Last Bulletin, epilogue

After the meeting Saturday, several of us went to a forum on urban sprawl at the public library, at which mostly nobody said much of anything except to repeat, again and again, “But we can’t let that area turn into student housing! We’ve got to keep the students away!” “Okay,” I finally said. “I got a question. There are 20,000 students at the U of I. That’s a third of the population of Iowa City. That’s a sizeable small town all on its own. Where exactly are you proposing that all the students live?” Nobody had an answer).

After that, I returned home to Jessup, where SAS members were in a meeting with the UI delegation which had attended the WRC (the organization we like) conference in NYC this weekend. Well, actually, it was only one member of the delegation and three adminstrative lackeys. Laraine Carmichael Nelson, said member, was a part of the Human Rights Commission appointed by President Coleman specifically to look into the issue of sweatshop monitoring, the commission which voted unanimously in favor of our demands, a vote which Coleman chose to ignore. At this meeting, though, it sounded like she had swalled the administration’s take on things hook line and sinker. I don’t know if you’ve ever talked to a blank wall before, but that’s sort of what it’s like talking to these people, except that talking to the wall can actually be kind of peaceful, at least. It reminds me of being on Student Senate in high school, when we couldn’t actually move to do anything, we could only make a motion “that somebody look into the possiblity of somebody looking into someone repainting the lines in the parking lot.”

After that dismal meeting, Doug and I went to finish up a flyer (now rather out of date) about the protests going on all across the country, from Yale to Purdue to Kentucky to Tulane to Oregon. And then I decided to stop by my mom’s house to take a shower (my second of the week–truly I was falling into decadence), pick up my mail, and pet the kitties. I got home and realized it was med students for dinner night, but not too many showed up, so there were lots of leftovers, including a whole pan of lasagna, which my mom kindly donated to our cause. I showered, picked up a few more clothes, packed up the lasagna and some Coke and such, and Mom drove me back to Jessup. We arrived around 11:15 pm to see Dean Jones (or Daddy Jones, as we like to call him, since he really does define the word “paternalism”) poking around the building again, as he’d been doing off and on all day. I should have been thinking, I suppose, but all I thought was “Does this man have a life?”

I went in, bearing the lasagna, and Mom drove off, and I settled down back home for a fairly relaxing evening–no teach-ins the next day, no work that had to be done right that minute, maybe even some time to catch up on sleep–at that point I’d had 16 hours in four days.

About five minutes later members of Public Safety entered the building, telling the guard on duty they were relieving him. They came in from all sides–I’ve heard numbers ranging from 8 to 20 in all, but I’m not sure. As soon as we realized what was going on, Josh ran for the cell phone to call our lawyer. Before he could even flip open the mouthpiece, he was told he’d have to hand over the cell phone or be arrested. Matt started running downstairs to use the phone down there and was stopped. By this time they’d swept all the floors of the building and chained the doors from the inside.

We were stuck in a hallway, we then realized, in the middle of the night, with a bunch of grown ups, police officers and administrators, and all our connections to the outside world had been severed. I kept my seat–I was by Heidi and Ned–and barely breathed. I cannot quite describe the sensation of the next few minutes–it was something like having half your brain be completely stalled, the way my car always used to stall in heavy traffic for no apparent reason–and the other half running, running, running, tripping, stumbling, trying to latch on to anything that would prepare you for this and coming up with some half framed notion of Miranda rights from too many half-watched late-night TV movies.

We were read statements explaining that we had willfully interfered with the carrying out of official business and that we had violated fire code. We were told to pack our stuff and leave. We were told that if we did not, we would face disciplinary action up to expulsion, that we would face criminal charges and arrest.

Somehow I got my computer into my backpack at this point. I guess at some point we were standing, milling around, everyone asking what to do, someone saying we’d all know this was a decision we all might have to walk, everyone looking to her neighbor for some sign.

Five of us were arrested. Four of us were taken down to Public Safety headquarters, seated in comfortable chairs, asked questions about what hand we used to write with (oddly, always phrased, “Are you right-handed?” not “Are you right handed or left handed?” I asked if they ever asked “Are you left-handed?” just for variety). We were charged with criminal trespass and signed and released. The fifth person, who had, in accordance with our civil disobedience training, gone limp, had been carried out and he was taken to the jail, charged with criminal trespass and interference. The other four of us, after we got out, went over to the jail, where 30 or more SAS members and friends had already assembled–word of mouth spreads like wildfire, or truth–and raised the $650 bail to get our fifth member out, after some confusion and some difficulty contacting our lawyer, who finally did make it.

We all went to someone’s apartment for awhile, all in some ways shaken. Our legal observer explained that he had made a list of every single item that security confiscated and that they had told us we’d be able to get it back on Monday (another good story which I should tell you all some time–I spent an hour and a half this morning talking to to administrators and lawyers and public safety, working out a scheme whereby we could get our stuff without filling out a whole lot of forms, in triplicate, with 27 eight-by-ten glossy color photographs with circles and arrows and all that rigamarole). Eventually we broke up, and, exhausted, made our ways home. Heidi, Holly, Susan, and I all crashed at Susan’s, and Holly and I got up early early, after about a two-hour nap, to go to David’s arraignment this morning. He plead absolutely not guilty. The judge informed us that the $650 bail would be returned and that he would be released on his own recognizance. Then we all went out to breakfast.

