Last spring, The Nation launched its biweekly student movement dispatch. As part of the StudentNation blog, each dispatch hosts first-person updates on youth organizing—from established student unions, to emerging national networks, to ad hoc campaigns that don’t yet have a name. For recent dispatches, check out January 27, February 10, February 26, March 7 and March 21. For an archive of earlier editions, see the New Year’s dispatch.
1. As Grad Teachers Strike, UC Cracks Down, Thousands Mobilize
On April 2 and 3, UAW 2865, which represents teaching assistants at the University of California, went on strike to protest unfair labor practices. At Santa Cruz, these included intimidation of student workers and threats to withhold future employment for members’ participation in a legally sanctioned strike planned for March 2014. Protesters gathered early on April 2 and were confronted by riot police imported from UC Berkeley. When a union leader announced the picket would soon begin, he was promptly tackled and arrested. Nineteen other student workers were subsequently arrested. The ruthless tactics employed by Executive Vice Chancellor Alison Galloway in keeping one of two entrances open, against the possibility of complete campus shutdown, ignited further response from students, faculty and community members. By the second day of the strike, the protest quadrupled to almost 400—and police repression continued. Early April 3, after being pushed by an officer in the crosswalk, a student was arrested and charged with battery. Riot police interrupted picketing throughout the day, but the protest culminated with high spirits. Defense campaigns and contract negotiations are on the horizon.
—Erin Rose Ellison and Rachel Fabian
2. In the Face of “One Newark,” Seven Schools Walk Out
On Thursday, April 3, more than 1,000 Newark Public School students walked out of class to protest Superintendent Cami Anderson’s “One Newark” plan. The plan uses rhetoric about “excellence” and “equity” to confuse the public about the district’s deeper plans to close and destabilize public schools—while laying off 700 teachers this year and 1,100 teachers over the next three years. The NSU organized students from seven high schools across the state’s largest school district to walk out of class, into the streets and on to Newark City Hall. From there, we started a “Walk of Shame” where we visited corporations that profit off the privatization and destruction of Newark Public Schools, including Prudential Insurance, a contributor to the One Newark plan and TEAM Charter Schools, and the Foundation for Newark’s Future.
—Jelani Walker and Kristin Towkaniuk
3. At Dartmouth, Freedom Budget Sparks Two-Day Sit-In
On Tuesday, April 1, a group of thirty-five Dartmouth students arrived at President Hanlon’s scheduled office hours asking for a point-by-point response to a Freedom Budget for Dartmouth, inspired by Martin Luther King’s Freedom Budget. Quickly, our visit turned into a sit-in of the president’s office and part of the administrative building, which lasted 48 hours. During the sit-in, students read poetry, danced, planned with students outside the office, coordinated food deliveries and interfaced with administrators regarding demands and rules for sitting-in. Eventually, sixteen students who continued to occupy the office agreed with Dean Charlotte Johnson that they would leave if given only low-level punishment; protection from retaliation; an externally conducted, third party campus climate review survey conducted by the end of 2016; and meetings with decision-makers directly in charge of provisions of the Freedom Budget by May 20.
—Dartmouth Action Collective
4. In Wake County, Jumpsuits Pack the School Board
On March 7, Selina Garcia, a Southeast Raleigh High student and member of NC HEAT, was arrested by a school resource officer for fighting on a school bus. The school police officer said she needed to “learn a lesson.” Garcia, who was living in foster care without a legal guardian at the time, spent twenty days in an adult jail, which was dubbed an appropriate “temporary home” until the county found her a new place to live. NC HEAT, a youth-led group which organizes around education issues, led a campaign for her release, wearing prison jumpsuits as a solidarity statement to a school board meeting, packing the courthouse and the social services office with supporters and calling for accountability in an online petition. On March 27, Selina was released—but as we celebrate her homecoming, NC Heat vows to continue organizing until police are out of our schools and all young people have access to counseling and safe learning and living environments.
5. #not1more x 80
On April 3, the John Jay DREAMers arrived in DC to pressure President Obama to stop deportations and, in particular, the deportations of Ardani Rosales Lemus and Jaime Arturo Valdez Reyes, whose dates are soon approaching. On Capitol Hill, along with the DREAM Action Coalition, the JjDREAMers urged Congress to stop the administration’s record number of deportations. On April 5, the JjDREAMers joined activists from more than eighty cities across the country for a National Day of Action for #not1more deportation.
6. #USMFuture #UMaineFuture
At the University of Southern Maine, students, staff and faculty are battling administrators over the transformation of USM to a business-friendly “metropolitan” university. On March 21, after the administration’s proposal to eliminate four departments, word leaked that layoff notices were being issued to fifteen additional tenured faculty. That day, more than 100 students and faculty gathered outside the Provost’s office, sparking the creation of the student group #USMFuture. Alongside State Representative Ben Chipman, students introduced an emergency bill calling for a retroactive moratorium on cuts and demanding an independent audit of UMaine System finances. Students, staff and faculty throughout the seven-campus University of Maine System, as well as off-campus labor and community groups, are joining in coalition with USM as #UMaineFuture, to demand more state funding and administrative accountability for public higher education in Maine.
7. LA Students—and Unionists Nationwide—Converge
On March 29, more than 100 students from across Los Angeles participated in EmpowerED 2014, a conference focused on education and hosted by USC EdMonth and Students United for Public Education. Throughout the day, students heard from K-12 student union leaders from Chicago, Providence, Portland and Newark about the student organizing currently growing throughout the country in response to the top-down policies of the education reform movement. Students also shared experiences and ideas in open forums, developed leadership and organizing skills in interactive workshops and worked to develop a vision for an education system that serves all students—and incorporates student voices. Some of the issues highlighted were the elevated policing and criminalization of youth; school reconstitutions, like at Crenshaw and Dorsey High Schools; and closings, as in the current case of Roosevelt High School’s Academy of Environmental and Social Policy. By the end of the day, a group of students expressed interest in forming a student union in Los Angeles.
8. Michigan Builds a Student Power Network
On Saturday, March 29, fifty activists from across Michigan converged in Ann Arbor for a day of strategizing. Although many were students, the group spanned age groups and occupations. Participants shared stories from myriad struggles, ranging from organizing against Emergency Managers, tuition freezes and university corporatization, to pushing for environmental justice and divestment from Apartheid Israel, to direct action at the Enbridge pipeline, to defending workers’ rights in our communities and overseas. At the end of the day, each person shared one action that they would take in support of a Michigan Student Power Network, making our acts of resistance and our struggle for a more just and equal Michigan seem more hopeful, more reasonable and, with newfound statewide solidarity, possible.
—Duncan Tarr, Mariah Urueta, Gregory Hunter, Cassandra Van Dam, Ian Matchett
9. When Will Kentucky Stop Privatizing?
At 1 pm on April 1, students at the University of Kentucky interrupted a meeting of the board of trustees with a mic-check and a message: no outsourcing and no Sodexo. While a coalition of students, faculty, staff, farmers and community members have opposed the privatization of UK’s historically public dining services since March 2013, the administration has continued to pursue bids from multinational foodservice companies. Sodexo showed itself to be particularly unacceptable when it cited the Affordable Care Act as a reason for reclassifying all its workers to part time status last December, removing liability for employee benefits. The mic-check kicked off the Campus Worker Justice Week of Action and came alongside USAS campaigns across the country. UK USAS is moving forward by continuing to gather support from students, building the Kentucky Promise Coalition, debating dining privatization on WRFL on April 9 and planning an action later this month.
—UK United Students Against Sweatshops
10. Could College Athletes Be Recognized?
—College Athletes Players Association