Student Power

Students face a number of issues in very difficult circumstances. They are trying to carve out a socio-economic future for themselves and still enjoy life. They are a highly transient population. Its hard to build solidarity and a movement when every year the best and brightest revolutionaries graduate and enter the workforce. When potential hides beneath the weight of other concerns like grades and social standing.

There is this idea that organizing is almost automatic for students. It isn’t simply that there is more time available. Many students have workweeks that would make sensible people quit their jobs if they had to adhere to the same insane hours. The difference is the social cohesiveness of the campus vs the rigidly segmented professional world I’ve come to know. And even in that heightened environment of social interaction, meaningful organizing is a specialized activity. Most students do not fall into social action. They volunteer. They build houses and work in soup kitchens. But to take any kind of risk and speak out for change requires a very special frame of mind and a deep inner strength.

I’d like to call attention to a group of students doing just that.

At my alma mater, the University of Massachusetts Amherst, some old friends are organizing and taking part in a massive student strike. Their aim is to protest the rising cost and receding value of public higher education. While most outsiders consider Massachusetts a leader in higher education, if you strip away the private institutions and leave the accessible ones, you’ll find the stark result of a highly stratified approach.

Essential and enriching courses cut, whole majors gutted. All while the price of admission rises enormously.

That only begins to describe the problems with the school (facebook event):

For too long, the concerns of graduate and undergraduate students have been ignored by the administration of the school. From ever-increasing fees, to starving student support centers, to defying student/faculty opposition to Andrew Card’s honorary degree, to prolonging and dismissing union contract negotiations, to an utter unaccountability to diversity issues, those of us who study and teach here have been marginalized. It is time to change.

Members of the SGA, GSS, and GEO have come together and decided we’re going to begin to push back.

We are calling for a campuswide STUDENT STRIKE – abandoning all classes – on NOVEMBER 15 and 16. This action is intended as merely a first step, in a larger struggle to gain equity and respect for students (and students who work) on this campus.

DEMANDS (Updated November 7):
• STUDENT FEE ROLLBACK
• FUNDING AND ACCOUNTABILITY FOR DIVERSITY
• COPS OUT OF DORMS
• STUDENT CONTROL OVER STUDENT SPACE

REGISTER FOR THE STRIKE AND KEEP INFORMED AT HTTP://UMASSGSS.ORG

If you are a UMass student, join the strike. If not, you can still show your support in two key ways. One is by writing to the University to express your support for the students. The second is to take this fight to your own schools. Education is the foundation of democracy, that idealistic government we’ve been promised countless times in exchange for the mire we have today. It is the rock our resistance is built on. Without an education we are fighters without training, warriors without art.

Public Higher Education is becoming a very sick mix of a strictly for profit enterprise and an extension of the k-12 babysitting service, complete with a reduction of rights, expectations, and impact. Striking back is in the general interest of society at large, not just students.

So support your siblings older and younger, your cousins, children and grandchildren. Stand with them when they stand tall and demand a fair shake at a future. And if you are a UMass student find the power within yourself to be heard.

Support the strike.

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