• October 26, 2014

At Rallies Across the Country, Students Turn Out in Defense of Public Education

Students Turn Out in Defense of Public Education 1

Eddy Perez, LSU

Students participated in a jazz-inspired "funeral" for education on Thursday at Louisiana State University at Baton Rouge.

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close Students Turn Out in Defense of Public Education 1

Eddy Perez, LSU

Students participated in a jazz-inspired "funeral" for education on Thursday at Louisiana State University at Baton Rouge.

Less than a month before midterm elections, students, faculty members, and advocacy groups held rallies on campuses across the country on Thursday to show elected officials their support for public higher education.

At Louisiana State University at Baton Rouge, for example, several hundred people gathered on the campus's parade grounds for a jazz-inspired "funeral" for higher education. Some participants, dressed in black carried a coffin labeled "education," while others carried flags representing language programs that the university has cut to cope with shrinking state appropriations.

More program and job cuts are likely, as the state is struggling to close a deficit in its current budget year, and Gov. Bobby Jindal, a Republican, has said that higher-education funds could be cut by as much as 35 percent in the budget that lawmakers will craft next year.

The Baton Rouge event was organized by a grass-roots group called Proud Students, along with the LSU Graduate Student Association, the Faculty Senate, and union groups representing university staff members and schoolteachers. Bradley Wood, a senior at Louisiana State and co-founder of Proud Students, said the group has sent letters to candidates for statewide office warning about the effects of such deep cuts, but it has yet to get responses from those politicians.

On several campuses of the University of California, which lost $637-million in state appropriations last year, groups also held events to mark Thursday's "National Day of Action to Defend Public Education."

At the University of California at Berkeley, demonstrators at a variety of events protested the cuts and their effects on public colleges and universities. One event, a sit-in in a library reading room, drew some 500 participants before the campus police blocked access. The demonstrators banged on desks and chanted "Whose university? Our university!" and several hundred remained in the room as of late afternoon, but there were no reports of arrests, according to the university's News Center.

Other demonstrations at Berkeley included a large outdoor rally and "teach-outs," in which professors held classes outside. Ignacio Chapela, an associate professor of environmental science at Berkeley, was one who held his classes outside on Thursday. Mr. Chapela said many students are upset about the university's student-fee increase of more than 30 percent, as well as an influx of out-of-state enrollment, to compensate for lost funds.

"Students are becoming the cash cow for the institution because the university is banking on whatever they can pay," Mr. Chapela said. "They're standing up for what they believe to be wrong budgetary policies in both the state and the nation."

Elsewhere, students, faculty and staff members, and concerned community members gathered at a rally at the University of Minnesota and urged state officials to designate money for "education, not administration," reported Minnesota Public Radio.

In Massachusetts, a rally at the Statehouse was scheduled to cap a six-day march across the state protesting cuts in state money for higher education.

And at Northeastern University, a private institution in Boston, a student group that advocates on behalf of nonunion workers held a teach-in about the growing involvement of corporations in the operations and support of higher education.

Claire Lewis, a sophomore at Northeastern and a member of the Progressive Student Alliance, said the university is becoming "corporatized" by hiring nonunion workers for custodial and food services, and by relying too much on adjunct faculty members without concern for the quality of education.

Not all groups that sympathize with the issues raised by the National Day of Action chose to stage events on Thursday.

Brian Turner, chairman of the department of political science at Randolph-Macon College and secretary of the Assembly of State for the American Association of University Professors in Virginia, said his organization is concerned about the effect of budget cuts, but would focus its activities around the beginning of the calendar year, "when the General Assembly is in session."

Comments

1. chrisr - October 08, 2010 at 06:53 am

Claire Lewis, a sophomore "...by hiring nonunion workers for custodial and food services, and by relying too much on adjunct faculty members without concern for the quality of education."

I am sure she has the research to back up her claims.

2. arunan - October 08, 2010 at 07:29 am

How I wish students and teachers were as alert on the consequences of the policies of the goverment, in Inida too! The best is that students and teachers from schools and colleges came together against the the governmental policy of withdrwaing financial support in the US, the Mecca of neo-liberal policies!
Here, in India, some of us have been trying to form fedeartion of Unions of Teachers of KG (Kindergarten) to PG (Post Graduation), with too slow a progress.

