Saturday, October 4, 2003

MU student senate ponders role


Students set up Web site for strike information

By Jon Gambrell
Enquirer contributor

OXFORD - Miami University's student government faces a real-life political dilemma, as a strike by food service, custodial and maintenance staff continues.

The Associated Student Government, composed of 49 student senators, is trying to determine the appropriate role to play. Typically occupied with legislation to change dining hall hours or to allow left turns out of a campus driveway, ASG has adopted an "educational stance" to help students, according to President Michael Chapman.

"As of right now, the best thing we can do is serve the students as an outlet of information," the senior political science major said. "Both sides have hard and fast numbers and rhetoric they are putting out. I think students are looking for information that matches up."

The Senate invited American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Local 209 President Randy Marcum and university spokesman Richard Little to talk before the strike.

Student response trickled to senators starting on the first day of the strike, from general questions to complaints about strikers' noise and fewer options in dining halls.

One student senator, sophomore Ariel Grube, has proposed legislation saying Miami employees should have a "living wage" - they shouldn't require government assistance to live.

Marcum claims roughly a fourth of his bargaining unit is on some form of government assistance.

Legislation passed by the student government isn't binding, but goes to the university president or board of trustees, which could implement it.

While the legislation would be the first step the senate has taken in addressing the issue, Grube said it doesn't take a firm stance.

"We wanted to encourage students to do their own research," she said.

Meanwhile, a student-run Web site has opened to give students, faculty and the community information from both sides of the labor dispute.

The site, www.mulaborinfo.org, is run by Miami University student Alison Stanton. The site, which includes university and union dispatches and local media reports, has had 3,251 hits in the past week.

Stanton, a junior interdisciplinary studies major, said she built the Web site because information about the strike wasn't available in a single location.

"I just wanted to put all the information in one place, so that people could have informed discussions about the labor issues on campus," she said.

Author donates $10,000

Members of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Local 209 announced late Friday that Barbara Ehrenreich, the author of Nickel and Dimed: On (Not) Getting By in America, donated $10,000 to help striking workers at Miami University.

Ehrenreich's book was part of the school's summer reading program, and the author spoke to first-year students at the Aug. 25 convocation.

"I was paid $15,000 by the university," Ehrenreich said from Charlottesville, Va. "A third of that goes to my agent, and what was left is the $10,000 that went to the strikers.

"I hope the university comes to its senses and realizes how bad this looks and what an impact this has on students."

Union members said the money will help striking workers who need food or help paying bills.

E-mail jgambrell@fuse.net




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