Updated: Police stop Living Wage Campaign members from delivering petitions to Northwestern trustees

Peter Larson

The Living Wage Campaign began its second year of public protest standing outside the doors of McCormick Auditorium Friday afternoon, waiting for the University Board of Trustees meeting to end. Two University Police officers, however, met the students at the doors to the auditorium and told them they would not be allowed to speak with the Board after the meeting.

This year the group’s focus will shift from the number of people they sign up to the type of knowledge and interaction they produce, campaign co-chair Kellyn Lewis said.

“Whether you’re involved with the campaign or observing, expect an increase in interaction with workers going into our organization and programming,” the Weinberg junior said.

On Friday, co-chair Adam Yalowitz and about seven other campaign members wanted to personally hand the signatures of more than 1,450 students and 90 faculty to board members.

The campaigns’ packets were identical to what they mailed board members after their rally at the Arch last February, which about 300 students, faculty and community members attended, Yalowitz said.

“It’s ironic that at our own student center, the administration prevents students from talking to the Board of Trustees,” the Weinberg senior said immediately following the incident.

When the auditorium doors did open, it was Senior Vice President for Business and Finance Eugene Sunshine who emerged to speak with students.

Standing next to Vice President and General Counsel Tom Cline and Vice President for University Relations Al Cubbage, Sunshine told the students he had consistently kept his promises to the campaign and would forward their message to the Board.

“I think it’s terrific that students are interested in such a social effort like this, to their credit,” Sunshine said. “We will send out the papers to the Board of Trustees by e-mail Monday or Tuesday or before.”

Sunshine told Yalowitz the reason he didn’t want students confronting board members was because they “just finished a long day, filled with lots of meetings.”

Yalowitz said some members of the Living Wage Campaign had met earlier in the day. When he walked into the Norris University Center later, a friend told him the Board of Trustees was in the middle of a meeting, he said, so he went back upstairs and made copies of their signature packets.

The Board of Trustees exited the auditorium about 40 minutes after campaign members left, escorted by several UP officers. Three board members sat down at a table in the Starbucks lounge area to ask two freshmen about their orientation experiences.

The board members said they were unaware that Living Wage Campaign members had been waiting outside their meeting less than an hour earlier.

“There are opportunities of things for trustees to do with the university, and there are others where we would like to defer to the administration,” trustee Ben Slivka said. He added that the Living Wage Campaign fell under the latter category.

Living Wage is trying to keep the goals of the campaign consistent with last year while actively recruiting freshmen on campus, Lewis said.

He said between 150 and 200 new students have signed up to work for the campaign since the beginning of the school year. They had a table at both the activities fair and the volunteer fair, and have an open campaign meeting scheduled for Wednesday from 7 to 9 p.m. in Norris.

There is an organizer’s training meeting planned for Sunday as well.

Many of the freshmen remembered seeing the campaign on campus during their Preview NU Days, according to Lewis, despite efforts by the admissions office to prevent the campaign from passing out flyers. Admissions also discouraged potential students and their families from speaking to campaign members, he said.

University administrators have barred the Living Wage Campaign from directly contacting the Board since last spring, Yalowitz said.

In the meantime the campaign plans to keep active by raising awareness on campus, Lewis said. They plan to bring in high profile speakers and have NU workers speak out themselves on their situation. Ideally, Yalowitz said, workers would attend the campaign’s meetings with administrators.

“We’ve done a good job of reaching out to most undergraduates,” Lewis said. “But now we’re trying to deepen our base. People should know the ins and outs of the campaign.”

[email protected]