Stories From The Underground: SLAP Speaks

“DIRTY HIPPIES!” screamed from passing cars interrupted the not-so-peaceful sleep of the peaceful protestors in Tent City. This was, for the most part, the extent of the negative reactions us campers received. On the contrary, a typical day in Tent City was frequented by compassionate community members: bus drivers bringing coffee cake, students with left over food, women’s crisis center members with bagels and letters of thanks, and state representatives with coffee for the cold, early mornings. However it was easy to forget all the positive reinforcement we received as the negativity climaxed just after sundown on Friday, April 14, 2006. I stood on one of the many wooden planks scattered throughout the site trying to hold my attention to the closing nightly meeting when I received a phone call warning me that there was a line of police cars idling outside of the bookstore. Almost instantly after I relayed the word a force of police cars and DUI vans converged on Tent City demanding that we leave the Green immediately. As students scrambled to get their possessions together, police faced eight SLAP members with trespassing citations, prohibiting them from setting foot on the Main Green for a period of six months. After receiving threats of expulsion, fines up to $5,000 dollars, and arrest earlier in the day, we anticipated we would have to deal with the police; the scope of this interaction, however, was unknown. It is accurate to say that we did not think the administration would see it necessary to rally almost all UVM security along with some Burlington police to ask the peoples of Tent City to leave, which we did peacefully and without resisting; it certainly was not what I expected from the “UVM community.”Returning to the University as a second-semester first year, fresh out of winter break with a whole new, and slightly overwhelmed outlook on life, I threw myself into the Student Labor Action Project hoping that it would help ameliorate my burgeoning feelings of confusion and convolution. Had I known what I know now (that college students are really good at hiding stressful emotions) and exactly what I was getting myself into I may have been more hesitant to stick my toe into the refreshing waters of “structure”; to say the least SLAP did not relieve the sense of confusion, or convolution. Sucked into the cacophony of conferences, meetings, flyering, postering, and educating I cannot say that I was anymore grounded, but I can say that I was, and still am passionate. The commonalty I equate with SLAP has spurred me to do something more, something meaningful, something necessary. These people have become more than simply classmates; they are my friends, they are people who care, and they are people I love.The Tent City not only acted as a soothing hiatus from the taxing collegiate life, but also as a voice for the students, community members, and workers who are empathetic towards (concerned about) such a pressing issue as Livable Wages; what people need to live, to feed their family, to keep their children healthy. We, the campers, decided to stay past our given time on the green to show the administration that despite their greatest efforts to undermine all of our work and avoid confrontation, we will not back down, we will not go quietly, and we will not disappear. The issue of Livable Wages needs to be addressed and it needs to be addressed now. The administration can no longer turn a blind eye to the fact that their “socially conscious” University is exploiting workers and blatantly abandoning all that UVM stands for.