Martinville relocates twice while Martin considers demands

| Staff Reporter

Protestors moved Martinville from the Brookings Quadrangle to outside of Harbison House, Chancellor Wrighton’s residence, Tuesday night. After being informed they were trespassing on private property by University officials, they moved again to outside Graham Chapel.

The relocation comes more than a week after protestors were arrested for refusing to leave Chancellor-elect Martin’s office as part of the Fight for $15 campaign, which aims to secure a minimum wage of $15 per hour and free childcare for all campus employees. After the arrests, protestors set up tents in Brookings Quadrangle, and remained there until Tuesday night.

Fight for $15 protesters set up Martinville camp outside of Graham Chapel after moving from Brookings Quadrangle Tuesday.Grace Bruton | Student Life

Fight for $15 protesters set up Martinville camp outside of Graham Chapel after moving from Brookings Quadrangle Tuesday.

Washington University officials told the protestors they had to move so the Social Programming Board (SPB) could prepare for WILD, which will take place on the Quadrangle this Friday. SPB had the space reserved from 7 a.m. onwards Wednesday morning, and any protestors remaining would have been kicked out at that point.

Both SPB and University administration offered to make arrangements so that the protestors could remain in the Quadrangle during WILD, albeit in a form that abided by WILD rules that would ban tents, food and other materials, but according to Ph.D. candidate and WUGWU member Oguz Alyanak, the group opted to move instead.

“We were told that you can use the space at the back for WILD and then you can go back to your original places,” Alyanak said. “It’s almost like we became an attraction for them and we didn’t want that to happen, so we decided to claim our own land. We don’t want to be designated a space to simply demonstrate and protest.”

According to SPB President and sophomore Adin Ehrlich, the decision not to allow materials for demonstration was made primarily by the University.

“SPB advocated for WUGWU’s right to protest inside the quad, during WILD, with the administration,” Ehrlich said. “Due to the entrance policies for WILD that have been set for the event by the University, the administration asked that the protestors follow all of these policies if they were to stay. They were also asked to follow the policies beginning with the first day of the WILD quad reservation.”

The group relocated to the Chancellor’s house, located next to Whittemore House on Forsyth Boulevard. However, University officials quickly informed them that the University considers the house private property and that they would be arrested if they chose to stay.

Protestors subsequently chose to relocate again to an area outside Graham Chapel in the center of campus, putting up signs outlining their goals. They were also joined by a new tent, this one provided by Student Union.

“We want to empower students with the means to become their own advocates,” freshman and SU senator Philip Keisler said. “By putting up our tent there, we’re saying we want to give a space to students who might not have a tent on them, because not many students do, [and give them] the opportunity to protest and make their voices heard.”

Although SU provided a tent at the event, they as an organization neither support nor oppose the protest, according to Keisler.

“We aren’t saying that we are endorsing $15 minimum wage or that that’s Student Union’s position,” he said. “It’s important to note that SU is trying to focus more and more on advocacy, and we are trying to support more events like this and support more students’ rights to make their voices heard.”

In keeping with their original plans to occupy the Quadrangle until their demands are met, WUGWU will continue to camp outside Graham Chapel for the foreseeable future.

“We’re going to be here as long as it takes,” Alyanak said. “We’re really adamant about it. When we first started we didn’t know how long it was going to take, but we knew that we were going to be here for as long as it takes for $15 an hour, and we’re going to keep on fighting.”

According to Dean of Students Rob Wild, Chancellor-elect Martin has heard the protesters’ demands and has taken action to determine whether the proposals are feasible.

“[The Chancellor-elect] has heard their requests and he met with them, and he has asked his senior leadership to come up with what would amount to a policy paper for him so he can try to understand the financial and operational impacts of a $15 minimum wage,” Wild said. “He has not signaled favorability or unfavourability to the proposal. He’s a new Chancellor, there are impacts of the request, and he just asks for time to evaluate it.”

According to Wild, the final report should get back to the Chancellor, and he should be able to speak again with WUGWU, in either June or July.

For Alyanak, who has slept in Martinville every night of the protest, the experience has been difficult, but rewarding.

“We were joined by a lot of people at night and good conversations about University politics. We also had a good space to get some work done,” he said. “Has it been tiring? Of course, I’ve been sleeping on the floor for the last eight nights, but…we don’t want our presence to simply dissipate or disappear. We want to be around, we want to still fight for $15 and free childcare for all workers on campus.”

Additional Reporting by Kathleen White.

Sign up for the email edition

Stay up to date with everything happening at Washington University and beyond.