Communicating During the Strike

Columbia continues to engage in collective bargaining with Student Workers of Columbia (SWC-UAW). To support faculty during the strike, we are providing the guidance set forth here on what faculty members legally can and cannot say to students during this time period.

If you have particular questions about what you can or cannot say that are not addressed here, please direct your question to the Office of the General Counsel (Patricia Catapano at 646-823-7211 or [email protected]), or the Office of Labor Relations (Dan Driscoll at 212-851-2776 or [email protected]) before taking action. If you are contacted by outside sources looking for official University comments (i.e., newspaper reporters, government representatives), please refer the inquiry to the Office of Public Affairs (Caroline Adelman at 212-854-6581).


In general, instructors or supervisors of Student Employees cannot ask questions about their
students’ plans related to strike activities. Below are some examples of lawful comments you
can make to Student Employees.

  • You can tell students that Columbia will welcome any student who continues to perform their scheduled RA/TA duties during the strike. These students will be compensated for the work performed.
  • You can ask a Student Employee if they plan to work during the strike as long you make it clear it is voluntary to respond to the question, explain the reason for asking (e.g., in order to adjust courses as needed), and assure the student that there will be no retaliation if they decline to answer.
  • You can ensure that students are aware of adjustments to course-related activities and other logistical changes that occur during a strike to support students’ ongoing learning opportunities.
  • You can tell Student Employees that students who choose to strike will not be suspended, fired, otherwise disciplined, or treated differently than those who choose not to strike.
  • You can tell striking students that they can continue with their academic work regardless of whether they exercise their legal right to strike, including continuing their own research work requiring access to Columbia facilities.
  • You can inform Student Employees and other students that the University will protect their persons, property, and right to perform their teaching, research, work, and studying duties.
  • You can listen to Student Employee and student concerns and be ready to either respond appropriately or offer to help find them an appropriate answer. 
  • You can say to Student Employees that the University will continue to operate during a strike, but the student experience suffers as a result of the strike. During a strike, students will receive less feedback, less academic support, and delays on evaluations.

Federal law protects the right of Student Employees to strike (or not to strike).  Laws also protect Student Employees from interference with their right to strike, protest, and discuss work-related issues.  Therefore, you cannot say or do the following things.  Remember: T I P S are all illegal: Threats, Interrogations, Promises (positive or negative), and Spying.

  • You cannot ask whether Student Employees or other students will participate in a strike or honor a picket line. However, students may voluntarily state their position without fear of retaliation.
  • You cannot ask about a Student Employees' own or another's union activity or related protected activity.
  • You cannot initiate or engage in conversation with unfriendly pickets while crossing a picket line.
  • You cannot promise or grant special benefits to Student Employees for coming to perform their duties during a strike.
  • You cannot use profanity or threats in response to the comments, gestures, or actions of picketers. Do NOT seek to intimidate.
  • You cannot use force to enter or leave the premises.
  • You cannot openly take pictures of pickets in the absence of imminent or ongoing unlawful activity.
  • You cannot openly take notes while near picket lines in the absence of imminent or ongoing unlawful activity.
  • You cannot linger near or go through the picket line unnecessarily or repeatedly.