Students continue livable wage efforts

Although great minds might not always think alike, that doesn’t mean they can’t unite for a greater cause.Hosted by UVM senior William Ottman and friend Matthew Mantone, Gathering of the Minds, an open “debate forum on University divestment and livable wage,” was held last Thursday night.Nearly 30 members of the UVM community gathered around to discuss their opinions on livable wages and a divestment plan for the University, while a larger group constituted the audience.”In this world we’re living in, money means everything; where our money goes makes a huge statement, it’s who we are,” he said. “I [came] to gain a general understanding of what our school’s money is going towards,” sophomore Estefania Puerta said.The Student Labor Action Project (SLAP), the Debate Team, Students Against the War (SAW), the International Socialist Organization and United Staff were among the groups that participated in the forum.The first hour of the night was dedicated to a discussion on the necessity of providing all members of the UVM staff with livable wages.”Livable wage is not minimum wage,” sophomore and member of SLAP, Lindsey Gillies, said.Professor Alfred “Tuna” Snider argued that providing all staff members, like those working through Sodexho, with livable wages would actually benefit the University.”When people can get a better job, they just leave and the University has to replace them, and when someone new comes, they have to be trained, which costs 30 percent of what they are paid,” he said.Snider also mentioned that it is difficult to demand superior work and service from those being paid less.If each worker who was not earning a livable wage were to have their salary increased, it would not necessarily mean that tuition would increase, either, Gillies said.”It would be a gradual increase; the money could come from the vice presidents’ six-figure salaries,” she said.Marilyn Eldred, a member of the UVM staff and United Staff concluded the discussion.”It’s a matter of priorities; do we want to invest in our people, our best resources, or in fancy buildings?” she said.The topic of conversation then shifted to divestment campaigning.Halliburton, Dyncorp, Monsanto, Wal mart and General Dynamics were the main companies in which UVM has invested money that were of most concern because of their involvements with the war and their environmental practices, Ottman said.”How dare [the administration] tell the public that our mission statement is social awareness, greenness and social justice, when every single one of these companies goes against these beliefs,” Mantone said.After input from each participating group, the coalition of minds decided to concentrate first on campaigning for divestment from war profiteering companies like Halliburton and Dyncorp.”We shouldn’t have to negotiate with trustees between what we should and shouldn’t invest in with regards to war profiteering,” Gillies said.”It’s important to talk about the way we invest, not just who we invest in,” freshman and member of SAW Kylie Vanerstrom said.Gathering of the Minds began about a year ago and started out as showing of artwork and an open microphone, with people singing and reciting poetry on social concerns, Mantone said.