In the face of mass power outages, the administration, in combination with university staff, formed an impressively speedy plan to provide food and shelter for the student population. While these efforts were admirable, they did not equally take into account the needs of other members of the Wesleyan community, such as professors and staff.
On day one of the black-out, Bon Appétit workers managed to put together some 2,000 sandwiches in a few hours, and were there to pass them out in the afternoon; janitorial staff have come to clean residence halls every morning without fail; physical plant employees have dealt with downed wires and fallen trees; Public Safety has managed immediate student concerns and continued to patrol campus. Staff members have, in short, resumed work while continuing to manage a lack of light, heat, hot water, food, and in some cases childcare, as Middletown Public Schools have canceled classes for the week.
Though this situation was by no means created by the university, the administration has inadvertently exacerbated some of these problems in their desire to manage the student situation. Staff members have been required to show up to work as per usual, but there have been limited provisions made by the administration to accommodate staff needs, such as childcare, food, heated long-term shelter, and laundry and shower services.
However, the university has begun to act, and on November 2nd offered space in the Science Library and Freeman Athletic Center to be used for hot showers, and temporary, although not overnight, shelter. In addition to these fundamental problems, communication from the administration has been limited to English, which does not take into account the needs of many English Second Language (ESL) staff members. The university is understandably attempting to deal with the immediate needs of the student body, but in the process has prioritized the resumption of classes over the more essential and pressing needs of university employees.
In response to this problem, a group of students, Students for Staff, has coalesced to determine and communicate staff needs to the greater Wesleyan community. We hope to address immediate staff concerns and ensure a more egalitarian response in the event of future crises. Specifically, the university should provide facilities and provisions, including access to food, shelter, and childcare to all members of the Wesleyan community and their families. In terms of labor and money, the cost to the university is small, while the results for affected families are significant.
In the coming few days Students for Staff will discuss these issues with both university staff and administration in order to construct a set of demands to address the current situation and future protocol. In the mean time, we have set up a free childcare service from 8am-4pm at the Buttonwood Tree in Middletown, and started a food drive in Exley Science Center, collecting non-perishable items for those without food. We are also working on offering university showers and laundry to staff and ensuring that all communication to staff is bilingual where necessary.
Yet, there is still much that can be done. If you would like to get involved, join the google group at groups.google.com/group/