Author: vsr2117

In a recent email to the Barnard community, Provost Linda Bell addressed the fact that the union of the adjunct faculty at Barnard, who are currently in negotiation with the College, have decided on a strike deadline. She shared the College’s perspective on the proposals they have offered and informed the community that the College remains committed to fairness.

 

Dear Members of the Barnard Community,

This morning we learned that the bargaining committee for the Barnard Contingent Faculty Union (BCF)-UAW has set a strike deadline of February 21, 2017 if no contract agreement has been reached by that date. We are disappointed by this action given progress to date, but we continue to hope and trust that the strike deadline has been imposed to alert both the unit rank-and-file and the College administration of the urgency and intent to reach a fair and reasonable first contract. We remain fully committed to this effort, and our primary concern is, and it has always been, the efficacy of our academic program and the education we are able to offer our students.

I am happy to share that progress has been achieved on key economic and non-economic terms, and that even the bargaining committee’s own notice to its members acknowledges this progress. Moreover, the Union’s statement this morning accepts the College’s recommendation that a federal mediator be engaged in order to bring an independent viewpoint to the important issues that continue to divide us.

When I last wrote to you, on December 8, the Union had voted to empower its leadership to strike as necessary, despite our substantive economic proposal and ongoing negotiations that had yielded progress on key non-economic terms. Furthermore, the Union leadership waited until December 15 to make its first response to an economic proposal that had been on the table since August 2, and unilaterally cancelled a bargaining session set for December 22 only hours before it was to take place. The College has continued to come to each of the 27 bargaining sessions since February 2016 prepared and ready to negotiate in good faith. Since December 8, we have presented multiple substantive proposals that we believe can bring the sides closer, including two revisions to our wage offer and the introduction of new benefit terms.

Of the substantive issues that remain, one concerns the mechanisms for appointments and assignments (what the Union refers to as seniority), and the other, compensation. The College has broken new ground on both.

Over the past year, we have offered unprecedented notice regarding appointments, security in course load, raises in pay and improved access to benefits, including at our most recent bargaining session on January 20.

On the issue of appointments and assignments, we believe strongly that the departments themselves should decide how best to maintain the integrity of the academic program and determine whether and how certain courses will be taught in any given semester. This same discretion has been our long-term practice and has been exercised in making assignments for all faculty. Both current and former department chairs have told us that they view this flexibility as crucial to the academic functioning of the College. We simply cannot and will not guarantee specific course assignments to individuals in perpetuity, as the Union has proposed, as this would compromise our academic mission and the superb quality of the education we offer our students.

However, in order to address the Union’s concern regarding job security, we have offered two measures that would increase individuals’ employment security in other ways that do not compromise our mission. First, we have offered to move to year-long appointments for all part-time faculty, an improvement over our current semester-by-semester appointment process. Thus, part-time faculty would receive more advance notice, more predictable schedules, and the ability to plan their full academic year. Second, in deference to the Union’s notion that seniority should increase employment security, we have also introduced a proposal to offer adjunct faculty who have served the College over time the guarantee of either longer-term appointments or separation pay in the event that they are not reassigned teaching. More details: https://barnard.edu/hr/bcf-uaw-negotiations/strike-faqs#appoint.

The College has twice modified its wage proposal since the Union’s response on December 15. Specifically, our latest proposal increases minimum course pay rates three times over four years and provides a 2 percent pay increase each year, beginning in fall 2017, for individuals making above the minimum course rate. More details: https://barnard.edu/hr/bcf-uaw-negotiations/strike-faqs#proposal. Under the College’s proposal, all adjunct faculty will be guaranteed improved economic terms throughout the life of the contract, and no unit member—even those earning well above the minimum per-course rate—will be negatively impacted. Furthermore, our proposed minimum rates are positioned to be competitive, and are significantly higher than minimum rates offered to adjunct faculty in many similar colleges and universities in New York City and in other high-cost areas in the United States.

In contrast, the Union’s proposal sets both minimum rates and benefit terms that are untenable. In the first year alone, the proposal would cost an incremental $3.3 million; it would force the College to make deep cuts to the annual budget that would adversely affect the academic program.

