Do students know what they’re picketing for?

By Zoë Eitel, Editor-In-Chief

Who says we have to say goodbye?

Though I support the right to lawfully and peacefully protest what groups believe are injustices, as a student, I cannot place my full support behind the Nov. 29–30 part-time faculty union walk-out and strike.

During my time at Columbia, I have had many classes taught by adjunct professors and have had great experiences with and respect for them. But this strike—and by extension, the OurColumbia coalition—has been somewhat misleading to students, which is the group I feel the most responsibility toward in my column.

Signs at the strike read, “Keep my classes petite,” “We don’t need a student center, we need the education we came for,” “Tuition freeze, budget transparency,” “Where do tuition $ go?” “Save the value of our degree” and “I love Columbia, if only it loved me as much #KeepMe.”

These are issues I’ve brought up in previous Editor’s Notes, and they are legitimate but are not the issues the strike was organized to push. The strike was voted on because P-Fac was not satisfied with the new labor contract offered by college administration and claimed it bargained in bad faith. This strike was spurred less by the systemic issues at Columbia that have been around for years than it was by the current contractual demands of the union, whose previous contract that prohibited striking expired in August.

Students are being asked to miss classes and support a union strike they don’t know anything about. Any claims made that this strike will have any effect on the construction of the student center or class sizes are misleading and dishonest. Students are protesting a contract proposal they have not read and a process they do not understand.

As reported on Page 20, P-Fac is making alarmist claims that the college is attempting to do away with seniority for all current adjunct professors and not assign classes to professors who have been at the college for decades. The college contends this is an exaggerated framing of the offered contract that would allow the college to assign less than 10 percent of classes based on factors other than seniority.

With the seniority-based system P-Fac is pushing to keep, if George Clooney wanted to teach an acting class at Columbia part-time, he wouldn’t be able to be assigned a class because he has not put years in at the school, so that class would instead go to the adjunct who may have been teaching the same lesson since 1980.

Not to mention, the contract P-Fac was offered would raise adjunct pay 2 percent, which sort of undermines the lack-of-proper-pay argument P-Fac has levied and strikers were chanting about.

Though P-Fac wants and definitely needs student support to make the OurColumbia coalition—formed to protest issues at the college, as reported Nov. 12 by The Chronicle—more legitimate, it needs to be clear exactly what issues students are throwing their weight behind and what effect they are trying to have.

There are problems with this strike and the agenda it is promoting beyond the uneducated student involvement.

While it was stated in a Nov. 22 P-Fac press release that 86.2 percent of voters cast ballots in favor of the strike, it is unclear what percentage of P-Fac members actually voted or how many members are in the union in the first place.

Also, the strike was planned for two six-hour periods on a Wednesday and Thursday, meaning adjuncts who teach on Mondays, Tuesdays, Fridays and Saturdays or after 3:30 p.m. were not affected by the loss of pay for leaving classes untaught.

P-Fac needs to stop taking advantage of students’ anger and fear and make them aware of what is really going on and what their voices are being used for.