UVA President's Facebook Post Sparks Further Discussion about Living Wage
In a Facebook post published Friday, University of Virginia’s new president Jim Ryan expressed his deep concern for under-resourced university staff and his commitment to implement change.
CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. (WVIR) - In a Facebook post published Friday, the University of Virginia’s new president, Jim Ryan, expressed his deep concern for underpaid university staff and his commitment to implementing change.
Ryan’s post asked that advocates be patient and give him and his staff time to conduct research and formulate a plan. “I want to do this right, and that requires taking just a little time to figure out a holistic strategy.” Ryan concluded his statement by saying that he plans to address issues such as wages, benefits, and affordable housing this year.
The fight for a living wage at UVA has been an ongoing struggle. Now, students, staff and the Charlottesville community are left to wait and wonder if Ryan will bring his Facebook promise to fruition.
The Living Wage Campaign at UVA is a student-led advocacy group that has been at the forefront of this debate since the organization's founding in 2006.
"These students have struggled for so long in order to achieve something that's going to be beneficial, not only for the university workers but for the entire university because when we stand as a community and help and uplift each other then we stand stronger," said Francesca Callicotte, a UVA Student.
Despite Ryan’s stated commitment and the advocacy of students and faculty, there is no guarantee university workers will see improved conditions.
Corey Runkel is a UVA student and the treasurer of the Living Wage Campaign at UVA. He remains hopeful but realistic about the likelihood of increased wages for workers. "While we like the increased attention Mr. Ryan and the Charlottesville community has put on the living wage, we are worried that the commitment that Mr. Ryan has to it, is not going to translate to any material action for the workers and the living conditions that they're in."
Runkel’s concern stems from the lack of action taken by former President Sullivan who made a similar claim.
"President Sullivan had also written a book and talked about how living wage was necessary for the flourishment and people in their conditions and Mr. Ryan kind of echoed that with his campaign when it was looking for an $11.30 minimum wage and we're worried that promise while it happened is not going to translate."
Regardless of President Ryan’s opinions, the final decision about the living wage at UVA is not his alone because he answers to the Board of Visitors.
"The president is appointed by the Board of Visitors and the Board of Visitors for a long time has resisted raising wages and the Board of Visitors often does not come in contact with the kind of workers we're trying to help and around the university community," said Runkel.
The campaign aims to help those who make less than $15 per hour including dining hall and janitorial staff.
In the past, the Living Wage Campaign at UVA brought about change on and beyond UVA’s Grounds. Following a hunger strike the organization led in 2012, the minimum wage was raised to $13 per hour in the City of Charlottesville.