Op-ed: From a student arrested by the university

Jessica Yu | Class of 2021

Hello Wash. U.,

I am one of the students that were arrested a month ago during a sit-in at Chancellor-elect Martin’s office urging the administration to establish a minimum wage of $15/hr and free childcare for all our campus workers.

I am now home and away from the occupation. Being home, I have been very reflective on everything that has happened this past month. To be very open, my emotional health took a dive after the arrests. I had my Wash. U. student code of conduct meeting and am still waiting to confirm if I need to return to St. Louis for my court hearing on June 4th. My final grades for the semester were not where I hoped they would be, largely in part because of everything that was happening this past month. There were multiple moments where I just began blaming myself for everything. This past month, I cried several times while processing the arrests, the exams and the message that the administrators have sent through refusing to budge on the demand for $15/hr and childcare.

Although I was not surprised that I was arrested, I felt very disappointed. Before the sit-in, I was considering the potential of being arrested, but I thought the chances of it happening were very low, because I had hope that Chancellor-elect Martin would understand, would try to compromise, would hear out the low-income students. But once I was arrested along with 7 others, I realized that all this idea and hope I had for Wash. U. was just not true — and may have never been true.

And because of that, I felt let down by the university, by the administration, by our new chancellor who repeatedly says that he values socioeconomic diversity. While Wash. U. has (in the past few years) been increasing their enrollment of low-income students and supported creating Deneb (a program for low-income students on campus that I am a part of), these are all actions that Wash. U. took only when it appeared “safe” or a trend to do so. We have yet to pave and lead the way to economic justice when others are not sure. [And to be clear, the Fight for 15 is not a radical new idea, and Wash. U.’s move to align itself with this movement would just be an action that matches many other institutions including Harvard, NYU, Duke, etc.]

With all of that, I just wrote this because I wanted you all to understand that none of this had to happen. I did not have to be thrown into all this doubt. Students did not need to be arrested. Workers did not have to sleep outside in the 4+ days of thunderstorms and 18 days of rain. But the university made a choice: to not listen to their members’ struggles and concerns.

We have occupied Brookings Quadrangle, the Chancellor’s Office, and now the field near Graham Chapel for nearly a month. We are also a week from graduation. If any of what I said resonated with you and you would like to support us, we will be holding an action during graduation to show our dissatisfaction with everything that has happened. I ask that everyone who is attending Wash. U.’s graduation ceremony May 17 to join us in standing up and turning our backs during outgoing Chancellor Wrighton’s speech. For all the people that are graduating, I know you are almost out of here, and a lot of you are probably wondering what else you can do with just one week left at Wash. U. This is what you can do. Commit to showing solidarity with everyone who has been involved with this and everyone who is affected by this.

If you are down and will be attending the graduation ceremony as an audience member or graduate, please indicate you are on this form.

If you cannot make it, please let all your friends know! This is one of our last big actions for the month.

With that, thank you all who have reached out and checked-in with me throughout this. I truly appreciate all the support.

With gratitude,

Jessica Yu

Sign up for the email edition

Stay up to date with everything happening as Washington University returns to campus.