Thursday, October 26, 2006

ana menendez on nova

Posted on Wed, Oct. 25, 2006
In My Opinion

Nova's diversity advocacy halts at service entry

Friday night, Nova Southeastern University President Ray Ferrero Jr. is supposed to be honored by the Urban League of Broward County as a ``Diversity Champion.''

Meanwhile, back on the Davie campus, 340 janitors and gardeners, most of them minorities, will be winding up another work week making around $7 an hour with no health insurance.

Recently, the workers voted to join a union. But a few days before the vote, the university announced it would be ''reevaluating'' its contract with the company that employs the workers, Unicco.

Now the men and women who had looked forward to more dignified treatment instead face the prospect of layoffs during the holiday season.

Nova's commitment to diversity, it would seem, ends at the service entrance.


Dorval Audanois, an immigrant from Haiti, has been tending the greenery at Nova for almost five years. He works from 7 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. and then, after a day in the sun, heads to night school to study English and math. He makes $7.73 an hour and lives next to an auto-repair shop on a dead-end street near Opa-locka Boulevard.

Audanois, 62, has never met President Ferrero, nor does he expect to. But if he did, he knows the first thing he would ask him.

''Is he not a human being like us? If he gets sick, doesn't he have to go to the doctor?'' he said at his home Monday night. ``Just because we are poor, does this mean we do not need the same thing?''

The campaign to organize janitors began at the University of Miami in March.

After janitors walked off the job, UM president Donna Shalala announced a plan to guarantee good wages and healthcare to workers under contract to the university.

The UM janitors finally voted to join a union this summer. A month ago, FIU announced it was bringing its own janitors back home, giving current workers first chance at new jobs that offer living wages and full benefits. At UM, where the fight was more protracted, faculty and students played a crucial role in persuading university administrators to do right by its janitors.

Not so at Nova, where the faculty does not have a union and only law school professors have the option of tenure. Without the security needed to publicly support the aspirations of the janitors, Nova professors have not been in a position to pressure the university.


As a result, Nova, unique among the big three regional universities, now seems poised to betray its most vulnerable workers -- 95 percent of whom are African American, Latino or Haitian, according to the union.

It's a sad irony for a university that has tried to be a leader in attracting and graduating minorities, one of the accomplishments for which Ferrero is to be honored Friday.

The Broward League's dinner to honor Ferrero and three others will take place at Marriott's Harbor Beach Resort and Spa in Fort Lauderdale. The invitation says corporate sponsorships start at $3,500 and individual tickets are $200.

Lisa Barker, who helps coordinate special events at the league, confirmed the award but couldn't offer any more information. Two calls to Nova spokesman David Dawson requesting comment went unanswered.

Last week, Dawson told The Miami Herald's Dani McClain that the university is considering a ''range of options'' that include keeping Unicco.

''A private business has the right to run a private business on behalf of its customers,'' Dawson said. ``Our customers just happen to be students.''

Our customers just happen to be students? Wow. As a university motto, it may not quite reach the heights of UM's ''Magna est veritas'' but at least it gets the point across: Ideals are for paying customers only.

There's a fancy party Friday that proves you need not worry about anyone else.

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