Tallahassee, FL - On Thursday, March 1, the student movement in the United States took a collective step forward in the fight for higher education. Students for a Democratic Society (SDS), along with Occupy Education groups across the country and other progressive student organizations, held a nationwide day of action against crippling budget cuts, tuition hikes, and student debt.
Stephanie Taylor, an SDS organizer in Minneapolis-St. Paul, described this groundbreaking nationwide mobilization by saying, “Nearly 20 SDS chapters nationwide protested on March 1st. While campuses focused on issues particular to their own areas, students throughout the country united with calling for an end to tuition hikes and to cut bloated administrators’ salaries. Access to education is a right for everyone, not just for families who can afford it! We see the 99% on our campuses as the students, workers, and faculty who make the university run, and the 1% as the fat-cat administration on top who earn executive wages.”
In Chicago, Illinois, more than 100 students marched and rallied downtown at the Chase Bank Tower. A few students organized a short political theatre sketch, in which mock-representatives of Chase handed out fake diplomas in exchange for immense student debt. Afterwards, the students marched to DePaul University’s campus and held a sit-in to demand a meeting with President Rev. Dennis H. Holtschneider about rising tuition costs.
Looking south to Florida, over 50 students from Florida State University, Florida A&M University, Tallahassee Community College, and several local high schools gathered outside of the State Capitol to rally against budget cuts, tuition hikes, and exclusion of undocumented students from Florida’s public universities. After a few students gave militant speeches, they marched inside the Capitol, loudly chanting “No ifs! No buts! No education cuts!” and “They say cut back! We say fight back!”
Michael Sampson, an organizer with Progress Coalition and Uhuru FSU, said, “Students from FSU, FAMU, TCC, and even high-schoolers came out to show that they are fighting back against attacks on education by Governor Rick Scott and the Florida Legislature.”
The group of students read a speech directly outside of Governor Scott’s door and proceeded to stage a sit-in on the fourth floor of the Capitol. Some parents who happened to be visiting the legislature that day then joined the students!
At the end of the rally, Sampson pointed out, “Rick Scott was scared to come out of his office to meet us and hear our demands, but we won’t stop knocking at his door and next time we’ll bring hundreds. We’re not stopping!”
Further south in Gainesville, Florida, around 20 students from the University of Florida rallied outside of Tigert Hall, the Administration Building, to protest the University’s retention of Florida Senate President Mike Haridopolos as a professor making $75,000 annually. While taking a big paycheck from the University, Haridopolis has led the charge to slash higher education in Florida.
The University of Florida students hung an enormous banner across both doors of Tigert Hall reading “Worst Professor Ever” in reference to Haridopolis. They then proceeded to fill out negative student evaluation forms, which denounced Haridopolis’ attacks on students, workers, and undocumented families.
Marie Dino, an organizer in Gainesville Area SDS, said, “Yesterday’s action was very powerful because our direct focus was on the source of these attacks on students. It’s time to get Haridopolis out of our campus and out of reach from our pockets!”
In Tampa Bay, SDS at the University of South Florida organized a walkout and a rally at the Marshall Student Center. Almost 200 students attended, and after several students gave militant speeches outside, the students forcibly occupied the Student Center and staged a sit-in, demanding an end to tuition hikes and budget cuts.
Corey Uhl, an organizer with Tampa Bay SDS, described the walkout as, “a symbolic act that represents what classrooms will look like if these budget cuts and tuition hikes pass – empty.” Uhl continued by saying, “USF will no longer have a diverse student body if these cuts pass. That’s why we’re fighting back!”
When asked about SDS’s role in future nationwide actions, Taylor said, “March 1st marked the third annual March day of protest for education rights and SDS was proud to be a major component of building for the day. This is just the beginning of a long spring of struggle and resistance to the 1% of our country devaluing education and making it more and more inaccessible for the average student.”