Wednesday, May 9, 2007

Seven Days: Reflections

I’ve gone seven days without food in solidarity with Harvard security guards who are currently fighting for a fair contract and decent wages. I have another seven days of fighting in me, and another seven after that, and seven after that, and so on until Harvard University admits to and actively embraces its responsibility to ensure that all Harvard employees, contracted and directly hired, have respect and dignity at work, and earn a decent wage.

Harvard claims neutrality in contract negotiations. Seven days without food and I’m not as coherent as I could be, but it is still painfully clear to me that Harvard University, in choosing to outsource campus workers, retained its responsibility and moral obligation to use contracted companies that treat their workers with respect and dignity, and ensure that such contracted companies pay Harvard workers decent wages. Harvard’s claims to neutrality do not negate this responsibility.

I will continue to hunger strike until Harvard accepts its responsibility for campus security guards and commits to their demands. There have been criticisms of this hunger strike as an insincere publicity stunt. People have questioned out commitment to this cause because because we have stated that we are not willing to starve ourselves to death. People have also questioned the hunger strike as a tactic, claiming that strikers are going to starve themselves to death. Am I willing to die for this campaign? No, I am not. Decidedly not. I am not willing to die for this campaign because I am not willing to loose this campaign. Does anyone know how long it takes a healthy person to starve to death? I don’t, but I do know that people fighting for causes all over the world have starved themselves for 60 to 90 days without dying. Now, if I starve myself for 90 days and Harvard University has still not accepted its responsibility to campus workers, then I have failed. And I am not willing to fail. I am not willing to fail myself and I am not willing to fail the workers who do not have the privilege of making their suffering visible and tangible to the students and administrators who have the privilege of ignoring such suffering every day. I am not willing to fail the security guards who do not have the privilege of making their suffering visceral, but who suffer nonetheless.

As a student fighting for justice for campus workers, I want to be effective, not dead. I have committed to using my body as a vessel to illustrate the suffering of campus security guards, and to strengthen their voices and demands. It has been seven days for me and 15 years for campus guards. We are still hungry for justice.

I will remain hungry until Harvard University ensures these workers a decent standard of living. I recognize my power and responsibility as a Harvard student and I am using my body to pressure this, the wealthiest and most prestigious university in the world, to stop gambling with the lives and bodies of its workers. My body is a wildcard and with it I’m telling Harvard University that all familiar bets are off. Workers and students will not stop until we win this for Harvard employees. I don't have to die to make my voice of solidarity heard on this campus... as a student here I have more power than that.

I encourage people at actually stop and talk to their security guards. Ask them if they have asked Harvard to recognize their rights. Ask them if that have fought and struggled for their rights. Ask them if Harvard University has listened, or cared. This hunger strike is about forcing Harvard to listen and to care and not only that, but to take its responsibility seriously. That the administration waited until a student was hospitalized before making an effort to listen to our demands is ridiculous and inexcusable. I want a Harvard that is more committed and more accountable to this community - to workers and students - that the current Harvard administration has proved itself to be. That is why I’m striking in solidarity with Harvard security guards, because we can only achieve this if we work together.