There’s much more to tell, of course, but that gives you the basics. We were arrested at 11:30 on a Saturday night for doing no more than we had been all week. The very same administrators and public safety officers who, all week, had commended us on how well we were conducting ourselves, the same ones who had been all smiles at our rallies–the ones, as it turned out, who were lying to us that whole time.

The fight goes on.

Yesterday afternoon we had a community video showing/discussion at the public library where we gained some more support. I spoke to a number of members of my church. We held a press conference today to explain that the arrests had only made us more determined, but that now was not the time to focus on them, now was the time to return our attention to the real issues at hand–to the UI’s continued affiliation with the (un)Fair Labor Association (FLA) and consequent complicity with corporate greed and human rights abuses. As I’ve told several reporters, yes, the experience of being arrested was somewhat terrifying. Yes, it was a shock to feel yourself robbed of your liberties in that way.

But at the end of the night I got to go home and sleep in a nice bed with a roof over my head, in a house with hot and cold running water. I ate a good breakfast in the morning. I lost none of my belongings. And when the time comes, I’ll have the best legal counsel that union money can buy. My experience, in short, pales and in fact disappears next to the kinds of human rights and civil liberties abuses which workers in sweatshops face every single day. I was patted down, it is true, but I was not locked into my place of work. I was not given mandatory pregnancy tests which I had to pay for from my own wages. To focus on our little arrests, in light of the seriousness of the problems we are trying to address, would seem nothing but the basest self-interest.

The sit-in is over, but the war is not over. Thanks again to all who wrote and all who thought of us. We will keep going. I will let you know what’s up, if you wish. And I will answer any questions you have. I urge you, though, if you wish to help, please do so, but know that the best way you can at the moment is to educate yourself. Sort through the alphabet soup until it makes sense to you, and then explain it to someone else. If you live in a place where protests are taking place, go talk to the protesters yourself, and maintain a healthy skepticism for what you read in the news. Question why the national media is not picking up this story.

As I have said, there is much more to tell. I welcome any and all questions.

Now, however, I must go to sleep. There is still much work to be done.



We hold these Truths to be self-evident, that all Men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights. . . that to secure these Rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just Powers from the Consent of the Governed, that whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these Ends, it is the right of the People to alter or abolish it, and to institute a new Government. . . .

–Thomas Jefferson, 1776

Last Bulletin

The following is the last thing I had a chance to type up, Saturday afternoon.

Day 6, 3:15 pm

Ned’s been lying on the floor, listening to some sports type thing on the radio.

“Are you looking up my nostrils?” he queried Deb.

“Yeah. Do you feel violated?”


Apparently it’s baseball. The Cubs. Chicago folk are gathering round and Ned’s talking about games he remembers from 1977 when he was 6 years old (“10 years before Deb was even born,” he says, but he’s not right). Apparently Dean Jones is also from the South Side, and he and Ned were discussing this the other day. “He was analyzing my commitment to the Cubs in terms of this movement,” says Ned. “He said if I’m a Cubs fan I must be very committed, but I must be used to losing.”

We all laughed.

Meeting time soon. Much to discuss–but first we all have to eat some of this way yummy food from the Coop, where, thanks to local and state labor, we now have an account! Whoo-hoo! Now for the battle of the meat-eaters vs. the veggies.

Bob is still making nasty comments about the Cubs. I have just explained that although I don’t really follow baseball, I am a Cubs fan because my whole family’s from Chicago, and Bob’s saying, “Yeah, that’s typical of Cubs fans. They don’t know anything about baseball.”

“Oh yeah?” says Ned. “At least our slugger isn’t on steroids.”

“Yeah!” I say.

Now we’re debating Ned’s age, and whether or not he’s lied about it. I’m not sure just how this meeting is gonna work , but it’s time to get going.

Bulletin No. 10

[once again, if you’re getting duplicates or anything, just send me a note–I know a few of you have told me in person, but there are a lot of people I don’t fully associate with their e-mail addresses]

Day 6, around noon

It occurs to me that a few of you might like a little better idea of our physical surroundings. (It’s so easy to forget about the material world when you’re swept up by philosophy and action, you know–although I do think my back is starting to notice sleeping on the floor).

We are here on the main floor of Jessup Hall, one of the five buildings which make up the Pentacrest, which is more or less in the center of the UI campus and right by downtown Iowa City. In the center is the Old Capitol of Iowa, a beautiful limestone building with a tasteful gold dome and the most elegant spiral staircase you’ve ever seen. Spaced around it are the four other massive buildings–stone and columns and carved garlands and rotundas and all the rest–which make up the Pentacrest–Schaeffer Hall (history, Classics, College of Liberal Arts, and Actuarial Science, of all the random things), MacLean Hall (math and econ and stuff, I think), MacBride (home to Bird Hall and Mammal Hall and some departments I can’t remember) and of course Jessup, where the money is. Well, the top floors house Geography and the Office of Affirmative Action, but down here it’s all about cash flow. The bottom floor has the cashier’s office, the Registrar, and other such places where you have to stand in long lines and fill out lots of forms. Our hallway, directly above, is the real power base.

Seated at either end, behind locked glass-paned doors, are the Offices of the President at one end and of the Provost at the other. Finance and University Services, Student Services, and the General Counsel all have offices here in the central hallway. We think all these offices connect to each other, but we’re not exactly sure, since, as I said, we’ve been relegated to the hallway. It’s a pretty nice hallway, as these things go–terrazzo floors (which are pretty to look at but not great for sleeping), fairly wide–perhaps 8 or 10 feet across, so not quite as big as the halls in Main at Vassar, but getting there–and long enough do do some good pacing.

