|"Non-Profit" Teachers College of Columbia University's 525 W. 120th St. building. (photo by Bohao Zhao (wikicommons))|
Since January 22, 2021, thousands of Columbia University students of the Upper West Side "non-profit" university have been withholding their tuition payments for the Spring 2021 semester, in support of the following 5 demands:
"1) Columbia must alleviate the economic burden on students by reducing the cost of attendance and increasing financial aid.
- Reduce the cost of attendance (including tuition, fees, and room & board) by at least 10%.
- Increase financial aid by at least 10%.
- Replace the "student responsibility" with grants.
- Offer financial aid for summer classes for all schools at Columbia
- Forgive all late fees and other forms of retaliation for unpaid bills for the duration of the pandemic.
- We also demand that this reduction and increased aid should not come at the expense of instructor or worker pay, but rather at the expense of bloated administrative salaries, expansion projects, and other expenses that don't benefit students and workers.
"2) Columbia must fulfill its responsibilities to the people of West Harlem by committing to provide employment, education & affordable housing, and to end expansion.
" 3) Columbia must defund Public Safety and invest in community safety solutions that prioritize the safety of Black students and West Harlem residents, and repair harm caused by prior racist practices of Public Safety.
" 4) Columbia must commit to complete transparency about the University's investments and respect the democratic votes of the student body regarding investment and divestment decisions. This includes respecting the referendums at Barnard and Columbia College to divest from companies involved in human rights violations, divesting fully from fossil fuels, and respecting the results of future referendums relating to investment decisions; and
"5) Columbia must bargain in good faith with unions on campus around their key demands for improved compensation, benefits, and protections. This includes guaranteeing protections to international students and granting union recognition for MA and undergrad student-workers."
According to the Columbia University students who initiated the 2021 tuition strike:, "these issues are united by a shared root cause: a flagrant disregard for initiatives democratically supported within the community" and the administration of Columbia University President Lee Bollinger's "unilateral decision-making process" which "has perpetuated the existence of these injustices in our community despite possessing ample resources to confront them with structural solutions."
In response to either the threat of a tuition strike or the tuition strike itself, Columbia University's Bollinger "administration announced it would freeze tuition, suspend fees on late payments, increase spring financial aid and provide a limited amount of summer grants to students," according to a Jan. 26, 2021 In These Times article, titled "Columbia Students Wage the Largest Tuition Strike in Nearly 50 Years," by Indigo Olivier. But "students who" were "withholding tuition were surprised when they learned of multiple cases in which $150 late fees appeared in students' accounts last weekend, though they have not been able to confirm whether they are expected to pay this fee," according to the same article.
In These Times also noted that, on Jan. 22, 2021, Columbia's Board of Trustees "finally formalized its commitment to divest from publicly traded oil and gas companies;" but on Jan. 20, 2021, "the Board of Trustees also quietly announced it was lifting its 2006 to 2020 policy of divestment and non-investment in `companies operating in Sudan.'"
Despite calling their Upper West Side-based private schools "non-profit" institutions, some of the administrators and professors of both Columbia University and Teachers College of Columbia University have, in recent years, apparently been pocketing total annual monetary compensations much higher than what most New York City workers who are still employed are paid; or what most Columbia students are likely to earn annually during the current decade.
According to the 2017 Form 990 financial filing of Teachers College of Columbia University (on whose board of trustees Columbia University President Bollinger has sat next to Rockefeller Brothers Fund Chair of the Board of Trustees and former "confidential assistant" to Secretary Richard Riley at the U.S. Department of Education during the first Clinton administration, Valerie Rockefeller, in recent years), for example, between Sept. 1, 2017 and Aug. 31, 2018, "non-profit" Columbia's Teachers College paid total annual compensations that exceeded $198,000 to the following folks:
1. Teachers College President and later President Emerita Susan Fuhrman's total annual compensation was $1,059,181;
2. Teachers College VP Suzanne Murphy's total annual compensation was $533,206;
3. Teachers College's then-newly-installed President Thomas Bailey's total annual compensation was $468,469;
4. Teachers College VP Harvey Spector's total annual compensation was $465,600;
5. Teachers College Provost & Dean Thomas James's total annual compensation was $465,250;
6. Teachers College Professor Sharon Kagan's total annual compensation was $423,098;
7. Teachers College Enid & Lesk Morse Chair Ruth Vinz's total annual compensation was $373,390;
8. Teachers College Professor Andrew Gordon's total annual compensation was $362,407;
9. Teachers College Professor Jeanne Brooks-Gunn's total annual compensation was $356,392;
10. Teachers College VP Janice Robinson's total annual compensation was $350,941;
11. Teachers College's former Vice-Provost William Baldwin's total annual compensation was $334,607;
12. Teachers College Professor Anne Lin Goodwin's total annual compensation was $330,646;
13. Teachers College Assoc. VP Nancy Streim's total annual compensation was $318,679;
14. Teachers College Vice Provost Catherine Embree's total annual compensation was $279,550;
15. Teachers College Chief of Staff Katharine Conway's total annual compensation was $230,181;
16. Teachers College Vice Provost Steven Goss's total annual compensation was $225,955; and
17. Teachers College's former General Counsel Lori Fox's total annual compensation was $198,594.
In 2018 the "non-profit" Teachers College of Columbia University also had over $149 million invested in "non-public equity funds" and over $28 million invested in "private equity and real estate funds," according to its 2017 Form 990 financial filing.
Between Sept. 1, 2017 and Aug. 31, 2018, the total revenues of Columbia University's Teachers College exceeded $241 million, which included over $47 million that came from "contributions and grants" and over $4 million that came from its investment income. In addition, Teachers College of Columbia University spent $1 million on "lobbying" between Sept. 2017 and August 2018.
So, not surprisingly, in July 2020,the privately-controlled Teachers College of Columbia University was awarded $6.3 million in two publicly-funded U.S. federal government grants from the U.S. Department of Education's Institute of Education Science for a "study of the Federal Work-Study program." And in October and November 2020, Multi-Billionaire U.S. Oligarch Bill Gates's Gates Foundation also gave four "charitable" grants, totaling over $1.2 million, to the Teachers College of institutionally racist Columbia University; including, ironically, a $499,000 tax-exempt "charitable" grant "to advance knowledge of which advising reforms disproportionately benefit students of color and students experiencing poverty" and a $100,000 "charitable" grant "to support reporting on racial inequities in education."