Tampa Bay SDS Statement Against Tuition and Fee Increases

Image

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. 

 

Our First-Ever Rally

Tampa Bay SDS marched on to the provost building--Patel and demanded a meeting with USF President Judy Genshaft.

University of South Florida’s Administration thought they could sneak the 15% tuition increases over the summer without students noticing. Oh we noticed.

Armed with over 1,200 Petition Signatures (1200 is the magic number needed to add a question to a referendum at USF), 50 USF Students, bullhorns and an anger bigger than that of the mascots, we stormed straight to the Provost and demanded a meeting. Did we mention all of this was documented by various news medias? Fox 13 News, 88.5 WMNF News, The Oracle and the local ABC News were there as witnesses. Assembling in front of Cooper at approximately 11am, a group of four USF Police approached our picnic table. Only one of them was dressed in uniform, the other three showed us their badges. “Where are you planning on marching?” “You know if you use your bullhorns, the rally is over?” “Any complaint against your noise will result in an arrest and a charge.” Our peaceful protest did not even require anyone to be arrested, nor did it end in any violence.

Chants such as, “Judy got paid off, we got ripped off! Paid off! Ripped Off!” and “The Students United, Will Never Be Defeated” could be heard. Dani Leppo, a member of SDS says, “After leaving class, I didn’t know where the group had gone. But I listened carefully and knew exactly where to go.” Truth is we were loud. We were firm. And we weren’t about to take admin’s bullshit. We marched on, bullhorns in hand straight to Patel–where the Provost works. Words can’t even describe how good it felt to see Ralph Wilcox in front of us–anxious, sweating.

Provost VP Ralph Wilcox Faced SDS October 3, 2011

And with that, we marked the beginning of SDS at the University of South Florida. Tampa Bay SDS is here to stay. We are here to fight against the injustices admininstration wants to impose. Join us, our fight is your fight!