Students are arrested at San Francisco City Hall. (Photo: Chris Filippi, KCBS)
1. To Commemorate the March, Chicago Students Boycott School
On August 28, the fiftieth anniversary of the March on Washington, students from Chicago took to the streets demanding a democratically elected board of education and an end to school closures. A new student organization, the Chicago Students Union, helped organize students to boycott the third day of school and marched with the Chicago Teachers Union, the Kenwood Oakland Community Organization, Action Now and other community groups, declaring a “boycott for educational justice.” Numerous students were threatened with truancy and detentions, but no students on record got more than an unexcused absence. In the upcoming school year, the Chicago Students Union hopes to expand its network into all schools and plans to push legislation in Chicago and Springfield to ensure a quality education for every student.
—Chicago Students Union
2. With City College on the Ropes, 150 Sit-In
On August 3, the Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges revoked the City College of San Francisco’s accreditation in July 2014—which, if it goes through, will effectively shut down a historically accessible institution of higher education for working-class students. On August 20, 150 students and SaveCCSF members marched on San Francisco City Hall to demand a meeting with mayor and state adviser Edwin Lee, the dropping of all ACCJC sanctions and the removal of Robert Agrella, the state-imposed “special trustee.” A group of students refused to leave City Hall until a meeting with Lee was confirmed and students’ demands were recognized. Just before midnight, twenty-six students and protesters were arrested by local police, cited and released. Meanwhile, in response to a nearly 300-page complaint filed by the American Federation of Teachers 2121 and the California Federation of Teachers, the ACCJC is under federal investigation over failing to comply with federal regulations. On August 22, City Attorney Dennis Herrera filed suit against the ACCJC and the Board of Governors—giving even more weight to claims made by members of the SaveCCSF Coalition.
3. In Phoenix, Dreamers Blockade the Deporters
On August 21, undocumented youth, allies, parents and leaders from the Arizona Dream Act Coalition and United We Dream staged an unprecedented action outside an ICE detention center in Phoenix. Four ADAC leaders chained themselves to the front gates to protest the Obama administration’s reckless deportation policies, which separate our families, and to call on Congress to take action to end these policies and provide a real path to citizenship for the entire community. After the leaders were arrested—and promptly released after a flood of calls—the group reconvened for an evening prayer vigil. When they saw a deportation bus preparing to depart, they ran towards the bus and encircled it in prayer. Two leaders were arrested for physically blocking the bus and forcing it to retreat—a huge victory. The next day, a man from the bus was released (having only committed a minor traffic violation). DREAMers plan to escalate civil disobedience and direct action to expose the moral crisis sparked by the deportations.
—Reyna Montoya and Maria Castro
4. In Raleigh, High Schoolers Risk Arrest for Tuition Equality
On August 15, five undocumented youth were arrested at Wake Technical Community College after protesting the school’s discriminatory admissions policies and refusing to leave the premises. Undocumented students must pay out-of-state rates and register for classes after the regular registration period. While Ulises Perez, Cruz Nuñez, Mario Valladares and Jose Benavides have deferred action status, Marco Cervantes is still awaiting a decision on his application. Perez and Nuñez, high school students from Carrboro, participated because they are unsure what will happen once they graduate from high school. Valladares dreams of being a chef, but he is unable to pursue it due to tuition costs. As actions ramp up, an in-state tuition bill, HB 904, sits, and the NC Community College System refuses to change its policies.
—NC Dream Team
5. In San Antonio, Activists Issue a Travel Warning
Over two years ago, GetEQUAL TX joined forces with other LGBT organizations and leaders with the goal of passing an LGBT-inclusive nondiscrimination ordinance in San Antonio. That goal may be realized on September 5, when the city council will vote on the proposed ordinance. However, a last-minute revision will limit the ordinance, making it inapplicable to gender-segregated spaces such as bathrooms. This revision was added after opposition to the ordinance came out in force. Recognizing the political tension and dangers LGBT travelers may face, GetEQUAL TX issued a travel alert for the city advising visitors to use caution and avoid non-LGBT businesses without first confirming that they are welcomed. As the day of the vote draws closer, busloads of opponents are arriving from all over the state. Proponents are working closely with social justice allies to mobilize their communities in an effort to offset the masses of anti-LGBT people who have swarmed the city.
