A better Tulane, a better New Orleans
Wednesday October 17th 2018

Tulane Demonstrates Their Commitment to Social Responsibility by Disciplining Students Fighting for Workers’ Rights

Although Bruff workers organized the walk out of April 23, four students–three TUSC members and one supporter who is not a member–were charged with five infractions including “harassment or intimidation,” “abusive or disorderly conduct,” and “interference with the freedom of expression of others.” Three were found responsible for “Failure to comply with the directions of University officials.” None of the students were found to have engaged in any kind or harassment, abuse or intimidation. This is probably because the event was carried out in the spirit of love and respect.

The University has refused to explain the reasoning behind its finding that students failed to comply with the direction of officials because they did not register the event, which seems illogical in light of the fact that it was not the students’ event to register. The University did not follow procedure, failing to file a written report prior to filling charges as required by the Student Code of Conduct. The charges were entirely baseless, and it seems that this is an attempt to dissuade students from pursuing organizing on campus in the future.

The SEIU (Service Employees International Union) provided logistical support to the workers who engaged in a strike on the 23rd. When folks at the SEIU learned that three members and one supporter of TUSC had been charged by the University, even though TUSC had not organized the strike, this is how they responded. TUSC works independently from the SEIU, but we are nonetheless very grateful that they have chosen to support student’s right to support political actions without being disciplined.

This goes far beyond the campaign for workers rights that’s going on right now–it sets a precedent for all political action at Tulane, which says that if you are critical of the administration, you will be punished.
That isn’t what our University is about. If you’re concerned about this, please e-mail Scott Cowen at email hidden; JavaScript is required and let him know that you believe Tulane should allow students to support their workers without fear of retaliation (there is another link to do this at the bottom of the page).

Tulane Demonstrates Their Commitment to Social Responsibility by Disciplining Students Fighting for Workers’ Rights

It has recently come to our attention that Tulane University students are being targeted and intimidated for standing by the University’s core mission–serving the community. The university has filed disciplinary Code of Conduct violations against several students, who are actively working alongside Sodexo food service workers as they fight for better working conditions.

An Unfair Labor Practice charge was filed with the Federal Government against Tulane for its role in intimidating union supporters. Food service workers walked out of work in a one-day strike on April 23, to protest unfair labor practices by their employer, Sodexo. Since the strike, there are reports that Tulane Police have been posted at the dining hall Bruff Commons, effectively policing conversations. Students who were most vocally supportive of the workers were sent letters from the Office of Student Affairs charging them with, among other things, intimidation, interference with the freedom of expression of others, and failure to comply with University officials acting in the performance of their duties. Three of the four students charged were convicted of failing to comply with the directions of University officials.

Maybe we shouldn’t be surprised to see this kind of behavior coming from a university that would rather take responsibility for stray cats on campus than accept responsibility for its food service workers. Nonetheless, it is deeply disturbing that Tulane is choosing to play an active a role in the intimidation of these workers and students.

Corporations like Sodexo that made over $1 billion in profits in 2009 are contributing to poverty and social deterioration by not respecting their employees’ rights—and Tulane has an obligation to be accountable for the actions and policies of its contractor Sodexo.

Just a few weeks ago, Tulane President Scott Cowen was awarded the “Loving Cup Award” for his role in rebuilding New Orleans post-Katrina. But Tulane’s recent reaction against student leaders fighting for the rights of campus food service workers have been anything but “loving.”

As the leader of such an academically and historically prestigious university, Tulane President Scott Cowen has the ability to demand Sodexo management clean up its act–or risk losing their lucrative contract. But instead, Tulane is actively impeding on the rights and free speech of students working on its own campus who are standing up for vital members of the Tulane community.

Tell Tulane’s president to drop all charges against students, who are working with Sodexo workers as they fight for worker’s rights. Click here to send a letter to Tulane President Scott Cowen.

We are also glad to hear that a Tulane Parent has chosen to write an open letter to Scott Cowen after finding out that the administration had retaliated against students who support the food workers. Here’s what she had to say:

Barbara’s Post:
Letter to President Scott Cowen from a Tulane Parent

Dear President Cowen,

I have been proud to have my daughter as a member of the Tulane class of 2012. The University’s values and your leadership encouraged our daughter to attend Tulane and us to support that decision. Tulane is a national university that takes responsibility to rebuild and improve its hometown. Scott, your leadership gave us confidence that you would continue to lead the university through storms in the community, both literally and figuratively, while appreciating the contribution of all people. We remember you telling the parents at Destination Tulane 2008 that it is Tulane’s belief that all students who attend this University have opportunities that others do not have. It is the responsibility of those, so blessed, to give back to the community through service learning and community service. Since the University’s core values were so compatible with ours, we felt confident to send you our daughter.

You can imagine my disappointment to learn workers have filed an Unfair Labor Practice charge against Tulane for the university’s role in preventing Sodexo dining hall workers from speaking with organizers and their colleagues from other schools on the Tulane campus, as well as for surveillance of the workers as they demonstrated for their right to form a union. These are some of the lowest-paid New Orleanians—the hard working people who serve food to the campus community and are a comfort to the students. These workers have stood up to rebuild their lives, families, and communities too—but Sodexo refuses to respect their rights and has in some cases retaliated against them for standing up for a brighter future. It deeply concerns to me that Tulane is charged with playing a role in the intimidation of these workers. It also concerns me that Tulane is taking a hard line against students who have stood up to support these workers and has issued Code of Conduct violations for four of the most vocally supportive students. These students have taken to heart your message about helping to give back to the community, and this level of discipline sends a message to the student body that free speech is not tolerated at Tulane.

President Cowen, these actions are inconsistent with the values that brought our family to Tulane. I urge you to get involved to resolve this. Meet with workers and hear their stories. Talk to your students who feel so passionately about this issue, and at the very least, give them a fair hearing about the events on campus. As an institute of higher learning and a campus that is integral part of the New Orleans community, you have a responsibility to set a higher standard—both for employing contractors that are committed to rebuilding the city, and for supporting students who stand up for what they believe in.

Please be the model of compassion and leadership for the students, the workers, the University and the greater New Orleans community that you have been in the past.

Thank you.

Barbara Shulman
Disclosure: Barbara is an International SEIU staff member, working in the union’s research department

Thanks Barbara!

Now is the time to stand up for the rights of students and workers in solidarity. All we want is an open, honest discussion, where the workers, who have been silenced for far too long, have the same voice as everyone else. The administration’s actions show that they are not interested in having that discussion.

More to come soon,
TUSC

Only in New Orleans
Only in New Orleans

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