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OP−ED | How severe weather affects our campus works: considerations for the future

Published: Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Updated: Wednesday, February 13, 2013 00:02

Following up on the acknowledgement from the Daily regarding all of the hard work of our campus facilities and dining hall workers we, on behalf of the Tufts Labor Coalition (TLC), would like to extend our own personal thank you. At the same time we would also like to draw attention some of the flaws in how our Tufts workers were accommodated during the storm. As the editorial board pointed out, there were several instances where workers stayed overnight in order to arrive to their shifts on time in the morning. Though the overnight stay was a matter of safety, accommodations provided to the staff did not reflect the standards of community and dignity that we should expect from our university.

The editorial board noted that “some employees slept on benches and in sleeping bags in Aidekman Arts Center, Carmichael Hall and Lewis Hall.” TLC members have since spoken to both facilities workers and dining staff in Dewick Dining Hall. Those facilities workers said they were not provided with any sleeping bags, mattresses, pillows or blankets. The three Dewick workers who we spoke to were also not provided these amenities. They explained that their original plan was to sleep on the benches in the lobby of the dining hall, though they were forced to move to sleep on the floor in the conference room of the building because they were not given instructions on how to shut off all of the lights of the lobby in Dewick.

As a group dedicated to the fair treatment and dignity of all workers on this campus, these reports troubled us. It’s common knowledge that there are multiple empty rooms throughout the campus dorms, particularly the quarantine rooms which those of us here for the swine flu outbreak remember well. It seems that basic measures could easily have been taken to allocate these rooms to those workers who stayed overnight in order to serve the student body. If provision of rooms is not available, the least that facilities could do is supply our workers with basic sleeping necessities such as blankets and pillows. Tufts had ample notice of the severe weather alerts and one question this raises is whether Tufts equally prioritizes the dignity and safety of the workers to that of the students.

Again we would like to emphasize our thanks to the workers who gave up time with their families and a night in their own bed in order to serve our campus. However, there are still issues that need to be worked out in how workers are accommodated in these situations. Though it might seem like a minute concern, this points to the ease with which the issue could have been addressed and can be solved in the future. Severe weather affects Tufts’ campus often and if we don’t address this lack of accommodation now, it is likely to surface again. Therefore TLC will be following up with facilities administration to discuss the possibilities of developing an emergency weather response plan that encompasses the issues addressed above. It is essential that we make students, staff and workers feel safe and cared for at all times.

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