Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Hunger Strike Follows Rally at Vassar College

We, a broad coalition of Vassar students and student organizations, planned a rally for Tuesday, May 12. The administration believed that May Day was it, and we were done. They were wrong. On Friday, May 8th, we went to President Catherine Bond Hill's office and had a chat. Some choice comments from President Hill included that summer cuts would "look like peanuts" come next fall. And that despite there not being any money in the Vassar coffers to maintain the staff that maintain the school, Catherine Bond Hill could get a raise from the Board of Trustees, if she wanted to. She also commented that the college should not be "the middle man" between faculty and students wanting staff to have jobs.
We don't believe that the school is the "middleman;" the school has a responsibility to the community it houses. We gave President Hill our list of demands, and left, telling her to read them carefully, and get back to us.
On Sunday, May 10, we put on our Sunday best to picket outside of a Mother's Day Brunch. We wanted the alumna/e and parents attending to know that mothers also work in our kitchens, clean our dorms, and maintain the campus. We handed out Mother's Day cards that we thought were especially informative. Security drove by many times, but could find nothing wrong at all with what we were doing.
We then marched to the roundabout at the corner where our school meets the Town of Poughkeepsie. We stood silently holding our signs (Cappy Needs a Paycut/Job Security for Campus Workers) for 45 minutes, then marched through the dining hall to announce yet another rally.

Today we had that rally, and it was well attended as we walked through campus, and let the administration know that we were back. We also marched alongside the college, blocking traffic on College View, which drew the Poughkeepsie Police in remarkable force. Vassar Security also made an appearance, urging protestors to return to campus and keep their unrest out of the public eye. But Vassar College is not an island, and Poughkeepsie residents are being hit hard by Vassar's decision to reduce employment. We will not keep our anger politely reigned in. President Hill cannot ruin lives without anyone knowing.

Unfortunately, President Hill was not in town, and we are sorry to hear that there was an illness in the family. But we'll be waiting for her return. We told Chris Roellke, Dean of Studies, to tell her that we would be waiting, and that 5 of us would be hunger striking until she meets with us, and negotiations begin. The hunger strike has been going on since noon, and the strikers, along with several supporters, are camped outside of the President's office. We will remain here until President Hill addresses our demands.


  1. Are you working dirctly with the worker's union? What union is it? Who is their spokesperson?

  2. we work mainly with the seiu -- the service workers union.