Steps in the right direction
For some time now I have been following your campaign for a living wage at the University. I am a professor of American history at the University of Texas in Austin and an alumnus of the University of Virginia where I was an English major in the late sixties. I am writing to you today to express my solidarity with you as you continue to exert pressure on the administration and the Board of Visitors to make it possible for the least privileged members of the University community to live in dignity. The commitment of the Living Wage Campaign, now in its 14th year, is a testimony to the values and concerns essential to creating a community which recognizes the worth of all its members. When Thomas Jefferson established his Academical Village in 1819, he sought to create nonsectarian space for the education of our nation's future leaders. He did not have in mind workers, which for him would have been the slaves who labored at Monticello, or the yeoman farmers and their families in the surrounding countryside who would benefit from the leadership of those privileged graduates of the University.
Some of the most significant changes in the way universities operate have occurred because of the courage and commitment of students like yourselves. It was principled and committed students who pressured universities across the land to guarantee freedom of speech, to open their doors to underrepresented groups and to incorporate the experiences of marginalized Americans into the curriculum. And it was students who formed the backbone of the anti-war movement in the sixties. Historic changes have come about because students like you have insisted on them. Your demands are not unreasonable. Was it unreasonable for University students in 1970 to demand that President Edgar Shannon, Jr. take a stand against the Vietnam War? Was it unreasonable for University students to demand that the University open its doors to African-Americans and women, the latter of whom were admitted as undergraduates for the first time in 1970? Is it unreasonable now for the University Living Wage Campaign to demand that the University require all its contractors to include a wage-disclosure clause in their contracts, or insist that wages for the lowest-paid workers keep pace with the rising cost of living? These are not unreasonable demands.
In the past, I confess, I have been an indifferent alumnus, but your dedication and commitment to the Living Wage Campaign make me proud to stand with you, as you demand that the administration pay a living wage to all its workers.
Prof. Neil Foley\nU. Texas Austin, CLAS Alum