Second Hunger Striker Hospitalized

Students hold vigil at empty president's mansion; Javier J. Castro '09 ends fast

Unnamed photo
Vilsa E. Curto

Approximately 25 students from the Harvard Stand for Security Coalition held a candlelight vigil outside of Elmwood, the currently vacant official residence of Harvard's president, in an effort to pressure Interim President Derek C. Bok into meeting with

Seven days into a hunger strike aimed at getting higher wages for Harvard's security guards, a second undergraduate participating in the strike was hospitalized for dangerously low sodium levels.

Meanwhile, about 25 students held a candlelight vigil Wednesday night outside of Elmwood, the currently unoccupied official residence of Harvard's president, in an apparent attempt to pressure Interim President Derek C. Bok to meet with protesters.

The vigil had been advertised as taking place at Bok's house, but while serving as interim president, Bok has continued to reside in his East Cambridge apartment, leaving Elmwood vacant.

On Wednesday afternoon, Matthew A. Opitz '10 was admitted to Mount Auburn hospital and placed on intravenous saline solution. He was released at 5:30 p.m. and is continuing with the hunger strike, according to a statement released by Stand for Security Coalition, the group leading the campaign for higher wages

Javier J. Castro '09, a protester hospitalized on Tuesday, agreed to end his fast Wednesday under advice from doctors, the statement said.

"Given my medical condition, the recent victories that we have managed to achieve, and the broad support that we have been able to mobilize, I have decided to end my fast," Castro  wrote in a statement posted on the Stand for Security Web site.

When Castro was first hospitalized, he received saline through an IV, but refused food and continued with the hunger strike, according to a  Tuesday posting on the Stand for Security Web log signed by Michael Gould-Wartofsky '07, a former Crimson editorial columnist.

After agreeing to end his fast, Castro was released from Harvard's Stillman infirmary, the statement said.

The student protesters are demanding that Harvard intervene for higher wages in contract negotiations between outside security contractor AlliedBarton and guards hired by the firm for Harvard's campuses.

The University has maintained that it will not intervene in the negotiations. The guards are represented by the Service Employees International Union 615.

University To Meet with SLAM (May 9, 2007): The University agrees to meet with student protesters to discuss their demands the same day that one of the students participating in the hunger strike is hospitalized for dangerously low sodium and electrolyte levels. The University also announces an independent firm will review the security guards’ contracts and ensure they meet Harvard’s parity standards for direct and indirect hires.

Students Launch Fast for Guards (May 4, 2007): Around 20 people—including students and other members of the Harvard community—protest in front of Mass. Hall, marking the kickoff of a widely publicized hunger strike aimed at convincing the University to support better working conditions for security guards.

Students Fast for Guards (April 27, 2007): Around 75 student activists begin a day-long fast in an attempt to sway the contract negotiations.  The day was marked with a protest in front of Massachusetts Hall in which students attempted to hand deliver a letter to Interim President Derek C. Bok.

SLAM To Fast for Security Guards
(April 24, 2007): SLAM announces that its members will begin a fast—which could escalate into a hunger strike of “indefinite lengths and proportions”—in an attempt to influence the negotiations of Harvard’s security guards with their employer AlliedBarton.

For Guards, A Union in Sight (Nov. 16, 2006): AlliedBarton and the Service Employees International Union reach an agreement permitting the guards to organize for the first time since the University outsourced their jobs two years prior, a change that signaled a hard-fought victory for the guards and student activists.