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UMW Administration Perpetuates Poverty Wages

The inequalities at the University of Mary Washington in Fredericksburg, VA are alarming. President Anderson’s salary skyrockets over a quarter million dollars, while the salaries of many full-time classified employees are below the poverty line. President Anderson receives free housing, in a mansion paid for by the University, while the employees I’m speaking of have trouble finding affordable housing anywhere near Fredericksburg. While President Anderson lives in decadent opulence and leisure, some workers who are receiving poverty wages, carry UMW pagers and are on call 24/7 in case an intoxicated student vomits or urinates on the floor of our residence halls at 2 in the morning. This stratification exists daily in our immediate community, and this is why the UMW Living Wage Coalition organizes for workers rights.
The inequalities at the University of Mary Washington in Fredericksburg, VA are alarming. President Anderson’s salary skyrockets over a quarter million dollars, while the salaries of many full-time classified employees are below the poverty line. President Anderson receives free housing, in a mansion paid for by the University, while the employees I’m speaking of have trouble finding affordable housing anywhere near Fredericksburg. While President Anderson lives in decadent opulence and leisure, some workers who are receiving poverty wages, carry UMW pagers and are on call 24/7 in case an intoxicated student vomits or urinates on the floor of our residence halls at 2 in the morning. This stratification exists daily in our immediate community, and this is why the UMW Living Wage Coalition organizes for workers rights.

The administration, executive vice-president Rick Hurley in particular, continually denies their ability to pay workers a living wage, or even increase their wages above the poverty line, but when something they want comes into sight, the money flows. Mona Albertine, the rector of the Board of Visitors rightly praises President Anderson for bringing immense wealth to UMW, pointing out that “fundraising is at an all time high, and the endowment has pushed beyond $20 million?. But if this is the case, where is all the money going? Certainly not into the pockets of our lowest paid employees. According to English professor, Steve Watkins, President Anderson recently requested $500,000 dollars from a rich donor to help fund the Great Lives workshop series. No such money has been sought after for the undervalued working-class lives. Practicing hero worship of figures like Robert E. Lee while ignoring the institutional problems facing the working class is something that our school should be ashamed of. A fraction of this $500,000 could easily bring the lowest paid workers up to a living wage, but so far, the administration refuses to consider it.

Over the past 5 years, President Anderson’s salary has increased by $106,000 to over a quarter million dollars, while the salaries of housekeepers and grounds keepers have remained below the national poverty line. The injustice can be easily seen when we look at UMW raises over the past year. The UMW administration provided a 1.5% raise to all classified employees, amounting to approximately $250… ANNUALLY. That’s about $21 per month. President Anderson’s salary was given a 3.6% raise, amounting to a $10,000 increase. The decision of the Board of Visitors to give President Anderson a raise was made behind closed doors on November 19, 2004, three weeks after a living wage protest of over 100 people confronted the administrative building. At that protest, professors, workers and students shared their personal experiences of poverty, and expressed their anger at the refusal to provide a decent standard of living to UMW employees. The BOV ignored this protest, and without acknowledging any injustice, gave President Anderson the $10,000 raise.

This raise is a slap in the face to the Living Wage Coalition. It is a slap in the face to students, teachers, and workers who have put so much effort, and hopes into organizing for a living wage. Most importantly, it is a slap in the face for employees who have spoken to crowds about the problems they face, employees who have exposed their personal lives to the public with the hope that justice will come, and those who have risked their jobs to call on institutions of power to provide “Living Wages for all?!

The Board of Visitors will be meeting again on February 17th. We hope that this time, they will not ignore the facts that reveal the poverty wages at UMW and the people that struggle to provide for themselves and their families. To support the living wage, send emails to executive vice president Rick Hurley at rhurley (at) umw.edu and President Anderson at wanderso (at) umw.edu. Contact Aaron Samsel, asams9hw (at) umw.edu for more info.
 
 


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