Living wage members face conduct code violations

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September 23, 2011

1:22 AM

Two students representing the Living Wage Coalition face the threat of suspension for pending student conduct code violations they received for entering College of William and Mary President Taylor Reveley’s office when he was out for lunch.

Maggie Russolello ’12 and Emily Glasson ’13 were two members of a group of 12 individuals, students and workers, who walked into the vacant president’s office Wednesday to deliver a letter asking that living wages be incorporated into the Board of Visitors meetings held this week.

“Our intention [was] that the president would be there, and we would talk with him,” Russolello said. “If we had known that we were breaking the rules, we would not have done it.”

The LWC held a series of events and protests during the 2010-2011 school year to advocate for increased wages for campus service employees. The pending violations for both Russolello and Glasson for “violating the privacy of the president” could result in suspensions because both students remain on probation for a LWC sit-in that occurred in the president’s office in April and culminated in the arrests of five students on trespassing charges.

“The Dean [of Students David Gilbert] did say that the sit-in was a game-changer,” Russolello said. “He has been lecturing us on past BOV disruptions.”

Gilbert and administrator Jeremy Martin declined to answer questions regarding the matter, considering comment on an ongoing student conduct case to be inappropriate.

Because both students elected to have informal resolutions with Gilbert, their consequences will be determined solely by him. When the two refused to give up the identities of the other students and workers in the group, Gilbert threatened harsher punishments, according to Russolello.

“I was surprised at the meeting [with Gilbert],” she said. “We were driven to do extreme things last semester. We met with the administration many times … and every single time they refused to increase workers’ wages.”

Russolello said the charge is unwarranted, and said it seems like both she and Glasson are targeted for their leadership within the LWC.

“This seems like an act of retaliation, in our opinion,” Russolello said. “In the past we felt we had more confrontational actions … and this seems like a direct attack on students right now.”

Russolello and Glasson are the only two out of the nine students who were charged with student conduct code violations.

“I do feel like I was targeted,” Russolello said. “It seems like they are trying to distract us with all these code of conduct violations, and deliberately trying to stop us from organizing.”

The case came to Gilbert after two administrators, Martin and Michael J. Fox, recognized and asked Russolello what the group was doing, and then filed reports.

Russolello defended the group’s action and past means of protest.

“This was the only time workers could go to the office because it was on their lunch hour,” Russolello said. “I’m curious as to what they [the College administration] want us to do … the BOV refused to let us address them for five minutes at their last five sessions … If we cannot make it work by going through institutional means, then we will be forced to escalate.”

Russolello said her mother submitted a letter to Gilbert calling the administration’s actions “very disturbing.”
“Our parents aren’t happy about, and it doesn’t reflect well on the morality on the school,” Russolello said.
She said she expects her punishment to be handed down in the next couple of days.

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