In addition to setting fair and equitable minimum wage rates, we have responded positively and demonstrably to the Union’s request that all unit faculty, including those working part-time, have the ability to participate in the College’s health insurance plan. For adjunct faculty teaching a half-time equivalent load or more (nine points or more in a given academic year), the College will contribute 50 percent of the contribution that it makes to full-time faculty. Adjunct faculty teaching less than 9 points in any given year would have the option to buy in to the College’s Plan A at their own personal cost.

The College has worked hard to bargain in good faith with the goal of ensuring our part-time and term faculty a fair and equitable contract that addresses their most important concerns. We are gratified that the Union has accepted our request for a federal mediator. We see the mediator role as a useful and time-honored resource for bridging remaining differences, and in so doing, serving our larger community. The process of mediation will take time. Should we find ourselves unable to reach a first contract by the February 21 strike deadline, and should the Union decide to strike, the College will continue to operate as normally as possible.

As has been the practice for the past year, I will continue to keep the community informed of our progress through written updates, as well as in-person meetings with faculty, staff, students and alumnae leaders. As always, please understand that our overarching goal remains a fair first contract that recognizes the talent and commitment of our contingent faculty, and that protects the vitality of the academic program and our core mission as an institution.

Sincerely,

Linda A Bell
Provost & Dean of the Faculty

Welcome, welcome to theater! After going over our last guide to discounted Broadway tickets, we realized that there are even more resources out there for students to utilize to get cheaper tickets to both Broadway and Off-Broadway productions.
Run by Columbia, the Arts Initiative provides students with discounted tickets, most of which can then be picked up at the TIC in Lerner. This is a great way to get tickets, but you have to be fast because they do sell out quite quickly.
If you’ve got luck and persistence, Broadway Direct has online lotteries for most performances of some of the biggest productions around, including The Lion King and Cats. Depending on the show, winners pay anywhere from $10-$40 for their seats, which is more than half off regular pricing.
Being a theater-goer and being a student at the same time isn’t always easy on the wallet, and the Roundabout Theatre Company understands that. So, if you’re between the ages of 18-35, you can be part of their low-price ticket program, HipTix, for free. By becoming a HipTix member, you can buy up to two $25 tickets to each Roundabout Theatre production. While these tickets may not be orchestra seats (unless you upgrade your membership to Gold or Platinum), you can’t beat the price.
Offering discounted tickets for both Broadway and Off-Broadway productions, Tix4Students is another website which allows students to purchase show tickets without leaving the comfort of their dorm room. By linking students to offers and giving them a member discount code, ticket prices through this site range from $25-$70, depending on the production and location of the seats.
General Broadway Lotteries:
Some productions choose to host lotteries for tickets on their own personally-tailored sites instead of using Broadway Direct or TodayTix. It can be hard to find these lotteries sometimes, or just plain annoying to google them everyday. So, here are all the ones with individual sites for your convenience:

 

Updated January 26, 2017

Today, Provost John H. Coatsworth sent out the following email to Columbia in regards to “Responding to Post-Election Issues and Concerns”. In particular, he reaffirmed the University’s plans to protect students and guaranteed increased financial aid for undocumented students who may lose work permits due to policies proposed by President-elect Donald Trump during his presidential campaign. The full email can be read below:

Dear fellow members of the Columbia community:

The presidential election has prompted intense concern for the values we hold dear and for members of our community who are apprehensive about what the future holds. Some of this concern is focused on possible changes to immigration laws and to the federal enforcement of those laws. Some is due to possible changes elsewhere in federal law and policy. Reports of bias crimes and harassment occurring since the election are also deeply disturbing, particularly so when those who feel threatened are part of a community like ours, committed to tolerance and reason.

President Bollinger has asked me to work with the University administration and our community to develop a response to these concerns. I am writing to share information about relevant policies and our plans for ensuring that every person at Columbia feels safe, is able to proceed unimpeded with their studies and their work, and understands beyond question that Columbia’s dedication to inclusion and diversity is and will remain unwavering.

First, the University will neither allow immigration officials on our campuses without a warrant, nor share information on the immigration status of undocumented students with those officials unless required by subpoena or court order, or authorized by a student. Moreover, New York City continues to be a sanctuary city, with special protections for undocumented immigrants, and Mayor de Blasio recently affirmed that local law enforcement officials will continue to operate consistent with that commitment.

If the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrival (DACA) policy is terminated or substantially curtailed and students with DACA status lose the right to work, the University pledges to expand the financial aid and other support we make available to undocumented students, regardless of their immigration status. It is of the utmost importance that federal policies and laws do not derail the education of students whose enrollment at Columbia and other colleges or universities is made possible by DACA. We subscribe to the view of the Association of American Universities that “DACA should be upheld, continued and expanded,” and we will continue to express that commitment in the future.