We have 2 tents pitched down at one end, a boombox and small TV/VCR (for video showing) and a borrowed cell phone (for emergencies) plugged in in the center. In the foyer outside the President’s stronghold, we’ve got a little display area with an old industrial-looking sewing machine (courtesy of Greta), lots of literature, and all the letters of support we’ve received, from Senator Tom Harkin to the UI Student Government to the Rhetoric TAs thanking us for talking to their classes to a card from Melissa, the girl from Ned’s class who brought us plates and utensils and cups and hand sanitizer the other day. Additionally, we’ve redecorated all the walls with our banners and posters and signs asking President Coleman to do the right thing and pictures from the paper and artwork people have done. Near the entrance, along with the ML King I put up yesterday, someone has made a sign that says “It was, for me, a Camelot house–where ideas were nourished into reality. –Elaine Brown” And there’s a checklist of our demands:

Join WRC (checked)
Drop FLA
Code of Conduct

Right now things are pretty mellow. The Hamburg Inn (voted No. 1 restaurant by Students Against Sweatshops!) sent over a fantastic breakfast–OJ and egg muffins, some with real bacon or sausage and some with soy stuff for the veggies, and animal crackers. They rock our world. Dean (aka Daddy) Jones stopped by to give us advice (he’s really fond of doing that) and said, “Gosh, I should bring the family over.” “Sure,” we said. “Come join us.” Oh, we are such masters of the double entendre.

We’ve got a meeting this afternoon to discuss various stuff, but basically today is a time to recuperate, catch up on sleep, and get in gear for next week. A bunch of people have gone over to check out the Pow-wow, going on all weekend at Carver Hawkeye Arena. My plan for the day is to do website stuff and maybe sleep some more at some point. I got up to 6 hours last night! Whoo hoo!

Well, I gotta get to work. More later.

Holding down the house,


Bulletin No. 9

Day 5, 1 am

Which would make it Day 6, of course, but I haven’t gone to bed yet, so it’s still Day 5. I did take a nap this afternoon, at long last.

Things have calmed considerably–perhaps the influence of the weekend. After the rally last night my friend gave me a ride back home so I could feed the cats, take a shower, and get some clean clothes. And then I came back here–the place that actually is home now–and chilled for awhile and wrote up the rally for y’all.

Today we had several more classes in the morning–the current estimate is that over 1000 students have been through. We are getting this teaching thing down. And from 11-12 on KRUI (the student-run station here) James Tracy and Matt Killmeier were on political discussion show called “Point Blank” with our dear friend Joel, the founding and perhaps only member of Students Against the Methods of Students Against Sweatshops. He’s a funny guy, but we’re grateful to him in a way because his existence got us our radio spot. And he does do some research–he’s just a little misinformed about how much work has already been done by SAS and perhaps a little inexperienced in just how bureaucracies work.

Anyway, Matt and Jim sounded _great_. They knew their stuff, and there’s an inherent confidence in them–they sounded relaxed, reasonable, well-informed–all the things that you want people speaking for you to be, and all the things that, increasingly, all of us are becoming. We all increasingly speak with the confidence that comes from deep questioning and good information combined with purpose and vision. (God, do I sound like I’m writing mission statement stuff yet? Blech.)

But really–there’s something in this. As I helped with the teach-ins today and as I listened to Matt and Jim, it struck me how very much this organization and this movement has been communal–how much we have all been the authors of the philosophy which guides it. Of course, I may be more inclined towards thinking in this pattern because I’m taking a class right now which focuses on just this question–on the differences and similiarities between authoring a book and authoring a movement and how it all works and what it all means. But listening to any of us talk these days, if you have heard the conversations that we have, you realize that you are listening to a human palimpsest, a book which we’ve all written. It’s like stone soup, really–we started out with nothing but stones, nothing really much at all, but as more and more people realized how great a movement, how great a world could be built with those stones, they each came bringing the other things that they had–the mortar to fill the cracks and the boards to make the floor and the pictures to hang on the walls. Wow, I realize I’ve just moved from soup to books to movements to houses, which may well make me nuts, but you take what you can get.

I have learned so much from the people here: I have learned facts and figures, I have learned history, I have learned current events, I have learned more rhetorical technique. I’ve even learned something about basketball. (Have I told you all the basketball metaphor? It’s so good! Matt came up with it originally, and now we all use it. Okay, here you go:

Imagine that the university here has a losing basketball team. I mean, they really suck. So what does the U. do? They hire a new coach, of course. This coach is called FLA. So FLA coaches for a year, but actually, he really doesn’t do anything. He barely even holds practices. After a year, the team is still terrible, hasn’t won a game. So the U. decides to hire another coach, and this one’s called WRC. He’s all gung ho, holds practice, kicks some people into shape, shows a lot of potential. But the U., instead of firing the old coach, FLA, decides to keep both of them on. When it comes to game time, FLA wants the team to use a zone defense, and WRC wants them to use a man-to-man defense, and when it’s time to play, the team can’t really do a thing.

