LOW MEMORIAL LIBRARY—In a dramatic reversal, Columbia President Lee Bollinger and Provost John Coatsworth announced that Columbia is now planning to bargain with the graduate student union. The news arrives after months of refusal to meet union demands, and seemingly comes as a response to union threats of a strike during final exams in December. This is all well and good, and it’s nice to see the union start to get some of their demands, but there’s a hidden cost to this announcement, one that negatively impacts people like me: I kinda wanted to see finals get all fucked up, and now they’ll probably just be normal. Shit.
This is not to say that I’m anti-union; far from it, I passionately support workers rights and collective bargaining. I wouldn’t be caught dead crossing a picket line, and have been in my share of protests in front of Low. But like… what would happen if they didn’t bargain, you know? I’m sure finals would still happen, but what would professors do without TAs? That shit would be wild. The professors would be so frazzled, exam grading would take so long, we might even hear protests from our exam halls; it would be so sick. You just know administration would hate it. It hurts to see the demands of the workers go continuously unanswered, but it hurts more knowing that we’re missing out on what promises to be a classic administrative meltdown.
As a passive observer of most campus affairs, it’s nice when something goes completely off the rails and causes huge problems. It breaks the monotony of college life; it’s kinda cool, you know? And nothing sounds quite as mildly interesting as pure, unadulterated chaos in the place that I call home. Perhaps I’m being selfish, but perhaps the union is being selfish. Why should their right to proper compensation and treatment as employees and human beings supercede my mild curiosity as to what would happen without TAs to proctor my exam? Really, I’m the victim here.
I am supportive of the union, but I must ask why they felt justified in making such a fun threat if they knew they might not have to follow through on it. And administration is no better; Columbia’s obstinate stance on the matter has been completely reliable, yet when the stakes were the highest, they failed us all. They failed to deliver the answer to a question that everyone has a slight desire to know the answer to, and by extension failed the entire community. Sure, it’s a big moment for labor, yadda yadda, but now we’ll never get to know just how fucked up finals could have been. Bummer.