To provide additional support, the Office of University Life is hosting a series of small-group, private information sessions specifically for undocumented students in our community, including DACA recipients, to offer support and guidance regarding possible changes in the law. Affected students can contact the Office directly for more information. Separately, our International Students and Scholars Office (ISSO) is scheduling information sessions and is prepared to provide assistance via its telephone helplines to any of our international students with questions or concerns. For more information about resources, support, and reporting options regarding discrimination and harassment, please visit the Office of University Life website.

The commitments outlined above emerge from values that define what we stand for and who we are as a University community. Indeed, Columbia College and the School of Engineering and Applied Science have amplified their commitment to undocumented undergraduate students pursuing their first degrees by continuing to meet their full financial aid needs as has long been our policy and also by treating applications of undocumented students no differently than those of students who are U.S. citizens or permanent residents. The experience of undocumented students at the College and Columbia Engineering, from the time they first seek admission through their graduation, will not be burdened in any way by their undocumented status.

This is a moment for us to bear in mind how important it is to protect all who study and teach in our community and to defend the institution and the values it embodies.

Sincerely,

John H. Coatsworth

Privilege is not something that everyone in our society receives, and recognizing this imbalance is essential to correcting the injustice in our nation. It’s not an action that deserves reward or recognition. It’s a process that one, including myself, has to go through in order to work towards being a decent human being.

By society’s standards, I am privileged. That is a fact. I am half white and half Hispanic; I grew up in a middle class family and never had to worry about my skin color or accent or last name or culture defining who am I because I was primarily raised white. I grew up with the advantages that being white in our society gives you and that means I have to work to keep my privilege in check, to keep in mind that just because an issue does not affect me does not mean that it does not others. This action is not something that deserves any form of praise whatsoever; it is simply part of being a decent human being. I have to reevaluate my perspective on issues to factor into concerns I personally never had to face, to remember that not everyone had the privileges of which I often took advantage. I have to work to remember that while I was not blatantly raised with racist thoughts in mind, I was raised in a society that ingrains racism into our minds from a young age because it maximizes the benefits of privilege.

What does this maximization mean? It means that as someone who is privileged in a system with racist foundations, I benefit from the system. Living in a society founded on the tenets of capitalism means that I’m also taught to take advantage of any opportunity or benefit I can, including this system. If I can make it far in this system, why look to change it? That’s the root of the problem. It is then beneficial for me to be ignorant since our society is a game based on the survival of the fittest, the ones with the most privilege.

This ingrained ignorance does not necessarily mean I’m inherently a bad person, and it does not mean I am a victim who was slighted by society. It means I can unintentionally be an ignorant person. I can be ignorant of my actions and thoughts and how they affect the people around me who do have to deal with these issues. I can be ignorant of the downfalls and problems with our society. I can be ignorant of someone’s situation and say something that causes them to snap. Not being ignorant is a learning and unlearning process that takes time. It doesn’t excuse my ignorance in any way, shape, or form; it just means I have to work harder. I have to step out of the bubble my privilege forms around me and see how the view looks from outside my bubble. I have to work to not become defensive when someone points out my privilege in anger. Because not being in the bubble of privilege and seeing how it excludes you can be angering and stressful. And so when I do unintentionally offend someone and cause a reaction, I have to work to remember that that person’s anger isn’t directly aimed at me per say: it’s at the society that led me to be ignorant. That person is justified in their reaction because this ignorance directly affects them. That’s not to say I’m unjustified in going on the defensive: it’s a natural response to have when someone is angry at you. No one likes to be called ignorant when it has such negative connotations, when it is often synonymous with being a bad person. But being ignorant does not mean I am a bad person  as long as I am willing to learn, to step out of the bubble of privilege and realize that while it might benefit me, it can be harmful to others. And so instead of becoming defensive I have to work to recognize my privilege, realize my ignorance does not absolve me of the harm it can cause, and realize how this privilege affects my perspective.

I think this issue of ignorance caused by privilege is important for everyone to recognize and work on in order to help correct the inequality that plagues our society, to poke a hole in the bubble of privilege so that hopefully one day it will pop. Because each and every person is a human being who deserves to have the same potential for opportunities, no matter their skin color or accent or last name or culture.

