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Four members of the Student Labor Action Movement attended Harvard President Drew G. Faust’s office hours yesterday in order to ask for more job protections for workers, greater transparency in the University’s spending, and divestment from HEI Hotels and Resorts—a corporation that some allege violates workers’ rights.
The four students—William F. Poff-Webster ’14, Sandra Y.L. Korn ’14, William P. Whitham ’14, and Anna J. Murphy ’12, each presented to the president for between 10 and 20 minutes yesterday on their respective subjects. Poff-Webster and Korn are both active Crimson editorial editors.
Whitham says that he urged Faust to fight for better benefits for dining hall workers, noting that these employees lack job security and have recently suffered a decline in compensation.
“There has been about a $900 decrease per worker in annual wage from 2009 to 2010,” he said. “That may not seem like a lot, but that is about two weeks on a dining hall worker’s salary.”
Whitham also provided Faust with a list of SLAM’s demands for the University, which include providing a living wage and benefits for dining hall staff and greater job security for workers, according to Whitham.
Korn, who discussed divestment from HEI with Faust, said that she was motivated to go to Faust because sending a report on the company, which has been accused of union busting and worker mistreatment, to Harvard’s Advisory Committee on Shareholder Responsibility was unsuccessful.
Korn spoke to Faust about stories that had been told to her by HEI workers discussing their poor working conditions. She then summarized the findings of SLAM’s report on HEI and urged Faust to fight for divestment from the company.
In addition, Poff-Webster and Murphy asked Faust to support the Higher Education Right-to-Know Act, a bill introduced by two Massachusetts State Senators last January that would require universities with investments or property valued at more than $10 million to reveal details about their contracts with outside companies and about individual employees, such as faculty making over $250,000 per year.
The students said they had mixed views about their interactions with Faust.
“She said, basically, ‘Sorry, I can’t do anything,” Korn said.
But Korn said that Brown Unversity President Ruth J. Simmons played a key role in Brown’s decision not to reinvest in HEI.
“If the Brown president can do it, I assume the University structure is not that different at Harvard,” Korn said.
Poff-Webster said that he agreed with some of Faust’s points, such as the need for universities to have private investment in order to stay ahead of the market, but he said he felt the University needs to “moderate” profit with its ethical obligations.
—Staff writer Mercer R. Cook can be reached at email@example.com.
This article has been revised to reflect the following correction.
CORRECTION: APRIL 19, 2011
The April 19 article "SLAM Members Meet with Faust" incorrectly stated that Brown University has decided to divest from HEI Hotels and Resorts. In fact, the university has chosen not to reinvest in the company.
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