Most students on campus know Idah Duche, a cashier at Hodgdon Food-on-the-Run who always makes an effort to greet students warmly and even seems to have learned hundreds of students’ names. She was rightly acknowledged by University President Anthony Monaco at Senior Dinner this year for her friendliness and was even featured in a Facebook post by Monaco last spring.
Earlier this semester, students came together to support another well-known Tufts Dining employee, Linda Furgala of Carmichael Dining Center. Furgala, a welcome and familiar face for many students who eat at Carmichael Dining Center, was abruptly let go for unclear reasons. In response to her firing, many students rushed to support her by emailing a pre-written message to Tufts Dining, Carmichael’s unit manager Peter Soucy and Associate Director of Residential Dining John Beaulac. Two days later, Furgala was reinstated at Carmichael, to much student enthusiasm.
Students’ consistent support for Duche and Furgala is well-deserved, but it also raises an important question: Would students be as eager to support a dining hall worker, janitor or other employee whom they did not know as well? Though many Tufts students know and love Duche and Furgala, it is important to recognize that all members of the Tufts community deserve our support and recognition, simply for being a part of this campus and working hard to improve our lives as students.
In May 2015, when Tufts announced that it was planning to lay off 35 janitors, not all students outside of Tufts Labor Coalition members rushed to their support. Nor have students come together en masse as they did when Furgala was laid off around the issue of Tufts’ continued refusal to hire non-unionized construction workers.
Of course, it is easier to care about someone when you know them. However, all workers on this campus deserve to have their rights as employees respected. Moreover, though the details of Furgala’s rapid reinstatement are not entirely clear, it seems likely that students’ widespread outrage and support for Furgala may have contributed to Tufts Dining’s quick reversal of its decision. If more students rallied around the rights of all Tufts employees, we might see fewer unjust hiring and firing policies on campus.