BSA "Teach-in" Urges Administrators to Negotiate
The Black Students Association (BSA) held a "teach-in" with the Progressive Student Labor Movement (PSLM) yesterday urging administrators to negotiate with the students inside Massachusetts Hall, marking the most recent BSA effort to be more politically active on campus.
The teach-in is the first official partnership between the BSA and PSLM.
Addressing a crowd of about 80, BSA President Brandon A. Gayle '03 called upon administrators to again display their willingness to meet with students about their concerns. Gayle and other BSA members met with administrators in February concerning remarks Kenan Professor of Government Harvey C. Mansfield '53 had made about grade inflation.
"When Aaliyah [N. Williams '02, former BSA president] and I went to the administration we proved the door was open. Ironically, that door seems closed," Gayle said.
"I am urging the University to sit down with the people inside this building...and find some solution that will benefit both sides," he added.
While a question-and-answer session held after the speeches was designated as the "teach-in" portion of the event, few crowd members actually spoke with the students inside the building.
BSA originally publicized the teach-in as featuring "notable" members of the Afro-American Studies Department. But due to scheduling conflicts and last-minute organization-planning began on Saturday-no Faculty members spoke.
Several speakers at the teach-in addressed racial factors in the living wage debate, saying that a disproportionately large number of minority workers were paid wages less than $10.25 an hour.
One PSLM member spoke about the hardships experienced by her immigrant grandmother as a reason for her personal support of a living wage.
"It's a personal affront that Harvard University would think it's ok, for one second, to not pay people like [my grandmother] a living wage," Chanda S. Prescod-Weinstein '03 said.
Others emphasized the responsibility of the University and of students to support a living wage in the name of "common humanity."
"We have a responsibility to commit on behalf of these workers," said BSA member Claudia A. Sitgraves '02. "To whom much is given, much is required."
Although no Afro-American Studies Faculty were present at the teach-in, the department has almost unanimously endorsed a living wage for University workers.
Teach-in organizer and BSA Political Action Chair Fred O. Smith '04 said that only K. Anthony Appiah, professor of Afro-American Studies and of Philosophy, has not endorsed a living wage.
The Harvard National Association for the Advancement of Colored People also announced its endorsement of a living wage at the teach-in, joining a roster of more than 40 student groups who have endorsed the cause.
The endorsement by the Afro-American Studies Department follows one issued by the social anthropology wing of the Anthropology Department on Tuesday that endorses both a living wage and the sit-in.
The full Anthropology Department is expected to discuss endorsement of a living wage and of the sit-in at a meeting today.
The endorsement by the Afro-American Studies Department also follows a letter issued Sunday night by all of the House Masters, except those in Dunster and Kirkland, urging administrators to negotiate with students.
The teach-in is an indication of what Gayle said will be the group's more politically active position this semester. Gayle ran on a platform that promised to support more actively PSLM's efforts to procure a living wage for Harvard workers.
Gayle also sent a letter from the BSA supporting the sit-in to University President Neil L. Rudenstine, Dean of the College Harry R. Lewis '68 and several other administrators.
-Staff Writer Juliet J. Chung can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.