On July 17, we continued contract negotiations with Columbia’s bargaining team. We resumed discussions about COVID-19, testing,and the University’s plans for reopening, especially regarding international student workers.

Can students who are returning to work get COVID-19 tests outside of Morningside? Columbia stated that it was New York Presbyterian’s (NYP) decision to stop testing at CUIMC. Currently, tests are only offered at and being accepted from the CU-Morningside facilities for all workers (faculty and staff included) due to issues around the accuracy of tests available outside of NYP. The Columbia representatives at the table said the University is looking for ways to implement testing again at the uptown campus before the start of the Fall semester in order to prevent crowding when more people are supposed to return to campus.

Do the adjustments made due to the ICE guidelines (hybrid model and electronic I-20s) still apply? Columbia is still planning to issue both electronic and physical I-20s for students who need them. To the extent possible, CU schools will still maintain a hybrid model of learning in case any other unexpected changes or directives impact international students. Columbia also cited the most recent FAQ published by ICE, which stated that students who were not already in the country during the COVID-19 outbreak should remain in their home country. The University said that it is not yet clear how this may impact students moving forward.

Have the announcements to the incoming international students been made yet in regards to how they can be funded? Columbia is awaiting results of a consultation with the Office of General Council and ISSO to clarify the legal basis on allowing students to carry out TA/RA work remotely if they have not held an appointment previously.


Bargaining Updates

During this session, our discussions focused on Grievance and Arbitration and International Student Workers’ Rights. We are still expecting responses to our Job Posting, Leaves of Absence, and Vacation proposals from the July 10 session.

  • Grievance and Arbitration: While we are continuing to make progress towards an agreement on this article, the biggest issue remains: The University has not made significant movement on the treatment of Management and Academic Rights. This significantly delays our ability to reach an agreement on the article as Columbia’s current position hinders fair resolution of the process. We hope to get an acceptable response on this topic at our next bargaining session and will continue moving towards establishing a fair and timely process for resolving contract disputes.
  • International Student Working Rights: We are moving towards agreement on the issue of immigration needs accommodation––which would allow student workers to take a reasonable amount of time off to attend to immigration proceedings for themselves or their spouse and children. In the current political climate, it is more important than ever that Columbia commits to strong protections of international student workers in our first contract and make it possible for international students to safely live and work at Columbia.

Our next bargaining session is scheduled for Thursday, July 23, 1:30-5 PM. Please email columbiagradunion@gmail.com if you would like to attend the session over Zoom.