Tufts students among several arrested at protest against janitor cuts

Several Tufts students are held by TUPD in Powderhouse Square during a protest against proposed cuts to Tufts janitorial staff. Sofie Hecht / The Tufts Daily

Several Tufts students were arrested today during a march against planned cuts to janitorial positions at Tufts. A total of seven protesters were arrested, according to a release from Service Employees International Union 32BJ, which organized the protest.

According to Tufts Labor Coalition (TLC), which led the student participation in the protest, the arrested students, who have been released from police custody, have been charged with disorderly conduct.

Beginning at about 3:45 p.m. on April 30, a group of over 100 protesters, including at least 70 Tufts students, marched down College Ave. to Powderhouse Square, where police vans stopped traffic. Somerville Police Department (SPD) officers arrested student protest participants and then had TUPD officers watch the arrested students.

Protesters then marched to Ballou Hall, where they stood outside the building and shouted chants opposing the cuts in both English and Spanish.

University administrators currently plan to cut 35 janitorial positions and reshuffle another 56 positions. The cuts have been delayed until the end of May, per a previous agreement between TLC and administrators.

Several protests and other actions have taken place over the course of this year in opposition to these cuts. Opponents of the cuts, including Medford and Somerville city officials as well as SEIU, TLC and other student activists, have said that if these jobs are cut, long-time employees will lose their livelihoods and the remaining janitorial staff will be overworked.

“These protests have been going on since November … when we first found out that [administrators] were looking to cut a large portion of the workforce,” junior TLC member Alison Sikowitz said. “We don’t want the university to prioritize cuts over workers’ lives, their families’ lives, and the more the administration continues to ignore us, the louder we will be.”

According to an op-ed in the Daily written by Executive Vice President Patricia Campbell and Vice President of Operations Linda Snyder, the cuts are part of broader university efforts to reduce operational costs in several areas. 

“We estimate that these operational changes will save $15 million annually when fully implemented — money that will be reinvested in Tufts’ academic priorities and help minimize tuition increases,” Campbell and Snyder wrote in their op-ed. “The anticipated annual savings resulting from this custodial services reorganization is approximately $900,000,” they continued.

At about 5:00 p.m., the protesters dispersed, chanting “We’ll be back!” as they left the area.

Correction: A previous version of this article stated that TUPD officers made the arrests at the protest in Powderhouse Square. In fact, SPD officers made the arrests, while TUPD officers were present and watched the arrested protestors. Furthermore, the vans which stopped traffic at Powderhouse Square were not TUPD vans. The Daily regrets these errors.