Casteen Addresses Living Wage Protesters

By: Sarah Batista
By: Sarah Batista

April 21, 2006

Hundreds of teachers and living wage protesters heard from UVA President John Casteen during his State of the University Address today.

Casteen laid out his plans for the upcoming years and even though 17 living wage protesters were arrested for camping outside of his office last week, he made positive comments on their recent rallying.

With many of the University's staff retiring this year, Casteen announced their will be more job opportunities. Now is the time to start making changes in a University he says like many others is not perfect.

"If we get the planning right, if we get the hiring right [than] we evolve in the next generation than we claimed to have been in this one," said Casteen.

As living wage activists looked on, Casteen touched on their recent rallies against poverty. For the first time openly he described their efforts as a source of strength within the University.

"Their arguments are frankly vastly more advanced and vastly more usable than the arguments made in prior years by anyone," explained Casteen.

Protesters maintain the University's minimum hiring rate of nearly $9.50 an hour isn't enough to meet the cost of living. During his State of the University Address, Casteen called on state lawmakers and the government to focus on improving the area's poverty rate. He did not mention if the University is considering the $10.72 hiring rate that living wagers are pushing for.

"I appreciate that he said that this is a great opportunity to work on ending poverty, but I was highly disappointed that again he failed to offer anything concrete in terms of working towards a compromise with the living wage campaign," said Khalial Withen, a living wage protester.

Still, students say they're not giving up. They rallied silently inside and outside Old Cabell Hall to make a statement they hope will catch the University's attention.

During an earlier news conference, living wage protesters asked Casteen to meet with them on the issue by next Friday. There is no word on whether he plans to do that.

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