We find this goes over really well around here–you get these guys saying, “You can’t play ball using zone and man-to-man at the same time!” It’s great. Then we try to get them to see how this won’t work when it comes to factory monitoring strategies, either. Anyway, the other day I finally got someone to explain the basketball end of it to me–I felt like kind of a dope for using this metaphor without really getting one end of it, although of course the end I don’t get is the one everyone else does. I myself have been using a health care analogy: the FLA is an HMO, and just as you don’t want your health decisions being made by insurance folks whose primary interest is profit over patient care, so we don’t want factory monitoring to be done by people who value profit over human rights.)

(I bet you forgot that was all paranthetical, didn’t you? I’m so snidely.)

But the movement’s philosophy is cohering, despite–or perhaps because of–the way we work, the way we all get to talk at meetings, the way we don’t have a president or a spokesman or a PR department. What Ned–who gets quoted most often, it is true, because he’s such a master of the well-turned phrase (“Physically, we may have been moved a few feet, but in our demands we have not budged a single inch”)–says is true: we’re all spokesmen. Even if we don’t all get quoted directly, we all speak because the things that we say have all be influenced so much by each other. Now while there could be some disturbing things going on here (silencing of authorship or disappearance of certain people–namely women, I suspect some of you might say), from the midst of it I still find it terribly exciting.

Well, the weekend looks like it will be pretty mellow. We all need a little break. I mean, I find just teaching my kids at Willowwind is tiring enough–talking to all these classes that have been pouring through here, plus other random people who just stop in, plus the occasional administrative type who deigns to address us, is positively draining. And yet I haven’t felt tired. My mom wrote me an e-mail all about the effects of adrenaline on the body long term, but I don’t remember what they were.

Right now we’ve got maybe 12 or 15 people spending the night–we’ve started signing up for shifts so that people who’ve been here all week can go home and take showers and check their mail and maybe even take a little nap. Ned finally went home to shower because he figured his students shouldn’t see him in the same clothes he taught on on Monday. And I think we even got Heidi to take a break for awhile. (That Heidi–she’s indefatigable).

Dave and the security guard who’s been assigned to us are chatting about guitar playing and music right now; someone else is strumming away. Jamie and Cara were just saying “Ooh, it’s a slumber party! We have to talk about boys now.” “Or play Truth or Dare,” I added.

Oh, one last note: Today I made a huge sign–two big pieces of posterboard–with the quotation that I’ve been reading from classes from time to time:


A second basic fact that characterizes nonviolence is that it does not seek to defeat or humiliate the opponent, but to win his friendship and understanding. The nonviolent resister must often express his protest through noncooperation or boycotts, but he realizes that these are not ends in themselves; they are merely means to awaken a sense of moral shame in the opponent. The end is redemption and reconciliation. The aftermath of nonviolence is the creation of the beloved community, while the aftermath of violence is tragic bitterness.

That’s Martin Luther King, Jr., of course, from his first book, Stride Toward Freedom, an account of the Montgomery bus boycott. Anyway, as i was putting this together, Ann Rhodes (VP for University Relations) stopped by and said, “Oh, you have such nice handwriting!” “Thanks,” I said. “Lincoln Elementary School.” A couple of other people (though none of them higher-ups) made similar comments, but none of them, I should add, bothered to read what it is I was writing. Anyway, I stuck it up right in the little alcove outside the Office of the President, which is the first stop for all our visitors. We’re not just a bunch of kids who wanted to take over a building, dammit–we’re creating the beloved community right in here. I guess some people just don’t want to join it.



Bulletin No. 8

Day 4, night

There were two No. 7s by accident. I could go into a long statistical thing about the number of hours of sleep triangulated around the number of mistakes made in a given 29.6 hour period, but as you’ve probalby realized, it would be a lot of BS.

I would also like to apologize if you’ve gotten anything twice, or if you’ve missed some. You can let me know and I’ll try to remedy the situation.

Down to business: the SAS Occapation of Jessup Hall is now officially online!!! After some fiddling around, I’ve managed to hijack the phone line down here in the basement (mostly a matter of having the right cord, it turns out), so I’ve been catching up like crazy. We were thinking we should just get a computer up here with the UISAS website up permanently, but I’m not volunteering mine. (After all, we’ve been getting Warnings About Our Safety lately. We find this rather humorous. Then again, we’re starting to find many things rather humorous, which is perhaps the thing about being in a situation with so many dire issues at stake).

But enough on that for now: I’ve got some actual news for y’all.

Today continued with teach-ins like crazy, more handing out of flyers outside, more administrators avoiding us altogether or shooting us dirty looks. We’re all tired and a lot of us had been in the same clothes for days and eating random food and generally just feeling like we’re getting nowhere–not, I should add, that we have any plans to give up. Ha.

But this evening at 5 we had a rally. We had a BIG rally, 250 people or so, including (and this is the really kick-ass part) a busload of steelworkers who came in from Des Moines. Forty or fifty union guys from out there got on a bus and rode two and a half hours out here _just to come to our rally_. They all came filing in together (’cause we started inside, around the time we figured Mary Sue Coleman was sliding through her bathole) and you could just feel the energy level rise.

The rally moved outside for speeches, MC-ed by Heidi, who started out by asking for shouts from all the different groups represented. My God! It was amazing. COGS-UE (the grad student union, who have been terrific about letting us use their office and are generally a nifty bunch of people whom I’ll be joining next year) had their own little rallying cry going: “Who’re we? UE!” And the steelworkers–wow! Not to mention all the other unions who’ve come out, and various current and former City Council members (some of whom came to visit us yesterday, too–shouts out to Karen Kubby, Steve Kanner, and Irvin Pfab!). I should mention that the City Council has decided to do some looking into where City apparel is manufacturing. (Or did I say that already?) Anyway, we’re spreading.

