University of Michigan students protest tuition inequality. (Credit: Michigan Daily)
1. Ohio Board of Trustees Disrupts Peaceful Student Gathering
Last year, the Ohio University Board of Trustees voted to increase tuition while shelling out half a million dollars in raises and bonuses to administrators and continuing to pay athletic coaches up to nearly $500,000. Since then, the Ohio University Student Union has worked to build student power on campus through demonstrations, teach-ins and educational and awareness-building events. On April 16, 200 students clashed with police in protest against the tuition hike. Three days later, fifteen students engaged in spirited civil disobedience to disrupt the Board of Trustees meeting, and four were arrested. We are demanding that all administrator and athletic coach salaries over $100,000 be frozen until our tuition is frozen. On April 25, 200 students demonstrated to reiterate these demands.
—Ohio University Student Union
2. Hundreds of Chicago Students Boycott State Exam
On April 24, high school students across Chicago mobilized against the educational injustices faced by the city’s youth. The Chicago Students Organizing to Save Our Schools facilitated a citywide boycott of the state exam, the PSAE, which is used to evaluate schools, and simultaneously protested the fifty-four school closures in low-income, black and Latino communities. A press conference was held outside CPS headquarters where hundreds of students chanted and held signs—asserting that standardized tests and school closures deteriorate education. A second demonstration was held in front of Benjamin Banneker Elementary School, one of the fifty-four schools on the hit list. Parents, alumni and students spoke at the event, which ended with a human chain and a poem by Malcolm London. The CSOSOS anticipates larger demonstrations in May and aims to establish itself next fall as a city-wide Chicago Student Union.
3. Undaunted by Arrests, Michiganders Demand Tuition Equality
On April 17, the Coalition for Tuition Equality stood in solidarity with One Michigan and the 29,000 undocumented youth in the state of Michigan. We mobilized and participated in an action of civil disobedience which led to the arrest of eight students. As University of Michigan students, we stand against our current residency policy, which systematically discriminates against undocumented Michiganders by denying their right to in-state tuition. The goal is to ensure that Michigan’s 29,000 undocumented students command equal access to a university education.
—The Coalition for Tuition Equality
4. After 45 Years, Black Students at Wittenberg Keep Rallying for Diversity
Concerned Black Students was founded to provide a stable support system for black students at Wittenberg University, a predominately white school. To date, there are only 112 African-American students among a student body of 1,750. In 1968, thirty-eight of the school’s forty-five black students set a precedent for action. On April 24, CBS held its forty-fifth annual walkout around a set of demands relating to the lack of campus diversity—including bolstering the multicultural affairs office and recruiting more students of color. Sadly, the ten demands from 2013 demands are similar to the original thirteen from 1968. Nonetheless, the primary goal of the movement has been to promote campus and community awareness around issues and concerns of diversity and inclusion, a goal we will continue to pursue.
5. National Collective Launches Campaign to Educate Students on Title IX
As recent headlines from UNC to Swarthmore to Occidental have demonstrated, US colleges are disregarding their responsibilities under Title IX, including federal requirements to combat sexual violence and accommodate survivors’ needs. Such abuses have been rampant on campuses since coeducation, but students are finally pushing back as they learn their rights. That’s why we’re working with an online collective of young activists across the country to build Know Your IX, an educational campaign to make sure that, by the start of the Fall 2013 semester, every student knows what he or she is guaranteed under Title IX. The campaign will rely on a robust website, an aggressive social media campaign to disseminate the information virally and full-page educational ads placed in campus newspapers the first week of school. Right now we’re crowdsourcing funds to support our efforts, and will launch Know Your IX in full over the summer.
—Dana Bolger and Alexandra Brodsky
6. In Newark, Students Face Retaliation for Walking Out
On April 9, the Newark Student Union organized a mass, district-wide walkout in which students voiced their grievances at the New Jersey Assembly Budget Committee’s hearing on the state education budget. The budget would take $1.4 billion from students across New Jersey, with $56 million dollars from Newark itself. The deeper travesty is that students were either intimidated from walking out or given direct disciplinary action for doing so. Alongside sixty other students, Angel Plaza, student union ally and student representative for the Newark Board of Education, was suspended for three days as a result of walking out—and giving testimony before the budget committee. Moving forward, we as students won’t let this blatant display of force deter us from our simple goal of rejecting Governor Christie’s cuts and ensuring a good education.
—Newark Student Union
7. At Macalester, Sit-In Keeps Wells Fargo on Hold
Last year, working in solidarity with Occupy Homes MN and Minnesotans for a Fair Economy, students at Macalester College launched a campaign demanding the school cut its ties with Wells Fargo, the bank responsible for the most foreclosures and worst predatory lending practices in Minnesota. Currently, Macalester runs its purchasing card system through Wells Fargo. Students and administrators have been meeting for months to explore feasible banking alternatives, and have identified a community bank that reflects Macalester’s values and can handle the school’s business. On April 22, the Macalester administration ended a months-long process by deciding not to cut the school’s contract with Wells Fargo. But after two days of sitting in, protesting and blocking administrators from entering the main administrative building on campus, a meeting with college President Brian Rosenberg was negotiated on terms set by the protesting students. On the table at the meeting, scheduled for April 26, is the renewed possibility of terminating the contract.
—Macalester Kick Wells Fargo Off Campus
8. On the Brink of Striking, Illinois Grads Settle Their Contract
The Graduate Employee Organization at the University of Illinois at Chicago has held multiple rallies and letter-writing campaigns, ultimately calling a strike authorization vote to demand a fair contract. After a year of negotiations, thanks to the sustained efforts of its membership, the GEO has reached a tentative agreement with the university. The organization has been requesting that the university pay its graduate students a living wage, reduce additional fees and provide affordable access to healthcare. While wages remain low, tuition and student fees continue to rise—which means students take on an increasingly large debt load. This undermines the University’s stated commitment to social justice. The GEO will continue to fight for a living wage for its members and lower fees and tuition for all UIC students.
9. “School Safety” at the Cost of Education?
Los Angeles is known for school and public safety practices—like zero tolerance codes, school police, metal detectors and random searches—that lead students to drop out or be pushed out of school. In South and East LA, less than half the students graduate. What we need is to bring in peace builders, or people from the neighborhood who can resolve conflicts and build relationships with students; counseling and mental health services for young people in school as well as those transitioning from juvenile halls and probation camps; and transformative justice practices, where those affected by a conflict are quickly separated and later brought into a circle to talk about the real issues that caused the incident. As a young person of color, organizing for me is a very difficult task. Not only am I a target for police harassment, but my family also runs the risk of being deported back to Mexico because of their immigration status. Still, I’m working with the Youth Justice Coalition to push for transformative practices and peacebuilders in schools, because young people’s lives are at stake in school safety—including my own.
10. Immigration Reform for All Orientations?
GetEQUAL is a national LGBT organization fighting for full equality under the law. This includes “the pursuit of happiness” by LGBT immigrants, people like me who came to this country seeking a better life and instead found oppression and fear. We have been organizing actions all over the country demanding the full inclusion and protection of LGBT immigrants in comprehensive immigration reform. For us, full inclusion of LGBT immigrants in the bill means a direct pathway to citizenship for an estimated 267,000 undocumented LGBT immigrants, protections for 40,000 same-sex binational couples living in fear of deportation and separation, the end of the one-year filing bar for asylum seekers and of harsh enforcement that has expedited deportations. Over the next ten months, we will push the Senate Judiciary Committee to improve the current bill, and we will continue organizing a grassroots movement of LGBT people to fight for full inclusion in immigration reform.