6. As Yale Goes Soft on Rape, Students Up the Ante
On July 31, Yale released its semi-annual report on sexual misconduct, stoking a firestorm of criticism. Students from all corners of campus—from graduate students to incoming freshmen—began writing to the administration with questions and concerns, asking why Yale has not issued perpetrators of sexual violence stronger penalties. The report revealed that a number of students were found guilty of sexual violence, and were given only written reprimands rather than penalties such as expulsion or suspension. Hoping to reignite campus activism on sexual misconduct, a group of survivors and allies came together to form Students Against Sexual Violence at Yale. In August, SASVY released an open letter to the administration with four demands aimed at improving campus policy on sexual violence. SASVY proposed making expulsion the preferred sanction for sexual violence, contracting an external victim’s advocate for survivors, formalizing mechanisms for student and survivor involvement in university policymaking and addressing repeat offenses. After 371 members of the Yale community signed the letter, the administration met with SASVY to discuss the organization’s policy proposals. Activists will continue to work with the university to reform its policies to better meet the needs of survivors and the student body at large.
—Emma Goldberg and Winnie Wang
7. As Sallie Mae Sits, Arne Duncan Gets Mailed
Since late August, Jobs with Justice and the Student Labor Action Project have sent Secretary of Education Arne Duncan more than 25,000 e-mails demanding that the Department of Education end its contract with Sallie Mae. Dating back to February, Jobs with Justice has raised concerns over Sallie Mae’s membership in the American Legislative Exchange Council and violations of the Equal Credit Opportunity Act that led to lawsuits, which are now resurfacing due to accusations from the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation that Sallie Mae violated the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act and other “unfair or deceptive” practices. On May 9, students from the US Student Association, Student Labor Action Project and Jobs with Justice met with Duncan to raise these concerns about Sallie Mae and were told by the secretary to “hold him accountable.” Now, we’re holding Secretary Duncan accountable as the calls to put an end to this $300 million dollar contract scandal grow louder.
8. Nautica’s Dirty Laundry
In the wake of the largest industrial disaster in the history of the garment industry, United Students Against Sweatshops is working with Bangladeshi workers and their unions to continue pressuring multinational brands to sign onto the Accord on Fire and Building Safety in Bangladesh, a groundbreaking, legally binding agreement between unions and brands that gives workers the right to refuse unsafe work and requires brands to finance necessary factory repairs. This year, using the same strategies that helped us win victories over Russell, Nike and Adidas, students will take on the collegiate apparel brands that have not signed the accord. One of our first actions will take place on September 6 at the Nautica Fashion Week event in New York. Nautica’s parent company, VF Corporation, has stubbornly refused to sign the accord, opting instead to join Walmart and Gap in a business-as-usual fake safety scheme—which is why USAS and the International Labor Rights Forum will be turning the heat up during Fashion Week.
—United Students Against Sweatshops
9. ALEC’s Unwanted Offspring
On August 23, twenty-one healthcare workers from the Service Employees International Union’s Millennial program came to Washington from Illinois, Indiana, Missouri and Kansas. At ALEC headquarters, we joined other young workers and activists to protest Stand Your Ground, voter suppression and the privatization and policing of our schools. The next day, we participated in the fiftieth anniversary March on Washington, which was powerful as our ancestors—including Bob Moses, who spoke to youth organizers and young workers after the march—made it possible for us to walk those streets in a peaceful setting. As a nursing assistant in Chicago, I see high turnover among young healthcare workers—and the space to build a millennial movement to fight poverty, student debt, low wages and racism. On August 29, SEIU Millennials supported fast-food and retail workers on strike for $15 an hour and union rights. On September 20 and 21, Millennials will launch a leadership assembly to choose our next campaigns.
10. The Two-Minute March