Last spring, The Nation launched its biweekly student movement dispatch. As part of the StudentNation blog, each dispatch hosts first-person updates on student and youth organizing. For recent dispatches, check out June 15 and July 1. For an archive of earlier editions, see the New Year’s dispatch. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org with tips. Edited by James Cersonsky (@cersonsky).
1. As Migrant Children Wait, LA Kicks Out ICE
With an influx of children showing up at the border seeking refuge from violence, cities like Murrieta, California, and League City, Texas, have put up the barricades. In Los Angeles, which has the largest undocumented immigrant population in the country, youth and community organizers have assembled in support of the children—and, with little recourse on the federal level, taken migrant justice into our own hands. On July 7, building on the TRUST Act, the ICE Out of LA coalition pushed the LAPD to stop turning over inmates to ICE without a judicial warrant. Still, ICE remains in our county jails and collaborates with the LA Sheriff’s Department, the root force of deportations. Moving forward, we will put the pressure on LA County police departments and county jails to cut ties with ICE.
2. As Gaza Blows, Thousands Mass for Palestinian Justice
On Saturday, July 5, a network of Students for Justice in Palestine members in Chicago, alongside a coalition of human rights activists, organized an emergency demonstration of more than 1,000 protesters—among thousands more across the country. In response to the murder of three Israeli youth, Israel has engaged in collective punishment, heavily bombing the Gaza strip and raiding West Bank. More than nineteen people have been killed in the attacks on Gaza; 17-year-old Mohammad Abu Khdair was abducted, tortured and killed by settlers overnight. On July 9, protesters flooded downtown Chicago for yet another emergency demonstration.
3. The “Utah Man” Gets Fixed
Since the early 1900s, the University of Utah has sung the “Utah Man” fight song at its sporting events. The lyrics of the song, along with the title, have been felt by many to be exclusionary and sexist. On April 22, following discussions with student leaders and broad campus outreach, the Utah student government passed a resolution asking the university to change the words to reflect the school and student body’s values of inclusion and diversity. In response, the administration assembled a committee to look into the issue and receive public comments. On July 2, after alumni and community members angrily demanded retention of the song, the university settled on a compromise, endorsing two different versions: the traditional version and a more inclusive version. Many view this as a step forward, but still feel that the decision reflects the administration’s inability to identify and effectively address issues of diversity and inclusion on campus.
4. The Confederate Flag Falls
The Committee is a group of primarily black law students at Washington and Lee University. In the fall, we drafted a list of grievances with the university over the experiences of black students. One of our goals was to get Confederate flags removed from Lee Chapel on campus, where they have flown for nearly eighty years. Members of the Committee believed the removal of the flags would improve the experiences of black students who sit in the chapel for campus events. We pledged to engage in acts of civil disobedience if our demands were not met. Fortunately, university officials responded by seriously considering our concerns. On July 8, the president announced that the Confederate flags located on the campus would be removed. The efforts of the Committee have reignited a dialogue about diversity and inclusion on campus and encouraged the administration to continue working to make it a more welcoming place for all students, particularly black students.
5. In Arizona, the Courts Overrule Jan Brewer
August 15, 2012, was the first day that DREAMers, a class of undocumented youth who arrived as children, were able to submit their application to receive a work authorization permit under DACA. That same day, Arizona Governor Jan Brewer used her executive power to halt driver’s licenses for DACA beneficiaries. In response, members of the Arizona DREAM Act Coalition marched to the capitol to request a meeting with the governor, who refused. That November, ADAC, alongside NILC, MALDEF and the ACLU, filed a lawsuit against the governor on constitutional grounds. On July 7, after two years of meetings, actions and canvasses, the Ninth Circuit issued a preliminary injunction against the ban. Moving forward, we will host a series of actions to ensure we win the lawsuit.
