This is piece is the first in a series on ethical university investment. Please read part two here.
Over the past few weeks, there has been a discernible amount of student frustration and outrage as our university has demonstrated that its priority is functioning as a for-profit institution at the expense of workers and student opinion.
The most recent student outrage over the administrative takeover of Suites Dining does not stand in isolation, but comes in a long string of events that are offensive to most students’ sense of decency:
In January, news broke that the University had kicked popular food truck NetAppetit off campus in favor of streamlining food truck vendors under an outside contractor.
Following a host of comments on the Daily site, op-eds and a petition, NetAppetit is back on campus (with conditions).
Also in late January, ResEd announced its intentions to lay off Suites chefs (whose personalities and food nearly every Suites resident has been beyond happy with – myself included) and to take Suites Dining out of student management in favor of a subcontracted service.
Thousands of students have signed a petition to save Suites Dining, roughly one hundred students attended a solidarity rally in White Plaza yesterday, and the campus is still planning more responses.
And as the Stanford Labor Action Coalition brought to our attention last week, Stanford Hospitals and Clinics and the School of Medicine are finalizing labor changes that have already laid off 13 workers, removed the full-time and permanent job status of the remaining 25, and are moving to replace these workers using, you guessed it, another subcontractor.
Management in these facilities was subcontracted out four years ago, and workers have since reported abusive conditions including work speedups, excessive surveillance and performing dangerous and unsanitary work–all of which compromise the health of anyone entering these buildings.
Another petition is circulating, but at this point we have to seriously and critically address this university’s commitments to ethical relationships with its workers and the people.
The Suites change comes out of concerns of “health and safety” “financial mismanagement” and lowering costs for students, according to the University. But as Daily staffer Miles Unterreiner showed us in a brilliant series last week, these reasons shrivel under an ounce of inspection to reveal the goal of cutting costs for Stanford, in express opposition to student sentiment.
The same shriveling happened when examining NetAppetit, last year’s takeover of Chi Theta Chi, and the plight of the hospital workers.
The university clearly cares more about cutting costs and the profit-seeking corporations it works with than about how those businesses affect society and our community.
On Tuesday, the Senate will discuss, and possibly vote on, two resolutions which address unsavory business practices that are injurious to our campus and the larger worlds around us: ethical labor contracts with Suites Dining and the ethical investment of the university endowment.
Although they remain as separate bills, both present an important challenge for the university to recognize the basic human rights of all people and our right, as citizens of this country, as students of this university, or as senators of the student body, to demand that our university prioritize human need over corporate greed.
And as the administration’s proclivity for ignoring business and labor abuses for the sake of making more money has shown, Stanford will not realign with its original values unless we as a student body put pressure on them to do so.
So just as we have to support Caroline, Dennis, Frank and Tony, and demand they keep their jobs; just as we have to support the hospital workers whose jobs and lives the university dismisses with the flick of a contract signature; just as we have to demand that the university be fair to a food truck that has been so devoted to this campus and its residents, we must stand strong as a student body and demand that the university ring true to its values.
Anything less than this is a failure on our parts.
For a piece dealing specifically with investments in the Palestinian-Israeli situation, please continue to part two here.