WUSTL Update: Student Worker Alliance

On April 4, 2005, a group of Washington University undergraduate students known as the Student Worker Alliance (SWA) occupied the admissions office in Brookings Hall in an effort to support a campaign for living wages. Following is a list of updates from the University.

To read Chancellor’s letters to the Student Worker Alliance, please click here.
To read Chancellor messages to the community, please click here.
To view a timeline of events pertaining to the sit-in, please click here.

Media Update: April 22, 2005

Briefing to announce WUSTL and SWA reach agreement; sit-in ends

WHO: Chancellor Mark S. Wrighton

WHAT: Announcement that Washington University and the Student Worker Alliance have reached an agreement and the students have ended their occupation of Brookings Hall and the Quadrangle.

WHERE: Room 300 Brookings Hall at Washington University. From Skinker Boulevard take Forsyth west one block and turn north on Hoyt Drive to Brookings Hall.

WHEN: Starts at 4 p.m. and ends promptly at 4:15 p.m. due to the chancellor’s previously scheduled commitments, Friday, April 22, 2005

Media Update: April 20, 2005 (P.M.)

The North Brookings Hall is locked as a precaution against further unauthorized occupation by students or others.

Media Update: April 20, 2005 (A.M.)

Chancellor Mark S. Wrighton talked briefly with the SWA students this morning (Wednesday) to reiterate that he is prepared to meet with them after they discontinue their sit-in at South Brookings Hall and the Brookings Quadrangle — as previously agreed. He also told them that the University has begun to implement its plan to address the issues they have raised and hoped they would become part of this process. This process started on Tuesday with an initial meeting of University employees who have responsibility for working with service contractors.

Media Update: April 18, 2005

Over the weekend, Chancellor Mark S. Wrighton engaged — at their request — in direct conversation with four students representing those conducting the sit-in in South Brookings Hall and Brookings Quadrangle. Conditional on their agreement to immediately end their sit-in and hunger strike, the University and the students reached an understanding on several issues, including resources, future meetings, and the resolution of sanctions for violations of the University’s Judicial Code. The four students agreed to both the terms of the discussion and the predetermined conditions for going forward with the understanding that had been reached.

Much to the University’s disappointment, others outside the chancellor’s meeting with the four students took the position that they could further alter this agreement and yet still receive the new proposals put forward by the University. The SWA’s last-minute alterations and additions were unacceptable in substance and because they represented a retraction of their earlier agreement. Chancellor Wrighton told them that this would remove the University’s new proposals from consideration and that the University would proceed with the plan announced last Thursday.

Inaccurate reports indicate that the new proposals discussed during Saturday night’s meeting reflect the University’s current position. In fact, none of what happened in that meeting is currently under consideration — due to the failure of the sit-in participants to proceed with the commitment they gave to terminate their sit-in. Chancellor Wrighton personally delivered this message to the sit-in participants late Saturday night and again gave them the opportunity to reaffirm their commitment to cease their sit-in. They declined to do so.

University administrators have talked frequently with the students from the very outset and have earnestly and patiently sought a resolution. Chancellor Wrighton has a responsibility to all Washington University students and the entire University community, not just to the students occupying South Brookings. In good faith, the University has provided a plan and a process that begins to address the wage and benefit concerns for lower-paid contract workers. The University hopes all members of its community will join in working toward the plan’s implementation.

Media Update: April 17, 2005

Washington University reports no change in status regarding the student sit in since Thursday, when the University put forward its plan for supporting lower-paid contract workers. We continue to meet with the students, but no further agreements have been reached. We are relieved to learn they have ended their hunger strike.

Media Update: April 16, 2005

The SWA students continue their hunger strike and sit-in in South Brookings Hall. Dr. Alan Glass, director of Student Health and Counseling, and other student affairs administrators continue to monitor the health status of the students on the hunger strike and urge them to cease their high-risk behavior. The lines of communication remain open regarding the issue of wages for contract workers

Media Update: April 15, 2005

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.

Media Update: April 14, 2005

To read Chancellor’s letter to the Student Worker Alliance, please click here.

Media Update: April 13, 2005

Vice Chancellor for Students Jim McLeod and Dr. Alan Glass, director of Student Health and Counseling, met with the sit-in students late yesterday (Tuesday) afternoon in another attempt to discourage them from participating in a hunger strike. Dr. Glass advised the students on the serious health implications of their actions and provided increased warnings to any students who might have a chronic health condition or be taking certain medications. Dr. Glass plans to visit the students each day to assess their condition.

The university views the hunger strike as dangerous action that could make the students a danger to themselves. The university cannot sit idly by as students attempt to do significant harm to their health.

On Wednesday morning, the sit-in students received written notice that they have failed to comply with the university’s request to vacate Brookings Hall and that they have failed to meet with the Judicial Administrator as required by the Judicial Code.

The university has agreed to substantive immediate and future improvements in working conditions for contract workers and has asked the SWA students to participate in this process. While the university is open to ongoing dialogue with the SWA students, it is moving forward with its own plan to address the concerns raised by the students.

