Coalition to End Rape Culture Begins With Teach-In

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Coalition to End Rape Culture Banner

On November 29, The Coalition to End Rape Culture (CERC) spearheaded by Tampa Bay Students for a Democratic Society (SDS) and joined by other campus organizations held its kickoff teach-in at the University of South Florida (USF). In response to two reported rapes on the USF campus, Tampa Bay SDS responded quickly by shaping a petition of demands to be implemented in a timely fashion by the USF administration. Organizing under the banner of ending rape culture, “a culture in which rape and sexual violence are common and in which prevalent attitudes, norms, practices, and media normalize, excuse, tolerate, or even condone rape”, the campaign is designed to focus in on the systematic roots of rape and sexual assault.

cerc signs

Five members of SDS, alongside faculty and the Center for Victim Advocacy and R.E.A.L. program, spoke on a diversity of topics ranging from examples of rape culture to the need for a third wave of feminism to continue the gains of past women’s liberation movements. Joined by around 50 students and many onlookers inspired by the call to action, the teach-in was a deeply personal and liberating experience for those involved. This teach-in represented the launching of a sustained anti-rape culture campaign, which will lead to the presentation of demands to USF administration, which include: the introduction of a mandatory rape awareness and myths course for all incoming students, the expansion of the Women’s and Gender Studies Department, and the introduction of a “Good Samaritan”, bystander intervention policy requiring students to take reasonable steps to intervene if observing a person or people engaged in sexually assaultive behavior.

This campaign is designed to bring about practical changes on the USF campus, as well as shifting the discussion from how victims should act to telling rapists not to rape. For too long systems of patriarchy and male privilege have been used as tools to oppress women and the LGBTQ community.  The Coalition to End Rape Culture has been created to fight back against such oppression and fight for women’s and LGBTQ liberation. Tampa Bay SDS stands firmly in its belief that we cannot stop rape and sexual assault without a clear discussion of the systems that enforce and utilize such horrific tools. With the hosting of this teach-in, the CERC campaign is going full speed ahead into the next semester to plan more actions and the eventual presentation of demands to administration.

On this day all stood to say: This is what a feminist looks like!

A new year, a continued struggle

Students in Chile 2012 (photo by http://nimg.sulekha.com)


In moments of great peril it is easy to muster a powerful response to moral stimuli; but for them to retain their effect requires the development of a consciousness in which there is a new priority of values.
 Society as a whole must be converted into a gigantic school.

 Tampa Bay Students for a Democratic Society is entering its second year and already looks to be a vibrant and powerful one. Students from Canada to Chile are rising up in greater numbers and with bolder demands. The contradictions between the 1% and the 99% are becoming ever clearer to the disillusioned youth. As more and more students graduate and see little in return for the mountain of student debt, students are beginning to realize they have more to gain by fighting back with little to lose.

Matt of Tampa Bay SDS on September 11, 2012 – Marshall Center

 We have no allusions to the easiness of this task. Yet we realize that our movement is maintained through struggle. As the leaders of our schools and government continue to sell us out, more and more join the ranks to fight for a new society. As the attacks on students, workers, and women grow in conjunction with national oppression, there is an ever growing sentiment of dissent spreading. The roots of an American Awakening are beginning to be sown and Students for a Democratic Society are watering the soil.

Our sights are set. Our goals are clear.

People of the world, be courageous, and dare to fight, defy difficulties and advance wave upon wave. Then the whole world will belong to the people.

March 1st National Day of Action for Education Rights

-Matt Hastings

On March 1st, 2012, students across the country participated in the National Day of Action for Education Rights. This day was designed for students to demonstrate for affordable education, end to student debt, and democratic representation on campus.

Students gather outside Cooper Hall with signs (Photo by Jared Hamil)

Tampa Bay SDS organized a campus-wide Walk Out and protest against the devastating attacks on education in the state of Florida. At noon SDS, alongside groups such as Occupy USF and the Black Student Union, faculty and workers at USF walked out of their clasess and gathered outside of Cooper Hall. Joined by over 150 members of the USF community, SDS members and faculty gave urgent speeches describing the actions needed to defend education. With the Florida legislature fighting to destroy public education, with especially high cuts to USF, the students’ passion for the right of education was ferociously present throughout the day.