Well, we all made a lot of noise outside of Jessup, and we heard some great speeches–a few notable lines (sorry for the lack of attribution in some cases; I’ll happily add it if anyone can remember):

  • Back in my day, the teachers taught the students. But nowadays, it’s the students teaching the administration!
  • And what is the definition of a corporation? A body without a soul! (Greta Anderson)
  • Thanks again to the steelworkers! (Everyone)

We even got a new old labor song, specially adapted for us by the guy Patrick Hughes from the Iowa City Federation of Labor (sorry I’m blanking on names again!!!)

And then Heidi said, “Well, we’re thinking about taking a little walk, since we haven’t seen Mary Sue all day. . . want to go over to her house?”

Aww yeah.

So we all marched the five or six blocks to her house, chanting about Mary Sue=Kathy Lee and the old standbys of Hey hey, ho ho, sweatshop labor’s got to go (changed by some to “has to go”–probably the same people who changed the Pennsylvania state license plate motto from “You’ve Got a Friend in Pennsylvania” to “Keystone State,” whatever the hell that means) and Workers United Will Never Be Divided and Hey, Herky, take a stand, living wages we demand and of course Here, there, everywhere, sweatshops make your underwear!

Campus security was on site when we got there, so we all stood carefully behind the dotted line and made a little more noise (that little is a dramatic understatement, just in case that wasn’t clear). Tons of cars honked in support for us. And Ned made a fantastic speech. He said (as best as I can recall):

“I think we scared a lot of people on the way over here. And I think the reason that we scared them is that they know we’re right. [Cheers] Everybody has to draw the line somewhere on this issue, and we’re drawing it RIGHT HERE. [And now you’ve got to imagine the way we’re all standing spread out in front of the President’s house, which is this big mansion-type affair with pillars and red brick and all–I think it looks like a Southern plantation home, actually.]

(NB this next part is really paraphrased–I wish I had a tape of the real thing) “We’re not trying to cross over the line into disorder and violence, but we are not going to give up until our demands are met. That’s where we draw the line.”

“We’ve got a busload of steelworkers from Des Moines who came in today just to show solidarity with us. And I understand that they’re having a rally out there on April 29th to mark the anniversary of the second year of their strike, and let me tell you, SAS will be there with you on April 29th!” [HUGE cheers].

He talked about our sit in, about us talking to classes and students and using the time-honored methods of passive resistance and managed to hit that exact note between militancy and civil protest that we all strive for, the one that gets everybody fired up with out making anyone explode. I’m feeling so frustrated right now because I’m realizing the total inability of print (or pixels, if you want to get into that debate, which I recently wrote a whole article about and I’m actually getting kind of sick of it, but more on that later) to express the power of a really good speech–and Ned’s was the culmination of a whole evening full of them.

He ended, though, by saying, “For now, though, I’m going home, which for me means Jessup Hall.” And we cheered assent.

So we marched back, and on the way the steelworkers met up with their bus, and we all went around shaking hands with them. I had tears streaming down my face at that point, just telling them how much it meant to us to see ALL THOSE PEOPLE coming out to support us (and they’re steelworkers! I mean, that’s like the coolest of the cool!–at least to us bookish liberal arts wimp types). I told several of them, as I’ve been telling people over the past few days, about when I was 9 or 10 years and my mom took me shopping for school clothes one fall. I was trying on a new pair of jeans, and as I took them off, deciding that I liked them, she pointed out to me the union label and told me about why it was there and what that meant. Since then I’ve learned a lot more detail about unions and their history and all, but I still remember that day–it’s as vivid a picture in my head as the time I had a magician at my birthday party when I was seven or the day in August of 1990 that I moved back to Iowa City when I was fourteen and my best friend called me up and asked if I wanted to go to a meeting that night about opposing the stuff going on in the Persian Gulf.

So we waved the steelworkers off with a chorus or two of “Solidarity Forever” (we have got to learn the lyrics) and came back home.

Now a number of us have had the opportunity to go to our other abodes and shower and pick up some new clothes, and everybody’s pretty mellow (although actually I’ve been down in the basement working on e-mail stuff for the past several hours, so I’m not really sure what’s going on.

I had a great conversation with one of the janitors down here–she’s totally behind us. And someone from one of the business offices down here said some kind words to me on her way out. That’s the kind of thing that keeps us going–that and the steelworkers, of course. I’m sorry to keep bringing it up, but they made our day. Really really really.

So that’s what’s going down around here. For those of you who’re in NYC, let me mention again:

Demonstration at Niketown
Sunday, April 9 at 11 am
57th Street and 5th Avenue

We’d love to hear a report–and if any of you heard anything about the one in Boston today, we’d love to hear about that, too. I’ve heard we were mentioned on WNYC and briefly in the NY Times, so maybe the national press is picking up on this. But keep your eyes peeled and let me know–it’s good to hear from you all, as I’ve said. Thank you SO MUCH again for the e-mails I’ve gotten, and I’m sorry if I haven’t responded to you personally. But I often read your stuff to people, and it makes us feel warm and fuzzy.

Yeesh. I’m thinking maybe I ought to get some sleep.



Bulletin No. 6

Day 4, 9 am

Ned just delivered the Gazette to Deb, who is still in bed (she’s quoted in it, it would seem). “Oh thank you personal slave,” says Deb.

