UVA Professor Supporting Student Sit-In

By: Philip Stewart
By: Philip Stewart

April 14, 2006

Despite the severe weather, students stood their ground at UVA on Friday night. The living wage continued to headline the rally, but are the students' academics suffering?

Professor Grace Hale said no. "What could be a better learning opportunity than this? They are learning to negotiate, they are learning to deal with press relations, they are learning to organize crowds," she said.

Hale is well aware of poverty in Charlottesville. In fact, she teaches UVA students on that exact subject. That's why she's okay with her students missing class.

"More and more students are getting involved, the rallies are larger and larger. The University, by taking this kind of a conflicting stance, is really helping to build the movement," said Hale.

Three of her students were taking part in the rally. Zach Fields is one of them. He's been inside Madison Hall since Wednesday, and he, like the other 16 students inside, is running low on food.

"I would say its far less tragic that we don't have food than the UVA employees for eight years. Many of them have been living in poverty," said Fields.

Although hunger pains may not affect Fields, those on the outside tried today to get food to those on the inside. They were turned away.

"People are having trouble getting their work done as it is with 17 students in the lobby," said Carol Wood, the of University's Media Relations team. "It was necessary for the flow of business to monitor people coming and going."

"Denying food to undergraduate students is certainly a way to create sympathy for them across the grounds among students and faculty," said Hale.

That is exactly what Hale says was happening on the campus. Some professors may not agree with the students, but they are understanding of their absences from class.

"[The professors] are supportive of the students right to protest, their right to free speech, their right to sit in Madison Hall as long as they want to," said Hale.

As for the students, they say they are prepared to stay there for the weekend. Friday afternoon there were talks that police may try to remove them from the building. As of Friday night, that had not happened.

Late Friday evening the Newsplex got word that the students and the University were involved in informal talks, in an attempt to reach an agreement.

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