Blackout Staff Advocacy: Admin Responds Without Responding

Upon hearing about some questionable labor rights issues raised during the blackout, a group of concerned students organized to address both immediate and long-term, systemic issues highlighted by this emergency. They discussed these issues (lack of childcare for staff, lack of transparency in addressing the emergency, etc.) during the blackout amongst themselves and with staff. They then issued a Call to Action addressed to the Wesleyan administration, linked here. I was a part of this student initiative, and yesterday a response was sent from John Meerts, VP of Finance and Administration, to the “Call to Action” (read the full letter by clicking the image below). As a student, this response has left me feeling disrespected and disappointed.

Two weeks after the deadline, conveniently timed during Reading Week when students are already overwhelmed and soon-to-be-gone for over a month, an email response was sent to Marj Dodson ’13 and Virgil Taylor ’15 displaying the administration’s knack at saying very little in a whole page of words. While I appreciate that a response was sent, I wanted to share this letter with you “students,” to whom it is addressed, along with a few of my thoughts. As a member of this community, I encourage you to take up John Meerts on his offer to receive “constructive suggestions” by emailing him directly. Conversely, as has been stated on multiple student listservs, you can have a voice in a collaborative response by emailing octoberblackout(at)gmail(dot)com.

My thoughts and questions:

  • The 4 “calls to action” were not directly addressed.
  • Who was and wasn’t included in the meeting between “staff groups” and why isn’t that even addressed in this letter?
  • What were the results of this meeting? What plan exists now that didn’t exist before? How can members of the Wesleyan community access this “robust” plan?
  • Why is the administration skirting around the issues? In such a small, inclusive community, why must interested parties (including students) be kept in the dark when they are interested in contributing to the dialogue?
  • The Wesleyan administration is not an inherently evil organization, and I would love it if students and the administration had a more mutually respectful relationship. The administration’s decisions are supposed to reflect the needs of the community, so why haven’t a diverse range of voices with a stake in the process been included in a substantial way?