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 student and youth organizing. Check out last year’s posts, in chronological order, here: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20, 21, 22, 23, 24, 25. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org with tips. Edited by James Cersonsky (@cersonsky).
1. Spring Semester, Day 1
On January 7, the first day of spring semester, the Coalition of Concerned Students at Clemson University in South Carolina marched from the football stadium, past the historic plantation house, to the administration building to deliver a collection of grievances and demands to the university. Over the fall, local #BlackLivesMatter demonstrations elicited harshly negative responses from some students. In response, multiple forums were held giving a diversity of students the opportunity to express opinions. The night following the last of the dialogues, members of the Sigma Alpha Epsilon fraternity held a “Crip’mas Party,” encouraging participants to dress like gang members. This prompted another demonstration—a march to the president’s house to deliver “Crip’mas” cards with descriptions of how students felt about this tasteless gathering. While the president responded evasively, he ultimately assured us that the university would respond to our concerns. We have requested that response by February 6.
2. Walking Out, Shutting It Down
Building on the energy surrounding continuing incidents of police brutality, the students of Baltimore’s City Bloc are engaging our peers in a conversation that connects the broad issues of a militarized society with our daily lives. During a recent action on January 9, more than fifty students walked out of school and marched to the Baltimore Board of Education and on to I-83. Once we reached the highway, we chanted, marched and shut down traffic for at least thirty minutes until a protester was arrested. Our demand is real reform of the city’s student commission, a statement of support for student organizing from schools CEO Gregory Thornton and a reevaluation of the 2015–16 school budget. By affirming our agency as students, we hope that the policies that impact us will no longer be made for us—or against us—but with us.
—Makayla G. Gilliam-Price
On January 9, undocumented students from Georgia’s Freedom University, along with student allies, protested Georgia’s ban on undocumented students at public universities by holding an integrated class at the University of Georgia in Athens. This date marked the 54th anniversary of the racial desegregation of UGA. Our class featured lectures by human rights activists Lonnie King and Loretta Ross. Undocumented students identified themselves by wearing handmade monarch butterfly wings. When the building closed, we refused to leave until our demands that UGA’s President and the Georgia Board of Regents renounce and rescind Policies 4.1.6 and 4.3.4 were addressed. At 8 PM, police arrived and arrested nine activists, including four undocumented students. We are determined to continue fighting for the human right to education.
On January 6, as Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto visited President Obama, activists across the country called for justice for the forty-three normalista students disappeared in Ayotzinapa in September. Members of the Mexican community, alongside solidarity organizations including CISPES and SOA Watch, protested outside the White House. We chanted against US foreign policy in Mexico that contributes to state violence, counted from one to forty-three for each missing student and held a banner reading, “Renuncia EPN! Corrupto, Delincuente, Ladron, Asesino.” We gathered not only in transnational solidarity as part of the #USTired2 campaign, but also to express our outrage against the Obama administration’s massive deportation program and continued US military aid to Mexico’s national security apparatus.
—Marvin E. Centeno Recinos
5. In Madison, Build the People, Not the Jail
In November, 250 people joined the Young Gifted and Black Coalition, a group of women and queer black organizers in Madison, to launch the Build the People, Not the Jail campaign. Since then, we have died-in, shut down traffic and submitted letters to police, city and county elected officials. We demand a stop to any money going to a new Dane County jail, the release of people incarcerated due to crimes rooted in poverty, an end to solitary confinement and investment in the black community.
6. In Oakland, Which Side Are You On?
In an attempt to silence black protest and foregoing precedent, the Oakland district attorney recently filed criminal complaints and demanded $70,000 in restitution from the #BlackFriday14, an intergenerational group of activists from Black Lives Matter and BlackOUT Collective who symbolically stopped BART train service for four hours and twenty-eight minutes at the West Oakland station on Black Friday. Community members and Color of Change have responded with a petition asking BART’s board of directors, “Which side are you on?” and demanding that charges and the request for restitution be withdrawn. We promise continued direct action until the charges are dropped.
7. The Free Education Movement
This year marks the fiftieth anniversary of the United States Student Association’s declaration for free public higher education. Imagine our surprise on Friday, January 9, when President Obama said the words “free” and “college” in the same sentence with his call for free community college. Our Fund the Future campaign advocates for fully funding the Pell Grant and restoring summer grants and a range of other reforms to rebuild Pell, the bedrock of federal financial aid in this country. This spring, we will be organizing for free public higher education across the country—and we won’t be stopping at community college.
8. The Title IX Findings—and Response
On December 30, the Department of Education found that Harvard Law School’s previous and current sexual harassment policies and procedures did not comply with Title IX, affirming what Harvard Students Demand Respect has been advocating: clarity around the school’s sexual harassment policy, and improved training. Though the university’s latest policy took some positive steps forward, there continue to be unclear standards around the level of training for administrators and faculty implementing the policy and procedures. This agreement settled complaints against Harvard Law brought in 2010; however, the investigation of Harvard College’s policies and procedures is ongoing, as are ninety-four other Title IX investigations across the country. We look forward to working with the school as it implements these changes to secure the safe, respectful community for which we all strive.
—MaryRose Mazzola and Rory Gerberg
9. The Youth Economic Platform
On Thursday, January 15, members of the AFL-CIO Young Worker Advisory Council released our first-ever economic platform as part of our effort to build a nationwide youth movement for raising wages. The platform, announced on the eve of President Obama’s State of the Union address, is an agenda for action for the labor federation’s nearly fifty Young Worker Groups across the country. Despite widespread frustration with a tough economy, most young voters stayed home on Election Day. To win our support, politicians need a jobs agenda focused on youth issues. The Youth Economic Platform embraces seven principles: providing free quality public higher education for all; expanding union apprenticeship programs; fighting bigotry and ending workplace discrimination; strong union rights; strengthening—not slashing—our safety net; and, above all, asking our government to invest in us.
—Rick Pospichal and Melinda Barrett
10. “A Land That Has Been Stolen”
Editor’s note: In Palestine, organizers in the struggle for racial justice from Los Angeles, Miami, Chicago, New York, Ferguson and Atlanta joined in solidarity to support the call for Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions. (Video: Thorstein Thielow)