Yesterday's public protest for a living wage, Neil Rudenstine's Christmas in Jail, depicted University President Neil L. Rudenstine as a cantankerous, tight-fisted Scrooge who is opposed to worker and student demands.
Targeting Rudenstine, Progressive Student Labor Movement (PSLM) members say, is an effective rhetorical strategy at rallies--and yesterday's crowd of about 100 responded with laughter and enthusiasm to the caricature.
The son of a prison guard and a waitress--neither of whom advanced beyond the eighth grade--Rudenstine's background belies the common conception of Harvard as rich and elitist.
He almost never reveals personal information, but in a rare moment of candor at a public event last week, he spoke passionately about his family background and his familiarity with the plight of workers.
"You don't know anything about me," he told students after some accused him of being unfeeling. "[There's] no reason why you should."
Rudenstine told students that his 86 year-old mother--a waitress until the age of 77--never made a "living wage" of $10.25 per hour in her life.
"There are a lot of families in America that work bloody hard...and don't make $10.25 an hour," he said. "That doesn't mean they shouldn't. But that's a separate discussion."
But despite his background, PSLM members say Rudenstine is a fair target for criticism.
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