By Martin Weil
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, April 16, 2006
Seventeen University of Virginia students who had occupied the campus administration building for four days to call for higher pay for school employees were arrested last night, a campus spokeswoman said.
The students, who had occupied Madison Hall, were taken into custody on a charge of trespassing, according to Carol Wood. Some walked out, but the majority were carried out by university police, she said.
The protest and the arrests were unusual at the Charlottesville university, which was founded by Thomas Jefferson and is considered by many a bastion of civility and gentlemanly conduct.
When a university official arrived yesterday evening with police, the students were offered the chance to leave but chose to remain, Wood said. She said university President John T. Casteen III had met three times with the students, and "it seemed like things were moving along."
But, she said, the students "are passionate about their cause" and were "not happy with the results they were getting." The protest has been described as part of a "living wage" campaign.
In explaining the decision to make the arrests, Wood said many campus employees were kept away from homes and families on a holiday weekend, "working overtime, round-the-clock, to ensure the safety of these students." She also said Casteen felt it important to have the building back to normal when employees return to work tomorrow.
Students asked that pay be raised to $10.72 an hour for the lowest-paid workers at U-Va., Wood said.
She said the university had increased the pay rate last month from $8.88 an hour to $9.37.
In recent years, students at other universities, including Georgetown, Harvard and Yale, have taken up the cause of campus employees whom they viewed as underpaid.