-Over the last two weeks, Columbia Dining workers and Student Worker Solidarity have gathered over 4,700 signatures from students, faculty, community members, and people from as far as Germany and Puerto Rico, expressing concern about Columbia Dining orders that Butler Cafe employees eat in a tiny closet with bags of garbage and that employees not speak Spanish in the presence of students.
-Administrators claim to be guided by student concerns in making these discriminatory policies, yet when students themselves try to engage in productive dialogue, administrators have responded with dismissiveness and aggression, skipping scheduled meetings and refusing to engage students in meaningful dialogue.
-Last Thursday, for example, when seven students tried to deliver the petition to Columbia Dining Executive Vicki Dunn on a public lawn outside John Jay Dining Hall, Dunn threatened them, calling public safety guards.
We question what threat Columbia Dining perceives in a group of students presenting a petition about discriminatory dining policies. Administrators have continually claimed that by voicing their concerns, students are creating “unsafe spaces” for administrators. On the contrary SWS asserts that the administration’s threatened deployment of security guards on a group– led by students of color in coordination with campus workers– constitutes actual aggressive behavior. Members of the administration sit in positions of power over both students and workers, and this dynamic should be considered in any discussion of so-called “threats.”
The Columbia administration’s shift from attempting to defend their discriminatory practices to claiming that students are creating “unsafe spaces” is a commonly used political tactic, attempting to distract from real abuses of power which workers have consistently brought up.
For several years, workers have decided to call on students to fight with them, rather than going through official channels, signalling their distrust in the Columbia administration. Given this state of affairs and the fact that Columbia Dining consistently invokes student complaints to justify their practices, we reiterate our demands:
1. Though Columbia dining appears to have reversed the closet rule, it has not officially reversed, and apologized for its order that workers stop speaking Spanish, which they admitted to in a recent meeting. The administration must cease this practice immediately and publicly promise to workers and students that no such policies will ever again be enacted.
2. We as students demand that the Columbia administration stop using individual student complaints to justify racist and degrading policies such as the prohibition of specific languages and the relegation of workers to cramped and unsanitary spaces.
3. Workers ask that from now on, all new workplace policies be written down, publicly visible, and negotiated with their unions, as stipulated in Columbia HR policy, so as to prevent continued abuses.
We ask that all these demands be met by this summer’s upcoming Dining Orientation.
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