Tuition strikers raise pressure on Columbia University

Tution strike organizers plan rally on Sunday followed by a live-streamed sit-in on Jan. 22
By: | January 13, 2021
Student tuition strikers at Columbia University say they want administrators to take more decisive action against anti-black racism on campus and in the surrounding West Harlem community. (GettyImages/Bruce Yuanyue Bi)Student tuition strikers at Columbia University say they want administrators to take more decisive action against anti-black racism on campus and in the surrounding West Harlem community. (GettyImages/Bruce Yuanyue Bi)

As classes resume at Columbia University, students threatening to withhold tuition will hold a day of action and rally to urge more concessions from school leaders.

More than 4,000 students have sign a pledge to withhold tuition payments on Jan. 22, and strike leaders will hold a press conference Sunday at the home of Columbia President Lee Bollinger.

They will then lead a social-distanced rally on the steps of the university’s Low Library.

Earliest this month, Columbia University administrators agreed to increase spring financial aid, drop late fees for January tuition payments and provide grants to students at the School of General Studies for summer classes.


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“This isn’t enough,” says Matthew Gamero, a sophomore studying political science and an organizer of the strike. “Columbia must alleviate the economic burden on students by reducing the cost of attendance and increasing financial aid.”

But students will not be satisfied if he administration reduced faculty, instructor or staff salaries to lower tuition and the overall cost of attendance, Gamero says.

The strikers also want administrators to take more decisive action against anti-black racism on campus and to work more closely and transparently with the surrounding West Harlem community.

Strikers hope campus leaders will provide more affordable housing and employment for Harlem residents, Gamero says.

The students also are pushing for stronger labor rights for graduate and student-workers, and for the university to heed student council resolutions such as those calling for divestment from fossil fuels.

“Columbia’s response remains utterly inadequate to address the scope of the public health and economic crises our country faces,” strike organizers said in a statement. “Students remain committed to striking until the entirety of our dema

Students say they will talk all precautions to prevent the spread of COVID-19, including social distancing and mandatory mask-wearing

“Large, outdoor, in-person protests throughout the summer showed that these events can be managed safely, without increasing the risk of COVID transmission,: organizers said.


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On Jan. 22, the last day to pay tuition, the organizers are planning a sit-in “to disrupt campus activities until our demands are met,” they said in a press release.

Simultaneously, the strikers were host a virtual teach-in that will be broadcast to student groups across the country.

Speakers will include New York State Sen. Julia Salazar, United Kingdom Member of Parliament Zarah Sultana, documentarian Astra Taylor and organizers of the Manchester University rent strike,