Columbia’s New Reality

Planning for a graduate student strike during the COVID-19 crisis.

Blossoming magnolia tree in front of St. Paul's Chapel on Columbia University campus

On March 19, amid a global pandemic, Columbia graduate students announced that they voted in favor of authorizing a strike. To safeguard its community during this health crisis, the University has dramatically altered how it operates, and the University’s strike contingency plans will reflect the current extraordinary situation.

Q: What is the University doing to avert a strike?

A: Despite everything that’s going on, the University remains engaged in negotiations and is committed to bargaining with the graduate students and the postdocs. The University is continuing to engage in bargaining sessions and hopes to reach an agreement as expeditiously as possible. Since February 2019, Columbia has participated in more than 28 bargaining sessions to find agreement on issues with its graduate students related to the terms and conditions of their work as teaching and research assistants. Bargaining will continue on a virtual basis beginning on April 1.

Q: How is Columbia handling a possible strike by grad students during the coronavirus pandemic?

A: This is an especially challenging time across the University as it scales back as much as possible to slow the COVID-19 outbreak and protect colleagues and the community. Across Columbia, research is being wound down and there is tireless work to support virtual instruction and reduce disruptions to learning. Faculty and staff have been meeting regularly on contingency planning to ensure the continuation of teaching, should a strike occur. In the event of a strike, the University will take all necessary steps to minimize the disruption of instruction, to ensure course objectives are met, and to ensure timely grading. If there are interruptions, the department offering the affected course will implement make-up arrangements to ensure that the instructional objectives of the classes are met and that everyone is kept informed.

Q: How will Columbia ensure that students will have classes, receive grades, and, if applicable, graduate on time?

A: The University is dedicated to supporting the uninterrupted education and timely graduation of every Columbia student, and is working to ensure that students’  learning and degree completion will not be unduly disrupted by either COVID-19 or a strike. There are plans in place to ensure that grades will be entered to complete the term. The University does not anticipate any change in the schedule for faculty submitting grades, or with clearance for graduation.