On Wednesday, the Student Government Senate passed a resolution disapproving of the recent protests and demonstrations held on campus regarding the UNICCO unionization dispute. These activities were cited as being disruptive to campus life and safety, and the resolution put forth a demand for such activities to end immediately.
The resolution put forth that the actions of Students Toward A New Democracy (STAND) and outside protestors from Jobs With Justice (JWJ) and the Association for Community Organization and Reform Now (ACORN) in recent weeks have violated the academic rights of current and prospective students. These actions specifically included halting business at the Ashe building during the week of April 10, interrupting a class held by President Donna E. Shalala, and inappropriately occupying the office of Roosevelt Thomas, vice president of human resources. The Graduate Student Association (GSA) passed a similar resolution on April 6.
During one of these protests at the Ashe building, student protestors from FIU and FAU also vandalized the back of the Ashe building with crayon, leading many senators to believe that STAND is no longer capable of controlling its events or participants.
The bill was co-authored by Daniel Ohrenstein, Pearson Residential College senator, and Paty Escuder, former speaker of the Senate, and was sponsored by Camilo Martinez, senior senator.
Ohrenstein said he wrote the bill to voice the wishes of the silent majority on campus who did not approve of STAND’s actions. He said that the actions of STAND and other protesters were interfering with the students’ rights to have a peaceful campus environment; many students who may disagree with the protesters’ views are afraid to speak up because they are intimidated by the groups’ large presence on campus.
“[The senators] all listen to [their] constituents and, by and large, people are against STAND and SEIU disrupting their classes, shutting down Ashe, interfering with university business and being disrespectful to President Shalala and campus administrators,” Ohrenstein said.
While the resolution was passed by a majority vote in the Senate, there were some senators who voted against it.
Stephen Sinclair, the College of Arts and Sciences senator, said that there were several factual inconsistencies in the wording of the bill. Sinclair, who is also a member of STAND, maintained that the actions that went on at the Ashe building were not all under the organization of STAND and the SEIU. Sinclair went on to say that outside protesters came to campus of their own accord, and not at the behest of STAND, and that STAND was not present at the protest during which the Ashe building was vandalized.
In response to the bill’s passing, Sinclair believes more harm than good may come of it.
“I’m not sure what the student body at large feels about STAND, but I know there’s people that are opposed [to STAND’s actions] and people who agree with them and I think [the resolution] is going to polarize the campus as far as these two groups of students are concerned,” Sinclair said.
Jacob Coker-Dukowitz, a junior and member of STAND, said that the group respects the Senate’s authority and the role it plays in the university community, but also added that the striking workers are also members of the community whose rights deserve to be protected.
Marina Nazir can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org