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Fast enters fourth day

Living Wage members, students, faculty, community organizations continue hunger strike

The Living Wage Campaign today enters the fourth day of its hunger strike, a protest effort urging the University to establish a $13 minimum wage for all its employees.

Fourteen students, including two who joined the strike yesterday, have pledged to fast until the administration agrees to the campaign's demands. Living Wage campaigners also demand guaranteed worker job security, safe working conditions and the creation of a Living Wage Oversight Board.

"We definitely wouldn't be doing it if we hadn't spent the last 14 years campaigning and petitioning and having meetings with the administration," campaign spokesperson and Graduate Arts & Sciences student Emily Filler said. "We decided it was time to make it clear to the administration that it's important to have this issue resolved now."

In an email sent to the University community the day before the hunger strike began, University President Teresa Sullivan said the University's resources for the current fiscal year have already been allocated.

"The budget process includes a methodical review of University-wide compensation practices," Sullivan said. "Changes in the salary structure, however, must be evaluated within the context of all of the University's priorities and financial needs."

The campaign invited Dr. Greg Gelburd, a physician observing the health of the strikers, to speak at a rally yesterday afternoon on the Rotunda steps.

The physician said he believed the students would be able to continue the hunger strike for one to two weeks but acknowledged the health risks associated with fasting. He voiced support for the students' actions despite possible medical consequences.

"These guys are doing the hard work ... and I think it shows their commitment," Gelburd said.

The strikers are drinking fluids, including fruit juices, but have not eaten since the announcement of their effort Saturday 1 p.m..

"The first 24-48 hours are probably the hardest," first-year College student and striker Jomar Figuera said. Figuera is on the executive board of Queer and Allied Activism, an organization which has lent its support to the campaign.

Despite his support of the campaign, Figuera said he hoped the hunger strike would end soon.

In a Feb. 18 statement released to students involved with the campaign, Vice President and Chief Student Affairs Officer Pat Lampkin said the administration supported the students' right to petition but was concerned for the health of the strikers.

"We urge you ... not to lose sight of the possible legal, health and academic repercussions for choosing to express your opinions in this manner," Lampkin said. "A self-imposed illness or an indiscriminate action that breaks the law or the rules of the University could quickly bring unintended consequences ... please consider how your actions in the short term could diminish your long-term physical health or set back your long-term academic and career goals."

Lampkin's statement also warned against the improper use of University space, the consequences of disregarding regulations and the health risks of fasting.

Filler said the University administration should redirect its concerns to working toward a living wage.

"They have purported to be concerned about the strikers' health," Filler said. "In the time they have taken to craft statements to us, they could have been discussing how to implement a living wage"