Students across the country are mobilizing for a nationwide protest against tuition and fee hikes and in support of staff and faculty facing pay cuts and layoffs. Tens of thousands of students and workers across California participated in demonstrations and building takeovers in November. They were protesting the University of California Regents proposal to increase already skyrocketing tuitions. These protests are inspiring students across the country to take action to demand that universities chop from the top and stop balancing their budgets on the backs of students and workers.
Students for a Democratic Society (SDS) is one of the many groups participating in the March 4 day of action. The SDS call to action says, “SDS supports the national call to action for actions on March 4 and is calling on all SDS chapters to take up the call to fight back and be a part of the nationwide resistance movement that is saying enough is enough - no more budget cuts on the backs of students and workers! While this country is continuing to spend millions on wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and giving our money to rich bankers, state universities are cutting scholarships for oppressed nationality and working students and eliminating funding for women’s and cultural centers that focus on Black and Chican@ programming and education.”
The call goes on to state, “We in SDS call on students across the country to stand up and take action against budget cuts at your university. Protest proposed budget cuts, sit-in at administrator or board of trustee meetings, call for walkouts, host a teach-in, chalk or table on campus to educate your fellow students. Get out and make your voice heard against budget cuts and for accessible public education.”
The University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee is organizing a speakout to demand a tuition freeze and demanding the chancellor and high-level administrators take at least a 5% pay cut. Jacob Flom from SDS at the UWM says, “SDS helped put together a strong coalition of 20 organizations, including faculty and graduate student unions, to demand more accountability and to stop cuts that affect students and staff. We have been talking to students and getting petitions signed, talking to classes and professors, doing banner drops and blanketing the campus in fliers.”
Tracy Molm from University of Minnesota SDS said, “SDS is organizing students to participate in what is going to be a large rally and march for education rights. We are demanding smaller class sizes and no tuition hikes, as well as no forced furlough days for both staff and faculty. The students on campus are energized and ready to fight back against the cuts.”
At the University of North Carolina-Asheville, SDSers are trying to raise awareness about education rights struggles throughout the country, both past and present. Rachel McLarty of UNCA SDS says, “We’re showing the movie Walkout [a movie about the 1968 East Los Angeles high school walkouts] during the week of March 4. We are also bringing UCLA [University of California-Los Angeles] SDS activist Charla Schlueter to campus later in March to speak about the current situation in California, including the March 4 protests. We are trying to raise awareness around education rights on campus and are standing in solidarity with students across the country fighting back.”
Big administrators are trying to convince us students that everybody has to ‘feel the pain’ of the financial crisis in the form of tuition hikes, cuts to services such as cultural centers and library hours and cuts to the lowest paid staff - while chancellors and administrators continue to enjoy six-figure salaries. Students are not fooled by this and are standing up and fighting back against tuition hikes and cuts to pay and jobs to pay for big-figure salaries. SDS is demanding, “Fund education, not war and occupation! Chop from the top!”