Speech Interrupted by Protestors
Published: Tuesday, May 1, 2012
Updated: Tuesday, May 1, 2012 11:05
Student protesters stormed the packed Ira Allen Chapel during President Bramley’s speech, leaving him red in the face in front of a crowd of admitted students and their parents.
UVM Trustee William Ruprecht was criticized in the “miccheck” fashion, as seen in past occupy protests. Captured on video, there are nine protesters entering though the back door of the chapel, marching in a single file line.
The video have been made available online http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RIf0UfhRVug
“Settle-up or step-down” was chanted in unison as fliers rained down on the crowd and a banner reading “Ruprecht, Settle-up or step-down” was draped over the balcony above.
Faces in the audience were fixated on the protesters, stealing glances of Bramley as he shook his head and grabbed the podium with both arms. The audience whispered with their neighbors as they looked back and forth.
“It’s like the 60s,” Bramley said, when forced to address the prospective students and their parents on the spot.
“Parents were impressed with how Bramley handled the situation and began talking about the Universities strong activists presence,” former SGA President Julian Golfarini said.
As the CEO of New York’s art newspaper Sotheby’s, Ruprecht has “locked-out” 44 union art handlers since July 31, 2011. Despite the company’s financial success, earning over $680 million last year, Ruprecht locked-out the handlers when they refused to accept the new contract, according to “Sotheby’s: End the unfair lock-out of your art handlers!” petition.
“They want to cut wages, seniority prevision, overtime, and most importantly only hire non union workers to faze us out, destroying the union,” Julian Tysh, a locked out Sotheby’s member, said.
“The new generation would only be hired for nine months at a time with no benefits, creating a revolving door of unemployment for the younger generation, who would mostly be young men of color,” Tysh said.
Some protestors agreed with Tysh’s statements.
“Ruprecht's position with Sotheby’s is related to UVM because he's on our school's Board of Trustees”, protestor Joe O’Brian said. “Because his actions toward his workers stand in contradiction with our school's values, we want him to either fix the situation with his workers or leave the Board.”
Student activists came together with the common interest of helping the union members by bringing attention to the issue. They plan to have more protests in the future and continue demanding he “Settle-up or step-down”, according to O’brian.
Sotheby’s union of art handlers has written a petition with a detailed explanation of their complaints and demands.
“Sotheby’s continues to demand cuts, including the right to replace union art handlers with low wage laborers and to completely eliminate the workers’ retirement plan,
the union’s petition stated.
Even though the school has given no response, activists are glad to have at least informed students about their issue.
“I think the protest was a real success, we've gotten the word out on campus about Ruprecht,” O’Brian said.
Using the attention gained from their irregular method of addressing admitted student, the protest has received over 800 views on Youtube.
“The video captured the whole thing, I can’t believed they did the protest there,” sophomore Becky Chitro said.
The success of the protest is a little more ambiguous in others opinions.
“I could question the conclusion that the campus is better informed about the details of negotiations in NYC,” Director of Student Life Pat Brown said.
Ruprecht’s treatment of his employees has gained attention from a number of other organizations.
“[Ruprecht is a] particularly nasty and proud member of the 1% whose take home pay is $23,000 per day,” according to the Vermont Workers Center. “And, in his free time, he sits on the UVM Board of Trustees—and, get this, he also sits on the Board’s Labor Advisory Group.”
Rupretch’s position on the Board of Trustees and contractual disagreement with the union workers is ongoing. Further student action is intended but perhaps won’t be seen until next fall when classes resume, according to O’brian.