May 10, 2001

Harvard students end sit-in after deal with union

By VICTORIA GRIFFITH, The Financial Times (London)

BOSTON -- Harvard students have ended a three-week occupation of the university president's office after the administration struck a deal with the AFL-CIO union over working conditions of campus employees.

The protest was a rare show of student support for the "living wage" campaigns that have been gathering strength across the country. Students demanded that the university pay staff Dollars 10.25 per hour, the same minimum wage as the city of Cambridge, Massachusetts, where Harvard is located.

The administration refused to grant the wage demands, but pledged late on Tuesday to form a committee of professors, students, administrators and union employees to review employees' conditions. The students received union support during the protest, and were visited by the state's senators.

Some lawmakers questioned the students' tactics. "I agree with the cause but not with the method," said Congressman Barney Frank of Massachusetts. The protest began after nearly 50 students stormed the president's office; 30 made it to the end of the sit-in.

The new committee will have its first meeting before the end of June, said Harvard. "Harvard is committed to employment practices that reflect a humane and principled concern for the well-being of all individuals who work here," said Neil Rudenstine, the president. Mr Rudenstine refused to negotiate directly with students during the occupation.

About 400 of the university's workers earn less than Dollars 10.25 per hour, many around Dollars 8. The federal minimum wage in the US is Dollars 5.50, a level activists say is far too low in high-cost areas like Boston. The university's endowment reached Dollars 19bn last year.