The Lion is Columbia’s only open-submissions publication. To respond to this piece or to submit one of your own, email submissions@columbialion.com

Last night President Lee C. Bollinger held his Fireside Chat in his home for the undergraduate students who were fortunate enough to win the lottery for this event. Also in attendance were Tom Harford, Dean of Students in the School of General Studies; Cristen Kromm, Dean of Undergraduate Student Life for Columbia College and SEAS; Suzanne Goldberg, Executive Vice President for University Life and Professor of Law; Jewelnel Davis, University Chaplain and Associate Provost; and Caroline Adelman, Director of Media Relations with the Columbia University Office of Communications and Public Affairs.

The night focused on addressing the concerns of the university in an informal Q&A manner with President Bollinger, and occasionally the other faculty and administration members in attendance,  answering students’ questions and responding to their comments and concerns. A wide variety of subjects were brought up, some easier to address than others.

While Columbia University does pride themselves on having global connections, the University has “no immediate plans to establish relationships” with academic institutions in Iran. While it is something that President Bollinger “would like to see” happening soon, as Iran and their relations with the international community have undergone “very significant changes”, it is something that Columbia wishes to wait on institutionally initiating until they see how things unfold. Bollinger, however, does think it is “great” for  individual faculty members to engage with intellectual colleagues in Iran.

The ever-present problem of finding community at Columbia came up next. Bollinger did admit that this is an issue, specifically one that “higher power”  learning institutions tend to face, and stated that “anytime you’re in a really high-power intellectual environment… inevitably you end up spending a lot of time alone because a huge amount of learning is you and the book.” The isolation and stress studying can cause, coupled with the fact that Columbia’s New York location can “pull you away from the campus”, are the two main factors that affect community here in Bollinger’s eyes. He does believe, however, that the spirit of community has improved since he first arrived at Columbia fifteen years ago. With the founding of the Office of University Life, the establishment of university content and events (such as the World Leaders Forum), the building of Lerner, the creation of the Arts Initiative, and the improvement of Athletics, Bollinger claims that measures to build community have been succeeding. He did emphasize, however,  that any suggestions or ideas students might have are welcomed. Goldberg added that by creating community and intellectual events, such as the “Awakening Our Democracy” speaker series and Yoga Tuesdays, and establishing the Race, Ethnicity and Inclusion task force, as well as the Gender Based Misconduct Prevention task force, Columbia has made strides towards bringing the community together. Chaplain Davis also mentioned students can take initiative to get involved by attending open lectures and events at the Law and Medical Schools. Lastly, Kromm reminded everyone that one of the primary issues of building community is having adequate spaces in which to do so and that there are creative solutions to this space problem, such as holding events on the lawns and in the plazas.

Addressing another aspect of the university, its responsibility to prepare us for the outside world, Bollinger commented that he is “extremely interested in, and working on all the time, how to to make it more possible for students and faculty and the university to engage with the world.”  Believing “that your time here, especially as undergraduates, is utterly unique in your lives”, Bollinger claimed now is the time to “think about fundamental ideas and fundamental knowledge” as later when we “go into the world” there will be “a premium on narrowing down what it is that you know and do.” Columbia provides a liberal arts education, not a pre-professional one, and so they try to provide ways to prepare us for a world that the university “will not change fast enough for”, due to “the interconnection of the global economy”, the Internet, and “the mobility of people.” They have tried to do so by opening global centers to help students who are abroad and hope efforts such as these will “fill in opportunities for you to learn about your world because we can’t fully teach you about it.”

Bollinger’s mention of “the mobility of people” led to the discussion of the complex problem of the student refugees and how the university plans to cope with it. Acknowledging that it is an issue that the university cannot influence as much as they would like, Bollinger does hope that it is something faculty and students can focus on and understand better and would like to find ways for Columbia to “have a bigger impact on significant world problems, of which the refugees are a prime example.” Bollinger does not know how the university will handle refugee students exactly, as there is no system in place, but thinks we might be able to get ideas of how to cope with it by looking at Canada’s programs, which are already in use.

