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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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.

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

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!

 

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.

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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.