“That’s right,” I said. “We have no spokesman, but we do have personal slaves.”

KRUI‘s been playing that song about “gonna smack her when I see her.” We tend to agree. (Figurative smacks only, of course).

Dave’s live on KRUI! Our message is goin’ out to the masses! He’s talking all about differences in monitoring and sounding intelligent and much more together than anyone who’s spent the past 3 days on the floor should.

In other media, this morning’s DI is a riot. CEO Coleman wrote a guest opinion all about the usual crap and how she hoped that we’d be part of the solution blah blah blah blah blah. Then, right next to it, was Jim’s column, a sort of expansion of the thing he sent to the listserv, where all the questions are answered with “I too share your concern. I think that this is a very important issue. Thank you for bringing it to my attention.” Etc. Except this time instead of just answering sweatshop questions this way, she answered all questions like that–from educational funding to racist e-mails at the dental school to the Tiger Hawk logo.

And so another dawns at the SAS Occupation of Jessup Hall. (I do love it when we answer the phone that way). General plan for the day: more teachin’, more preachin’, more getting out the word, and then a HUGE rally, which may be taking a little field trip. (After all, fresh air is good for us). There’s a possibility that Holly and I may go over to West High at some point, but given how loved we were by the administration when we were there, we’re not sure how well that will work.

Dean Jones just stopped by to tell us we had to post guards during the night because we could not assume that everyone who came in here was our friend. Duh. He then repeated himself about eight times. I swear, these adminstrators, they’re all like broken records.

I’m gonna go get some more of this mailed off. Keep those e-mails coming. Keep on rockin’ in the free world.

Oooh ooh! The KRUI DJs are just chatting about us and how cool we are and how we’ve bucked generational apathy and how human rights are important, and all that.

11:20 am

I got to answer the phone! The chick from West High called and said she’s going to bring a posse over here to get some learning this afternoon, so that rocks. Ever since then I’ve been teaching. We had a great African history class come in and talk about the ways in which the US has produced the conditions which lead to sweatshops in other countries, and the legislation (something like “Opportunity and Growth in Africa Act”) which would allow that to spread to Africa. More of that fun doublespeak–“fair” labor, “opportunity and growth,” and, of course, President Coleman’s “respect” and “concern” for our issue.

Now I’m really going to get some more of this sent off. We will overcome, dammit.

And the latest, just as I’m typing this up–apparently we got mentioned on the radio, WNYC. Right on!


Bulletin No. 7

Day 3, 10:20 pm

Head count: 5, plus many more at a meeting elswhere. The walls have ears.

People downstairs (Steve Kanner has arrived) are playing Tibetan music, which is cool in theory but is actually annoying me, so I’ve come up to the Geography Department lounge to write. I want to go over to Weeg to check e-mail and send some of this shit out, but someone needs to stay here to hold down the fort.

I don’t really know what’s going on.

What’s going on. I think someone brought a Marvin Gaye tape. How odd.

All that energy that I had last night, all that sense of world-conquering power–I wish I knew where it went. Am I just exhausted? I don’t know. Am I too principled to belong to any movement? That would be troubling indeed.

I’m fascinated by the concept of movement, of a movement. Is a movement necessarily all the same time in a single direction? Or is it the way Sam Turner always described the New Bad Things–a whole group of people singing the same song, but all with a different idea of how it should be, and all singing it simultaneously–a tower of Babel sort of thing. Being moved by the spirit and all that.

I think maybe I am just tired–which would make sense, what with my whole 2 hours of sleep last night.

I can’t decide what to do.

I think I’ll call my mom.

Bulletin No. 5

Day 3

5 pm

Many have left to go to the Day of Silence rally. I have stayed to hold down the fort.

7 pm

And many did stop by. I had a great conversation with a girl named Rebecca, all about the efforts I’ve been making to educate the campus about the history and purposes of civil disobedience and nonviolence and all that good stuff–that we’re not just here ’cause we wanted to take over the administration’s building, dude–that we’re here because we want to be an education to the campus (wow, that Pericles stuff can really stick with you. Of course, here I am alluding the Funeral Oration left and right without mentioning things like, oh, say, slavery in Greece. But, as Mr. Emerson says, a foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds). Right.

Things are pretty mellow right now. Dave put Liz Phair on the stereo pretty low, and we were chatting briefly about the appropriateness of my favorite line from this album, the one I quote to you all the time: “It’s nice to be liked, but it’s better by far to get paid.” Damn straight.

But, while I’ve got the time and it’s fairly quiet, there are some other things I should talk about–a little change of pace from the humor and philosophy, I guess.

First of all, thanks SO MUCH to all of you who have e-mailed me over the past few days. I know I haven’t replied to all of you personally, and I hope you won’t take offense either at that or at the hasty, scrappy responses that I do get sent out. But know that your words are appreciated, that they’ve given me strength of purpose, and I’ve been doing my best to pass that on.

