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. For recent dispatches, check out October 14 and October 24. 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 Youth Vote
For the past three months, youth from Californians for Justice organized statewide for passage of Proposition 47, aimed at reclassifying six nonviolent crimes from felonies to misdemeanors and reallocating money saved into K-12 programs and mental health and drug treatment. Currently, California spends $62,300 per prisoner versus $9,100 per student. Through phone-banking, door-knocking, outreach and social media, we reached thousands of voters. Prop 47 was not only about putting an end to the school-to-prison pipeline but about giving our communities a second chance at life. Family members of mine suffer from hopelessness because of felony charges for petty crimes. Now that 47 has passed, black, brown and low-income families have opportunities to lead better lives, attain housing and financial aid and access good jobs, bringing us one step closer to justice and an end to institutional racism.
2. The Ferguson Repeal
On October 27, Miami’s Power U Center for Social Change joined Dream Defenders, the Ohio Student Association and the Organization for Black Struggle for #Ferguson2Orlando to demand a fundamental shift in the way police relate to our community away from programs like Department of Defense program 1033, which provides police departments surplus military weapons to govern our community and schools. Together, we demonstrated outside the International Association of Chiefs of Police’s annual convening demanding the demilitarization of police departments and repeal of the 1033 program. Moving forward, alongside the Miami Committee on State Violence, we seek restorative solutions for justice.
3. The Takeover
Under new chancellor Kent Syverud and “Fast Forward Syracuse,” Syracuse University has rushed to change the structure and vision of the university—including defunding scholarships for working-class students and students of color, removing the notion of the university as a public good from its mission statement and shutting students out of decision-making bodies. In response, for the past week, students at Syracuse have been occupying Crouse-Hinds Hall, the central administration building. Hundreds of activists have participated throughout the day, with forty students camping out at night. THE General Body, a broad-based coalition of students, has been raised concerns over a series of undemocratic decisions, racist and homophobic incidents, and cuts to essential student programs and services. Despite three previous rallies, the administration remained unresponsive—prompting a fourth rally and our current sit-in. In a move by administration to diminish support, students at the sit-in were forbidden re-entry over the weekend. Meanwhile, designated food drop-off times have not been fully honored. On Saturday at noon, fifty supporters staged a solidarity rally. We will sit until our demands—centered on issues of diversity, democracy, transparency and social justice—lead to action.
—Yanira Rodriguez, Ben Kuebrich and Derek Ford
4. At Humboldt State, Students Mass for Native Justice
Since October 8, students at Humboldt State University have been protesting the administration’s mismanagement of diversity programs on campus—escalating a decades-long struggle in a region with the state’s largest population of indigenous peoples. The action, which has included walkouts, round dance, drumming and community-wide protests, sparked from the firing of Dr. Jacquelyn Bolman, a Lakota and director of Indian Natural Resources Sciences and Engineering Program, and a raid of the INRSEP house right before Indigenous Peoples Week. Dr. Bolman was fired after speaking out against the administration’s lack of perceived “value” in underrepresented students as stated in a CSU-LSAMP report. The ensuing demonstrations have grown to include all programs and clubs on campus that include students of color and our allies as well as HSU faculty and staff, challenging HSU to re-evaluate its conduct toward us all. On November 7, we have secured a meeting with the HSU president and provost. We demand the reinstatement of Dr. Bolman, additional fulltime faculty of color, a transparent hiring process involving students and the removal of administrators who have mismanaged HSU’s programs for students of color.
—Sarah Caligiuri and Peter Mueller
5. At TCF Bank Stadium, It’s Time
At 9:30 AM on Sunday, November 2, students from the American Indian Student Cultural Center at the University of Minnesota–Twin Cities walked to TCF Bank Stadium, where we protested with 3,500 people of different ages, ethnicities and places against the racial slur of the Washington football team. This spring, we agreed to help plan the action, as the name perpetuates an unsafe environment for students, especially Native students, on campus. In English and Dakota, the language of the land, we told the crowd that we are not honored by the team’s name, which is degrading and dehumanizing and carries a terrible history—from bounty postings in 1863 during the genocide of Dakota people to today. We wanted Washington owner Dan Snyder to know that he is not welcome in our home because our home requires respect. We urged others to Cante T’insya Nazinpi—have a brave heart and stand up for what you believe in, because our efforts go further than this day in educating people about who we are and making others feel like they are not alone in the journey as educators. For our allies, our message was Wanna Iyehantu—it’s time.
