Columbia Grad Students On Strike Over Wages And Harassment Policies, NYU Counterparts Voting On Similar Actions

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Graduate college students working at New York Metropolis’s two greatest non-public universities are demanding advantages like elevated wages and impartial arbitration for harassment claims, with 1000’s of Columbia College college students collaborating in an ongoing strike and a possible strike looming at NYU.

An estimated 3,000 college students with the Graduate Staff of Columbia Union went on strike March fifteenth after two years of failed negotiating with the college over calls for for a $4,000 enhance to yearly stipends and summer season funding over the subsequent three years, and hourly and wage will increase to satisfy dwelling wage requirements, in addition to higher healthcare funding.

The union can be asking the college to decide to impartial and third-party arbitration in instances of sexual harassment claims and different grievances. The union stated the college has agreed to some concessions like doubling childcare subsidies from $2,000 to $4,000 however is not going to comply with the opposite calls for, resulting in the strike.

“We’re dedicated to persevering with to work towards a full and truthful contract and stay assured of that final result, however this pointless and unlucky work stoppage,” a spokesperson for Columbia stated in an announcement Saturday. “Our prime priorities now are supporting our undergraduates’ completion of their coursework, making certain on-time commencement, and going through the continuing challenges for the College posed by the pandemic.”

Whereas the strikers say concrete wage and advantages will increase are crucial, Columbia college students and a school member stated the college’s denial of impartial arbitration is a extra elementary downside that undermines college students in harassment and discrimination claims.

“The college refuses to offer impartial arbitration for cases of sexual harassment and discrimination, and in addition for power-based discrimination and harassment — so extra like bullying by advisors,” stated Henry Towbin, a PhD pupil in vulcanology at Columbia’s Division of Earth and Environmental Sciences who’s collaborating within the strike. “Their argument right here is that, since we’re college students, we’re not entitled to the identical protections that different employees at Columbia obtain.”

As a substitute of arbitration, the college administration has this week supplied to broaden the methods graduate college students can attraction the varsity’s selections in discrimination and harassment instances with hearings by a third-party panel staffed by members appointed by Columbia, with enter from the union on who sits on the panel.

Nonetheless, Towbin stated he believes the college justifies the dearth of third-party arbitration as a result of directors don’t “need an antagonistic relationship between the college and the scholars.”

“This faculty has nominally protecting programs for harassment, (however) they’re fairly often making an attempt to guard the college, type of explicitly or implicitly, from dangerous press, and enormous monetary settlements,” Towbin stated.

One professor supporting the strike stated the graduate college students are underpaid “given the disproportionate quantity of educating that they do, and given that they are doing it in New York Metropolis, the place the price of dwelling continuously goes up,” stated Frank Guridy, an Affiliate Professor of Historical past and African American Research at Columbia.

Guridy added that he additionally supported the scholars advocating for a impartial course of for dealing with claims of harassment. The college’s present insurance policies “do not actually forestall the harassment from occurring, and, and so they additionally usually put the complainant ready of being very way more remoted and feeling very disempowered when issues occur,” he stated. “We have to have a greater coverage with respect to harassment and bullying. Sadly, as with different establishments in our society, academia is having its personal reckoning round these questions and we have to have a distinct institutional association that can permit us to fight this downside in ways in which we haven’t been in a position to take action far.”

The union pointed to some current instances of harassment or violations of college coverage that present how Columbia’s present insurance policies have failed, together with former professor Thomas Jessell who was allegedly concerned romantically with a lab member underneath his supervision, a medical pupil who claimed he was sexually harassed by a superior who then fired him, and a pupil who stated she waited months for the college to reply to her stories of being raped inside her dorm room.

“And not using a contract, graduate employees are uncovered to Columbia’s extraordinarily uneven and unfair approaches to dealing with discrimination and harassment instances, and lack the chance for illustration if Columbia behaves in a discriminatory approach,” the union stated.

NYU’s Graduate Pupil Organizing Committee can be calling for elevated wages and annual 3.5% raises, higher healthcare and household advantages, in addition to the college severing ties with NYPD. After 9 months of negotiating with NYU, the union put a potential strike authorization to their membership for a vote beginning on March twenty third and ending March twenty ninth. If at the very least two-thirds of the members vote in favor, the union’s organizing committee will be capable of name a strike at their discretion, in line with NYU’s Washington Sq. Information pupil paper.

An e mail request for remark to NYU was not answered Saturday.

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