Friday, November 9, 2007

In solidarity....

Update: According to the Columbia Specter, four more students are expected to join the hunger strike:

From Bloomburg (best article, but the story is in multiple places):
Five Columbia University students began the second day of a hunger strike to protest the New York school's expansion into a neighboring area and administrators' response to hate incidents.

The action comes one month after a hangman's noose was found on the office door of a professor at Columbia's Teachers College. It also occurs in advance of a City Planning Commission decision due this month on the university's rezoning proposal, which would allow for the estimated $6 billion expansion by the school into a West Harlem section called Manhattanville.

The protesters are demanding more involvement by students and Manhattanville residents in shaping Columbia's plan to expand during the next two decades. For starters, they say they want the school to withdraw the rezoning bid and rethink matters such as housing costs. The current proposal would displace an estimated 5,000 people, the students say.

``The expansion can occur but needs to be ethical and needs to have respect for the community we are a part of,'' said hunger striker Emilie Rosenblatt, a senior at Columbia College, the main undergraduate arm of the university.

The hunger strikers' demands also include an update to the core curriculum to highlight racial and cultural issues; more support for multicultural programs; and issuance of an annual report on ``hate crimes'' at the school.

The five strikers, set up in three tents on the south lawn of the main Morningside Heights campus, are being supported by a team of about 25 students. These aides work in shifts to make sure the strikers have emotional support and are drinking enough fluids to lower health risks. The university's medical staff is performing checks on the strikers' vital signs and will conduct blood and urine tests once every two days.

`Prepared to Stay'

Rosenblatt said she was disappointed in what she called the lack of any response from University President Lee Bollinger.

``We're prepared to stay as long as necessary through the Thanksgiving holiday, but we're hoping the university doesn't let it come to that point,'' Rosenblatt said.

The strikers are holding nightly vigils on campus at 9 p.m. About 70 students attended last evening's vigil. The 25 aides are organizing a march inside the campus to take place on Nov. 10.

``We are planning a community rally to show solidarity to the strikers and express support for the demands they make to show this is not an issue specific just to this campus but to this community,'' said Christina Chen, a Columbia College junior and part of the strikers' support staff.

The students have no current plans to recruit more hunger strikers, according to Chen.

Worst-Case Scenario

The students' assertion that 5,000 people would be displaced isn't accurate, said Laverna Fountain, the university's vice president for public affairs. Robert Casdin, senior executive vice president, said that in the worst-case scenario, fewer than 3,300 people would be at risk of losing their homes by 2030 as development caused rents to rise in and near Manhattanville.

Fountain also provided a new statement for the university, saying the students' health was of most importance now.

``While there is, of course, lively debate about details of this land-use proposal, even those raising objections to particular elements say that they favor Columbia's expansion in the area,'' Columbia said.

Comment: Students also engaged in the hunger strike in protest of the anti-Islamic tendencies found at the university, including inviting Iranian President Ahmadinejad to speak and giving an extremely disapproving introduction and allowing David Horowitz to speak regarding "Islamo-facism with no similar disapproval. Many view the overarching problem as racism, as the noose, the area of expansion, and anti-Islamic rhetoric fall into this category. Oh, and the 5000 number of people potentially displaced mentioned by the students is the number than seems to be accepted. I had seen that number is various news venues, never the 3000 number. Members of the Campus Anti-War Network from various schools across the country are drafting letters of solidarity both to support those students on the strike and spreading awareness as this is not receiving the coverage it should.

1 comment:

Grandmère Mimi said...

Not more nooses! I wrote about nooses in Louisiana today.

How sad. Those who are displaced would find it difficult to impossible to locate a place to live in New York City.

I join in solidarity with the students and pray for their continued good health and that what they do will change minds and hearts.