6. Ringing the Bell for Sexual Assault
CalArts students, faculty, staff and administrators were dismayed to learn of a sexual assault that took place on campus last spring, brought to light by an Al Jazeera article and now part of a federal Title IX investigation. On October 23, students held a campus-wide walkout and sat quietly in the executive administration offices while ringing small bells and jingling keys. Then, graduate students in the Art Program held an open community meeting in the main hall followed by a town hall by the offices of the provost and president. A large number of graduate students dedicated their mid-residency show to addressing sexual assault on campus, exhibiting artworks and text calling for changes in how rape and sexual assault cases are handled. CalArts students, staff and faculty are continuing to organize and hold weekly meetings. The allegations come amid ongoing calls from student organizers for fiscal transparency and accountability from school administrators.
—Olga Cosme, Lydia Hicks, Megan Lewicki, Hannah Plotke, Cori Redstone and Anna Knecht Schwarzer
7. Carrying That Weight, Everywhere
On Wednesday, October 29, students at more than 130 campuses across more than thirty states and five countries participated in Carrying The Weight Together’s National Day of Action in solidarity with survivors of sexual and domestic violence. The day was inspired by the activism and art of Emma Sulkowicz, who is boldly carrying a dorm mattress around campus as long as her rapist continues to attend Columbia University. Emma’s story reflects not only Columbia’s failure to end violence, but the epidemic of institutional and community unaccountability in universities and colleges across the country and the world. As thousands hosted events and carried mattresses, at Columbia, Carry That Weight collaborated with student collective No Red Tape Columbia to organize a rally and speakout with New York City Public Advocate Letitia James, student survivors and city activists. Twenty-eight mattresses, sponsored by twenty-eight student groups, represented Columbia’s twenty-eight Title IX complainants. After the speakout, we delivered these mattresses to President Bollinger’s home, publicly presenting ten demands.
8. How Many Campuses Can Koch Money Buy?
On November 3, students at Florida State University marched to Florida’s capitol protesting the dramatic influence that corrupt corporate donors have on our public education system, from contracts between FSU’s Department of Economics and the Charles Koch Foundation to the recent decision by a Koch-influenced Board of Trustees to appoint a three-time Koch-funded politician as president of FSU. FSU’s fight has inspired students across the country to #UnKoch their campuses. On Monday, we were joined by twenty-seven other campuses, from George Mason to Temple to Oregon, where students are raising their voices and passing resolutions to demand transparency and integrity. Together, we stand against “strings attached” funding that violates academic freedom by placing limitations and expectations on research outcomes and instruction.
—Kimberly Tate Anderson and Lakey
9. How Much Does College Pay?
After four years of campaigning by students and union members, the University of Memphis is raising base pay for more than 100 campus workers making poverty wages. Effective January 2015, pay will be raised from $8.75 to $10.10. Since 2010, as the nationwide push to raise the minimum wage has grown, members of the Progressive Student Alliance, United Students Against Sweatshops Local 68 and the United Campus Workers have engaged in direct action, diplomacy and lobbying. Now, we will continue to fight until all workers—including adjuncts and Aramark workers, who are not covered by the raise—are paid a living wage. The victory comes in tandem with USAS’s Campus Worker Justice Campaigns Halloween national week of action. Across Tennessee, students and workers are running a statewide living wage campaign demanding that the governor reinstate $40 million cut from public higher education; in Knoxville, students read a horror story at the University of Tennessee’s president’s office calling on him to advocate for reinstated funding.
10. Now That Elections Are Over
On Thursday, October 29, immigrant youth and mothers from Connecticut Students for a DREAM confronted first lady Michelle Obama as she campaigned for Governor Dan Malloy and other Connecticut Democrats in New Haven. Two activists interrupted the speech with pleas for the first lady to acknowledge parents of undocumented youth and their need for administrative immigration relief and stop the separation of families. The first lady acknowledged both activists, telling them, “I hear you sweetie” and “I’m going to let you finish.” Although both were escorted out of the event, the first lady’s speech took on a different tone after the interruption. Three days later, President Obama, who has continually promised and delayed taking action through administrative relief, visited Bridgeport to campaign for Malloy and was similarly interrupted repeatedly. Groups like C4D are committed to fighting for our communities and continuing to demand that the president act boldly and inclusively on immigration.
—Danilo Machado and Tashi Sanchez-Llaury