University News

UCS supports Providence Hilton boycott

Council also votes in favor of $16 increase in Student Activities Fee to $274 a year per undergraduate

By
Staff Writer
Thursday, October 15, 2015

Sazzy Gourley ’16, president of the Undergraduate Council of Students, brought up a past UCS resolution on mailroom labor at the UCS meeting.

The Undergraduate Council of Students passed a resolution encouraging the University to boycott the Hilton Providence amidst an ongoing labor dispute at its general body meeting Wednesday.

Introduced by the Brown Student Labor Alliance, the resolution recommended that University events not be held at the Hilton. It also called for the hotel to be withdrawn from all University publications, including the website. The Hilton is one of three hotels managed by the Procaccianti Group, a Rhode Island-based real estate investment company, to have come under fire from its employees regarding unionization and unsafe working conditions.

“Workers have been intimidated when attempting to unionize,” said Daniel Crowell ’17, an SLA member, who introduced the resolution to the council. The hotel has markedly higher rates of workplace injury than the national average, he added.

Disputes at the other two properties, the Omni Providence Hotel and the Renaissance Providence Downtown Hotel, attracted the attention of the Brown University Community Council, which passed similar resolutions in 2010 and 2014. BUCC members also discussed the current potential boycott at a Sept. 29 meeting.

Precedent for community action on worker rights issues surfaced as a key concern during discussion of the resolution at the UCS meeting. “UCS has shown a lot of support in the past,” Crowell said.

UCS President Sazzy Gourley ’16 cited UCS actions last fall regarding the outsourcing of mailroom labor, including a resolution calling for the University to gather student feedback before making decisions affecting campus employees.

Cameron Johnson ’17, another SLA member, reminded the council of the University’s important role in the community. “Don’t forget how big a player Brown is in the city of Providence,” he said. “When students make a statement that we’re not going to tolerate this, it plays a huge role” in catalyzing change, he added.

Austin Lessin ’19, one of three dissenters in the vote, expressed concern that the issue was not raised with the parent companies of the hotels, the Hilton Hotels Group and Marriott Hotels, before being brought to UCS. Those corporations could proceed with removing the Procaccianti Group from operation of their properties if the violations were found to be severe, he said.

UCS Campus Life Chair Kevin Garcia ’18 responded with skepticism about the effectiveness of that strategy. “Top-down pressure is not the best way to approach this,” he said. “The more quickly we work, the better we can support the workers.”

UCS also unanimously approved a request to increase the Student Activity Fee out of each student’s tuition by $16 to $274 per year. The action would result in a “total increase in revenue of $101,000, which would go solely toward the maintenance of student groups’ current level of funding,” according to the resolution.

The hike in the Student Activity Fee is necessary because of inflation, which has caused an average 45 percent rise in costs for student groups, said UCS Student Activities Chair Dara Bernstein ’18. The Undergraduate Finance Board, which allocates funding to all categorized student groups, currently faces a shortage of $100,000 when accounting for current revenues and fixed costs. The fixed costs include costs associated with the Department of Public Safety and other security services needed at events organized by student groups.

To reach the requested increase of $16 per student, the UCS Student Activities committee divided the required increase of $101,000 by the number of currently enrolled undergraduates, Bernstein said. Last year, the council requested an increase of $21 per student but was only granted one of $8.

The council concluded its meeting by categorizing five new student groups. Brown chapters of Project HEAL, an organization supporting those struggling with eating disorders, and The Petey Greene Program, a prisoner education initiative, were both approved as Category S groups. This category includes groups sponsored by larger national organizations that are often service-based.

Three groups were also granted Category 1 recognition, receiving the lowest level of funding from UFB. Brown’s Associated Puzzlers, the Thin Noon Journal and Write It Brown Noveling Club received this designation.

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