Reveley speaks out on office occupation by LWC members: Defends arrests, weighs in on the need for salary increases

On Friday, April 22nd, President Taylor Reveley spoke with The Informer on the occupation of his office by members of the Living Wage Coalition for the first time since his brief statement released at the time of their arrests shortly after midnight on Thursday morning.

“Well, protest is perfectly acceptable and very valuable. And as I said in my short statement after the sit-in, I think vigorous advocacy for causes in which you deeply believe is not only appropriate, it’s vital for the functioning of our society. But you need to do it in a way that is compatible with the functioning of our society. There are endless opportunities around here to press your views and the LWC has done it in all sorts of ways including many meetings with me in my office and outside my office and in their various forums,” said Reveley when asked about his personal delineation between protest and disruption. “There are plenty of opportunities to make your views known, to press them vigorously – that is actually quite wonderful. What isn’t acceptable, in my judgment, is to come in, take over somebody’s office, and interfere with the work of the university. That can’t be an acceptable way of advocacy.”

Reveley related how he was contacted by a girl who expressed a desire to meet with him after having recently joined the Coalition and how he had set aside time to meet with her. Instead of a single person arriving at the appointed time, however, “a reasonably large group of people” came into his office. “Their position when they came in was that they were going to stay in my office and sing and chant and talk until their ‘demands’ were met,” related Reveley. “Well, there are all sorts of people on campus who are passionately committed to one cause or another. If the rule of thumb became you occupy the President’s office and you stay until your demands, whatever they are, are met, an office wouldn’t be worth much. It’s just not a viable way of expressing your views, in my judgment.”

When asked if he believed the arrests were necessary given the circumstances, Reveley made clear his belief that enough opportunities had been given for them to leave. “By the time [the arrests] were made, they were necessary, because repeated requests to leave had been refused… If someone occupied someone else’s office, house, whatever, and makes clear they don’t plan to leave, then you really don’t have many alternatives.”

After their arrests and subsequent releases on Thursday morning, members of the Living Wage Coalition intimated that they would likely be bringing their protest to graduation exercises in mid-May. When pressed for comment on how the administration would respond, Reveley condensed his remarks to a simple hope that they would rethink this plan, saying, “I certainly hope that that doesn’t prove to be the case. Graduation is an extraordinarily important and happy time for a cast of thousands, literally: graduates, parents, friends. Should not be interrupted.”

However, Reveley made it clear that he would still remain open to further talks with the Coalition. “I am always open to reasoned conversation.”

During the sit-in on Wednesday, Professors Jennifer Bickham-Mendez and Cindy Hahamovitch gave a teach-in inside Reveley’s office, even as other professors reported encouraged their students to attend at the very least to hear the arguments presented. When asked for comment on the professors presence in his office, Reveley replied, “Well they’re certainly free to express their views like students. I was surprised to see them in my office uninvited.”

“Clearly our custodians and everyone else who earns a modest wages here needs a salary increase, desperately. Just as soon as we can get a general salary increase, that will happen. But of course, there are a lot of other people who need a salary increase too. Nobody has had one,” said Reveley. “There has been no general salary increase for three years and now the state is saying that we are to have a fourth year of no general salary increase. That’s very bad. And I think it’s particularly bad for the people at the bottom of the salary scale, because they are the most financially vulnerable. I get all that. I think everybody understands. And I think we understood it before the LWC campaign began. This is not news to anyone.”

Earlier in the semester, the LWC presented a documentary on the success achieved by their counterparts at Harvard. The success there has been cited as an indicator of potential future success for the Coalition at William and Mary. However, Reveley painted a different picture. “Harvard, like Princeton, Yale, MIT, Stanford, is enormously wealthy in comparison to William and Mary. That makes a huge difference. There are a lot of things we can’t do right now that we really need to do as a university simply because we don’t have the money. And we are, as I say, I think really badly in need of salary increases for all our people, especially those who are our most mobile and who are not being paid market compensation which includes a lot of our faculty. And you can’t run a school without faculty. And you can’t run a good school without precisely the sort of faculty that other colleges and universities will be interested in adding to their midst.”

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The Virginia Informer is a student-run publication at The College of William and Mary in Williamsburg, Virginia. The newspaper contained five sections: News, Features, Sports, Arts & Culture, and Opinion

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