Sit-in at Visitor Center disrupts prospective student tours


Photo courtesy Megan Piccirillo

Student protesters with t-shirts and signs stating “Let Faculty Vote” held a sit-in at the Visitor Center April 18.

Yunkyo Kim, campus editor

Student supporters for full-time, non-tenure track faculty unionization led a sit-in at the Northeastern Visitor Center April 18, causing the university to change paths of student tours for the day.

Check-in for prospective students and their families was moved from the Visitor Center to Behrakis Health Sciences Center. At 4 p.m., Vice President of Student Affairs Madeleine Estabrook closed the Visitor Center an hour early, forcing protesters to leave.

“The police and university in general thought that this was bad publicity for Northeastern,” said Isabella Viega, a fourth-year English major and one of the event’s organizers. “They didn’t want any of the parents to see what was happening with activism on campus and knowing the truth of what was happening.”

The sit-in was a direct response to the university’s April 16 announcement which rejected a faculty unionization petition for the second time. According to a press release published by Viega and affiliated students, protesters with t-shirts and signs stating “Let Faculty Vote” gathered at West Village F, which led the Northeastern University Police Department, or NUPD, to “shut down the building and [refuse] to let anyone else inside.” The press release also stated the university covered signs leading to the Visitor Center “to divert prospective students and families away.”

Photo courtesy Sebastian Stockman
The sign in front of the NU Visitor Center was covered completely with black cloth.

Isaac Kramer, a Husky Ambassador who was leading a campus tour on the day of the sit-in, said he supports the unionization effort but that the location of the protest inadvertently harmed visitors and tour guides.

“My only quarrel with [the sit-in] was that it made our lives significantly harder and the lives of all the prospective students and families significantly harder,” said Kramer, a first-year mechanical engineering and physics combined major. “I think they are [protesting] for the right reasons. I just think they need to think a little bit more carefully about who they need to be actually protesting to … all of us at undergraduate admissions, we have absolutely no say in making any sort of change to what they are protesting against.”

Kramer also said that he was told the Visitor Center shutdown was due to a “fire hazard” created by the sit-in.

Sebastian Stockman, an associate teaching professor in the English department, was protesting at the same time as the sit-in at an affiliated but separate event. He agreed that the Husky Ambassadors and visiting families were negatively impacted by the sit-in.

“[Student tour guides] are not against our efforts,” said Stockman, who serves on the faculty unionization committee. “I do sympathize with them because they were just trying to do their job. But what it shows is that … they had to cover for the administration’s shameful position.”

Both Stockman and Viega noted that families of some prospective students expressed support for faculty unionization.

“I’m glad that we got our message out in front of those prospective families,” Stockman said. “At two different times, a family said ‘Go unions,’ to us as we made our quiet march around campus, which is great. I was surprised to hear that.”

Despite varying responses to the sit-in, Viega said the Visitor Center was a “conducive spot” to highlight campus issues for potential students and their families.  

“We really just wanted to show Northeastern that students care and we wanted to also show prospective students the real issues that are going on here because the Visitor Center really just shows to sugarcoat Northeastern,” Viega said. “We wanted to show Northeastern in the most visible way possible.”