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The Columbia Chronicle

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The Columbia Chronicle

We've got you covered

The Columbia Chronicle

Union president expects strike to extend the rest of the week

Part-time faculty and students march outside 1104 S. Wabash Ave. to protest the administration’s labor practices on Wednesday, Nov. 1, 2023. This marks the third day of the strike and it is expected for the strike to continue throughout the rest of the week. (Kaelah Serrano)

The president of the Columbia Faculty Union told striking instructors on Wednesday, Nov. 1 that she expects negotiations to continue through the weekend, a signal that the two sides are likely still far apart.

As Diana Vallera, union president and part-time photography instructor, spoke to about 30 strikers on the picket line outside of 1104 S. Wabash Ave, she said  “I expect to be pulled into bargaining today at some point, tomorrow at some point and then all weekend to get this done.” 

She said they “won’t sign off without our faculty getting full pay.” 

The union, which represents 584 part-time instructors, went on strike Oct. 30 over cost-cutting measures the college is implementing to curb a $20 million deficit. 

The union livestreamed a bargaining session on Instagram ahead of the strike but subsequent sessions, like the one held on Oct. 31—the second day of the strike—have been closed. 

“We went into bargaining, and we didn’t expect a lot,” Vallera said, adding that there was “a lot of back and forth.”

The contract that covers part-time instructors expired at the end of August. As faculty returned to campus ahead of the semester, administrators warned that it would need to raise some class sizes and cut some sections as Columbia moved to become a smaller institution.

The union has argued that it should have a say in those decisions, which the college has rejected. 

Part-time instructors will undoubtedly have fewer opportunities to teach at a smaller institution, and the college has said in its communication that this is a sticking point. “The central issue in the labor dispute with the part-time faculty union is that a larger share of courses will now be taught by full-time faculty,” the college states in a FAQ posted on its website. 

The union also demanded healthcare benefits; the immediate removal of President and CEO Kwang-Wu Kim and Senior Vice President and Provost Marcella David; a tuition freeze and a DEI ombudsman position. 

It is not known if those are still items under discussion. 

Hundreds of course sections have been impacted each day since the strike started. Although full-time faculty are not on strike, most classes at Columbia are taught by part-time instructors. The college has 221 full-time professors.

Even though the union ordered all part-time instructors to cancel their classes, some have moved their classes to Zoom or have continued to teach.

Sophomore film major Oluwatumininu Ariyo said a couple of her classes were canceled, and some instructors have told her not to turn in homework.

“I’m not upset at the union,” Ariyo said. “I’m upset at the administration; they won’t even listen and then it has to resort to this.”

With just six weeks left in the semester, Ariyo said she is concerned. “It’s just really hectic and especially going towards finals.”

Jonathan Kolo, a senior film and television major, said he can’t go to his directing class, which is the one he really cares about. 

 “To me, it’s the most important class, plus it’s taught by the best professor I’ve had at Columbia,” he said. “I fight tooth and nail to pay for school, and I would appreciate it if the money I spent was being used.”

Students told the Chronicle that most of their part-time instructors have not been on Canvas and are not responding to emails about the strike. 

Eve Jursinski, a junior music theatre major, said she is enrolled in six courses, and only two are being held right now because of the strike. “What am I spending money for if I can’t attend classes? Jursinski said. “We are here to learn and I really am not learning anything.”

Vallera said the president of the American Federation of Teachers, Randi Weingarten, will join strikers on Friday.

“Right after that, we are going to march into bargaining and start an all weekend bargaining session,” Vallera said.

 

Additional reporting by Maya Swan-Sullivan and Emily Ramirez 

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About the Contributors
Abra Richardson, Director of Photography
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, Ill.
Kaelah Serrano, Photojournalist
kserrano@columbiachronicle.com   Kaelah Serrano is a junior photojournalism major. She has covered music festivals, campus art exhibitions and metro parades and protests. Serrano joined the Chronicle in January 2023.   Hometown: Chicago, Ill.