University President Anthony Monaco speaks in the background while protesters stand silently during the Meet the New Jumbo! event on the Academic Quad. (Nicholas Pfosi / The Tufts Daily)

Jumbo statue unveiled as students protest, call for no janitor cuts

Hundreds of current and prospective students, parents, alumni, administration members and student protestors gathered outside Barnum Hall on April 17 to await the unveiling of the new Jumbo sculpture.

One group of protestors stood in front of the podium during speeches about the statue and another in front of the statue itself, before, during and after its unveiling. Tufts Labor Coalition (TLC) organized the action, according to sophomore and President of TLC Lior Appel-Kraut.

The action intended to call attention to student support of custodial staff, who may face impending job cuts, said first-year protestor Morgan Freeman.

“This was a platform for us to call attention to the fact that people are going to lose their jobs,” Freeman said.  “Our action was a statement saying that we are not going to just ignore that.”

Protestors held banners saying “Jumbo Wants Justice for Janitors — No Cuts!” stood silently in front of both the podium and the covered statue. The protestors moved to surround the statue, some turning their backs towards the reception.

“Tufts administration is differentiating between donation and regular budgetary incomes, but even the fact that we are getting such high donations to the school for unnecessary aesthetic improvements shows that Tufts University’s priorities do not lie with our campus community,” sophomore and protestor Hannah Freedman said.

TLC also handed out flyers which detailed their objectives and past actions.  According the flyer, the university plans to cut 17 percent of the janitorial workforce by the end of this year. The flyer also stated that TLC continues to ask for no cuts, downsizes or schedule reorganizations until 2016, giving DTZ and Service Employees International Union (SEIU) 32 BJ a chance to renegotiate its new contract.

The event continued on, with speeches and celebration, without acknowledgement of the protestors.

Several speakers, including the sculptor, Steven Whyte, and a previous interim Vice President of Operations Dick Reynolds (LA ’67),  spoke about the history of Jumbo the mascot and the process of making the new sculpture.

Reynolds said the sculpture was made of 50 pieces molded together and had arrived at Tufts after traveling six days, cross-country. Reynolds described the statue as an effort to make a visible contribution to the campus and to replace the previous statue which did not accurately represent the original Jumbo.

Tufts alum Dr. Allen Segal (LA ’55) gave a speech on behalf of Dick (LA ’53) and Sheila Asher, who donated the funds for Jumbo’s Garden, according to the Facebook event.  He recalled the original stuffed statue of Jumbo and how important it was to the student body.

“I hope this Jumbo will be as revered as the original,” Segal said.  “I hope it will have a unifying effect for the student body and the entire Tufts community.”

(Sofie Hecht / The Tufts Daily)

Members of the Tufts custodial staff look on at the unveiling of the Jumbo statue on April 17. (Sofie Hecht / The Tufts Daily)


10 Responses

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  1. literably
    Apr 20, 2015 - 01:08 AM

    How many of them personally volunteered to pay more tuition to pay for the janitors to stay? Put up or shut up.

    • Anon
      Apr 22, 2015 - 02:50 AM

      It would cost students $3/janitor to “pay more tuition.” That’s not the problem – the university’s priorities are.

      • literably
        Apr 23, 2015 - 04:06 AM

        So none of the students involved personally volunteered? Sounds about right. I’m sure your savior complex allows you to speak on behalf of the entire student body, though.

        • Peter
          Apr 25, 2015 - 11:17 AM

          I volunteer. I’ll pay my $3 more and you do so as well. But again – that’s not the problem. We have the resources to ethically employ our workers, our university simply chooses to use these resources in other ways.

  2. Albino Squirrel
    Apr 20, 2015 - 07:26 AM

    a shame that these selfish students choose to overshadow an event celebrating alumni donation by chastising what that alumni chooses to fund. Even worse that this news story about the statue leads with protest information rather the than sculpture background.

    Why does it not surprise me that these protestors cannot produce alumni willing to fund their cause?

    • Anon
      Apr 22, 2015 - 02:53 AM

      “Selfish students”? They’re fighting for other people’s livelihoods…

      Why aren’t alumni funding janitors? Because alumni would rather buy a statute than set aside money for things that matter day-to-day. Now it’s up to Tufts to choose whether or not to be a responsible employer in the community – without alumni help.

      • literably
        Apr 23, 2015 - 04:08 AM

        I hate when alumni buy statutes. Come on, Tufts, you’re just going to sit around and let statutes pop up all across campus? Is there no limitation on the statutes you’ll allow?

  3. Borgia
    Apr 20, 2015 - 09:45 PM

    The alumni has the right to choose where the money goes to. If I donate $1 billion and I want it to go to improve only one department then I think I have the full right to do it. What selfish students…

  4. Andy Klatt
    Apr 21, 2015 - 04:24 PM

    It’s great to see students standing up and speaking out about the university’s sorely misplaced priorities.

  5. Seth Itzkan
    Apr 29, 2015 - 11:51 AM

    Linking the dedication of a new alumni-funded mascot statue (that was long overdue) with a contemporary funding issue regarding staff (any staff, professorial or support – grounds, janitors, etc) is preposterous, vacuous, and opportunistic. Turning alumni who appreciate the new mascot into villains because they aren’t up-to-date with the current funding scuttlebutt on campus just shows how out-of-touch these students are with the reality of the lives of people other than themselves. If you want to reach out to Alumni, like myself, just do so. You would find many allies. No doubt dealing with employee contracts (or all natures) can be substantially improved and alumni should support that, but don’t gilt trip me because I support the installation of a new mascot statue. Get a clue. That’s a dangerous game of self-righteousness. Let’s build alliances, not burn bridges.

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