For a Student Power Agenda

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A recent article in the USF Oracle has given light to over $2.3 million dollars that has been unaccounted for since 2006. While the headline of the article focused on Student Government’s allocation of said funds into “USF Week”, the real story is the mismanagement and legacy-building by our student “representatives”. It is not only concerning that the over $2 million dollars was seemingly unaccounted for, but also the fact that this money will not be saved to help students pay for their increasingly high college tuition. Any USF student should be aware of the tuition hikes that the state legislature, with complicity from USF administration and Student Government, has railroaded through the past years. While student outrage successfully lessened the percentage of the past tuition hike, it should be clear that students are not being represented in the management of our university.

SDS lost one of its most passionate activists over this past summer. Each meeting and each event his inspiration and leadership can only be with us in spirit and this loss is truly felt by each of us that spent even 1 hour fighting injustice alongside him. After having accrued massive amounts of student debt, a pain increasingly felt by more and more students, he could no longer afford to complete his well-deserved college education. Students like him should not have to face these burdens while administrators and our President Genshaft receive hefty bonuses and salaries, which put her in the top 10 percent of university presidents.

One must question the actions by our “representatives” on many fronts. Former Student Body President Matt Diaz was instrumental in ramming this spending bill through SG. He is quoted in the article as saying, “I was told that this institution is so young, you can get a chance to create your own tradition,” he said. “When you come back here as alumni with your own children, you’re going to be able to say that you were here to start something great.” From here, one must deduce whether or not this spending frenzy by SG was not simply a ploy to promote their own legacies and pad their resumes. Another senator is quoted as saying that the money must be spent, because “you never know what’s going to happen to that money”. If this money has truly been sitting in an account since 2006, I’m hesitant to believe that the $2.3 million is going to vanish anytime soon. Was no thought put into giving this money to students in the form of scholarships or grants? Instead SG has chosen to impress students by throwing money at high profile musical acts.

Students must raise their voice against these and other blatant slaps in the face to those struggling to afford their right to education. We must organize our own representative bodies outside of those who claim to represent our interests, even when they are our peers. The broad mass of the student body should recognize that it is us who truly has the power and the investment in our universities. Before raising tuition, before the slashing of workers’ salaries and jobs, before enhancing one’s legacy, before cutting oppressed peoples and women’s studies- let’s take a look at their bonuses, salaries, and the interests of the Board of Trustees, composed of bankers, corporate air polluters, and others that represent the agenda of the same entities that have consistently been the cause of economic and environmental crises. While they have been pushing predatory student loans, drowning students in debt, they have seen ever increasing wealth.

We need to counteract the weakening of our public education. We need to fight the creeping privatization and corporate platitudes put upon our education. We must be vigilant in our pursuit of a democratic university, one that is truly accountable to its students and workers.

We NEED a STUDENT POWER agenda:

Education is a right!

No tuition hikes!

No cuts to education!

No cuts to oppressed and women’s studies!

Chop from the top!

 

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