Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

After Strike, Solidarity Searches for Direction

The Georgetown Solidarity Committee proved last year that it’s good at getting attention.

Several months after its Living Wage Campaign spawned a headline-grabbing hunger strike, prompting Georgetown administrators to create a “Just Employment Policy,” the committee’s members were in Red Square again, complaining that officials hadn’t followed through on their promises. Then, they started loudly demanding something called “card-check neutrality” for Georgetown’s workers.

But where have all the campaigners gone? Late last spring, Solidarity members stopped griping that administrators weren’t following through on the employment policy’s promises. Then the sometimes strange protests – one included Healy Hall, pointy hats, a cake and lots of yelling – abruptly stopped. After years of well intentioned protesting, the committee’s constant rallies have been conspicuously absent from Red Square this semester.

Solidarity is still around, and its members haven’t given up on direct action. What’s less clear is whether anyone – after lots of disruptive, annoying protests – will listen to them. And, once the shouting has died down, it’s amazing that anyone has listened in the past.

Solidarity does plenty of good these days by participating in campaigns against sweatshops, holding breakfasts for university employees and staging a workers’ picnic – all great things.

But some of its own members acknowledge their unsavory reputation on the Hilltop.

“The organization has a reputation for protesting just for the sake of protesting,” spokeswoman Maya Zwerdling (SFS ’08) says. “But that’s not what we’re about at all.” The committee is still – sort of – about the living wage issue, the thing that launched last year’s infamous hunger strike.

Originally, campaign members said workers weren’t getting a living wage, even after years of students debating administrators about the issue. So last year, they decided to launch personal attacks, especially against university Senior Vice President and Chief Administrative Officer Spiros Dimolitsas. Then, after the hunger strike and the “victory” for living wage rights, they charged that university officials didn’t follow through on their promises.

Members launched more personal attacks, badgered University President John J. DeGioia at public meetings, were restrained by bemused university cops at New South and staged the weird Healy cake protest.

Now, everything is apparently (and bizarrely) more or less OK.

Zwerdling says the protests have stopped because Solidarity and the administrators might have been interpreting the Just Employment Policy in different ways. For now, it’s apparently time to try to work with Georgetown.

If that’s true, all the aggression last semester was mostly for naught. It only served to further spoil the Solidarity Committee’s reputation among students and administrators.

There’s no predicting what Georgetown’s next cause celebre will be. There are a lot of problems and inequities on the Hilltop and in Washington, D.C. that groups like the Solidarity Committee ought to – and often do – tackle.

Screaming, shouting and launching hunger strikes are far from illegal. Sometimes such tactics are good ideas too.

But before launching divisively aggressive protests, activists would do well to think about the university’s sensibilities and their long-term goals, and whether some types of direct action might reduce protestors to bad jokes.

The Solidarity Committee may have achieved the appearance of success with its constant protests, but it remains to be seen what will happen the next time members want the student body’s support.

If the committee doesn’t pick its battles carefully, the next Living Wage Campaign might end up dead.

Moises D. Mendoza is a senior in the School of Foreign Service and former editor in chief of THE HOYA. He can be reached at DAYS ON THE HILLTOP appears every Tuesday.

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