Students march through the John and Grace Allen Building (Photo by Jared Hamil)

On the cusp of a series of speeches that energized a growing crowd, SDS led a march across campus with a final destination of the Marshall Student Center. The large contingent of USF student, faculty, and workers chanted slogans such as “Education is a right! Fight fight fight!” and “Chop from the top!”, through the administrative plaza where they finally sat-in the Marshall Student Center. From there a diverse group of USF undergraduate and master’s students gave speeches to the even larger crowd that had gathered around the sitters. Personal stories of debt and unemployment were shared by the students along with organizational strategies for present and future struggles.

Students sit-in the MSC and listen to speeches (Photo by Catherine Lim)

The day’s success can be measured by the large number of students who were inspired to share their struggle and join in the fight for education for all. This day of action was only the beginning of the growing student discontent. As cuts, hikes and corporatization of Universities take place across the country, students will only utilize their power in numbers at an even greater rate. As attacks on students grow more alarmingly, so will the consciousness of the same students.

They say cut back; We say fight back!

Rally in Tally

– Matt Hastings

4:30 a.m. was a harsh time to make a drive to school, but through the haze of the early morning, we made our way onto the bus that would take us to “Rally in Tally”. A group of about 50 students mostly comprised of SDS and student government members traveled to Tallahassee with intentions of expressing discontent against the further weakening of Florida’s education system.  The lawmakers’ continuing trend of raising tuition and fees and slashing services was of particular grievance to many students.

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SDS members Tefa and Phil Siniscalco having lunch (photo by Catherine Lim)

An itinerary of the day’s scheduled events included the following: a 10:30 trip to the Higher Education Appropriations Committee Meeting, Lunch, the rally on the Capitol at 1:00 and then a two hour period of meetings with various legislators in their office. Unfortunately, shortly after arriving it was evident that much of what was said to happen was either cancelled or cut short, resulting in groups walking endlessly around Florida’s Capitol building. Although the emphasis of the event seemed to be centered on the need for better policies for students, much of what was said during the rally was vague statements about students’ potential. There was little mention by the speakers about policies that would directly benefit the over 300 students present. The most sparking event of the day was the demonstration on the capitol steps by SDS/Fight Back Florida members, who were equipped with signs and statements that captured the true nature of student frustration. The demonstration was met with a positive response by FSA Student Representative Mike Long and Representative Darryl Russon.

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Student activists at the Rally on the Old Capitol steps (photo by Catherine Lim)

What seemed to be the most imperative event of the day, the meetings with legislators associated with House Education committees, failed in many aspects. Most representatives and senators were called into sudden meetings during the portion scheduled to meet with them. During this portion we were also instructed by USF Student Government President Matt Diaz to hand out cards expressing gratitude to lawmakers’ (as of now undecided) support for higher education, along with a USF pin and a message from Matt Diaz on the cards. Many representatives would not accept Diaz’s cards as it is against House ethics rules to accept gifts from universities and their student governments. Despite the event being scheduled in a two hour block for meetings, it was cut in half and time was made for the provided dinner earlier at 3:30 p.m.

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SDS member Dani Leppo giving an interview (photo by Catherine Lim)

This day’s events should only serve to embolden students’ in their quest for a strong student movement that is organized and empowers the voice of the students from around the state. Students’ should not be placated by the attempts of those in charge to dismiss the will of students. Attempts to nurture a bond between administrators of schools and government and students is always welcomed, but until actual results are forthcoming, the student voice will only grow louder.

More Rally in Tally photos: USF SG Facebook

“No RNC in Tampa Bay!”

-Sol Márquez

We had an idea Tampa Bay was cool. But when we heard the Republican National Convention was going to be held right in our back yard, we knew the January 23rd Republican Debate would be history in the making. Santorum, Gingrich, Ron Paul and of course Mitt Romney promised they’d come visit so we had to welcome them as best we could. And how could we not show gratitude at being denied access to our very own building?

