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

 

 

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M6: March to Defend Education at USF

Flyer for M6

Flyer for M6

On March 6, 2013, members of Tampa Bay Students for a Democratic Society joined by USF students and staff rallied against tuition hikes and budget cuts at USF. Both the state legislature and USF Board of Trustees have consistently voted in favor of budget cuts and tuition hikes. The rally was directed at the USF BOT and administration urging them to take a clear stand against budget cuts and to refrain from imposing any more hikes on students.

Around 30 SDS members, students, and staff rallied in the Marshall Student Center, unveiling a banner that declared “Education is a right, not a privilege” and showed that the average USF student will graduate with around $22,000 in debt. Students used a “human mic” to speak out on various issues that affect students from higher tuition hikes, increasing student debt, free speech and the sanctity of public education. A supporter from the AFSCME Local 3422 stated that the union agreed with the students in their demand that education is a right. Speakers lamented the protection of corporate interests in deference to student and worker interests at the university. After occupying the student center students began their march through campus towards the administration building. Students used bullhorns to chant, “No cuts, no fees, education should be free” and “Cut administration, not education”.

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As the march reached the Patel Center for Global Solutions, students were met by John Long and Dee Sisco who explained the administration’s policy towards budget cuts and tuition hikes: a necessary evil. Repeatedly questioned as to why students and workers are the first ones to be burned by cut backs, Long at one point derisively asked a student, “Are you a lawyer?” and “Do you study law?”, when he was asked if he thought it was fair that many of the people on the Board of Trustees held corporate and bank interests related to student loans. The students had come to present President Judy Genshaft with a student agenda, but other administrators and a public relations specialist were sent in her place. After engaging in a dialogue with administrators and presenting them with the agenda that contained a list of eight demands to protect student interests, the administrators then left, but students stayed and re-affirmed their request to meet with President Genshaft for ten minutes, or long enough for her to make a small statement to the students. Students then began a sit-in in the Patel Center, not leaving until they could meet with the President.Students then called the Office of the President and encouraged allies who were not present to do the same. First, students were told that the President and her secretary were in meetings for the rest of the day and there was no way to access her schedule. Other students were told that she was booked for “the entire month”. Having difficulty ascertaining the true nature of the President’s schedule, students decided to visit the Office themselves, but were blockaded by officials and police officers and told that they did not have permission to go any further, despite it being a public university. One student who attempted to enter an elevator was pushed away from doing so by a police officer.

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Students sit-in at Patel Center

Students were met with more officials and law enforcement, but remained firm in having the ability to even schedule a meeting with the President of their university. Eventually Student Government President Brian Goff was brought over to engage in a roundtable with students and help them in their quest to schedule a meeting. He explained his vote to increase tuition as a compromise between higher increases. After a series of questions and answers, students pressed for him to use his position to find a way to meet with the President, after a year of unsuccessful tries. Goff returned at 5 pm as the building was closing, to inform students that no one in the entire building had the ability to schedule meetings and that the President and her secretary had left an hour before, while students were still downstairs waiting. With a refusal to meet with students, the students remained committed to building the fight against tuition hikes and corporate influence and to plan further actions.

            Students from across the nation will be planning actions on March 14th on their campuses to defend education. (March 14th is during USF’s spring break)

http://www.newsds.org/2013/1/22/sds-national-call-action-march-14th-national-day-action-education-rights

“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?

Corey

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.

Jose

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.”

Jared

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!

No Amount of Political Freedom Will Satisfy the Hungry Masses.

Photograph by Tefa

Occupy Wallstreet gave way to solidarity occupations in numerous cities around the nation; and our very own Tampa Bay was not excluded. Lots of us Tampa Bay SDS’ers have demonstrated our solidarity and have done everything we can to help Occupy Tampa’s struggle. While the hype for the event reminded us it would be a “peaceful occupation”, we could not help but wonder why police had released a report stating they had barricaded the public park. Would there be arrests? Would there even be an event?

We arrived that Saturday morning with banners, bullhorns and clipboards–ready to take names and add to the overall energy of Occupy Tampa. The event was peaceful and refreshing–as our very own Tampa Bay SDS Chapter is new to activism. We learned why everyone was there; where their politics were; and how Occupy Wallstreet had hit home for them all…us all. We are all ready for change, hungry for change.

Occupiers gathered to air-out grievances against Corporate America.

And with that, it is our utmost pleasure to publicly announce we have had our first, actual victory! Our proposed referendum passed with a favored 81% from USF Voters! A grand win–one we take to heart and have learned so much from. Thank you to all who voted! Also to all who have stopped in the middle of going to class, lunch or studying to listen to us along our journey. Your struggle is our struggle!

The 81% Victory reported on USF's The Oracle