Yesterday, Dean Carlos Alonso directly responded to our ongoing organizing by announcing a series of improvements through an email to all international students in the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences.
While Dean Alonso fails to acknowledge GWC-UAW, we are happy that the hard work of union activists in our international student working group led to these improvements.
Since last spring we have had an active community dedicated to international students’ issues. Our international student working group has set out to advocate for and provide resources to international students where the university has fallen short.
We have held workshops on visa and immigration issues with an immigration lawyer and a taxes q&a with certified public accounts. We campaigned to address the fact that many federal grants are available to U.S. citizens only, making it harder for international students to find research support. Our successful petition to Dean Alonso created fifteen $3000 fellowships for international students in the humanities and social sciences annually. We stood behind Longxi Zhao, a Chemical Engineering Teaching Assistant, who was fired without due process. And when the courts ordered the Department of Homeland Security to make rule changes to the Optional Practical Training (OPT) STEM extension we had an information session and publically commented on these changes, while the university remained silent.
In December we met with Dean Alonso again to discuss improving and expanding the international student Summer Language Fellowship we successfully advocated for, and to begin dialogue on many other important issues we face as international students at Columbia.
We celebrate these improvements but also know that the university can do more. The university continues to waste substantial resources by delaying our majority democratic choice for a union. As a recognized union, GWC-UAW would be able to address international student employees’ concerns about workplace rights through collective bargaining and a binding contract. Without a contract they can take them away at any moment.
In solidarity, GWC-UAW International Student Working Group