Last spring, The Nation launched its biweekly student movement dispatch. As part of the StudentNation blog, each dispatch hosts first-person updates on student and youth organizing. For recent dispatches, check out May 6 and May 19. 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. As Deportations Rage, Five Blockade for Queer and Trans Justice
On Tuesday, May 27, LGBTQ organizers from across the country took over the intersection outside the Santa Ana City Jail demanding a halt to deportations and an end to the systematic criminalization of the undocu– queer and trans community. Three activists chained themselves inside a cage in the middle of the intersection, while two others, including me, chained ourselves to the outside as 100 supporters marched chanting, “Not one more deportation!” “Obama, Obama, no deportes a mi trans hermana!” and “Liberation not incarceration!” The Santa Ana City Jail was the target of the action because of its mistreatment of queer and trans detainees and its contract with ICE. The five of us were arrested, detained for seven hours and released on bail after our charges were commuted to misdemeanors.
2. As Georgia Leaves Undocumented Students Out, Ten Take the Street
On Tuesday, May 20, the Georgia Dreamers Alliance demonstrated against policy 4.1.6 and in favor of in-state tuition. In 2008, the board of regents mandated that undocumented students pay up to five times more in tuition than other state residents, and, in 2010, it banned undocumented students from attending the five most competitive universities in Georgia. After protesters disrupted a board meeting and were escorted out, ten got arrested for blocking the intersection of Trinity and Washington. Meanwhile, undocumented students who have sued the regents over in-state tuition await a response from Fulton County Court.
3. UChicago’s South Side Priorities
There is no adult trauma center on Chicago’s South Side, which sees the city’s highest rates of violence; instead, victims are taken over ten miles away, increasing their chances of dying. On May 19, members of Fearless Leading by the Youth and Students for Health Equity kicked off a week of action for a trauma center with civil disobedience at the University of Chicago Medical Center, the most resource-rich hospital on the South Side, which has refused to be part of a solution to the lack of trauma care. After shutting down a hospital construction site, we were violently dragged off by University of Chicago Police. The week continued with an interfaith prayer vigil, actions by National Nurses United and local doctors and a 350-person march. We also took advantage of a visit by President Obama to ask him not to place his library at the UofC until it shows a commitment to black lives on the South Side by supporting a trauma center.
—Kayli Horne and Emilio Comay del Junco
4. UC’s Guns
In response to the University of California Santa Barbara shootings, the Million Hoodies Movement for Justice and the Campaign to Unload are petitioning the University of California to examine whether the system’s $88 billion endowment is contributing to violence via investment in companies that profit from gun violence, obstruct common-sense gun legislation and fund the NRA. This effort joins a nationwide campaign to divest in order to reduce the epidemic of gun violence, with a summit in Philadelphia in June to provide students with the tools and resources to win gun divestment and end the criminalization of young people of color.
5. In Newark, Students Take Over the Board of Ed
On Tuesday, May 20, the Newark Public Board of Education held its monthly business meeting—one of the rare meetings Superintendent Cami Anderson attends. Outside the building, the Newark Education Workers caucus of the Newark Teachers Union organized a rally in opposition to the One Newark plan. The Newark Students Union decided, after months of organizing and planning, that we would shut down the meeting and hold a sit-in until our demands—a new superintendent, an end to the One Newark plan, the implementation of the Newark Promise plan and a meeting with the state commissioner of education—were met. When threatened with arrests, we held our ground on the floor in front of Cami Anderson and were allowed to continue the occupation. The “Newark Nine,” eight high school students and one college student, remained inside for seventeen hours. We moved the next morning when Commissioner Hespe scheduled a meeting with the NSU.
6. In Sacramento, Students Fill the Capitol—in Silence
On May 8, students from eleven cities and school districts descended on Sacramento to send a message to the State Board of Education: “Student Voice Matters!” The day marked the launch of the Student Voice Coalition, as students continue to be overlooked in district implementation of the Local Control Funding Formula in California’s public education system. Students staged a silent protest inside the State Board of Education meeting, bearing numbered placards over their faces. Others took the stage to demand a student role in helping decide how the new funds, meant for low-income, English learner and foster care students, will be spent in their school districts. While the action prompted board president Michael Kirst to release a statement reading, “student voice is essential to the local stakeholder process,” students remain unconvinced that districts will take notice. On July 10, we will return to Sacramento to ramp up pressure on thus-far-hesitant board members Michael Kirst and Sue Burr.
In 2012, chancellor Charles Reed issued Executive Order 1078, authorizing schools in the California State University system to implement “student success” fees by way of an “alternative consultation process” instead of a student referendum. San Jose State is one of 11 CSU schools being burdened by these fees. In February, SJSU’s Students for Quality Education began organizing against impending fee increases in fall 2014 via social media, the school and local papers, flyering, chalking, classroom presentations and an April 9 open forum—leading to a walkout on April 29. On May 15, after Sonoma State SQE thwarted the implementation of fee increases, SJSU became the first school to roll back increases already in place. Moving forward, our goal is to win a student vote on these fees and reverse the two years of increases on the books.
With the backing of a state constitution that declares that higher education in the state should be “as free as practicable,” North Carolina students have launched the #DebtFreeUNC campaign, asking lawmakers to consider policies that would make the seventeen UNC campuses debt-free for incoming first-year students by the year 2020. On Friday, May 23, the NC Student Power Union took these demands to the offices of Governor Pat McCrory and US Senate candidate Thom Tillis, delivering a letter along with over 18,000 red felt squares—each representing a student in the UNC system who graduated this May with debt. At the end of the action, students committed to handing out all 18,000 red squares to young people across North Carolina and asking them to join the fight in Raleigh this summer.
9. How Long Will Louisiana Youth Be Locked Up?
In honor of the sixtieth anniversary of Brown v. Board of Education, Families and Friends of Louisiana’s Incarcerated Children participated in the National Week of Action Against Incarcerating Youth organized by Dignity in Schools Campaign member organization Save the Kids. FFLIC, which has organized successfully against SB 652 and HB 541, facilitated a discussion regarding the relationship between New Orleans schools’ current disciplinary policies and incarceration. The week of action raised awareness about the school to prison pipeline from New Orleans to Los Angeles to the Twin Cities, supporting rallies, conferences and teach-ins.
—Families and Friends of Louisiana’s Incarcerated Children
10. When Will California Wake Up?
On May 15, UAW Local 2865, the University of California graduate student TA union, hosted a grade-in at Stephens Hall Graduate Study Lounge, currently slated for closure in November 2014. Students took selfies with towering stacks of bluebooks to make their labor visible and draw attention to the union’s outstanding contract demands: competitive compensation, a voice in TA-student ratios, employment rights for undocumented grad students, support for student parents and anti-discrimination protections. A coalition including Stephens Study Lounge organizers, union members, students organizing to protect the Gill Tract public farm land and University Village affordable student-family housing organizers discussed their intersecting struggles—all with the UC Berkeley administration—concerning access to and allocation of space, labor, livelihood and democratic transparency. That evening, twenty students held a “sleepover” at Stephens Lounge to keep pressure on the administration to preserve graduate student workspace.
—Ianna Hawkins Owen and Elise Youn