By: Alex Hale
There are many reasons to be proud to be an American. We live in the country that saved the world in World War II, fought for social change and overthrew the system of slavery. However, above all of these, I am proudest of our right to free speech and to gather for peaceful protests. Unfortunately, this has been pulled into question on the campus of one of our fellow Jesuit institutions, Loyola University Chicago.
On Nov. 20, a large group of students gathered outside one of the school cafeterias to protest the restaurant’s actions in regard to worker pay and the right to form a union. At the end of the protest, 40-60 other students continued to peacefully protest outside the office of the manager of the cafeteria. It is important to note that this cafeteria is operated by an outside company known as Aramark, which is a private company that serves schools and prisons.
The manager of the cafeteria reported students to the administration for “harassment, bullying and disruptiveness.” As a result, the entire Student Government Organization and four other students have been sanctioned by the university. The student body president at Loyola, Michael Fasullo resigned and is still under disciplinary review by the administration. This isn’t the only time Loyola has attempted to suppress protesters.
A week before the protests of Aramark, four Loyola students who organized a rally in solidarity with racial protests at the University of Missouri were accused of failing to register and reserve a location for the protest. Thankfully, those accusations were dropped shortly afterwards. However, this is a disturbing trend from a Jesuit institution that’s mission is to train people to be “Men and Women For and With Others.”
This is happening in a different way on campus at the University of Cincinnati. At UC there is something called a ‘free-speech zone’ which is the only spot on campus that people are allowed to make political statements or promote activism.
It comprises only 0.1% of campus and students had to register their protest ten working days in advance in order to demonstrate. Otherwise they could be charged with trespassing. This was recently declared unconstitutional by a federal judge and UC had to mildly change their policy. The free-speech zone still remains on campus at UC, preventing student voices from being heard. This trend of college campuses suppressing the first amendment is unfortunate. Due to these recent sanctions at Loyola University Chicago, a group of Xavier students has signed a letter to Fr. Michael Graham which calls for a confirmation of the right to protest on campus.
To give credit where credit is due, Xavier has been very supportive of peaceful protests in the past. Last year, the Black Lives Matter movement protested outside of a Men’s Basketball game and Xavier supported their right to demonstrate. Graham has also been a great support for social justice on campus, with his organizing and participating in events like The Circle of Peace, The Circle of Solidarity and his recent help with the lecture on the 2001 race riots in Cincinnati. These are great steps and I’m proud to be part of an institution that has expressed support.
It must be noted that The Hoff Dining Commons is not operated by the university rather; it is operated by a private company called Chartwells Higher Education Dining Services. Hoff Dining Commons claims that the lowest worker is paid 12 dollars an hour, the workers have a right to unionize and there are some workers who earn 20 dollars an hour. This is why the turnover rate is low compared to other schools in the business.
While Xavier’s dining experience hit a rough patch with an employee arguing that termination was given due to a desire to change Hoff ’s wage structure, the managers assured that the expulsion was for other reasons they could not disclose for respect of the employee. Still, I’m excited to personally be meeting with campus officials and union representatives to figure out ways Hoff can live up to our Jesuit values.