ASGC is committed to improving the quality of life for its constituents through:
1. Serving as a communication link between the GSAS student population and the Office of the Dean, and advocating on behalf of graduate students whenever necessary.
2. Partnering with other student councils at Columbia and other universities, as well as the National Association of Graduate-Professional Students, to jointly advocate for improvements in working and living conditions of graduate students across the U.S.
3. Providing funding for student-led academic and cultural initiatives:
- Annual $40,000 available in conference travel funding;
- Over $15,000 to recognized student groups and other student-led initiatives
4. Organizing social and cultural events for graduate students, such as bar socials, game nights, networking events, and discounted tickets to shows, concerts, and sporting events around New York.
The ASGC advocacy platform is determined by concerns raised by its constituency in the following three ways:
1. The annual Quality of Life Survey gives us insight into general issues that affect large segments of our constituency. The Quality of Life Committee delivers the Quality of Life Report to the Office of the Dean, and the Quality of Life Chair uses these insights to determine main areas of focus for the upcoming academic year. Previous Quality of Life reports can be accessed here: https://council.gsas.columbia.edu/content/quality-life-survey
2. Department representatives bring issues affecting their programs, departments, or individual students they represent at our monthly plenary meetings.
3. Concerns may also be brought to the Council’s attention directly by individual students and smaller groups. We encourage all constituents who have concerns over existing University policy, its equitable implementation, or other matters impacting their quality of life, to contact the Quality of Life Chair directly using the form on our website: https://council.gsas.columbia.edu/form/contact
Anonymity is ensured for all respondents to the Advocacy Platform Survey, as well as all those who request it when raising an issue.
Recent Advocacy Efforts
Some of the specific issues we addressed in 2018/2019 include:
· Delivered a detailed report on the state of parental accommodations at Columbia compared to its peer institutions to Dean Alonso and Provost Coatsworth. Following the University's response that all changes to parental accommodations are subject to ongoing contract negotiations with the Union, contributed the report to the GWC Bargaining Committee.
· Secured uninterrupted gym access for summer instructors
· Worked on improving access to healthcare services for students who work at CUIMC but live on Morningside, and vice versa.
· Successfully advocated to temporarily suspend the implementation of the proposed 20% rent surcharge for students in Columbia Housing who need a short-term lease extension due to family obligations and other matters that don't allow them to move out immediately upon graduation.
· Following Columbia's commitment to cover internet fees for all PhD students in CU housing, we investigated whether all of our constituents are receiving the promised benefit. A substantial number of students are still not covered, and we will continue to advocate for faster implementation in 2019/2020.
The Quality of Life Chair delivers a report on their activities and accomplishments each semester. This report is included in the Executive Board’s overall semester report, available here: https://council.gsas.columbia.edu/content/semester-reports
The most recent updates on quality of life issues we take up with the Office of the Dean can be found in our email newsletter, distributed weekly and archived here: https://council.gsas.columbia.edu/content/archive
Our relationship with the Union
The ASGC serves as a bridge between our constituents and the GSAS administration. Historically we have been able to address many student concerns via our working relationship with the GSAS Office of the Dean. We do not, however, have the power to systematically negotiate for more favorable working conditions through collective bargaining. Such a body does exist: the Student Workers of Columbia (SWC-UAW).
In December 2016, Columbia graduate workers voted 72% to 28% to form a union affiliated with the United Auto Workers Local 2110, which represents all TAs and RAs, including master’s students and undergraduates. This vote was conducted after the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB)’s August 2016 decision to restore the right to collective bargaining for research and teaching assistants at private universities. The NLRB certified that vote in December 2017, recognizing the GWC-UAW as the exclusive collective-bargaining unit for Columbia graduate workers. Since then, the university has refused to bargain in good faith with the GWC-UAW. The ASGC retracted its neutrality policy in 2018 and affirmed its support for the GWC-UAW’s efforts to fulfill its democratic mandate to engage in collective bargaining on behalf of Columbia graduate workers.
In July 2020, the Union went through a name change in order to better reflect the inclusion of undergraduate student workers. The Union now bargains for all Columbia student workers (regardless of their school affiliation), and they are now known as the Student Workers of Columbia. ASGC reaffirms its support for the SWC-UAW to collectively bargain on the behalf of Columbia student workers.
You can learn more about our position on unionization here: https://council.gsas.columbia.edu/content/our-position-unionization