Tired students

by Ken Eisinger

Hunger strikers conveniently ended their eight-day protest Wednesday in time for a Northrop Mall luncheon held by the YMCA.
While none of the strikers accepted the sandwiches and soda, they announced an end to their fast at a rally of more than 100 people in front of Morrill Hall.
“We’re calling an end to the strike to maintain our mental strength to pursue our educations,” said Chinese program graduate student Ben Ridgway.
Protesters said they stopped the fast to get their strength back so they would be better able to negotiate with administrators for a fourth full-time professor in the Chinese program.
During their eight-day fast some protesters shed up to 13 pounds and noticed a loss of concentration and fatigue.
“Without strength you can’t organize a thing like this. Our wits are all at a state where it is hard to argue the facts,” said College of Liberal Arts sophomore Caleb Shillander.
CLA Dean Steven Rosenstone said he is pleased the students decided to end their strike and he will continue to welcome dialogue with the students.
Throughout their mostly peaceful demonstration, protesters alleged four years of understaffing in the Chinese program, which now has two tenured professors and two temporary professors. In February, Rosenstone approved a third tenured faculty position for fall quarter.
After writing letters, signing petitions and attending meetings for three years, Chinese program students saw the hunger strike as their last recourse.
The fast got underway last Wednesday when 27 hunger strikers demanded University President Mark Yudof grant them a fourth tenured professor and an equal, independent department of East Asian languages and literatures.
Only 11 stuck it out until the end. Many who dropped out cited health, school and work as reasons they could not continue. At the request of University officials, Boynton Health Service nutritionists periodically checked on the starving students.
When passing by Yudof’s office, Boynton Director Edward Ehlinger made sure to stop by the protesters. “I would check their energy level, their animation level,” he said.
Ehlinger said two nutritionists periodically performed more extensive check-ups.
Despite not having eaten for almost 200 hours, some strikers were energetic and animated at the rally. Others were almost too weary to stand.
Shillander said that for the last eight days, he sustained himself by holding to his belief that the Chinese program had been wronged.
“I’ve been living for eight days on a principle that this department has been done an injustice,” Shillander said. “And it’s going to be hard for me to stop living on that principle and finally eat.”
Protesters said that although their demands were not met, the hunger strike was a success because it brought attention to the issues in the Chinese program. They will keep talking with administrators to try to add to the $50,000 scholarship and 18.1 percent budget increase officials highlighted as responses to the demands.
The end of the strike brought solace to administrators who feared some students would take the fasting to injurious extremes.
“We can almost hear the huge sigh of relief coming out of Johnston Hall,” said Eugenia Smith, CLA’s communications coordinator.