Tag Archives: Cesar Chavez

This Is Why Not, Part 2: A Guest Post from Cesar Chavez ’15 about Poverty at Wesleyan

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NOTE FROM BZODAbout a month and a half ago, we posted a piece by Cesar Chavez ’15 in which he translated a letter from the custodial staff to President Roth in which custodial staff decried their unreasonable working conditions. That letter was part 1 of 2. This letter, written by Cesar, focuses on the invisibility of poverty at Wesleyan. With that, Cesar’s post:

My name is Cesar Chavez, poor Hispanic male, age 19. I am writing this because as a poor student I can no longer stand and see how I, along with other students, am brought into a cycle of perpetual poverty by this university. It is unfair that this university has the audacity to state that there is no money for poor students and that it forces us to take loans in order to obtain a degree that in the future will become a worthless piece of paper. Likewise, I  want to break the silence around the issue of poverty. By not talking about the issue, we allow this injustice to continue. I also would like to direct this critique to poor students currently at Wesleyan. If you are reading this, I encourage you to speak up. I know the frustration and anger that you are all probably experiencing. Do not keep it inside yourselves. Make your voices heard.

Our custodians are not the only ones who have been alienated, marginalized, and oppressed at Wesleyan. Poor student have suffered these ailments as well. I, along with many other students, am a victim of indentured servitude that comes in the form of student debt. I am a poor student going to this “elite” institution so that I can pursue my academic goals and be a member of a productive society. But in my opinion, many people aren’t going to college to learn anymore; people attend college so they can land a decent job. Likewise, we live in a time when a bachelor’s degree won’t get you too far. Because we live in a global capitalist economy dominated by a global plutocracy, students in the United States have to compete even harder for jobs with students from other countries like India and China. In order to stay competitive, one needs to obtain a Masters or PhD. As a result the college and school cultures have changed in recent years to accommodate the growing corporatization. More emphasis is placed on standardized tests, corporate careers, competition, and raising tuition. Now, few people seem to have desire to learn anymore. They simply want to walk in, pass tests, get the career networks they need, walk out and land a decent job. All of this has shown me that higher education is dying and makes me question, “Why am I even bothering with college?”

This Is Why Not, Part 1: A Guest Post by Cesar Chavez ’15 about the Custodial Staff’s Situation

Image from The Middletown Press article on June 14.

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NOTE FROM BZODWe got an email from Cesar Chavez ’15 a week or so ago asking us to post this letter that he translated for the custodial staff and also published as a Wespeak in The Argus. Those of you who weren’t on campus this summer or who weren’t reading Wesleying should make sure to check out this post, which is a comprehensive summary and description of what happened; these two [1] [2] Middletown Press articles; and this recent Argus article (thanks anonymous commenter!). In short though: Sun Services, Wesleyan’s contractor for custodial services, laid off 13 of their 60 workers at the beginning of the summer. This led to increased workloads for the already-overworked custodial staff, many of which are dangerous and impossible to complete. Wesleyan’s custodial staff protested through much of June and part of July, but stopped protesting due in part to pressure by Sun Services. The University, meanwhile, has deflected any questions about working conditions by emphasizing that the custodians are hired by Sun Services, and that Wesleyan merely hires Sun Services and has no direct and official contact with individual custodians. Of course, the University has considerable contractual leverage over Sun Services. It could use this leverage to push for humane working conditions, but has not yet done so. With that background, Cesar’s post:

I am writing this because I am angry, I am alienated, and I want people to wake up and look around them. I am writing this not as Cesar A. Chavez, Wesleyan University, Class of 2015. I am writing this as Cesar A. Chavez, poor Hispanic male, age 19. I am writing this because we can no longer ignore the economic differences that are present on our campus. I am writing this because I am not ashamed to say that I am poor and I want to break the silence around the issue of poverty.

This summer I received a disturbing email from a custodian. She notified me that Sun Services, the company that contracts their labor (which, in turn, is contracted by Wesleyan) was adding unreasonable workloads to the custodians’ schedules, and that their manager and supervisors were harassing them. The following is a letter directed to President Michael Roth that she asked me to translate.