• Petitioning Beth Fortune

This petition will be delivered to:

Vice Chancellor for Public Affairs, Vanderbilt University
Beth Fortune
Kirkland Hall
Office of the Chancellor
Chancellor, Vanderbilt University
Nicholas Zeppos
Vice Chancellor for Administration, Vanderbilt University
Jerry Fife

End Poverty at Vanderbilt University

    1. Organized and United for Respect at Vanderbilt
    2. Petition by

      Organized and United for Respect at Vanderbilt

      Nashville, TN

We need you to sign this petition because even though Vanderbilt University is one of the wealthiest universities in the country, many Vanderbilt employees live in poverty. 

In 2010, twenty Vanderbilt executives made a combined $24,288,374. Vanderbilt has an annual budget of $3.5B and an endowment worth $3.4B. Vanderbilt is currently rebuilding a dormitory for $115M, expanding an athletic facility for $31M, and Rand Dining Hall was renovated this year for $3.75M. 

The vast majority of Vanderbilt Campus Dining workers earn far below the Federal Poverty Line of $23,050 for a family of four. A typical Vanderbilt dining worker will earn only $16,500 this year. Dining workers are laid off during the summer and winter break periods. Even so called full-time Vanderbilt dining workers are treated like seasonal workers, and not able to work year round. An exemption in Tennessee state law allows schools and universities to avoid paying unemployment benefits to laid off employees.

Vanderbilt University has made nothing more than a marginal attempt to assist in job placement for dining employees during the summer. It is our belief that all Vanderbilt Campus Dining employees should either be guaranteed employment during the summer or be allowed to collect unemployment benefits. 

We petition Vanderbilt University to do the following:

1) Acknowledge poverty at Vanderbilt and prove the income statistics that they have published. 

2) Hold summer job fairs and provide culinary skills training and job search assistance. 

3) Build summer job placement pipelines with community partners.

4) Prioritize hiring dining workers within the Vanderbilt University system including the medical center complex and Vanderbilt Temporary Services during the summer. 

5) Stop contesting laid-off dining workers’ summer unemployment benefit claims. 

We encourage Vanderbilt to recognize their obligation to the men and women who feed the Vanderbilt community. Everyone in the Vanderbilt community deserves to be treated with dignity and respect. Vanderbilt must be better than poverty wages and unpaid summer layoffs to dining workers.

It's time, Vanderbilt. 



Recent signatures


    1. Reached 2,500 signatures
    2. Great profile of Anne Alukonis in the Vanderbilt Hustler!

      Community: What it means to her, what she means to it

      Over the past year, many students have struggled with the irony of a multi-billion dollar endowed private university allowing our dining staff - Ms. Anne included - to make below the poverty line. As an integral player in the movement against this paradox, Ms. Anne shares her thoughts on the Vanderbilt community and keeping Vanderbilt at the top.

    3. Student Leaders Support Vanderbilt Workers

      Check out our new video of Vanderbilt student leaders speaking out in support of workers. "It's time, Vanderbilt."

      Student Leaders Support Vanderbilt Workers

      Vanderbilt University student leaders from diverse organizations on campus speak out in support of Vanderbilt workers. How to get involved: 1) Sign our NEW petition at http://www.change.org/petitions/end-poverty-at-vanderbilt-university and our ongoing one at http://www.ourvandy.org/petition 2) Share this video with your friends to help spread the message!

    4. Reached 2,000 signatures
    5. Thank you!

      We started this petition just a few hours ago and 850 of you have already showed your support for the men and women who work at Vanderbilt.

      Thank you for signing and for sharing this petition with your coworkers, friends, and family. Together we are sending a strong message to Vanderbilt's leaders.

    6. Reached 750 signatures
    7. Spoken word for economic justice!

      Listen to Josh Everett's powerful spoken word poem.

      Rally for Respect

      How to get involved: 1) Sign our petition at http://www.ourvandy.org/petition 2) Share this video with your friends to help spread the message! 3) Watch our film "Enough is Enough" at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4toyDKLPpb0 4) Become a member of OUR Vanderbilt at http://www.ourvandy.org/join Thanks for watching! We are Organized and United for Respect at Vanderbilt.

    8. Editorial in support of the dining workers

      "It’s time for the administration to make sure they live up to that compassionate, progressive image Vanderbilt has so meticulously cultivated."

      A seat at the table

      It's time for Vanderbilt to put its money where its mouth is

    9. Rally for Respect on October 1st

      Read about our rally...

