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.”