To the editors:
As a participant in the anti-Vietnam war movement and the Columbia University riots of 1968, I feel I must respond to the opinion piece by Joshua E. Gewolb ’01 (“Why I’m Sitting Out,” April 20). Gewolb claims that the Progressive Student Labor Movement (PSLM) “cheapens the legacy” of the anti-war movement by employing its methods in the service of the living wage issue, an issue that lacks both “the gravity and urgency” necessary to justify a sit-in.
I am proud to have been part of the anti-war movement. It was a mass movement, supported by a significant percentage of the students of the time. Even so, it was easier for many of us to vent our rage within and against (relatively) blameless universities than to confront the military and governmental institutions that were largely responsible for the war.
The members of PSLM apparently constitute a minority of students who believe that the economic privation of the people whose work allows their University to function is an issue of immense gravity. These students have, at some sacrifice to themselves, taken this issue to its source, a University with a $19 billion endowment that cannot pay its workers the same salary as the city of Cambridge. Gewolb criticizes PSLM’s tactics and says only reason, not pressure, can be used to effect change. I wonder if he believes this is the lesson of the civil rights movement.
Many of Harvard’s students come from well-to-do backgrounds and will eventually reach the top of the economic ladder. It is easy for poor workers to become and remain invisible. I am proud that the members of PSLM have not forgotten these people, that they recognize their responsibility to them and that they have the guts to do something about it. Their protest ennobles them and enriches the legacy of non-violent protest for a worthy cause.