Media Update: April 12, 2005

Washington University has notified the students occupying South Brookings Hall and the Brookings Quadrangle that they are in violation of the University’s Judicial Code, which prohibits “interfering with the rights of other members of the University community and visitors to the University to engage in educational, recreational, residential, administrative, professional, business, and ceremonial activities or other functions.”

The judicial code provides a framework for setting respectful and fair expectations for how student members of the University community relate to one another and to the institution. Such codes are the way many universities provide a process to establish parameters for student behavior, adjudicate outcomes, and administer sanctions.

This code is reviewed every three years with students and faculty and serves as the University’s policies and procedures regarding student conduct. Offenses can lead to sanctions ranging from warnings up to and including expulsion from the University. A copy of the judicial code may be found at http://www.wustl.edu/policies/judicial.html. References to the code have already been shared with the sit-in students on at least two prior occasions, and now the University has formally notified the students that they are not in compliance with the code.

The University does not permit actions that interfere with the conduct of its official business. The disruption in South Brookings Hall and the Brookings Quadrangle was permitted during the time that the University was formulating a plan that was presented to the students Monday afternoon in a meeting between University administrators and all of the participants present at the sit-in. The University believes that its plan addresses the concerns raised about wages and benefits for contract workers. The University’s plan states:

  • Continuing a dialogue with SWA students, and committing $500,000 as of July 1, 2005, toward improving the wage/benefits packages of contract service employees in ways that also will enhance the University.
  • Convening a meeting of University service contractors to discuss what improvements can be made, either individually or collaboratively, with special attention to health-care issues.
  • Establishing a group to re-examine priorities in order to identify resources to assist lower-paid contract service employees.

The University’s plan is a sincere effort to address the needs of contract workers and to demonstrate the University’s care and concern regarding their circumstances in a way consistent with University practice. Future discussions with contract services companies will involve recommendations and conditions established by the University in both the best interest of contract workers and of the University community.

Media Update: April 11, 2005

The University has heard the student concerns, and we care about the same issues related to contract workers at Washington University who are financially disadvantaged. Executive Vice Chancellor John Klein made a presentation Monday morning to the University Council on the SWA recommendations regarding wages of lower-paid contract workers. Two representatives of the SWA were observers at the meeting and key administrators met briefly with student leaders later in the afternoon. He met with the SWA students Monday afternoon to discuss the University’s plan.

The plan John Klein presented, which provides a prompt and substantial response to concerns, includes:

• Continuing a dialogue with SWA students, and committing $500,000 as of July 1, 2005, toward improving the wage/benefits packages of contract service employees in ways that also will enhance the University.

• Convening a meeting of University service contractors to discuss what improvements can be made, either individually or collaboratively, with special attention to health-care issues.

• Establishing a group to re-examine priorities in order to identify resources to assist lower-paid contract service employees.

Washington University is considered to be one of the best employers in the region, and we value the services provided by employees of contracted companies.

Media Update: April 8, 2005

The University is continuing to assess the financial implications of some of the Student Worker Alliance (SWA) recommendations. The University Council, while not a decision-making body regarding fiscal policy, will hear a report on the complex issues involved at its Monday, April 11 meeting. The University Council is a group of deans and senior administrators. Key administrators will meet with SWA student leaders later that day.

Four members of the SWA who are participating in the sit-in met with University administrators late Thursday afternoon to review and clarify the University’s policies regarding peaceful demonstrations.

Administrators will continue to meet with SWA members on a daily basis, keeping open the dialogue about their concerns while the University continues the process of reviewing their recommendations.

The Admissions Office continues to function under these difficult conditions.

Media Update: April 6, 2005

A small group of University administrators met with five members of the Student Worker Alliance this afternoon for about an hour. It was a collegial, informative meeting called by the administration to learn more about these students’ concerns. It was an important step in working together with the Student Worker Alliance toward a resolution of these current issues.

Media Update: April 5, 2005

Chancellor Wrighton spoke briefly late Tuesday afternoon with the students gathered in the Admissions office in South Brookings. He told the students he understands the legitimacy of their concerns, that the issues they raise are complex, and that the university is willing to talk to them about the issues and how we can make Washington University a better place.

The “Code of Conduct” document proposed by the Student Worker Alliance (SWA) is being circulated to administrators for their review and will be discussed at the University Council meeting on April 11. While decisions on allocation of university resources are not made at University Council meetings, the discussion will broaden the conversation on how best to make important policy decisions in a considered manner.

Media Update: April 4, 2005

Washington University is committed to being a premier place to work. Based on the report of a task force last spring, the University revised its Principles and Guidelines for Basic Services Contracts, which became University policy on October 1, 2004. Currently, a group of administrators with responsibility for outside contractors is assessing the St. Louis market with respect to compensation and benefits, and we are willing to consider any new points the Student Worker Alliance has suggested in their proposed “Code of Conduct.”

Since this document was received late Friday afternoon, no one in the administration has had the opportunity to review the proposal in detail. The University is interested in continuing the dialogue in an orderly fashion, and Chancellor Wrighton has asked Executive Vice Chancellor John Klein to review the SWA proposal and make a presentation to the University leadership at the next meeting of the University Council on April 11.