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SDS Member Corey Uhl (photo by Christopher Hamil)

“I am a USF student. The Republican Debate is on my campus. But I can’t attend? WTF?” read one SDS sign. “Get your laws out of my uterus!” read another.

Assembling, taking names, making signs, holding interviews Tampa Bay Students for a Democratic Society promptly met. Our announced time of assembling was 6:30pm outside of the Allen & Grace Building on USF’s campus. Occupy Tampa, Occupy USF, SDS members from Tampa & Gainesville, SLAP and Fight Back Florida members from St. Petersburg & Orlando in addition to various union members were pissed and ready to show the Republicans their claws via bullhorns.

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UF President Jose Soto of the Graduate Assistants United (photo by Christopher Hamil)

“I met a young couple who didn’t know much about how to continue being involved”, says Tampa Bay SDS activist, organizer Denise Wilkinson, “But they joined in with us to protest anyway! By the end of our march, I was able to sign them up with the Coalition to March on the RNC.”

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Tampa Fight Back Florida organizer Jared Hamil (photo by Christopher Hamil)

“What about gay rights and rights for the arts!” shouted Kat Reynolds and Sean McDonald, (current USF students) during a speech. We support those rights too! And Gainesville SDS member Cassia Laham made sure to include, “Our lesbian, gay and or transgender brothers and sisters” into her speech about demanding overall a fair and just representation by anyone running for office.

Truth is: there was a lot going on. Our particular action included over 300 students–all with the same disdain towards the conservative agenda. But there were so many more people present that fateful USF day. Including our newly relocated Terry Jones and his supporters/followers. These particular protesters carried racist signs against our current president Obama and against “illegal immigrants”.

January 23rd was only a little taste of what will be coming to Tampa on August 27th.
And we can’t wait.

Tyler

St. Pete Fight Back Florida organizer Tyler Crawford (photo by Christopher Hamil)

As We Write, Listen ✌p!

It’s been extremely busy for us student, activist, organizers. From organizing for the Republican Debate that occurred on January 23, 2011 to attending and studying the Rally in Tally on January 26, 2012! We are currently, fervently writing up summations of the various events.

Yes, we’d been neglecting our wonderful blog; so here we are! To remind you Tampa Bay SDS still holds you dear in our hearts. Listen to these inspiring tracks while you await our [almost] complete blog entries.

Dead Prez – “Politrikkks”

Lila Downs – “Minimum Wage

Goodbye 2011!

-Sol Márquez

Our summation for the 2011 year at University of South Florida is as follows:

USF is loaded with strong, independent-thinkers who are ready to do all they can to put their own future in their own hands! Tampa Bay SDS could not have been possible if it hadn’t been for all the help and dedication put forth by all who helped.

Tampa Bay SDS (along with various other SDS chapters across the country) in its very first semester of existence had many victories!

*Here are some of them:
1. 50+ student attendance at our first-ever rally against the 15% Tuition Increases.

photo by Peeraya Sawangkum

2. LIVE time with leading news medias who saw the potential in our efforts.

photo by Peeraya Sawangkum

3. Our Proposed 81% Referendum Victory!
*USF students were able to voice against the 15% Tuition Increases passed by administration over the summer without our consent.

During our 2nd Rally

4. We supported the Occupy Wallstreet movement on our campus–Occupy USF!
*Occupy USF received the same curt feedback Occupy Wallstreet received from International News Medias, yet their efforts were unhindered. Their rallies and teach-ins reflected the truth of what students, faculty and people in our country have to endure. Our support was fateful. We enjoyed joining forces with Occupy USF and wish them the best of luck!

photo by Occupy USF

The year 2012 will mark another year for our very own Tampa Bay SDS to thrive and complete new goals we will be setting for ourselves!
¡Ya basta! with the injustices to students, faculty and to the people in our country!
JOIN US!