On Friday, October 20th, the Resident Advisors (RA) Union held a rally to garner support with dozens of attendees on the steps of Barnard Hall.
“Rallies help build morale with the RA union because a great union-busting strategy is to keep this [bargaining] going long enough for people to lose steam or inspiration or motivation, or even a sense of community,” said Epiphany Larmey BC’ 23, a former RA. “Rallies are a great way to bring back that fire.”
The rally began at 1:30 pm with student-led chants and speeches from student members of the RA union bargaining committee, graduated members of the union, and non-RA student union supporters. The group then marched to the front of Milbank Hall, the home of the office of President Rosenbury, and back to Barnard Hall.
“We are all feeling so supported and proud,” said Abigail Fixel BC’ 26, an RA and a member of the union bargaining committee. “We had union leaders from last year come back and they were still standing with us. And that’s what this really is all about, we’re not just doing this so that we have fair pay, but so that the future generations of RAs after us have it as well.”
Aditi Misra, BC ‘23, in collaboration with other graduated RAs like Larmey, founded and led the RA Union in the 2022-2023 school year. During the rally, they performed a speech outlining the history of the union and the need for continued advocacy in the fight for the union contract for a more equitable future for all RAs. “These rallies really helped build community support,” said Misra. “It lets people know what exactly it is we’re fighting for and, hopefully, we’ll get more people to understand and fight alongside us.”
The graduated RA leaders said they knew they “were never going to see the benefits of the union”, given their belief that the College slowed down bargaining within the union hoping the demands would subside.
“We have unfinished business with the college and anything that we can do to support we’re ready to do,” said Misra. “I do a lot. I’ve graduated. I’m working. But I tried to be as involved as possible because the point of starting a union was to support generations of RAs.”
Dozens of students attended the rally despite the rain, with many wearing red. Fixel said the rally organizers encouraged attendees to wear the color given it was the direct opposite of the Barnard blue.
Zoe Benavidez BC’27, an attendee of the rally, said she was originally accepted to Barnard through early decision but decided to defer her application given the actions of past Barnard President Sian Beilock through not voluntarily recognizing the RA union and hiring a union-busting law group. “Now that I’m here, I realized there’s power in numbers, that’s why we’re here,” said Benavidez. “It’s important to go against unequal pay, no matter who it is, and no matter where it is.”
Throughout the past weeks of bargaining, the union and the College have been in discussions to reach an agreement regarding the RA contract. Tensions recently rose in the meetings when it was discovered that many RAs were being paid little to nothing for the work they were performing.
The current payment system is based on the cost of housing and a meal plan being removed from a student’s tuition. However, for students receiving a high amount of financial aid, their aid packages were said to be decreased so that many were effectively contributing the same amount to their tuition compared to before taking on the role of RA. Given the inequity in payment, Fixel said that being at the rally and a part of the bargaining committee for the union was a very personal issue for her.
“As a low-income RA, when I did the calculations and realized how I wasn’t being paid what I was promised, I was heartbroken because there’s no way the administration doesn’t know what’s going on,” said Fixel. “It breaks my heart and I want to fight so that no other RA ever has to be so surprised like I was.”