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Part-time faculty strike for second day, bargain in closed-door session

Abra Richardson
Students and part-time faculty huddle together for a press conference during a strike in support of fair contracts for part-time faculty, held by theColumbia Faculty Union on Tuesday, Oct. 31, 2023. Part-time faculty, students and member other unions joined to speak outside 600 S. Michigan Ave.

The part-time faculty union hit the picket line for the second day in a row, marching in front of the 600 S. Michigan Ave. building on Tuesday, Oct. 31 in 30-degree weather with light snow falling.

Many part-time faculty once again canceled their classes, telling students in Canvas messages and emails that classes were canceled due to them supporting the strike. Some professors have pivoted their classes to Zoom, while many have canceled classes for now. 

“As you are undoubtedly aware, part-time instructors are on strike and I regret to inform you course classes I instruct are canceled until further notice,” wrote one part-time faculty member to students via Canvas.

Some professors on the picket line directly or indirectly supporting the strike have also sent out resources to students about the union, the strike and how students should proceed in the meantime. 

“I wanted to confirm that our class is canceled until further notice. Like hundreds of other part-time Columbia College faculty, I must support the union after a majority of union members voted to strike,” wrote another part-time professor in an email to students. “But standing with the union — doing the ‘right thing’ — doesn’t make this moment any easier. … I sincerely hope we can all return to class, ASAP.”

Senior film and television major Lucca Antonio Jose said they were not aware their class was canceled until they showed up and saw the picket line.

“As someone who’s not on the internet much, I think Columbia has a responsibility to talk about this more and shed some light on this information,” Jose said.

Jose said that he feels unsure about how to support the strike while maintaining their classes.

“I feel like I’m crossing the picket line by going into class every day. I don’t want to feel that way either,” Jose said

As they did on the first day of the strike, union leaders held another press conference with campus and community leaders speaking to the media.

It was followed by a closed-door bargaining session between the union and the college to try to negotiate a new contract. The current contract expired at the end of August.

Students and community members got a rare look inside the negotiations last week when the union livestreamed the session on Instagram and invited students and supporters to attend in person.

Joaquin Torres-Morales, a sophomore illustration major, was one of the four students who spoke at Tuesday’s press conference. He said he has seen a trend of creatives being mistreated and is upset to witness it at Columbia. 

“I’ve noticed this trend within the entertainment industry that has caused so many other strikes with writers and actors, a trend of mistreating and under-appreciating creatives that build the creative world,” Torres-Morales said. “I’m disgusted to know that this trend has spread to my own school. 

He “adores” his part-time instructors and wants them to have health care benefits, Torres-Morales said, adding that it was “insane” to him that they didn’t.

Health care is just one of the demands the union is striking over. Others include job security, smaller class sizes, course cuts and financial transparency. The union also has called for the removal of President and CEO Kwang-Wu Kim and Senior Vice President and Provost Marcella David. 

Financial transparency from the college administration remains one of the top concerns for faculty and students, as one of the most prevalent chants from the picket line was for the college to “open their books,” in reference to the financial “crisis” the administration declared due to the $20 million fiscal deficit. 

Meg Cole, a senior fashion studies major, has marched with CFAC since the strike started. Cole said she supports the union for multiple reasons but is concerned about the college’s financial transparency, the price of tuition and accessibility for students with disabilities. 

“I want transparency and I want information details. Don’t just tell me educational spending, I don’t know what that means. Tell me what goes into educational spending,” Cole said during the press conference. “Please do the right thing. Dr. Kim, open the books. … For the sake of faculty and students, please bargain in good faith today so I can go back to focusing on my education.” 

Additional reporting by Vivian Richey

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About the Contributors
Olivia Cohen
Olivia Cohen, Former Editor-in-Chief
ocohen@columbiachronicle.com   Olivia Cohen is a senior journalism major, minoring in Women's, Gender and Sexuality Studies. She primarily reports on Columbia's financial health, administration and unions, but has also written about personnel and department changes, COVID-19 policies and abortion. She joined the Chronicle in August 2021.   Hometown: Minneapolis, Minnesota
Abra Richardson
Abra Richardson, Former Senior Photojournalist
arichardson@columbiachronicle.com   Abra Richardson is a senior photojournalism major and has covered Chicago music festivals, fashion and metro protests. She joined the Chronicle in August 2021.   Hometown: Palatine, Illinois
Addison Annis
Addison Annis, Director of Photography
aannis@columbiachronicle.com   Addison Annis is a junior photojournalism major, minoring in video production. She has covered politics, cultural events and Chicago protests. Annis joined the Chronicle in August 2022.   Hometown: Plymouth, Minn.
Lukas Katilius
Lukas Katilius, Photojournalist
lkatilius@columbiachronicle.com   Lukas Katilius is a junior photojournalism major. He has covered various campus and Chicago events. Katilius  joined the Chronicle in July 2023.   Hometown: New Lenox, Illinois