The energy is high here a lot of the time–so many of the students we’ve talked to have been amazing. Again, hundreds came through today, stopped to hear about sweatshop conditions and the FLA and the WRC and the lack of responsibility on the part of administrators. But we’ve also had to deal with the continual–I don’t know how to say it except wrong-headedness–of the administration. Mary Sue Coleman and Anne Rhodes won’t even talk to us anymore. Those who will continue with the party line, which is to be expected, I know, but after a time of talking to them you start to feel that you’re nothing but a pingpong ball balancing on the top of a water jet at a fair. You know you’re right, you know that the facts are on your side, that history is on your side, that everything that counts is on your side. But it’s hard. It’s hard. You’re sitting here in the same clothes you’ve been wearing, in this building with all its gold lettering and formality, and you’re tired and you haven’t showered and you’re eating the weirdest collection of food you’ve ever had, and here’s this administrative type in a suit, who slept in a bed last night, and who’s pulling out every older-and-wiser-than-thou stop they have. There are times, I admit, when I think it would be simpler just to go on letting them run the world. Paternalistic benevolence can be a powerful force, particularly when it comes to brainwashing.

And there’s the issue I brought up earlier, I think–the question of how much resistance we’re practicing when our civil disobedience has been sanctioned–we’ve been allowed to remain in the building. Of course, we get lectures from Security every day about how mature and wonderful we’re being, what good little boys and girls we’re being. At times we despair. Morale is difficult in the trenches, even when you’re on the side of good–maybe even especially then. I don’t know.

So do keep those e-mails coming–and please e-mail/fax/call the administrators at any and all of the SAS schools that you can. I’m sending along a list of all the calls for action that we’ve received as of last night–and let me tell you, I know this is a partial listing. If you’re in NYC or Boston, I know there are rallies planned for this weekend–if I find out more specifics, I’ll send them along, but keep your ears out. Also, my fellow Vassarites–as you’ll note, our school hasn’t joined the WRC. I seem to recall that we did sign onto the FLA around the time it was started last year. Is anything going on on campus there? We want to hear about it. And please, also, if you run across any national news coverage of this, we’d love to hear about that too. We get morning paper deliveries of the locals around here, but given our position and the amount we have to do, we don’t have the time or ability to check CNN or the New York Times or Nightline or whatever else. So keep your ears and eyes peeled, and tell me what you hear.

Thanks again to all of you who’ve written, and those of you whom I know are thinking of us. It DOES make a difference.

Ain’t gonna let nobody turn me around,


Bulletin No. 4

Day 3, 8:30 am

Rise and shine and give God your glory glory. . . or give the administration hell, or whatever. Someone came in around 7 I think and turned the main lights on. We groaned. (Those of us who went to bed about an hour before that were perhaps particularly audible). But now I’m up and awake and raring to go, even with out coffee (yet), though it’s coming, along with breakfast courtesy of the Hamburg Inn. They ROCK MY WORLD!

So: this morning’s DI reports that the second day was “calmer” than the first and that Mary Sue Coleman feels she’s taking a “cautious” position. Our man Ned is right back at her though: “You can’t meet halfway on the issue of human rights. There is no middle ground or compromise; you either respect human rights or you don’t. At this point, remaining in the labor association is going to allow sweatshop conditions to continue and corporations to be shielded from the discovery of this exploitation.” What more is there to say, really?

Various staff folk are walking through, not looking particularly pleased with the situation. Go figure: Mary Sue Coleman gets her private hidden entrance, wherever that is, so she can avoid us and feel safe, while the grunts who work in this building have to deal with us. The whole system–even the architecture–is set up to make it hard to get at the people you really want to.

But back to the DI for a moment–right underneath the picture of the march past Mary Sue’s house there’s another headline: “City says ‘time out’ on apparel pending review.” Thanks to Steve Kanner, the City’s decided to look a little harder at where the clothing it orders comes from and just how it’s produced. Quoth Steve, “I thought [UI Students Against Sweatshops] brought up some good points, so I thought we should look into what the city does. The movement empowers the community.” The movement empowers the community. That’s what it’s all about. It’s not about divisiveness or trying to alienate people or piss people off–it’s about showing that we DO have a say in the way things work. Each person does have a voice, and, as Eddie Moore says, “the choice to watch or interrupt is ours.” Or, as Martin Luther King Jr. proclaimed in all the flyers put up around campus for Human Rights Week, “It’s always the right time to do the right thing.” The idea, you see, is that that should apply not just to a week but to all the time. And when you remember that you have that voice, and when you claim it and use it, you realize that the very act of speaking, of interrupting, is a revolution in itself. Telling the truth is always revolutionary, especially in an atmosphere where there is a conspiracy of silence. These halls, and the good old neoclassical architecture of this Pentacrest, echo and reverberate pretty well. Those ripples have reached the city–let’s just hope that they are ripples felt round the world.

Okay, enough of the philosophy–you guys probably want to know what’s happening, too, huh?

Well, it’s 9 am now, and the Breakfast Support, Coffee Support, and Paper Support teams have delivered their goods. Ham and cheese and just cheese sandwiches from the Hamburg Inn (with 2 kinds of mustard to choose from! though actually I’m not a mustard person, but I appreciate the gesture) and coffee from brave souls who went out to fetch it. I am a much happier girl now that I’m armed with some good dark roast. The aroma is itself empowering.

We’re planning more teach-ins, more letter-writing, more just plain presence. Holly and I are waiting to hear from our old high school–we might go give some presentations out there today. I’m gonna finish my breakfast and go see about finding a phone line.

It looks like Ned’s talking to someone in the Office of the President, or at any rate he’s stnading in there and looking impassive. Mary Sue Coleman actually decided to walk through the hall this morning and said good morning. Ann Rhodes just walked through, no comment.