3. impossible_exchange - October 08, 2010 at 08:47 am

Once upon a time some people thought, "hey, if we want to make things better we're going to need more people with a college education. So lets pay most of the cost of that education with these public land grant universities. Then, when students graduate and get jobs they will pay back that tuition invest in the form of higher taxes. But most importantly we'll have a bunch of college graduates doing important work making the world a better place."
And for years that is how it worked.
You got an education that your parents' generation paid for in taxes and you paid for the next generations education with your taxes which were paying back the debt you owed.
The whole thing began on a modest seed money a long long time ago and it was, if not great, pretty good.
Now some MTFers are stealing that money, or have stolen it, leaving this generation as the first generation of college students unlikely to do as well as their parents generation also the first generation of college students likely to pay all of their own education expense.
In some measure, this is all because the children of the Greatest Generation, the Boomers, are a spoiled and selfish bunch who are quick to eat their young.
But also it is this misguided idea that the market logic fits into everything.
Which it obviously does not.
It doesn't fit into romance, at least not well, it doesn't fit into the family -- although there were some weird commercials a few years back trying to give that concept a shot -- it doesn't fit into good religion, it doesn't fit into friendship -- those of you profiting from your friends, don't have any friends -- and it doesn't fit into education.
The student is both the product and the customer and the shareholder and more, and any admin who insists on thining about it the same way they might think about a sub shop needs to be fired and hit on the head with a stryo-foam brick while they actually read some books on business management or actually run a sub shop.

4. jagran2852 - October 08, 2010 at 09:13 am

Interesting on how the faculty uses students to protest for "their" education to save the faculty programs, and the tenured positions of the faculty. The finances of most states have to be reduced across the board, but only education cuts seem to be public protest. What about the rest of the cuts? It's great to see the unions out protesting for their benefits, too.

5. trendisnotdestiny - October 08, 2010 at 09:21 am

In reading this, the one thought that comes to mind again and again is that we have not been good stewards to those threads that unite us (college, ecology, financial literacy, health and inequality) while the those trends that promote individualistic gratification, competitive attention-seeking and an obsession with productivity that would shame child-labor abusers have secured the lifeblood of resources. Clearly, we strewn and torn the coherence of any threads that unite us to act in the public versus private battle for resources.

In other words, the public commons has been labelled a swamp, drained of its resources and scapegoatted for the "educational mess" that we are currently experiencing. When you consider the amount of corporate intrusion into US families lives: tuition, fraudulent lending practices, outsourcing critical function and attacking those systems that are not privatized leads one to consider that most people are tapped out and weiry.

We have not been good stewards to the least among us, future generations nor people who do not resemble us in this selfish consumer driven society. As a consequence, we either have to admit, own and repair these relations with concrete actions or we need to change the behaviors that led to these excesses of privatization (OR BOTH)......

6. a_voice - October 08, 2010 at 09:40 am

The reality is our governments are broke. This is a proposed approach for dealing with this issue:

- States should set these colleges and universities free: No more state money, and no more state-related politics, bureaucracy, and corruption in their management.

- The states should reduce taxes for their residents, in proportion to the amount taken away from higher education.

- The institutions should increase tuition to make up for the money they would not be receiving from the states. I would imagine there would be an incentive to reduce costs further to hold down tuition increases.

- These institutions should set up endowments, and appeal to people and institutions who believe in education, and who might want to sponsor their students and projects.

For me, in the ideal world education would be free, but it may be time to face the hard reality.

7. davi2665 - October 08, 2010 at 10:45 am

Wouldn't it be nice, just once, to see students holding a "march" or an "action" carrying a US flag? It might go a long way toward recruiting support from the taxpayers who must pick up the bill for higher education.

8. tomta - October 08, 2010 at 10:54 am

It's amazing that the taxpayers who have been subsidizing public higher education for decades are now "some MTFers" because they, through their elected representatives, have decided that the there may be some other better use for the money. State budgets are almost all stretched to the breaking point, many taxpayers are out of work and losing their homes, and yet some people STILL feel that they are ENTITLED to a handout from the state. Hey, guess what. If your education is so important to you perhaps you should pay the full cost. Don't tell me how all of these college graduates are making the world a better place through their education and paying higher taxes, so it's in the taxpayers' interest to subsidize their education. If that's your justidfication, then by extension you can justify any government action under the claim that "it's for your own good". With apologies to those who may be offended, how does underwriting someone else's degree in History or Sociology or English or Womens' Studies advance the state's condition? Did they learn marketable skills that increase their productivity? Sure, they may have achieved some sort of self-actualization, but how does that justify forcing me to underwrite that process? Similarly, when I have a student repeating my class for the THIRD time, how can we possibly justify taking taxpayer resources to underwrite the education that he is wasting?

9. venganza - October 08, 2010 at 11:12 am

I wonder how many of the protesters can barely write a coherent sentence in the English language or count to 21 without being stark naked.

10. jmalmstrom - October 08, 2010 at 12:07 pm

@venganza

You've been watching too much Jay Leno and his "Jaywalking" segments. The fact is the right in this country has been gradually undercutting funding to public colleges. In the Big 12, over the last ten years, the average level of state support has gone from over 50% to just over 30%.

