Media Advisory

Update on Student Worker Alliance sit-in at Washington University

Washington University continues in its effort to initiate a plan for addressing the ongoing needs of lower-paid contract service employees and reiterates our growing concern for the health and well being of the students engaging in a high-risk, life-threatening hunger strike at South Brookings Hall. The University has repeatedly informed the students that their hunger strike creates a significant risk to their health and safety and that the University cannot stand idly by while students take a self-destructive action on our premises.

The hunger-strike students are engaging in a behavior that violates the University Student Judicial Code, which prohibits conduct that “threatens or endangers the safety and health” of members of the University community. On numerous occasions the chancellor, the vice chancellor for students and the director of health services have in person expressed their concern for the students and have repeatedly asked that they end their hunger strike immediately to prevent serious harm to themselves.

In addition, the students have been conducting since April 4 an unlawful occupation of the Office of Admissions in violation of the Judicial Code, which prohibits “interfering with the rights of other members of the University community and visitors to the University to engage in . . . administrative, professional, business, and ceremonial activities or other functions.” The judicial administrator informed the students of this violation in writing and summoned them, as prescribed under code policy, to a meeting to discuss the matter. Three students have complied with the summons. Those who have not complied have committed an additional Code violation because they have not responded in person to a summons.

The University believes that we have provided ongoing, productive opportunities for the students to join with the University in raising awareness and generating significant progress toward improving wages and benefits of lower-paid contract service employees. We have committed an additional $500,000 for the 2005-06 fiscal year and given assurances that this amount will need to increase in future years. We continue to seek student input on how these funds should be used.

We will begin to meet with the companies that provide basic contractual services to ensure conformity to the University policy announced last fall – “Principles and Guidelines for Basic Service Contracts.” At the same time, we are initiating discussions on how to improve their workers’ health care.

The University agreed to appoint a team to help identify future resources needed to improve circumstances of lower-paid contract service employees, and we invite the participation of students in this process. The University announced that, in addition to its present membership in the Fair Labor Association, we will join the Workers Rights Consortium to continue our support of labor rights around the world. It also was indicated that the University will continue its policy of not attempting to influence independent contract service companies or their employees with respect to any labor issues between them.