EDITORIAL: Minimum wage banner broke U. policy

There are more appropriate ways to voice one's concerns

Following a statement by University President Robert L. Barchi, at the start of January the minimum wage on campus increased to $11 an hour. Despite that fact, the fight continues on for higher wages. Yesterday, a banner could be seen hanging from the roof above the Brower Commons steps that advocated for a rise in the minimum wage to $15 an hour. A similar banner was seen hanging in the same spot approximately two months ago with a similar statement. In both cases, someone presumably broke onto the roof of the dining hall or Stonier Hall and proceeded to hang the banner without the University’s permission. Additionally, the banner was held up by loose cinder blocks, as seen in photographs of the incident — a blatant safety hazard. 

The students who are fighting for a $15 minimum wage are doing so in good faith. Their argument is that everyone deserves living wages, especially when they have the financial burden of higher education weighing them down. Students who work at the University not only have to pay tuition but also need to somehow cover the costs required by every day living, including paying for gas, groceries and housing. This is all seemingly quite reasonable. But the question then becomes: under what circumstances is it appropriate for people who want to protest something, to have broken University policy in order to advocate for their cause?

It is not clear as to who put up the banner, but whoever did it must consider his or her actions.

According to Rutgers’ guidelines for freedom of expression on campus, “The University maintains the right, and the responsibility, to determine appropriate time, place and manner to ensure that expressive activities do not interfere with or disrupt educational, research or business functions of the University, as well as to provide protections for public health, safety and welfare.” This banner quite obviously violates the University’s determination of appropriate time, place and manner for the expression of ideas. 

In response to the fact that whoever put up this banner was breaking the rules, one may very well bring up slight, possible parallels between this situation and the situations of justified disobedience to the law discussed in Martin Luther King Jr.'s  Letter from a Birmingham Jail. In other words, one could argue that according to King, sometimes it is necessary to break the law in order to project your voice. But that argument does not work well here. Those who wish to advocate for a minimum wage increase are not hindered from doing so — they can partake in a planned public protest authorized by the University. In King’s case, on the other hand, those who wished to advocate for their cause were arguably being unjustly prevented from doing so.

Additionally, the administration has clearly been receptive to the wishes of those fighting for an increased minimum wage, considering the fact that it is now $11 an hour for University employees. Why was it necessary to disregard that receptiveness by disobeying the school’s policy? 

With that said, whoever put the banner up was nonetheless certainly able to attract attention to their cause, which was obviously their main goal. But the manner in which they are choosing to do so seems to be somewhat misguided. Those who wish for the minimum wage to be increased to $15 an hour should attempt to open a serious dialogue with the University rather than express their views in this way. Maybe by doing this the group will be able to discuss logistics or a plan for implementation of the raise, which in some views could have serious economic consequences if implemented. Right now, it seems like these advocates are making impractical demands without thorough consideration with regard to the implications or complications of actually going through with raising the minimum wage to $15 an hour. 


The Daily Targum's editorials represent the views of the majority of the 150th editorial board. Columns, cartoons and letters do not necessarily reflect the views of the Targum Publishing Company or its staff

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