CCSC considers how to address the academic impact of the graduate student strike on undergraduate students while not “crossing the picket line.”

This week’s CCSC meeting started with a continuation of Appointment Sessions—a forum in which members interested in joining CCSC as at-large representatives can speak before the general body to explain why they wish to be representatives and what they plan to do if appointed. The general body then deliberates and votes to appoint one candidate to the position. This week, two Columbia College students spoke before the general body, vying for the position of Race and Ethnicity Representative. CCSC will vote on the Race and Ethnicity Representative at the next meeting when the current representative holding that position, Kwolanne Felix (CC ’22)—who was not in attendance at this meeting—has read over the meeting notes and is present for the vote.

After appointment speeches, deliberation, and E-board and task force updates, President Rads Mehta (CC’ 22) presented the first item on this week’s agenda—regarding a Lit Hum dinner co-sponsorship proposal—and then passed the matter onto Academic Affairs Representative Josh Collier (CC’ 22). Collier explained that because of the virtual format of Lit Hum for both last year’s freshman and this year’s freshman (due to the ongoing graduate student worker’s strike), it has been difficult for students to form and maintain an academic community on campus. Collier disclosed that he asked the Core committee to evaluate what they might be able to provide to rectify this issue, especially for class sections that are on strike in which students are not seeing their classmates regularly. The Lit Hum Chair had ideas about having an open dinner space for current Lit Hum students to talk about Lit Hum in a less formal setting.

VP Krishna Menon (CC’22) then proposed a motion to discuss. Menon began the discussion by saying he believes that the strike has impacted undergraduate students academically, yet he doesn’t want students to feel pressured to go to this event (even though he still feels that it is a very exciting event). There were many follow-up questions from CCSC members about the nature of this proposal. Disability Services Representative Avi Adler (CC’24) wondered how this initiative would relate to sophomores who had Lit Hum online last year and are facing the possibility of not having CC because of the strike. Wesley Schmidt (CC’22) wondered if students would be encouraged to sit with their class section or to just mingle in general. In response, Rep. Collier stated that the goal is to just have a lot of people interacting with one another and that there is a possibility for splitting students up into smaller rooms. President Mehta shared that she thinks this initiative is particularly important because it can be hard for freshmen to not go to Lit Hum and see their peers twice a week, but that it is equally important to make sure CCSC is not crossing the picket line through this initiative. To clarify, she noted that she did not want to seem like they are trying to replace the labor of the striking graduate students. Collier responded that while he thinks this initiative is particularly important considering the strike, it’s not about replacing labor. He explained that instead, the main objective is for students to meet other Lit Hum students and teachers, not necessarily in an academic way that would undermine the strike.

Ultimately, CCSC members agreed that they should be in charge of advertising the event so that it will be clear that replacing graduate student labor is not the intention or expected result. Wesley Schmidt (CC ’22) then motioned to vote, and CCSC unanimously voted in favor of the LitHum dinner co-sponsorship proposal.
The second item on the agenda was thematically related to the first item, specifically related to the impact of the ongoing UAW-SWC strike. President Mehta shared that CCSC has been asked to brainstorm accommodations for the strike in light of the strike concluding its third week. Currently, there are talks that the grad students might have to hold all of the classes that they missed during the strike if they wish to get paid for classes missed once the strike is over, a form of “earning back” their wages. The other proposal would be to offer free classes online over the winter or summer break so that students could finish Lit Hum or UWriting. President Mehta admitted that this would not be an ideal situation because students would be asked to sacrifice extra time when they might have jobs or internships, especially during the summer.

Representative Schmidt then asked if anyone is currently at risk of not getting credit for the classes they were taking that have been halted by the strike and if that is the reason for these proposals. In response, President Mehta stated that students would ideally get credit, but grading is a separate issue, and if there were to be online classes, they would not be mandatory. Members such as VP Menon and Representative Schmidt agreed that although the situation is not ideal, winter break would make more sense to make up classes since people tend to work over the summer, and with the nature of a class like UWriting, you could immediately use your newfound knowledge during the following spring semester.

That being said, many members vocalized a host of issues with the proposal, including that neither break is ideal because when classes are held virtually, time zone becomes a problem. The new Class of 2023 Representative Nick Turrill (CC ’23) proposed the idea of grad students recording classes, which was well-received by the general body. Class of 2022 VP Arya Rao (CC’ 22) also noted that any solution would be unfair to undergrads who would have to make up for the lost time in the classroom. Rao additionally stated that if it is decided that recordings are the way to go, it would be important that the administration is not allowed to use those recordings against grad students in the future to replace labor. Gender and Sexuality Representative Adam Kluge (CC ’22) brought up that having grad students be responsible for creating this type of content (recorded classes) would undermine one of the central tenets of the strike—to disrupt typical University life by withholding labor in return for demands being met. President Mehta and VP Menon then both clarified that grad students would only be required to create this content if they wanted to earn wages back that they lost during the strike, but they have the option to opt-out of that offer.

The meeting ended with President Mehta agreeing that the scope of the issue is far-reaching and will vary from class section to class section and that ultimately, she agrees with VP Rao that any solution offered will likely be undesirable for undergrads. She concluded by saying that in addressing the issue, the focus needs to be on answering the following questions: “What do students want? What do we think students will do?”

See you next time!

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