      Students show solidarity with Vanderbilt workers at rally

      Members of OUR Vanderbilt and Vanderbilt Students of Nonviolence held a rally Monday evening in support of Vanderbilt dining workers.

    10. Short video about OUR Vanderbilt

      Who is behind this campaign? A group of workers, students, alumni, faculty, and people of faith in the Vanderbilt community.

      Whose Vanderbilt? OUR Vanderbilt!

      Thanks for watching our video. Now share it with your friends! Join the movement for economic justice at Vanderbilt University. Like us on facebook at http://www.facebook.com/ourvandy Follow us on twitter at http://www.twitter.com/ourvandy Visit http://www.ourvandy.org to get involved! We are Organized and United for Respect at Vanderbilt!

    11. Enough is Enough

      Read about our film, "Enough is Enough." You can watch it at the top of the page!

      Student film supports Vanderbilt Dining workers

      Organized and United for Respect at Vanderbilt screened Senior Sebastian Rogers film, "Enough is Enough," a documentary about poverty among Vanderbilt Dining Workers, on Saturday.

    12. Read the dining workers' correspondence with Chancellor Zeppos

      Here is Chancellor Zeppos's response to the workers' dinner invitation. Read the workers' response...

      Dining Workers Respond to Chancellor Zeppos

      Dear Chancellor Zeppos, 6/14/2012 Thank you for your response to our dinner invitation this summer. We invited you not only because you hold a position of power and decision making as a Chancellor, but also because after observing you on occasion, your words and actions led us to believe you may have a personal understanding of our situation and a belief that workers are as important as students, faculty, or administrators.

    13. Dining workers invite Chancellor Zeppos to dinner

      Worker leaders wanted Chancellor Zeppos to join them for dinner at one of their homes during the summer layoff.

      Dining with the workers

      Dear Chancellor Zeppos,

    14. Nashville Councilman writes letter of support

      “The dining employees are simply underpaid to raise a family,” Davis wrote. “There should also be a grand effort to give them summer employment if at all possible.”

      Councilman to Vanderbilt: 'Do the right thing' for dining workers | Nashville City Paper

      Friday, May 18, 2012 at 12:41pm A Metro Councilman has asked Vanderbilt University to sit down with the school's dining workers to "work towards improving their quality of life" and perhaps find them employment over the summer instead of laying them off each May.

    15. Video of our rally on May 1st

      Vanderbilt Workers Rally for Economic Justice on May Day

      May Day, 2012. Vanderbilt University workers, students, alumni, faculty, faith and community members rally on the steps of Kirkland Hall in support of workers delivering a letter to Chancellor Zeppos asking him to address the concerns of workers at Vanderbilt. Over twenty police officers guarded the administration building throughout the day and prevented anyone from entering.

    16. Article in Nashville's City Paper

      Some of Vanderbilt's lowest-paid workers seek year-round employment | Nashville City Paper

      Sunday, April 29, 2012 at 9:05pm Most workdays, Jackie Lucas wakes up around 3:30 a.m. She lays out clothes for two children, prepares medications for a husband battling severe artery complications, and arrives at the nearest bus stop to her modest Nolensville Road-area home by 5 a.m.


    Reasons for signing

    • Gabriele Wood NASHVILLE, TN
      • 8 months ago


    • Bonnie Gutierrez CLARKSVILLE, TN
      • about 1 year ago

      As a frequent flyer at the university medical center, I've seen the effects of the cutbacks there. Particularly the lack of cleaning staff which makes the hospital look rundown and dirty. This also extends to patient's room, even on ICU. Too much of the cleaning has been put off on nursing staff who don't have time and shouldn't have to do housekeeping. I can only imagine what food service workers endure.

    • Victoria Webb NASHVILLE, TN
      • about 1 year ago

      Actually, the solicitation to sign should be titled: "End the Poverty of Vanderbilt WORKERS".

    • Patsy Smith MABLETON, GA
      • over 1 year ago

      I'm a Vanderbilt Alum and agree with this effort.

    • Paul Morphy NASHVILLE, TN
      • over 1 year ago

      VU staff, whether dining, custodial, grounds, or other, provide indispensable service to our community--beyond the obvious, their well-being has a great deal to do with meeting the personal, and relational needs of us all. For some of us, their greeting at breakfast, lunch, or in their rounds, may be the only word of cheer that day... Thus, their well being is our well being. Creating an economic win-win for them makes sense for us all...besides which a living wage--well that just makes sense if VU wants any sort of moral rectitude.


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