Thursday, November 15, 2007

The Columbia Strike Continues

Words from the Negotiation Team: 11/15/07

We are pleased to announce that after a day of great adversity, we have emerged with significant victories on many of our demands and a clear vision of what student power can accomplish. What began with administration threats to cut off all further negotiations and an ultimatum to end the strike by midnight ended with explicit concessions on the Core Curriculum, administrative reform, and support for ethnic studies. The struggle continues unabated around issues surrounding the university's expansion into West Harlem, which has as of yet not been addressed in a substantive fashion.

Hundreds of students packed the campus in a peaceful but boisterous demonstration that decried the university's decision to cut off civil negotiations and resort to threats of force, rallying around Hamilton Hall where administrative deliberations were taking place. As public safety guarded the doors to the building, students and community leaders demanded that the administration continue the negotiation until all issues were satisfactorily addressed. The crowd swelled in size and a continuing lack of communication with administration sources threatened to escalate the situation. Finally, we received communication from the administration that the hunger strike would continue undisturbed, that specific commitments on funding for the transition of Major Cultures to a seminar format and the expansion of the Office of Multicultural Affairs were made, that disciplinary penalties on hunger strikers would not be levied, and that negotiations for the expansion would continue.

As these victories were announced to the assembled crowd, sentiment changed from anger to elation. Scores of people remained at the Sundial discussing the advances of the evening and the necessary steps to follow. While students rejoiced in their triumph, they remained fully aware that much work is left to be done in negotiations on the expansion plan.

As the hunger strike enters its ninth day, students' resolve remains firm on the expansion demands. While the fundamental demand remains that Columbia respect the democratic voice of Community Board 9 and withdraw its 197-c plan to rezone Manhattanville, we have presented six points to Executive Vice President Maxine Griffith which represent a reasonable progression to the negotiation process. To date, we have received no response and no commitment from the administration.

Significant advances have been made, but much remains to be resolved until students return to their daily lives. The victories of the day show what power students organizing for justice can have. Today more than ever, the struggle continues.

- The Strike Committee

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