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November 30, 2023

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First week ends for hunger strike

NEW YORK – Protesters rebuffed an attempt by administrators to reach out to the hunger strikers Monday night as the demonstrations closed in on the end of their first week.

For the first time on Monday, administrators held a meeting about the substance of the hunger strikers’ protest. The strikers articulate demands that participants say have existed for years, including diversification of the Core Curriculum and an expansion of ethnic studies and multicultural resources.

In a statement to the hunger strikers, later released publicly, Austin Quigley, dean of Columbia College, and Nicholas Dirks, vice president for Arts and Sciences, directly addressed the strikers’ demands. The statement primarily touted efforts that the university was already making in areas of concern to the striking students, such as citing $20 million in investments currently being made in the Center for the Study of Ethnicity and Race as a result of meetings with students that have taken place since the spring.

In the statement and elsewhere, administrators stressed their desire to see a quick end to the strike.

“I certainly don’t want these meeting to drag on with long intervals between them, because we have students out there who are starving themselves,” Provost Alan Brinkley said.

Strikers reacted coolly to the meetings. While noting that the statement marked “advancements … that address critical issues of critical reforms,” Ryan Fukumori, a negotiator for the hunger strikers, said, “Basically, they haven’t conceded anything yet.”

He added, “They argue that things need to be prolonged when the very fact is that people are starving on South Lawn.”

In response to student demands for 12 new professors in both the Center for the Study of Ethnicity and Race and the Institute for Research in African American Studies over the next several years, Quigley and Dirks stated the University was pursuing three faculty hires in CSER and one in IRAAS.

Regarding proposed changes to the Core Curriculum, administrators invited negotiators to attend yesterday’s meeting of the Committee on the Core but stressed that “the faculty are in charge of the academic curriculum.”

Strikers have also demanded an expansion of the Office of Multicultural Affairs. The University has hired an outside consulting firm to conduct “a review of OMA and its services” in which “a wide range of student voices” will be incorporated.

“The administration’s offers echoed conciliatory language of past negotiations that often failed to resolve the crux of students’ grievances,” representatives for the ad-hoc coalition of which the hunger strikers are a part said in a statement Monday night. “Students will continue to meet daily with administrators until a compromise on the demands is reached.”

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