I write this as an ally of Living Wage Coalition and of the Tidewater Labor Support Committee, and, perhaps most importantly, as a student at the College of William and Mary. I am concerned about the state of activism at the College. I have seen it change dramatically throughout my time here, and I would like to voice my thoughts through a discussion of the Living Wage Coalition. This discussion is about more than labor rights. It concerns the value the government places on public education through funding, the value society places on different kinds of work, and the value placed on the life of an individual regardless of his or her race, class, gender or level of formal education.
My years at the College have taught me that issues such as these are interrelated. An understanding of the connected nature of these subjects can lead to an awareness of the intellectual, emotional and physical violence that has torn apart the world in which we see ourselves as integral part. More importantly, it can instill in us the desire and ability to put that world back together.
A larger picture of the current situation of campus workers absolutely exists — the College is in a rather uniquely dismal financial situation. Virginia has notoriously tricky labor laws, and I do not personally believe College President Taylor Reveley can support a living wage for all College workers without a rather sizable influx of funding from the state government, which goes to show how little the state values public institutions of higher education, for example. There are many complex issues at stake that a mere editorial comment cannot illustrate well.
To be clear: There is no easy way out of this situation, and mistakes have been made in the execution of an extremely passionate campaign, whose ends I support strongly even if I remain a bit discouraged by some of its past means. I have come to realize that one does not hear a shout without its source being desperation.
Last year’s events invovled the campus community in a larger discussion of issues that may have otherwise remained an insulated topic at the College and that kind of education is of equal value to the sort that decides a grade point average. We must all educate ourselves and each other better, enter into the discourse and, above all else, listen.
We live in a time of extreme division, rancor and uncertainty. Let us take this as an opportunity to be neither afraid nor cautious but, rather, proud of ourselves, our ideas and the members of this campus community for publicly supporting our shared belief that we have the right to define a world whose problems we did not create but whose solutions we can. Just remember that we must also seek to define ourselves and to decide how we will share our places in this world as individuals worthy of the equal opportunity to lead the lives we want rather than lives that serve a power structure that does not always serve us.