ALUTA AT HARVARD UNIVERSITY


By Akin Ojumu

I’m at the Harvard University this weekend visiting my daughter and attending the annual First-Year Family Weekend Event. Lo and behold, I find myself in the middle of aluta continua with placard carrying students milling around yelling, “We no go gree o, we no go gree…” – well not exactly, but the American version of it.

The graduate students and fellows of the university are out protesting low wages and generally poor employment conditions. The striking students are joined in solidarity by other Labor Unions of the Ivy League school. Some classes, especially for the first-year students, have been cancelled because of the strike since the graduate students and fellows lead and teach many of the classes.

While the strike is unlike the student protests I experienced as a university student in Nigeria, it is still a sight to behold in this prestigious Ivy League school and it is the last thing I expect to see in this University that has billions of dollars in endowment and an ocean of research funds flowing in per second per second.

As I take in the scene, and reflect on what’s going on around me, I can’t help but think about the jarring similarities between human beings everywhere. The same power dynamic that plays out between employers and workers in Nigeria is almost identical to what you find here on the campus of one of the greatest universities in the world. The employers of labor everywhere always want to extract the most they can from their employees in terms of labor while they expend as little as they can in terms of wages. The employers want to pay the minimum they can get away with in exchange for getting the maximum the employees can give.

Anyways, since I’m here for the next 2 days, I might as well enjoy being a student again by joining in the protest, carrying the placard, and singing the aluta continua victoria acerta song along with these eggheads as we march around the historic campus fighting for "our" rights.

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