Tampa Bay SDS Statement Against Tuition and Fee Increases

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As the University of South Florida Board of Trustees seeks to raise fees for out-of-state students[1] and is pushing for tuition increases for all students against the veto of Governor Rick Scott, Tampa Bay Students for a Democratic Society wishes to reiterate its commitment to fighting any and all tuition and fee increases. We believe these measures place an unfair burden on students attempting to receive a public education. With students facing an ever increasing student loan debt, tuition and fee increases trap students in a cycle of debt and further erode affordable public education. Students for a Democratic Society believe that education is a fundamental right that should be free of cost and not a privilege for those who can afford it. These measures only deepen the divide between those who can afford higher education and those who cannot. Students across the country must resist these attacks against them at all costs and demand a say in the decisions that affect their future.

Here at USF, the Board of Trustees has consistently raised tuition even when the legislature has not called for it and in some cases against the demands of the Board of Governors.[2] Most often these decisions are decided in closed doors during the Summer session, when most students are not around to raise opposition. In Tampa Bay SDS’ many conversations with administrators and even President Judy Genshaft herself, we were repeatedly told the lie that if the legislature replaces the $300 million taken away in last year’s budget and if the legislature does not vote for a tuition increase (the legislature voted for a 3% increase but this was vetoed by Governor Scott), that they would not raise tuition. Despite this recent reports[3] suggest that USF Provost Ralph Wilcox has been pushing for tuition increases of 2.5%-5% despite Scott’s veto.

This news only increases Tampa Bay SDS’ vigilance in opposing attacks on students and in organizing the student body against tuition increases. SDS’ month long sit-in campaign[4] was designed to put pressure on USF administration who would not take a firm stand against tuition increases. We now see that their hesitation in meeting with SDS one on one and in committing to a tuition freeze was for a reason: they have been planning all along to push tuition increases with or without student input. In conversations with administrators and even those that are supposed to represent students in Student Government, we were told that tuition increases are the fault of the state legislature and that our fight is in Tallahassee. However, we now find that more than ever our organizing must be done on our own campus to prevent attacks from those that are supposed to be representing us directly. SDS vows to use the summer to organize and prepare to lead the fight against tuition increases and for education rights at the University of South Florida and to continue to build a fighting student movement! We stand in solidarity with those across the country organizing for education rights and look at the strikes and occupations happening at Indiana University and Cooper Union as inspiration for our organizing.

Tampa Bay Students for a Democratic Society seeks:

  • an end to all tuition and fee increases
  • a University-wide referendum to pass the student body before allowing the BOT to impose tuition hikes in addition to the hikes imposed by the state
  • to Challenge the corporatization of our campus by restructuring the BOT to include students,community members, and others affected by the decisions the BOT makes
  • to cultivate a transparent and democratic environment for students

 

 

Students talk with President Genshaft and Provost Wilcox

Video of students meeting with President Genshaft: https://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=kn0vP7tFsuY#!

On April 11th, following the USF Student Government Inauguration, students approached USF President Judy Genshaft and Provost Ralph Wilcox to ask why the President has refused to meet with students regarding their demands that no more tuition hikes be implemented. President Genshaft and administrators have continuously ignored students demand that tuition be frozen at its current rate and that cuts are made to the most highly paid USF administrators, rather than on students and workers. President Genshaft’s salary has increased 125% since she was instituted as President of USF in 2000. In the same period tuition has increased rapidly, while workers salaries have been frozen and jobs have been cut. 

The President and Provost did not make a statement on whether they opposed tuition hikes, only saying that students should contact their student “representatives” in Student Government. Students have increasingly grew frustrated with Student Government and other so-called representatives, as they have been at the forefront of approving tuition hikes, with little input from the student body. 

The President and Provost then invited SDS to the Student Government session on April 16th which is open to public comment, where the President will be present. SDS plans to show up in full strength to make sure students are represented in their concerns over tuition, budget cuts, worker layoffs, rape culture, and a lack of democratic process on campus. 

Please join us on Tuesday, April 16th at 5:30 in the MSC chambers (4200) to present concerns to SG representatives and the President herself. 

 

SDS continues sit-in campaign

“Students pay your salary!”

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For the second Friday in a row, and third time within a month, students have sat in at the Patel Center for Global Solutions. SDS and allies are calling on President of USF, Judy Genshaft, to make a commitment to meet with students, who are facing fee, housing, and tuition increases. President Genshaft has made no public statements on the ever increasing burden being placed on students, most vehemently in the form of tuition hikes with her own approval. Students have for a month been attempting to cut through the bureaucratic red tape that exists within the University system, simply to meet with their President on issues of increasing urgency.

The crass refusal to meet with or address students is an insult to all who are facing on average $20,000 in debt; while at the same time the President and other administrators are stuffing their coffers with benefits and bonuses, reminiscent of the Wall Street bankers who have robbed the people.  Students are tired of being shuffled around from one talking head to another: they demand serious action to protect the broad majority of the university system (Students and Workers). SDS continues to raise the call: Chop from the top! 

Students are increasingly aware of lack of true representation on campus. While being told to take it up with our Student Government, because they represent the interests of all students, these same representatives continuously vote for more tuition hikes. Talk to any student struggling with debt, working multiple jobs to afford an education: Does it sound like they are being represented? NO!

Students must take power into their own hands and struggle for their interests against the dominance of corporate-sponsored education and legislatures. A movement of students must be   built, outside of the institutions that have failed us time and time again. No amount of false promises or bread crumbs will be accepted anymore.  

Students must collectively act and dare to break through the barrier that exists between the majority and the same minority that controls a large concentration of power and wealth. We are one of many struggles united in a vision to radically alter how this society is organized and to fashion it into a truly democratic society. 

Students have demanded the following:

  • No more tuition hikes imposed by the Board of Trustees (BOT).
  • Put students and workers first: before raising tuition and implementing mass layoffs, chop from the top and cut administrative salaries and reduce bureaucracy.
  • Tuition payments represent a deep contribution on the part of students. The decision to pay for school will affect us for the rest of our lives. We deserve a proportionate degree of respect. Cultivate a radically democratic relationship between the students and the USF administration. Require a university-wide referendum to pass the student body before allowing the BOT to impose tuition hikes in addition to the hikes imposed by the state.
  • Become an advocate for student interests at the state level, constantly seeking out ways to oppose budget cuts.
  • Stop cutting funds to the Africana and Women’s Studies department.
  • Stand against differential tuition in the form of the “Blue Ribbon Task Force” and their recommendations for higher non-STEM tuition.
  • Challenge the corporatization of our campus by restructuring the BOT to include students,community members, and others affected by the decisions the BOT makes.
  • Conduct an independent audit of the members of the BOT in order to investigate potential conflicts with the interests of students. For example, bankers who profit off of student loans should not decide to raise student tuition.
  • Take a clear stand against the rape culture that persists on campus: introduce a mandatory workshop on the issues of rape and rape culture to all incoming students during orientation and create a “bystander intervention” policy campus-wide.

Join SDS and allies every Friday at 12pm in the Patel Center and show the administration that the students demand to be heard and demand an end to tuition and fee increases.

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Dare to struggle, dare to win.