University officials have erected a fence around the occupation site of Tufts Labor Coalition (TLC) protesters as the five-student hunger strike in protest of proposed cuts to janitorial staff continues. As of this evening, Tufts University Police Department (TUPD) and Tufts administrators will only allow Tufts students to enter the fenced-in site, which is located between Ballou Hall and Goddard Chapel.
The students participating in the hunger strike are Jenna Sherman and Zoe Jeka, both sophomores, and first-years Arismer Angeles, Ander Pierce and Mica Jarmel-Schneider.
At approximately 8:00 p.m., Judicial Affairs Administrator Mickey Toogood met with protesters at the occupation site. Toogood spoke to the protesters, who then asked him questions and requested a second meeting to continue the discussion.
While this meeting took place, university staff began to erect fences around the occupation site. Toogood declined to comment to the Daily on the decision to put up the fences.
According to David Ferrándiz, a sophomore and TLC member, however, Toogood told the protesters that the fence was put up as a safety measure for students. Ferrándiz added that he questioned the university’s intentions behind the reason.
“[The university] has stated that the reason it is doing that is to make sure no non-Tufts individuals enter this site. It does not make us feel safe having police monitor us with flashlights at night as we’re trying to sleep,” Ferrándiz said. “We accepted … this because we [think] our attention should not be on this, but rather on janitors’ struggles, and we knew that we would encounter interaction with TUPD, so this is a continuation of that.”
Tufts University Police Department (TUPD) officers are also authorized to check student IDs upon entrance to the area, which protestors are calling “area 35.”
“It’s called area 35 because there are 35 janitorial positions that will be cut, so the symbolism derives from that … that is where the hunger strikers are staying over the course of this indefinite hunger strike,” Ferrándiz said. He also mentioned that the the site served as a physical reminder to the Tufts and local community members of TLC’s ongoing efforts.
In a statement to the Daily, Director of Public Relations Kim Thurler said students can continue maintaining the occupation site as long as they follow university policies on protests and demonstrations.
“Tufts University respects and supports the rights of our community to hold peaceful demonstrations to express their ideas and opinions as long as such demonstrations are conducted in compliance with university policies,” Thurler said in the statement. “A number of students are camping outside in support of the DTZ custodians who work on Tufts’ campuses. They are free to do so as long as they do not interfere with university operations or activities. There are no restrictions on their ability to access food or come and go … The university is doing its best to keep the demonstration area secure.”
Thurler also reiterated the reasons the university has given for the proposed cuts.
“We take seriously our responsibility to control tuition costs and offer the financial aid that allows us to admit outstanding students from all socioeconomic backgrounds,” Thurler said. “In support of that goal, efforts are underway across the university to improve the effectiveness and achieve cost savings in major administrative areas.”
Thurler added that the policies and procedures of the Service Employees International Union (SEIU), which represents the janitors, will ultimately determine the number of positions cut or restructured.