This post is part of The Nation’s biweekly student movement dispatch. As part of the StudentNation blog, each dispatch hosts first-person updates on youth organizing. For recent dispatches, check out October 24 and November 10. 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. The Free Speech Movement
On November 19, after University of California regents voted to increase tuition by 27.6 percent over five years, students at UC-Berkeley launched an indefinite occupation of Wheeler Hall. This increase extends the privatization of the UC system, where in-state tuition has already more than doubled in the past decade, sparking massive mobilizations and building occupations. At almost all UC campuses, students have rallied and marched against the fee hikes, with a brief occupation at UC-Riverside and an ongoing, indefinite occupation of the Humanities 2 building at UC–Santa Cruz. At the start of our occupation, more than 300 students and supporters packed the Wheeler Hall lobby. We voted to ratify three demands: no tuition hikes, full transparency of the UC budget under California Assembly Bill 94 and the dropping of all charges against Jeff Noven, arrested at the November 19 Regent’s meeting in San Francisco under false charges. We have continued maintaining the Wheeler Commons with daily general assemblies, teach-ins, working group meetings, art and banner making, open mics, movie screenings and study sessions. On Monday, November 24, in coordination with students across the state, we will have a class walkout and day of action.
2. The General Body, Everywhere
On November 20, THE General Body, a coalition of more than fifty student organizations, ended our eighteen-day sit-in at Syracuse University’s administration building. The coalition announced that, while we are vacating the space, the movement is not going anywhere until critical needs of the university community are addressed—including guaranteed scholarships for students of color and commitments to end rape culture and improve counseling and mental health services. Students leave affirmed by new networks and concessions won—hiring an Americans with Disabilities Act coordinator, delaying the passage of a corporate vision statement and an increase on the minimum pay for TAs—but also determined to continue resistance to the university’s top-down restructuring campaign by creating broad, bottom-up coalitions among students, teachers, staff, parents and alumni. As education is being reduced to a corporate transaction across the country, in the space of the sit-in, we have rediscovered education as social transformation.