Junior Elijah Ryan is a Springfield College student who supports the idea of a union for the ARAMARK workers. He asked for and received permission from the ARAMARK office to set up a table in Cheney on Tuesday, September 24 for what he admittedly vaguely phrased as spreading “campus awareness” in order to support the cause.
“I just wanted to spread the word even more so than what we have been doing,” Ryan said.
After setting up the table with his supplies, which included buttons, posters and fliers, Ryan proceeded to hand out “We love our cafeteria workers” buttons to passersby and spoke about the formation of a union for the dining service workers from around 11:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. He did not pass out any paperwork, which would have violated college policy. The posters and fliers were stricly to share information.
At that time, SC Campus Police Officer Dave Cupillo arrived responding to a call about Ryan’s table. Cupillo was under the impression that the junior had not received the proper permission to hand out the buttons, which is true. According to Cupillo and Chief of Police Judy Jackson, college policy states that in order to set up a table in Cheney, students must receive approval not only from ARAMARK, but more importantly from the Office of the Dean of Students. Vice President for Student Affairs and Dean of Students David Braverman confirmed that he was not contacted for approval.
Cupillo then pulled Ryan aside.
“We got into a heated debate on the definition of soliciting,” Ryan said.
Cupillo informed Ryan that he was soliciting, which violates a college policy, because he did not receive both forms of proper authorization. Ryan’s argument was that according to Page 74 of the 2013-14 Student Handbook under the Solicitation Policy, it reads, “Such solicitation includes the distribution of flyers, announcements, and posters.” Nowhere does it mention the distribution of buttons, and although he had fliers and posters on his table for information, Ryan said that he was only distributing the buttons.
“It wasn’t about the buttons,” Jackson said in an interview with The Student. “You cannot do it because you’re in violation of college policy. You need to speak with the Dean of Students, because that is a college policy.”
Jackson stated that the Department of Public Safety is neutral in regards to the union efforts and that they were doing their duty to respond to the call. Information about who made the call cannot be released due to privacy policies, she said.
After further discussion, Cupillo said that the buttons could continue to be passed out, but only after Ryan received proper authorization from the college. Ryan’s main argument is that on Page 76 of the Student Handbook under the Student Rights section, it states, “A student shall have the right to participate in a free and civil exchange of ideas.” If he pursues the issue further and asks for approval once again, that statement will be a big part of the conversation about students’ rights to support a cause on campus.
Regardless of the controversy over the distribution of buttons, the union efforts are still ongoing, and many students and faculty are continuing to pass out buttons outside of Cheney and the Union.