnard’s current health plan. This is a significant concession, though the union members noted that they feel it is unreasonable, as this plan is still too expensive for most adjunct faculty to buy in to with no subsidy from the college.

“It’s an offer, but also a slap in the face,” said Singh.

The bargaining committee members also pushed back against the explanations given by the administration for the proposal, which Provost Bell presented to SGA a few weeks ago. Bell had explained that Barnard’s offer aligns and even exceeds contracts in similar schools. The UAW-BCF doesn’t see this as a particularly valid excuse–it’s still “exploitation,” in the union’s opinion, and Barnard’s offer, which is “just exploiting adjuncts ten percent less”– is unacceptable.

Additionally, they argued against the administration’s tendency to frame the negotiations in terms of cost, instead of values.They noted that if an agreement is not reached and a strike does happen, it would cause a lot of disruption for students and other faculty. The union members expressed wishes that an agreement will be reached before the strike deadline, but did not seem hopeful.

SGA then heard a presentation by Sarah Katz Hirth, University Senator, who was joined by Sean Ryan, the University Senator for Columbia College about plans to promote mental health and wellness on campus. Noting recent student deaths, the USenators discussed plans for prevention and intervention on campus. Columbia has a lot of resources, they pointed out, but they are underutilized. USenate’s student affairs committee hopes to implement new programs and expand existing ones to better serve the university community. Notably, Ryan opined that Barnard’s community is more positive than those in the other undergraduate schools. Thanks, Sean! One of SAC’s initiative is a coordinating group that includes members of the University’s administration as well as mental health professionals from Columbia Medical Center.

Because two important issues weren’t enough for one night, SGA also welcomed GSSC president Julian LaRosa along with GSSC member Raisa Flor to discuss a proposal to extend SGA funding of the GSSC food bank. SGA had previously provided funding to cover the cost of Barnard students use of the food bank over winter bank. The Rep Council voted unanimously in favor of approving the proposal.

After these three discussions, things got a bit weird. Announcements were made about the Being Barnard Leaders program and the need for SGA members to sign up (they haven’t yet). Then, Election Committee members Jess Reich and Sarah Kim presented the prospective dates for SGA election proceedings this spring. This proved to be the most contentious topic of the night, as heated debate broke out over whether the candidate forum should be on a Sunday or a weeknight. A vote was called and then mostly ignored as discussion continued. Hopefully, an update on this vital issue will be announced shortly.

Barnard College via Truth, Praise and Help