Harvard’s Student Labor Action Movement (SLAM) posted 400 Valentines in the Science Center this week to protest University investment with HEI Hotels and Resorts, a company accused of violating its workers’ rights.
The valentines read, “I love Harvard because [blank] but I’d love it even more if it invested responsibly.” Students filled in the blanks with individualized thoughts, such as “it is a second home,” “it’s so diverse,” and “Expos rocks.”
The students’ protest stemmed from allegations about the HEI’s treatment of workers, and in particular accusations of high worker injury rates, anti-union intimidation, and low wages, according to John F. Bowman ’11, one of the protest’s organizers.
Bowman said that Harvard has at least $69.9 million invested in HEI, though the actual investment may be larger.
The students launched the protest following a joint meeting with Yale and Brown two weeks before Valentine’s Day. Representatives from the three schools met in Providence and decided to organize the protest in order to show student solidarity for the movement against the company.
HEI Hotels draws approximately 80 percent of its funding from university endowments.
Students from Harvard agreed that while they would not call for divestment, they would encourage the University not to pursue further investment until the labor issues have been addressed.
They also decided that they would encourage Harvard to take a more proactive stance in resolving this issue.
“We want Harvard to engage in dialogue with executives at HEI Hotels and Resorts, which means making a phone call and talking to the HEI executives and finding out why there is a labor dispute,” Bowman said.
For the protest, SLAM members collected the valentines by tabling at various dining halls and reaching out to several student organizations, including the Harvard College Democrats and Phillips Brooks House Association groups.
SLAM members displayed the valentines on posters and presented them to President Drew G. Faust, who responded by promising to set up a meeting with Marc Goodheart ’81—the secretary to Harvard’s chief governing boards.
Students expressed optimism that Faust would follow through with her promise.
“We hope that the University acknowledges our multiple attempts to bring this issue that students care about to them,” said SLAM member Alyssa M. Aguilera ’08-’09. “We hope they’ll see that HEI is a really irresponsible company.”
—Staff writer Evan T.R. Rosenman can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.