An example of this entitlement appears in the SLChatter: On Laundry article. In the article the writer recounts a time when he was locked out of a laundry room that he needed to get into:
“I swiped my ID card, but the light remained red. I borrowed my friend’s swipe card; the same thing happened. I called Westlands. They claimed security had a key, but then the security guard came and said I had to call facilities.”
“Was this security guard an idiot? I wondered. Isn’t there a recession? Can’t they find a security guard with an IQ over fifty that doesn’t have a Napolean complex?”
I understand that this piece was meant to be funny, that eventually the conclusion of the article is that students should be aware that the people who work on our campus are stuck in a bureaucratic system that can be ineffective to say the least.
“Instead of bitching about the machine, we should shout at the higher-ups.”
However, that doesn’t make the first quote any less offensive; it is indicative of a campus-wide attitude that a worker must be stupid or lazy if they fail to do their job in some way. Yes, it’s frustrating to have your sandwich order messed up or to be locked out of a laundry room; but how often do students take the time to consider that the workers are poorly paid for the physically taxing work that they do?
Sarah Lawrence prides itself on having a history of activism; alums and faculty who take on social justice work are highlighted on the school website. There are numerous talks per year about how we can make the world a better place, yet the way in which we treat the sub-contracted workers on campus leaves much to be desired. The sub-contracted workers, who are largely people of color, are not treated as part of our community.
The recent passing of Juana Anaya and the way it was announced to the community is a prime example of this attitude. Juana Anaya died on April 14th after losing her battle with cancer; senior, Easton Smith, emailed a brief obituary statement from her husband to the administration:
“Juana was born on May 30th 1944 in El Salvador. She died April 14th, 2012. She had her husband Alberto Alvarez, and her two children, Evelin and Raul. She worked with Compas (Flik), doing utility, salad and vegetarian food. She worked a lot and always with a smile. She worked and got along very well with all of her fellow workers. She worked for 23 years with Compas, before retiring at 63. She then came back to work for one more year with Compas and then for two years with AVI. With AVI she washed pots, prepared food, and helped with the pizza and grill. She worked till the last moment, when Martin took her to the hospital a year ago. I thank all of the fellow workers and students who maintained their support for us. Thank You.”
Instead of releasing this statement, the student body received this one:
“I write with the sad news that Juana Anaya, one of our long term food service workers has passed away. Juana Anaya began working at Sarah Lawrence when she joined FLIK in the late 80’s. She joined AVI Foodsystems in 2009. Many of you knew Juana, who worked in a variety of positions during her time at Sarah Lawrence. She has worked in Bates, the Pub and the Health Food bar, as dishwasher and cook. She is survived by her husband Alberto Alvarez and her sister Mercedes Anaya, both of whom are currently working for AVI.”
There is a glaring contrast between the two statements; the first offers us a glimpse into the type of person she was. The latter, on the other hand, offers us no information about her other than the fact that she worked in our dining hall for over twenty years. If we really mean to live up to our reputation as a school that is aware of social justice issues, then surely we owe more respect to the passing of one of our community members?
The Annual Worker’s Appreciation Dinner is about to happen this Sunday, an event when students have the opportunity to show their appreciation for the hard work that the sub-contracted staff put into our campus. Traditionally, Harambe and Unidad have hosted it, but the opportunity to volunteer has always been open to all students. This year there is a club dedicated to hosting the dinner and again volunteering is open to the entire student body. It is my hope that more first-time volunteers will sign up to engage with the workers outside of our everyday dynamics. Perhaps this will help us to foster an environment where everyone who works on campus can feel included in our community.
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