More later,

Bulletin No. 3

Day 2, nearly Day 3, 5:49 am

It is much closer to dawn than I want to think about right now, even given daylight savings time and all, but this may be the only time I really have to write here, and I want to get some impressions down.

Heidi, Daniel, and I just got back from the computer center [aka Weeg] a little while ago; Heidi was making a flyer for tomorrow; I was starting my local media bombardment campaign, and Daniel was along for moral support. The door prop had been moved when we got back, and we pounded like you wouldn’t believe, thinking that everyone was fast asleep and dreaming of a brave new world, but it turned out they were just scared we were the cops. Ned finally ran up to the third floor, saw it was us, and let us in.

Now everyone is asleep–as asleep as you can get in this place. It’s hot in here–I almost think that maybe they’re trying to sweat us out. And there’s some huge machine behind the walls, part of the circulation system or the heat or what, I don’t know, but it makes a throbbing, pulsing noise that you can feel in your breastbone, almost as if it were the heart of the building. But it’s not: we are.

While we were at Weeg, we ran through Heidi’s e-mail accumulated over the past day, almost all of it from the USAS listserv. It’s not just us and Purdue, it’s all over–and spreading like wildfire. Kentucky, Tulane, Michigan, Oregon, Yale, Wesleyan–they’re all holding buidlings or camping out or hunger striking or something, and I know there are schools I’m forgetting. This movement is national, and though the national media haven’t picked up on it yet, we know it (thanks to the wonders of modern technology). But sitting there, reading all those posts from all over–somebody compiled all the letters asking for support and sent them out in one mass e-mail–we felt it. All over America right now people are sleeping, but some of those people–a critical mass of those people–are college students and supporters, camping out on lawns and in libraries, in hallways and on doorsteps, demanding change, demanding a voice, demanding a better world.

I’ve been reading a lot of history about student movements of the 1960s lately, partly to refresh my memory, partly for inspiration, partly for what they might have to teach me. I know these weren’t the only student movements ever, though–I was talking to a grad student here today who told me about stuff going on in the ’30s, fascinating stuff, stuff like leaving a campus to form your own. And that’s what we’ve done here: formed our own university, digitally linked to our comrades all across America. It’s pretty fucking amazing.

But the other thing that all this history has made me think about is how this current movement will play out in history. I’ve gotten a lot of slack from people about ’60s idealism run amok, and how do we think we’re going to be any different, and if we were older and wiser we’d know better, which I can only translate as, Get off our floor; you’re in the way; go back to your room. Yeesh.

I don’t know what the end result of this struggle will be. I hope it will be victorious. But there’s one thing I do know: this movement, this sit-in, will affect the history of each and every individual here tonight. What we did, how we felt, and what we thought during these days will be a part of the story which each of us forms about our life. I suspect it will be a signficant part of those stories. It certainly will be in mine. What we’re accomplishing here is not just an end to collegiate affiliation with sweatshop labor or a challenge to the still-paternalistic authority of the university system and the accountability of the administration: we’re learning from this. We’re learning about what it means to work together and fight together, what it means to try to educate people and mobilize people. We’re learning how to make it happen.

You can’t buy the kind of energy that’s fueling this movement, not if you combined the salaries of every administrator involved, plus all the outrageously exaggerated salaries of the coaches here at the Big 10 schools. If we win this fight, we’ll know that we CAN change the world. And what else, I ask you, do you want to teach your children, if not that?

In her book Heretic’s Heart, Margot Adler (now New York Bureau Chief for NPR) talks about her involvement in the Berkeley Free Speech Movement in 1964–the movement that established the right of students to organize on campus and to be treated as adults. It’s an astounding story, full of impassioned speeches and vivid pictures. But what is perhaps even more astounding is the story Adler tells about its 25th reunion–about men and women still flush with that victory of decades ago, still full of the energy and power that come from knowing you do have a voice and that you can change the world. These people, said Adler, were not the burnt-out radicals you so often hear about–they were good people still doing good work for the world, confident that their lives did matter and did make a difference.

That’s a pretty great story to be able to tell yourself.

In addition to the story of the group, however, there was the story of each individual. For Adler, the Free Speech Movement was a part of the work of her heritage–her parents were activists and she had grown up in a climate of radicalism and liberalism. (Oh, those isms). For others, however, it was quite different. For many, their involvement in the FSM became the story of how they broke from their parents, how they realized that complacency was not something they could tolerate, even in the affluent society. For all, however, it was a part of the story of how they grew up, how they became women and men.

I wonder about the bodies sleeping around me tonight. What will their stories be? At Weeg, Heidi was sending out e-mail and, inadvertantly, sent one to her father indicating that she was in fact a part of the sit-in. “Oh my God, my father knows I’m sitting in,” she said. Her father knows of her involvement in the movement, knows how much this means to her, but this sit-in will, it seems, be the acid test. My mother knows I’m here–in fact, she’s getting this update. She asked tonight if I knew all the people I could call if I needed bail or legal help while she was out of town. (Go Mom!) But nonetheless, my presence here tonight, the words which I’m speaking and writing, they all mark a transition for me, a moment of breaking away, or rather, of claiming something which was mine all along, which my heritage and my upbringing, from my father teaching me the Greek alphabet when I was little to my mom showing me the union label in my new school clothes and telling me what it meant, have given me.

It’s pretty damn amazing, I gotta say.

Well, it’s really time for me to grab a few hours’ sleep now. I’ll try to get this out as soon as I can.

Solidarity forever,