One year after students flooded Low Steps to protest Donald Trump’s election, over 100 members of the Columbia community called on University administrators to bolster support for staff union rights, sexual assault victims, and undocumented students on campus at a rally on Low Steps Wednesday afternoon.
Columbia has taken steps to help students deal with the Trump administration’s policies, including implementing sanctuary measures, offering legal support for those affected by his administration’s travel ban, and promising to stay vigilant on Title IX. However, protesters said that more action is needed.
The protest was organized by five different groups: No Red Tape, UndoCu, Student-Worker Solidarity, and unions GWC-UAW Local 2110 Graduate Workers of Columbia and UAW Local 2110, which represents support staff.
The majority of the demands were made by union members, who called on Columbia to begin bargaining with graduate student unions. Later in the event, members of other groups spoke, and those in attendance chanted and distributed free merchandise with the slogan “we shall not be Trumped.”
Tania Bhattacharyya, a GWC representative, stood at the top of Low Steps with a megaphone and criticized Columbia administrators for refusing to acknowledgea collective bargaining agreement approved by the National Labor Relations Board last year.
Olga Brudastova, a civil engineering Ph.D. candidate and a member of GWC’s Bargaining Committee, reinforced Bhattacharyya’s points.
“Even though President Bollinger was publicly disagreeing with a lot of the policies that were proposed by the new administration of this country, he is very conveniently silent on the labor issues,” she said.
Following Bhattacharyya’s speech, UAW Recording Secretary June Benjamin spoke, drawing parallels between President Trump and President Ronald Reagan, under whose administration she pushed for improved support worker rights at Columbia. Speakers after Benjamin included members of communities that have been targeted by President Trump, specifically transgender and undocumented students.
“We shall come for you by name; Bollinger you should feel shame,” the protesters shouted, whose ranks swelled as the speeches went on. Calling out both Trump and Bollinger, they marched in a circle around Low Library and congregated peacefully outside Bollinger’s office at Low, after which the protests concluded.
“Our main message was that Columbia is choosing to side with the new appointees of the NLRB rather than recognizing democracy on our own campus. We’re trying to escalate this topic and to make Columbia aware of this growing movement and tell them that we’re not going away,” Brudastova said.
An undocumented student who introduced himself to the crowd as Pablo praised advocates who have continuously pushed for change the past year.
“We didn’t lose that sense of urgency,” he said, as protesters cheered in agreement.