6. In North Carolina, Students Put Voting Rights on Trial
In 2012, the Koch brothers and right-wing millionaire Art Pope achieved an extremist takeover of North Carolina, resulting in devastating legislation from healthcare to education to voting rights. Fifty years after the original Freedom Summer in Mississippi, youth are organizing to reverse the onslaught. July 7 marked the first day of hearings for a preliminary injunction on the most draconian voter suppression law in the country, which eliminates same-day registration and pre-registration for 16- and 17-year-olds, guts campaign finance laws and requires a photo ID but prohibits the usage of student IDs. In response to this law, we’ve mobilized at Moral Monday’s with the state NAACP, and more than 350 people with NC Vote Defenders and Democracy NC have monitored polls in thirty-four counties. This month, while youth pack the court room and county board of elections, the Youth Organizing Institute Freedom School is training high school students on community organizing to build on the legacy of youth struggle in North Carolina.
7. The Harris v. Quinn Generation
On July 8, one week after the Harris v. Quinn ruling, home care workers in Minnesota filed for what will be the largest union election in Minnesota history, covering more than 26,000 workers, with SEIU Healthcare Minnesota. I have been a home care worker now for almost four years and care for my mother who started receiving these services after having a few minor strokes. When I first found this campaign, I heard stories of others’ struggles, from younger people like me to others who are older than my grandparents, and realized that I was not alone. In our winning battle to gain the right to vote for our union last year, there were nights I even slept on the floor at the state capitol. A win in our election later this summer would bring us one step closer to our goal of making our work Invisible No More.
8. The FCC’s Communication Gap
On June 30, Federal Communications Commission Chairman Tom Wheeler arrived at the South Broadway Cultural Center in Albuquerque, New Mexico, for a discussion with local youth. The event, hosted by Media Literacy Project and Digital Justice Coalition of New Mexico, was organized to promote youth knowledge and representation in discussions surrounding media policy and the FCC—which has no youth involvement at any level. In New Mexico, which ranks last in internet connectivity, lack of access keeps youth from connecting with loved ones and friends, fulfilling homework requirements, gaining health information and finding jobs and educational opportunities. Young people ranging in age from 12 to 20 took the mic to ask about net neutrality, the security of the Lifeline program and broadband in rural areas. Following the event, the chairman agreed to work toward preserving the Lifeline program and improving broadband connections in tribal and rural New Mexico—and, alongside New Mexico State Senator Jacob Candelaria, committed to consulting youth voices on issues of media justice.
9. Can Dyett High School Be Saved?
In 2012, Chicago Public Schools announced that Walter H. Dyett High School, where I graduated this spring, would be phased out and closed in 2015. If Dyett closes, we won’t have any neighborhood high schools in the Bronzeville area. This spring, we delivered 1,000 signatures and 500 postcards of support for the Dyett Global Leadership and Green Technology plan; met with Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s office; assembled in front of Alderman Will Burns’s ward office for three days and nights; and took over a city council meeting chanting, “Burns, do your job!” Since early June, students and community members have been pressuring Burns to hold a public hearing about Dyett’s future; with no response by our stated deadline of July 9, we will hold one of our own.
10. What Will Hillary Do With $225,000?
This October, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton will be cashing in $225,000 to speak to the non-profit arm of the University of Nevada–Las Vegas. In opposition to outrageous expenditures like these, and near-constant tuition hikes, UNLV students have organized to request that she donate her speaking fee to the 23,000 students of UNLV. While Clinton’s fee is coming from private donors and funds from her appearance are set to go to the university, the money from the fee could help us directly. Just a few weeks earlier, thousands of UNLV students voiced our opposition to a 17 percent tuition hike, with hundreds signing a Statement of Solidarity and dozens standing up at the Board of Regents meeting about being priced out of a quality higher education. As we await Secretary Clinton’s response, UNLV students will continue pressuring administrators and legislators on their spending and tuition decisions—and show that we will not be silent.
—Daniel Waqar and Elias Benjelloun