The worker justice demonstration on Nov. 20, which voiced concerns about the working conditions of dining hall employees on campus, prompted four individuals and the entire Student Government of Loyola Chicago (SGLC) to come under investigation from the Office of Student Conduct and Conflict Resolution (OSCCR). But one of these things doesn’t belong: SGLC never meant to be a part of this imprudent action.
Many people treat the demonstration leaders as heroes, but now SGLC is facing “educational sanctions” from OSCCR. Will the heroes of the Nov. 20 demonstration be there to save SGLC’s many great initiatives if those initiatives are put on the chopping block?
In my opinion, they won’t.
I served as chair of the Justice Committee for part of this past term. The experience had its positives — the initiatives we ran and the people we formed relationships with. As time went on, though, I saw the unmoving activist agenda of SGLC’s leadership as a severe impediment to our progress.
I resigned in November for numerous reasons, including the self-serving modus operandi of the body’s leadership. Worker justice and the freedom to demonstrate are both important ideas, and we must continue to fight for them. But when the superfluous activist strategies of the Students for Worker Justice and USpeak leaders threaten to bring the entire SGLC organization to a sudden halt, then it’s time to take a different approach.
During the Nov. 20 demonstration, SGLC’s then-President Michael Fasullo, with student protesters in tow, entered Damen Dining Hall. The group expressed its discontent with the dining hall employees’ contracts by encircling a manager for Aramark, Loyola’s food service provider. This manager’s ability to influence contract negotiations is actually contested by SGLC members, according to the minutes from SGLC’s Dec. 1 Senate meeting.
Afterward, the four leaders of the action — three of whom were SGLC members at the time — and SGLC as a collective body, faced OSCCR charges. OSCCR decided that the collective body, not the individuals, is guilty of harassment, disruption and disorderly conduct.
Let’s get one thing clear: SGLC never endorsed these strategies. In fact, the same meeting minutes from Dec. 1 show that a number of anonymous SGLC senators submitted a public complaint against Fasullo to be read on the Senate floor. This complaint denounced the deliberate violation of Loyola University Chicago’s Community Standards and emphasized that this was not done in accord with SGLC’s wishes — and in effect, the student body’s wishes.
Many Loyola students call for vindication of Loyola’s Aramark workers. However, many students also wish for a functioning student government to pass bills, such as a campus-wide smoking bill, or to pass initiatives, such as those funded by The Green Initiative Fund, which allows students to pursue their own visions for environmental sustainability. OSCCR’s pending sanctions threaten to put a sudden halt to future SGLC projects.
The four demonstration leaders and their many supporters point to the Dec. 8 moratorium on the demonstration policy as the prime reason why they should be let off the hook. But nowhere in the demonstration policy’s text (page 60 of the Community Standards) is there a grandfather clause, or a clause that would otherwise pardon these students for violating a then-active policy. The demonstration policy does not currently stand, but it did on Nov. 20, and it contains no clause to excuse an otherwise inexcusable action.
And this action was inexcusable. The idea of a student leader deliberately violating the rules in pursuit of a greater moral cause inspires many of my peers, but we need to consider how these actions played out with respect to the expectations we set for our own student government. Just as we were upset at the university for shortening the finals week schedule in October 2014, shouldn’t we also become upset with our student government if they disregarded our wishes in pursuit of self-interest? That’s essentially what the Fasullo administration did.
Fasullo admitted this himself in an interview with The PHOENIX when he stated, “I’m not worried about the organization because I don’t feel I made an oath to the organization … I made an oath to the students who elected me.”
When you take the SGLC oath of office, you pledge allegiance to the organization and the idea that the organization reflects the student body’s wishes. If Fasullo believes SGLC and the students who elected him have different wishes, then we must ask ourselves what this difference is.
Fasullo was right to leave SGLC. The pragmatism that accompanies any representative organization does not mesh with tunnel-visioned activism. Activism is not a bad thing; it’s how you execute it that determines if it’s good or bad. The methods of the Nov. 20 demonstration were unethical, dishonest and foolhardy. The four students who knowingly endorsed entering Damen Dining Hall and confronting the Aramark employee are off the hook, but the rest of SGLC’s members pay the price.
However, as we reflect on the events of recent months, we must remain hopeful for the future. SGLC sent out a press release Jan. 28 with a promise to the Loyola community that, despite the investigation’s outcome, the organization plans to move forward. Regardless of our opinions on the demonstration, tomorrow is a new day.
I’m confident that SGLC will work together with the student body and the administration in an open dialogue on the issues of freedom of speech and a living wage for our workers. This is how a representative body affects change — by living up to its promise to change the system from within to serve everyone equally. In our nation’s history, we have found that rule-breaking is necessary to affect change, but that rule-breaking cannot take place in student government. Not now, not again.
Scarlett Winters is a junior political science major and the former chair of SGLC’s justice committee.