The topic of discussion switched gears as a student asked Bollinger if he, as a scholar of the First Amendment, was worried about free speech in the context of universities. Bollinger responded that he was “not deeply worried” as there is “a huge amount of debate and discussion on campuses.” He rejected “the view that American campuses are just liberal bastions who are politically correct and won’t allow other points of view.” Acknowledging that issues do exist with this, Bollinger went on to say “that if somebody is offended by something they should be protected by the institution … [but] that is not the principle that this university lives by.” Columbia, instead, has a tradition of “openness”. Recognizing that some types of speech are not protected, such as threats and harassments based on race, ethnicity, or gender, Bollinger conceded that there should be places where people can “escape the debate … [such as] the home,” but maintained that “even highly, highly offensive and ridiculous words and hurtful words” are allowed to “be expressed.” To Bollinger, the problem is not “one of safe spaces” as that “oversimplifies the matters”; it is the matter of “how you conduct that free speech, how you interact with each other, [that] is enormously important.”

Another controversial issue which came up during the Fireside Chat was the stress culture and mental health issues of the Columbia community and how faculty pressure, prescription drug abuse, and insufficient access to resources tie into that. While Bollinger said that he was “not uncomfortable by it [the subject of the question],” he asked the student who posed the question if she “really feel[s] that way” and decided to “take a little survey” of the room to see who felt “that the academic space or zone has too much pressure.” Let it be noted that he did not do the same for the issue of community at Columbia. Bollinger then used his own class and teaching method of calling on two students for the majority of the class as an example of a class that places pressure on students to perform well, claiming that “that’s part of the teaching method.” He continued his survey by asking students to raise their hands if they thought faculty members “should step back and ask themselves, ‘Maybe I’m putting too much pressure?’” When hands were raised, Bollinger mentioned that he heard “that you take too many classes” and pondered why that occurs, if  “that [was] because of faculty or graduation requirements.” A student brought up that at Columbia one cannot take the minimum amount of credits for full-time students (12) and graduate on time, which was an issue this student was personally dealing with as a junior forced to take a heavier courseload in order to graduate on time. A first-year chimed in that she could not take five classes due to her teacher. The student had been sick and missed a few classes (and had gotten the notes from Health services to prove it), and while four of her teachers were supportive, one was not. This teacher told her that she “shouldn’t expect to get a good grade on this test”, refused to give her a one day extension, and said “this is what you should expect going to this type of school.” Her comment was not addressed as Bollinger decided to cover the other two aspects of the topic question instead. He said that “if you have an emergency, you should be able to see somebody right away” and that “if we don’t do that, you should let us know.” Bollinger then moved on to the topic of prescription drugs, saying that they “are terrible.”

Goldberg then also spoke on the topic of stress and stated that “stress comes from many places” and one’s changing relation to stress “is part of growing up.” She mentioned that the Mental Health task force is working to help students as well and that CPS has grown “in response to student need.” Harford mentioned that the school does recognize that GS students do have additional stresses as they pay tuition based on the number of credits they take and can’t necessarily get a refund for a class they paid for and dropped.

A student then asked if Uris would potentially be utilized to provide services such as daycare to GS students who have these additional stressors, but Bollinger said that Uris has already been slated to be given to the College of Arts and Sciences.

The last question posed to Bollinger had to do with the sustainability of restructuring faculty employment so that there are less faculty receiving tenure and a heavier reliance on adjunct professors–a problem which is spreading across the country. Bollinger went on to explain that “Columbia is going through a process of trying to recapture its institutional capacities” and is essentially still trying to make up for lost time when Harvard and other universities continued to grow while Columbia floundered. Columbia has done this, in Bollinger’s opinion, with the expansion of campus, construction of new buildings, successful fundraising, addition of University Life, and improved financial aid practices. To him, “Columbia can be, and in many ways is today, the greatest university in the world.” As “we live in a competitive world,” Columbia must recruit students and faculty and “make do” with the money it has. Bollinger doesn’t think less faculty tenure is a problem at Columbia, or at least not an intentional one; though he does acknowledge that it is a national problem.

Interested in the opinions of the students, Bollinger decided to pose a few of his own questions to the room during the last ten minutes of the talk. He asked students what they thought of the election, if it was a subject that came up often, and how students view America. Students discussed how they do or do not know people with opposing opinions to their own, the role of selection bias and the media in the election, what led to people supporting Trump, and how values have appeared to shift in society.

Ultimately, the Fireside Chat had a lot of material that was good tinder and sparked discussion and interesting responses from President Bollinger, and it will be interesting to see what (if anything) occurs due to the matters discussed.