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A crowd of students from the Student Labor Alliance gathered outside of University Hall on Tuesday to protest Brown's investment in HEI Hotels and Resorts.

The hotel chain was started by a Cornell graduate, and has been invested in by numerous "well-known, prestigious universities" including Brown, said group member Lenora Knowles '11. Over the past two years, the student group has been fighting for a divestment from HEI due to labor practices that the group thinks are unfair, Knowles said.

This fight has not been confined to Brown. Students are organizing at other universities, such as Harvard, Yale and the University of Pennsylvania, she said. Also, students at universities that do not invest in HEI are now "trying to make sure their school won't invest," according to Knowles.

The group became aware of Brown's relationship with the hotel chain through a YouTube video that contained a segment of "bragging" by HEI about the many universities investing in their company, including Brown, Knowles said.

The company does not give sufficient benefits and the management treats employees very poorly, Knowles said.

It is a problem that is "impacting people dramatically," said group member Jesse Strecker '10.

The group met to discuss its concerns with President Ruth Simmons on Feb. 1, asking for divestment from HEI, Knowles said. On Tuesday, the group gathered in front of University Hall to deliver a letter to Simmons reiterating their concerns.

The letter was given to Hanna Rodriguez-Farrar '87 MA'90 PhD'09, assistant to the president. Rodriguez-Farrar informed the students that a letter was being sent by Simmons to HEI, Knowles said.

Rodriguez-Farrar said she told the group that the University wants to learn more about HEI's labor practices and hear other schools' opinions.

"The University is concerned," Rodriguez-Farrar said, adding that she wants the group to keep the administration updated.

Overall the protest was "fairly low-key," Knowles said.

While she was glad that Simmons decided to send the letter, Knowles said it is "definitely not enough."

The group wants more action to be taken, said member Becca Rast '13. "People have been fighting this for two years."

"The letter focused on if these allegations are true," Strecker said. He said he is worried that the "run-around we've been getting for some time now" will continue.

The group wants the University to do more than ask if the allegations are true, said member Haley Kossek '13. It wants the University to "recognize them as problems" and "dissociate themselves."

HEI denied these accusations in the past, Knowles said. "We are still steady in our divestment from HEI," she said, "and are definitely going to keep putting pressure on Ruth and other governing bodies" at Brown.


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