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Rachel Riedner Strategies of Containment On March 29, 2004, 11 undergraduate students who organized a sit-in support of adjunct faculty and service employee workers at The George Washington University (GW) were arrested by Washington, DC police as a result of a university complaint for trespassing in the Marvin Center, the designated student center. Considering the arrest of the eleven students provides a moment in which to re-conceptualize the corporate university. Mostofthe students who were arrested were members ofthe Progressive Student Union (PSU). Over the past few years this organization has studied workers and working conditions on the GW campus. Among others, students in PSU are in contact with parking lot workers in GW garages, housekeepers who clean GW dorm rooms, unionized cafeteria workers on campus, and GW part-time faculty who are involved in an attempt to unionize. The PSU-initiated sit-in was a response to labor abuses observed by students throughout the year, as well as their feeling that GW failed to respond to student objections to these labor abuses. Inthefallofthe2003-2004academicyear,itwasreportedthattheAramark Company, contracted by GW to operate campus food services, dismissed approximately 28 workers. The workers—many of whom the PSU students know personally—were replaced with non-unionized temporary employees . In addition, several of the food stalls in the cafeteria were outsourced to non-unionized contractors. At the same time, PSU students learned from parking workers about the anti-union efforts of their employer, Colonial Parking Company. According to Holly Smith, a member of the PSU, PSU efforts to develop a conversation with the GW administration about labor abuses were met with silence. Smith reports that the PSU made good faith efforts to communicate its concerns to the administration by several means, for example writing letters, publishing editorials, holding rallies, and producing thousands of petition signatures. The PSU efforts to draw labor abuses to the attention of the university were largely ignored. A rally, including what was termed a "dorm storming" signature drive, took place in the fall of 2003, organized on behalf of the fired cafeteria workers. The rally elicited no response from the university. Smith reports that GW refused to seriously consider the Workers Rights Consortium, in effect refusing to ensure that GW logo apparel not be made in sweatshops. Campus teach-ins and performance pieces designed to raise awareness on campus failed to galvanize broad support. On March 29, 2004, the PSU decided that an escalation of tactics was needed because of lack of response from the GW administration and community . With the support of the AFL-CIO, the national union supporting the part-time faculty union effort, plus other campus workers' groups, the 234 the minnesota review PSU held a rally in front of the main administrative building on the GW campus. After speeches by a variety ofcampus workers and student leaders, the group marched from the administrative building to the student center, the Marvin Center. There eleven students, members of the PSU, a member of the Muslim Students Association, a student from the Global AIDS campaign, two students from Georgetown University, and an unaffiliated friend, set up tents in the Marvin Center foyer. The students—who became known as the GW 11—were asked to leave by a Marvin Center manager and a GW administrator. The students declared they would not leave until GW President Steven Joel Tracktenberg agreed to meet with them. After they were told that there would be no negotiations, students once more refused to leave. After the refusal, Washington, DC police were called in. The students were arrested, handcuffed, and held in jail for over eight hours. Female students in the group were initially charged with illegal entry and the male students were initially charged with illegal entry and disorderly conduct. Two weeks later, the cases were heard before a Washington, DC magistrate. Without explanation, all charges were dropped. Counsel for GW did not appear for this hearing (Smith). The use of force is not a new event at universities; there are numerous examples in which universities have called in the state to control unruly student voices and bodies. It is a residual moment, in Raymond Williams' words, where a neoliberal university relies on...

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Additional Information

ISSN
2157-4189
Print ISSN
0026-5667
Pages
pp. 233-237
Launched on MUSE
2011-07-06
Open Access
No
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