On Friday March 18 administrators from, the College of William and Mary removed a student-made Living Wage Coalition mural from outside the Sadler Center. This was the first day the mural was displayed on campus.
“Students, workers and professors all painted a mural to show the community we love and the kind of community we want to have on campus,” LWC activist Maggie Rusolello ’12 said.
Assistant Vice President of Student Affairs Mark Constantine had the mural dismantled and told students that the mural could not be displayed anywhere on campus, even in pre-approved “Free-Speech Zones.”
According to Vice President of Student Affairs Ginger Ambler ’88,Ph.D. ’06, the reason that the mural was removed was that it was not in a space reserved for student protests. Additionally, the mural was stuck into the ground with metal poles, creating a safety violation. “The primary issue wasn’t the mural or message itself, it was that the mural was put in the ground with metal poles. We would have had the same issues with any other student organization,” Ambler said.
The LWC decided to petition what they saw as an abridgement of their right to speech by passing out flyers and talking to students. After the issue was made public, Constantine gave the LWC permission to display their banner in a pre-approved space.
The mural is currently displayed outside the Sadler Center. Every night the LWC removes it and puts it up the next morning.
The LWC believes that the administration removed the mural for reasons relating to their resistance to accommodate living wages. “We believe as tuition-paying students that we have the right to have an active say in what our campus looks like,” Rusolello said. “This is not just a issue of policy and we don’t believe this is an issue of displaying artwork on campus. But this is an issue that the College doesn’t want to be associated with because of the visible poverty on our campus.”
In contrast to the coalition’s view of the administrative, Ambler emphasized the high value the College places on free speech.
“We certainly value free speech,” Ambler said. “Student protests and speech are certainly a part of the college experience. We continue to be in open conversation with students about the issues they care about.”
The LWC protested the administration decision outside the Sir Christopher Wren Building Wednesday and Thursday during workers’ lunch breaks to take a stand for living wages and the administration’s restriction of their freedom of expression.
“Silencing the students is directly related to the workers being silenced,” Russolello said.