11. a_voice - October 08, 2010 at 01:07 pm

@davi2665: What exactly would be the purpose of carrying a US flag to a rally related to higher education? Is there an article I missed about freedom of peaceful assembly?

12. anonscribe - October 08, 2010 at 01:22 pm

@davi2665: "Apart from the signs and mock coffins for LSU and higher education, participants also waved German, Italian and Russian flags to represent some of the language offerings LSU is eliminating in response to cuts." (Capital News Bureau)

@a_voice: so, you want to turn all colleges in private non-profits like Harvard, thus eliminating public higher education entirely? i don't see how that's a plan.

13. a_voice - October 08, 2010 at 01:31 pm

@anonscribe: I wonder why you mentioned Harvard because there are many other private nonprofit colleges. I do not want to eliminate public higher education entirely, but obviously our governments cannot pay for it. What is your plan?

14. gitanafeminista - October 11, 2010 at 11:41 am

I am higly saddened that important programs are being cut left and right, that we are no longer creative enough to find better ways to manage money. A response to everyone; Yes these times are difficult, these times are always difficult. It is these times that test us, it is these times that make us turn against eachother using others as scapegoats to stay "safe" but no one is safe, at least not really. It is funny that people can use Women's Studies, Sociology/ Social Sciences and say that we produce no effective knowledge, apologies, I am afraid to say do not in any way heal the pain from a short sighted attack. Do not add insult to injury. It is easy to stand from another point of view without allowing yourself to be in the same shoes and use certain groups as scapegoats. This is getting old folks, let's get a little bit more creative, because if we keep on being technical and discrediting other studies we will end up sacrificing humanity. These studies are not only theories and perhaps or as if. These studies help keep a balance between fully destroying the world and defending it, oh but excuse me, it is alright because one day the really rich people will be able to have a new planet when the Earth is dried of all it's resources. Everything is connected folks, let's have a little more respect for each other.
Why not stand together? Why stand against eacother, I believe that we are intelligent enough; all of us to find out good and effective ways to solve these problems. I am not looking to attack anyone, and I am not naive but I do have faith in people. People can surprise you for the better, everyday good deeds are proof that people can be innately good. Every study desrves respect, everybody deserves respect, let's not make any people, program or nation disposable bodies.
And many people protest because they know the importance of education, they know that if one or two programs go many more will follow. The people who protest know how to read, write and count because otherwise they may not be protesting, they may not even be aware of the things that are happenning. But these people who are or have protested are informed, because they feel that their political participation matters and makes a difference.
I am tired of being used as a scapegoat, people can only be oppressed for so long, but like a volcanoe always errupts, so do people.
It is not time to stand appart it is time to find a middle ground; a consensus.

15. gitanafeminista - October 11, 2010 at 11:54 am

And nothing is a handout, not in this tough as rocks country, the richest country in the world that mocks itself, cannot find money to keep education and Democracy. A handout would be a handout for privileged folks not unprivileged one's perhaps some folks can only see from a certain position perhaps that is why there is no understanding, because I am always wrong and you're alway right, if that is so- how do we/ can we produce new, textured, and rich knowledge- not staying in the same box may help.

16. jsandr1 - October 13, 2010 at 10:50 am

What a thrill it was to see the LSU Jazz Funeral for Higher Education splashed all over the Chronicle on October 8! One of the things that got 400 faculty and students riled up at this otherwise apathetic institution was the case of the Foreign Language Fourteen. With $42 million of budget cuts mandated to the LSU campus for 2010-2011, fourteen foreign language instructors are the ONLY faculty being dismissed in the middle of the academic year, for an approximate savings of $270,000. We have presented a very reasonable argument to the administration for extending our contracts through August 2011 (something 224 other endangered instructors received) but we have been told that "we live in hard economic times" and "the money simply isn't there." Never mind that the graduation requirements for hundreds of students are jeopardized. Never mind that the Department of Foreign Languages and Literatures was targeted in covert meetings over the summer. Never mind that the administration is making unilateral decisions that drastically affect the curriculum over which it has no such authority and for which there is, apparently, no accountability. Never mind that one of those instructors provides the only foreign language option for students with disabilities. Never mind that Japanese, Russian, Swahili and Portuguese will no longer be taught at LSU. Never mind that the classics, Italian and German faculties have been cut in half. The administration stands by its decision to dismiss these fourteen faculty members as of January 2011 "given the budget situation." The arbitrariness of these actions has created an atmosphere of distrust and fear at LSU. The Foreign Language Fourteen believe that Louisiana State University is setting a dangerous precedent, and, despite the odds, we are determined to fight to save foreign languages at this once noble institution. For more on the Foreign Language Fourteen, find us at http://www.FLXIV.blogspot.com.

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