Occupy Colleges Planning Walkout To Support Higher Education

| March 1, 2012 | 0 Comments

NEW YORK — Thousands of U.S. college students will walk out of class Thursday in a coordinated day of protest against what may be another year of significant higher education budget cuts by state legislatures.

College students have organized a national day of action with student groups, unions and local Occupy Wall Street offshoots as well as the Occupy Colleges group. Students nationwide will protest ever-increasing student debt and continued budget cuts. In addition, they’ll raise awareness of campus-specific issues.

“Occupy has been based around the interaction of local issues and global issues,” Artem Raskin with Occupy UCDavis said. “We try to tie it to specific issues on our campus, but at the same time keeping in mind that these local issues have implications as well.

In California, where students have been demonstrating since 2009 against raising fees, laying off staff, hiring outside contractors for services and partnering with U.S. Bank to turn student ID cards into debit cards, a coalition of unions and student groups are protesting at 20 campuses. A unifying goal is to build support for a ballot initiative that would raise taxes on millionaires that organizers said would increase state revenue and curtail further budget cuts.

Each California campus is also identifying its own issues. University of California, San Diego, protesters have issued demands for increased funding for areas and offices on campus. The students also demand that UC reverse all funding cuts, tuition hikes and layoffs over the past several years.

Demonstrators with Occupy UCDavis plan to hold a “funeral for public education,” at 11 a.m. on their campus.

Community colleges in the state are watching for further cuts after the campuses were forced to reduce already enrolled spring semester classes at the last minute. Over the last decade, the cost of attending California’s community colleges has risen four-fold, and 30 years ago attending school there was free.

Students in Ohio will be protesting against the state’s enterprise university plan, which they say would be a step toward privatizing public universities.

“We want trustees not appointed by the governor, but rather elected by the students,” said Jacob Chaffin, an education major at Ohio University, referring to the board that sets tuition for Ohio’s public universities. Chaffin said they’re also seeking voting rights for the students who serve on the board of trustees.

Michael Blosser said his Occupy group at the University of South Florida will hold walkouts and teach-ins as a response to significant state budget cuts. Blosser said the campus has been “enraged” that the state Senate proposes an additional 60 percent cut to USF.

Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Corbett (R) is asking for a 20 percent cut to the state’s public universities. Protesters including Lucas Lyons with Occupy Pitt complain that the governor wants to cut education to make up a budget deficit rather than increase taxes on corporations. The governor “is trying to squeeze us off and make us a fully private organization,” Lyons said.

Students in Pennsylvania plan to walk out of class and protest outside of Corbett’s office Thursday afternoon, and Occupy Pitt will hold a teach-in on March 3.

New York City students will have walkouts and teach-ins as well. They’ll march on the city Department of Education and over the Brooklyn Bridge.

Students at the University of Texas said they’ve invited protesters from the 1960s to join them in pressuring the student government to have a tuition referendum against increases proposed by their student body president and university president.

Occupy Education confirmed at least 80 campuses and other labor and community action groups will participate. They will seek to collect at least 10,000 signatures on a petition asking governors not to cut higher education.

A March 4, 2010, national day of action at college campuses drew significant media coverage when more than 120 campuses staged walk-outs. The protest this year may get more media attention thanks to the Occupy Wall Street movement.

Stephan Georgiou, a 25-year-old San Francisco City College student, said the Occupy movement’s focus on education shows it’s evolving beyond encampments.

Occupy Colleges formed in October 2011, a couple weeks after the Occupy Wall Street movement started. Occupy Colleges began holding national conference calls in December… See Entire Article at Huffington Post

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