This Monday, May 13 (Broadway Room, Lerner Hall, 1-5pm) our bargaining committee will be presenting language to Columbia designed to to address issues of harassment and discrimination through our contract’s grievance procedure. Hierarchies and power imbalances within academia leave graduate workers especially vulnerable to harassment and discrimination in many forms.

Sexual harassment has made news nation-wide, and Columbia has developed an infamous reputation for high profile predatory harassment cases. Existing university processes failed to achieve justice for survivors in these instances. Racial discrimination, evident in egregious public incidents such as the targeting of Alexander McNab, also manifests in more subtle day-to-day acts that compile to create additional obstacles and structural barriers.  While the same university office handles all reports of harassment and discrimination, their procedures vary according to the type of issue reported. Those who face discrimination based on their race, class or national origin (among other demographic backgrounds and identities) are afforded fewer resources as they navigate Columbia’s bureaucracy than those reporting gender-based misconduct. Workers without prior or external financial resources may also face harassment or undue burden when we cannot independently meet work-related expenses as a result of our socioeconomic status.

Discrimination and harassment run rampant without a union contract because administrators and faculty are able to exercise power over graduate workers without accountability. Graduate student employee unions across the country have contracts that address harassment and discrimination. These contracts have lowered the barriers to reporting, protected individuals from retaliation, provided clear and transparent processes with union support, and ensured that there’s real and fair recourse.

We demand that Columbia bargain with us on this issue, making it explicit that all issues of harassment and discrimination can be addressed through our union grievance procedure. This will take decisions regarding addressing harassment and discrimination out of the hands of Columbia administrators into a formalized, transparent procedure that could (should Columbia remain intransigent of the incident) allow access to independent arbitration.

Sign our open letter calling for Columbia to bargain on issues of harassment and discrimination, and join us on Monday as we present contract language on these issues to Columbia.