Students at Berkeley form a chain gang. (Photo courtesy of Patricio Yrarrázaval)
1. Beyond Chapel Hill
In January 2013, we, together with two other students and a former dean, filed an Office for Civil Rights Compliant and Clery Act Complaint against our alma mater, UNC Chapel Hill. As survivors, we both witnessed the lack of support when trying to report our assaults, and after hearing over fifty similar stories, reached out to students at Amherst and Yale, and created an underground network to begin to hold UNC and other schools accountable. We learned the law, and realized that the pervasive culture of sexual assault at UNC is a violation of Title IX, and as 20-somethings (without attorneys) began consulting others survivors across the country.
—Andrea Pino and Annie Clark
2. Newark’s Youth Uprising
On April 9, the Newark Student Union mobilized a mass walkout of class and marched to a hearing of the New Jersey Assembly Budget Committee as it considered Governor Christie’s proposal to take funding away from low-income and ESL students. The budget would shortchange New Jersey schools by $1.4 billion and lead to $56 million in local cuts for Newark, while at the same time giving away over a billion dollars in tax breaks to corporations and the richest 1 percent. Over 500 students rallied outside the hearing, and several testified before the committee to demand that legislators put students ahead of corporations and the wealthy by following the school funding law and rejecting Christie’s cuts. The event was inspiring and empowering, but it’s just the start of our campaign—we have until July 1 to stop Christie’s cuts.
3. Arizona Lawmakers Stifle Student Autonomy
Following in the footsteps of the failed Prop 204, Arizona’s HB 2169 is a direct attack on Arizona students. Signed on April 5, the bill makes it illegal for student organizations to use fee money to advocate, electorally or legislatively, for students. Under the lead of Jan Brewer and John Kavanagh, select conservatives and the Arizona Board of Regents have stripped students of their constitutional rights. Rather than allocating money towards education in Arizona, elected officials have balanced the budget on students' backs. We will not stand by as our education is hijacked. We are working to collect signatures and write letters to editors and legislators to gain support. We will storm the capitol if necessary.
4. Anti-Racist Activists March From Detroit to DC
On April 10, we—black, Latino/a, Asian, Arab and white, with and without papers—boarded six buses in Detroit and joined thousands of others to march on DC for full citizenship rights for all undocumented immigrants. As a high school sophomore, I mobilized students from my school to the march—and although it was scary speaking in front of them, it was exciting. Now, taking from my experience organizing with BAMN for affirmative action on the basis that everyone is equal and should be treated with dignity and respect, I'm ready to join the millions of young people across the country who want to realize our demands for full citizenship rights and equality through mass actions like Wednesday’s march.
5. Berkeley’s Prison Break
On April 3, a multicultural group of seventy students reenacted a prison chain gang, tying themselves together by the ankle and marching onto UC Berkeley's Sproul Plaza. As facts were read off about how deeply the prison industrial complex has wounded communities of color, the "prisoners" were silently assigned labels that named the corporations that benefit off prison labor, specifically those that Berkeley's student senate was invested in. The students formed lines and began chanting their demands: that the student senate, the university as a whole and all University of California campuses divest from the prison system, and that the system be abolished. That same evening, the action was met with success as the Berkeley's student senate voted to divest all its funds from the prison industrial complex. This was part of a week of action featuring panels, workshops and poetry slams focused around prison issues, coinciding with a greater Endowment Week of Action.
6. How Long Will Adidas Last at Maryland?
Since 2011, Adidas has refused to pay $1.8 million in severance to the workers of an abandoned Indonesian factory it once contracted. Justice at Maryland, a coalition of students, workers, staff and faculty committed to ending worker abuse at the University of Maryland, College Park, has been pressuring the university to cut ties with Adidas. After JAM petitioned the university and hosted the Adidas worker tour, university and Adidas representatives met but their talks produced anemic results. Although the university suspended approval of new designs from Adidas, it gave the corporation 90 days to ambiguously “remedy” the situation, at the end of which it would “contemplate terminating the licensing agreement.” In response, JAM presented the university’s licensing director with a meatier plan: immediately suspend the contract and provide 30 days to Adidas to fully pay up with the certainty of losing the contract otherwise. He has yet to answer.
7. Is Racial Profiling at Wesleyan Over?
Last fall at Wesleyan, there was a spate of petty crime on campus. As a precaution to ensure safety, e-mails were sent out describing the events that took place. However, the reports only included race, height, clothing and gender of the suspect, and a description of the event itself. In November, the Diversity University Forum highlighted issues and examples of racial profiling within the Office of Public Safety. Subsequently, the university created a student-led Public Safety Reform Committee, which felt that the use of race in the Public Safety Alerts was ineffective and opted to take it out in favor of other descriptors. It is important to add, however, that Public Safety still collects all information in internal reports—all that has changed is what goes out to campus.
8. The Gathering Storm at Skidmore
On April 5, students at Skidmore College stormed a faculty meeting to protest this year’s graduation speaker. The United Minds, a grassroots organization at Skidmore committed to social justice, has been fighting the decision to bring former Anglo American mining CEO and BP “non-executive director” Cynthia Carroll to speak at commencement and receive an honorary degree. To have Carroll and her corporations’ abysmal record of exploitation represent the graduating class of 2013 was an affront to our active desire for a world free of poverty, war and racism. About 30 to 40 students stood with Skidmore senior Jovany Andujar and I while we stated our positions against Carroll and collective exploitation and for student and community empowerment. Despite hisses and hostility from the crowd, we asked faculty to stand with us. The United Minds plan to continue to educate and organize the Skidmore community, and we’ve contacted Occupy Albany for further support.
9. The Chicago Five
The IIRON Student Network is organizing students across the Chicago metro area to take on urgent issues facing students today. Our members are overwhelmed with mounting student loans, concerned about lack of jobs available upon graduation and worried about the future of our planet. Students from five Chicago-area campuses (DePaul University, Loyola University, North Park University, the University of Chicago and the University of Illinois at Chicago) held a public meeting on April 13, "Our Future, Our Voice,” at the Chicago Temple. We unveiled our platform to make education affordable, limit student debt and address climate change. We're calling on our elected officials and university administrators to stand with us and listen to our voices on these issues. Students from other universities are welcome to join our network.
10. The Real “Students First”
Leaders of Students United for Public Education speak at Occupy the DOE 2.0 on April 7. (Video: James Cersonsky)