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Gainesville student activists defeat ‘Block Tuition’

By Fernando Figueroa |
September 6, 2011
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 SDS Organizer Chrisley Carpio leads the Dec. 9 2010 rally against block tuition
SDS Organizer Chrisley Carpio leads the Dec. 9, 2010 rally against block tuition. (Fight Back! News/Staff)

Gainesville, FL - The group Students for a Democratic Society (SDS) in Gainesville has a new reason to celebrate. On Sept. 6, student activists at the University of Florida (UF) defeated the block tuition system proposed by the administration and their Board of Trustees.

If implemented, block tuition would have charged every student a flat tuition rate for 15 credit hours, regardless of how many credit hours students actually take. This system would unfairly target working students and oppressed nationalities by forcing them to pay for classes they are not taking.

Facing renewed militant student resistance to tuition hikes, the Board of Trustees voted Sept. 6 to repeal this system. After hearing about the victory, SDS lead organizer Michela Martinazzi said, “Administration tried to cheat students out of a fair education. SDS fought back, the students fought back and administration backed down.”

Although the administration downplayed the role of activism in stopping block tuition and instead cited an increase in four-year graduation rates, these graduation rates have increased steadily since the 1980s.

Last semester, over 300 students marched to Tigert Hall, the administrative building, and demanded an end to block tuition, which succeeded in delaying the system’s implementation. In an interview with a local newspaper, University of Florida Trustee Carlos Alfonso admitted that militant student resistance to block tuition was the main reason block tuition was postponed.

With block tuition delayed, SDS put a referendum question attacking administration’s proposal on the spring Student Government ballot, asking students if they agreed with the system or not. More than 90% of students voted against the policy.

As SDS mobilized to continue the struggle this fall, the administration panicked and repealed their proposal.

Addressing the University of Florida Student Senate, SDS organizer Dave Schneider credited student resistance with the victory instead of graduation rates. “It’s not a question of who defeated block tuition. It’s a question of what defeated block tuition. Activism.”

Following their victory over block tuition, SDS launched its campaign against the 15% tuition hikes passed by the Board of Trustees over summer. Their first action is a rally scheduled for Sept. 16.

Speaking about their new campaign, SDS lead organizer Chrisley Carpio said, “Campaigns aren’t meant to last forever. Campaigns are meant to be won, and with a united coalition of student organizations, we can’t be stopped.”

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