ROGERS PARK — Four Loyola University Chicago students, plus its entire student government organization, are facing sanctions at the university over their involvement in a late-November protest in solidarity with dining hall workers.
A manager for the Aramark dining workers reported the students for harassment, bullying and disruption — and those students now face sanctions like academic probation, community service and even suspension, said Michael Fasullo, former president of the university's student government. He resigned after school officials said he could face discipline due to the protest.
Aramark is a private contractor that provides services to institutions like schools and prisons. The company made headlines in Chicago last year when its janitorial contract with Chicago Public Schools reportedly went millions of dollars over budget.
"This directly contradicts the spirit of Loyola’s jesuit [sic] mission, a mission that encourages students to seek knowledge through the pursuit of justice," a statement from one group of students said. "It undermines the Student Promise to care for community, a commitment to making our community and the world more equitable and just. The chilling effect is palpable."
On Nov. 20, student protesters from USpeak and Students for Worker Justice joined with dining hall workers employed by Aramark at the school calling for increased wages and more availability of health insurance, among other things, Fasullo said. Read the full statement from Students for Worker Justice below.
At the end of the protest, he and 40 to 60 other students convened, without dining hall workers, at the office of an Aramark manager inside the school, Fasullo said, where they again "peacefully" rallied and called for change.
The manager stood there and acknowledged the protesters but said he couldn't comment further because of ongoing contract negotiations, according to Fasullo. A video of the event shows a man standing in a hallway, surrounded by students offering cheers and applause to a main speaker.
Kristin Trehearne Lane, a communication manager for Loyola, said protesters weren't in trouble for demonstrating, but because "it’s been reported that a group of students entered the Damen Student Center dining hall and disrupted operations and targeted and harassed a member of the University community."
Fasullo said he didn't hear anything for a few days until he and three other students, along with the student government, were called into the school's conduct office and were told they'd been reported by the Aramark manager for harassment, bullying and disruption because of the demonstration.
Over winter break Fasullo was formally notified by the school that he would need to attend a conduct hearing.
"To target students really is targeting the base of the worker justice movement on campus, and it's essentially a multi-million dollar company suing students to protect their profit," Fasullo told DNAinfo Chicago.
On Nov. 12 — only a week before the Aramark protest — four other students who had organized a rally in solidarity with racial protests at the University of Missouri were accused of failing to register and reserve a location for the protest. The accusations were dropped shortly thereafter.
On Dec. 8, interim President John P. Pelissero released a statement saying he'd put a moratorium on four sections of the demonstration policy while he and other administrators reviewed its content and made recommendations for improvement.
In that statement, Pelissero said "in particular" he wanted to encourage student and staff dialogue on important issues.
"I am confident we will advance our shared goal of an increasingly invigorating and productive campus," Pelissero wrote. "In particular, I encourage students to engage in discussion with University leaders, faculty, and peers. A commitment to understanding and personal growth comes from the process of sharing perspectives and listening to various opinions."
Given the moratorium, Fasullo said he's perplexed how and why he and others were being disciplined.
Lane said the students in the Aramark protest violated aspects of the university's “Disruptive and Disorderly Conduct” and “Harassment and Bullying” policies, whereas Mizzou solidarity protesters had been accused of breaking the university's "Demonstration and Fixed Exhibit Policy."
But Fasullo denied those claims, saying that the protest was peaceful, organized and respectful.
By Wednesday afternoon, 1,137 signatures had been collected of a 1,600 goal challenging the accusations and calling for them to be dropped.
The students will have the opportunity to fight disciplinary measures at an upcoming conduct hearing.
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