Last week, members of the Georgetown Solidarity Committee led a demonstration to protest a comment allegedly made by Spiros Dimolitsas, senior vice president and chief administrative officer, regarding the status of subcontracted workers at Georgetown University.

The protest was part of GSC’s “Living Wage” campaign, which demands that the university ensure that all workers on its campus are paid a wage which allows them to provide for themselves and their families. This is a goal that this page has supported and continues to support.

GSC’s latest protest, however, is unnecessary and counterproductive to its mission.

GSC asserts that, during discussions regarding the constitution of the Business Ethics Committee, Dimolitsas said that subcontracted workers are not part of the university community, a charge that the university denies.

Dimolitsas’ alleged remark came during a conversation with GSC members over the university’s commitment to including a subcontracted worker on the Business Ethics Committee. The original constitution of the committee calls for a subcontracted worker to serve as a voting member, and the university claims it always intended to honor that pledge.

Since the exchange between Dimolitsas and the GSC members, university spokeswoman Laura Cavender reaffirmed the university’s commitment to include a subcontracted worker. She said that Dimolitsas’ never intended otherwise and that his words “were taken completely out of context.”

The question of who said what is irrelevant. If the students of GSC are going to succeed in their efforts to improve compensation for subcontracted workers, it will not be by protesting every time an administrator makes a comment to which they take offense.

This is not to say that protesting is never justified. GSC has proven in the past that campus protests can be an effective tool for affecting change. In 1999 GSC-led protests spurred the university to stop selling Georgetown apparel made using sweatshop labor. In this case a targeted protest with a specific and substantial goal made a substantive change to an important university policy.

This case is different. GSC is protesting the perceived attitude of a specific administrator with which it is involved in a long-term negotiation. Even if Dimolitsas did say what GSC claims he said, the most these students could have ever hoped to gain from the protests is a retraction or apology. And while the students of GSC may have considered such an apology a victory of sorts, at the end of the day, no apology will ever help subcontracted workers pay their rent and feed their children.

GSC must realize that its negotiations with the university over the living-wage issue will be conducted in the long term. If the students of GSC stage a protest every time an administrator makes an unpopular comment, or every time they come to an impasse in their discussions, productive negotiations will quickly become impossible. Administrators will be unwilling to negotiate openly with the students of GSC on the living wage issue if they know that their words might spark the next round of protests.

Three weeks ago this newspaper wrote, “Only by being realistic in their demands and negotiating strategies will GSC be able to effect real change [on the issue of “Living Wage”].” Wednesday’s protests do not reflect the mature, realistic strategies that are necessary to achieve change. Protests of this sort will only undermine progress toward a Living Wage and, consequently, harm Georgetown’s subcontracted workers.

If the students of GSC want to make a difference on this campus, they must stop playing games. Protesting for the sake of protesting is always pointless and, in this case, is detrimental. The university has given the students of GSC a valuable opportunity to take part in the decision-making process regarding worker compensation. They must not waste it.

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