Columbia officials yesterday confirmed the authenticity of the memo, which was reported in The Nation this week and posted on its Web site. But they said they had ultimately decided not to impose any penalties on graduate students who staged a five-day strike last week. “This was a list of proposals to be considered if we were going to take action,” said Alan Brinkley, Columbia’s provost. “Obviously, doing nothing was always an option, too.” Some graduate students, faculty members and union organizers said they were outraged that Columbia was willing to consider penalties like those outlined in the memo, which was signed by the provost and sent to 17 officials, including several deans, in February…Maida Rosenstein, president of Local 2110 of the United Auto Workers, which represents the support staff at Columbia and has been working to organize graduate student assistants, said a National Labor Relations Board decision last summer that graduate assistants at private universities were not eligible for unionization left them unprotected from the kinds of actions suggested in the memo. “It is really upsetting that the university even contemplated such actions,” Ms. Rosenstein said. She said that students and professors were very angry and were “still determining what our response will be.”
The provost and others said the memo had grown out of meetings by a working group that Dr. Brinkley headed last winter to consider how Columbia might respond if there were a strike. At the time, they said, Columbia officials thought that a strike might be imminent and last all semester. The question on the table, they said, was whether there might be ways to soften its impact…Dr. Brinkley said that the ideas he had put into the memo had grown out of conversations among members of his working group and others and that they had been assembled in a memo he sent out to make further conversation easier.