UMD and Daycon: Clean Up Your Act!

From The Diamondback:

Testudo would have been dripping yesterday even if it hadn’t rained, after student activists scrubbed down the statue outside McKeldin Library to protest a university cleaning-supply contract.Cleaning Testudo

Members of Feminism Without Borders and College Park Students for a Democratic Society donned white coveralls to lather and rinse clean the terrapin’s bronze shell yesterday morning, attracting dozens of passers-by to hear allegations that Daycon, which provides janitorial equipment and chemicals to the university, engages in unfair labor practices, including refusal to negotiate with employees.

“Our university is a place where we take pride in respecting all our workers,” junior sociology major and SDS member Dennis Frostbutter said. “We’re cleaning up Testudo, telling the university to clean up its act and drop Daycon.”

Last month, the two student groups wrote to Provost and then-acting President Nariman Farvardin and Procurement and Supply Director James Stirling to demand an end to the contract, but the groups were not successful.Shiny Clean!

Originally, Frostbutter said, the groups’ goal was to get students into the university’s holiday greeting card — which was filmed yesterday — wearing shirts that spelled out “Drop Daycon,” but not enough people were willing to participate, and the plan fizzled out.

Instead, “we’re going to throw water Daycon,” but not enough people were willing to participate, and the plan fizzled out.

Instead, “we’re going to throw water and sponges around,” he said.

At yesterday’s protest, group members alternated between washing Testudo and handing out fliers to passers-by, urging them to sign a petition for the immediate severing of the contract.Clean that turtle

Protesters said that the petition had 200 signatures before the event, but that they hoped to gain many more by generating increased student interest in the cause. It wasn’t immediately clear how many signatures they collected at yesterday’s campaign.

“It is a message to students and administrators that we want everyone to be aware of this issue and treat it with the gravity it deserves,” said Liz Ciavolino, a senior music major and member of Feminism Without Borders.

To catch the attention of hurried students heading to class, the activists chanted, “Fifty-five went on strike, Daycon’s got to take a hike,” in reference to the more than four dozen employees who walked off their jobs more than six months ago.

Although many students said they were previously unfamiliar with the Daycon controversy, most of those who stopped said they appreciated the efforts of protest organizers to raise awareness in a creative way.

“I think it’s great,” sophomore government and politics major Joe Hammer said. “I didn’t understand [why they were washing Testudo] at first, but now I think it’s a great symbol.”

Sophomore psychology major Lauren Rudin said she wasn’t sure the average student would take the time to become involved after witnessing the washing.

“It’s a good idea, but I just don’t know how effective it will be,” she said. “You have to get to the higher-ups.”

After administrators received the letters, Stirling said he was looking into the issue and would consider terminating the contract at some point, but it remains in place as of now.

Because of the lack of response to the group’s previous efforts, Frostbutter said, members intend to continue pressing the administration to end the contract.

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