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Queens College Walks Out to Defend Public Education
To whom it may concern:
“Education is a social process. Education is growth. Education is, not a preparation for life; education is life itself.” – John Dewey
Education is a right, not a privilege. It provides more opportunities for individuals to realize their full capacity to grow as human beings. Privatizing education secludes communities from that right. In our present society, there is a strong emphasis placed on education for advancement. How does privatizing public education offer the opportunity of prosperity for people, regardless of class? How does privatizing public education help the disenfranchised? It doesn’t. In fact, it seeks to exclude these communities by turning our colleges into franchises.
The CUNY tradition, at its beginning, was based on the right to accessible and free education for its students. At the time the student body homogeneously consisted of Caucasian men. Despite strides made in civil rights, prior to 1969, the CUNY system was exclusionary to people of color, the communities that mainly make up this city. It was the result of militant occupations, initiated by
students in CUNY that forced the administration to open admissions.
Coincidentally, soon after CUNY opened admissions, students for the first time received a tuition bill. Since 1976, tuition has incrementally expanded. Despite spikes in unemployment, students were expected to scrounge for money to pay tuition. Our generation is no exception to the burdens of this hassle, so we seek to carry on the tradition of past generations’ struggles.
On March 31st, 2011, Queens College students will be taking part in the Nationwide Walkout and Strike to Defend Public Education. Consider what we confront. We have faced three tuition hikes in the past five years, two being within the past two years. There are less full-time professors and more
adjuncts. There are more students per class creating more workload for professors. This just breaches the surface. The CUNY Chancellor received a hefty pay increase which nearly doubled his base annual salary to $600,000.
Meanwhile, we have been told that CUNY is in need of money and resources. With tuition rising, college services dwindling and the quality of our education suffering, the chancellor’s pay is rising. President James Muyskens is in full support of the tuition hike. The hikes were not openly shared with the students until the last minute, so it is only fair that we get mad. This is our time to speak and if we are not heard at first, we will speak regardless. We are striving not simply as individuals, but as a college.
As students we have united to work together while the administration and the Board of Trustees works against us. We walkout to remove ourselves from the institution that is attempting to subordinate us. We walkout for the lack of transparency that the CUNY institution has become. We walkout for the lack of consideration for our adjuncts, who work like mules and get paid poverty line wages. We walkout because we refuse to accept the brunt of economic recessions as an excuse for tuition hikes. We walkout for those undocumented persons who have been refused an education. We walkout in anger of the pay raises these “working-class millionaires” receive, while they vote for the demise of working class students. We walkout for the lack of Black and Latino students on campus, which is evident in the low enrollment of Area Studies in, Queens, the most diversified of the five boroughs. We walkout in solidarity with the students suing for the unlawful spikes in tuition. We walkout in solidarity with high school students facing their respective struggles in the face of school closures. We walkout to failed promises Obama didn’t keep to the youth that put him in office.
We are tired. We are angry. We are frustrated. This is why we walkout. This is why we strike.
We have had enough,
Queens College Students
Queens College Walks Out to Defend Public Education
Thursday, March 31, 2011
We are the students united through struggle, for we have a world to win and nothing to lose but the complicity of our silence. In standing together and marching, we (Queens College students) demand:
1. Free tuition! For education is our right. Until this is accomplished, roll back all the hikes.
2. The increase of funding for student services that are essential for student life on campus, both academically and socially (including, but not limited to academic resources, technology, student support, student activities, etc).
3. Student power and representation in decision making bodies like the Personnel and Budget Committee, which oversees faculty promotions, for we must have a say in who teaches us and in what they teach us.
4. Absolute transparency and accountability of the administration. In addition, we demand the representation of the student body in the decision making process, including access to Board of Trustees meetings and minutes, ensuring that the administration represents the interests of the students. We call for regular meetings with the administration and the student government, to establish a conduit through which we can voice our concerns and demands.
5. That services utilized by Queens College be socially conscious, ethical and safe for the environment, i.e. less contracts with multi-million dollar corporations (Starbucks, Coca Cola), replacement of corporate catering contracts (Chartwells, whose parent company Compass Group took in a profit of around $950 million in 2009), thus opening spaces for local businesses, student and community employment, and healthier, more affordable options. Not only do these contractors grossly overcharge for sub-par products, but they mistreat their workers, with whom we stand in solidarity.
6. That Queens College subsidize all textbooks and supplies. We propose a school/student run, not for profit bookstore replacing eFollett, which rakes in around $2 billion annually from the pockets of students nationwide.
7. An end to CUNY’s exclusionary and discriminatory practices. Our demands include, but are not limited to:
- the removal of programs that support elitism and student exceptionalism (Macaulay Honors, whose students are given access to a disproportionate amount of resources, and are blatantly held at a higher regard, antagonizing students).
- the access to all available resources and services for undocumented students.
- open admissions to incorporate the people of the city for whom The City University of NY was founded. The absence of which perpetuates the vicious and cyclical under-education of the working class.
- the demilitarization of our learning institutions, disallowing armed services from entering, what should be, our sanctuary of education. There are more booths allotted to armed services (US Navy, Marines, Coast Guard, etc) at our career fairs, attended by the vastly urban, working class student body, than there are other career options.
- an end to racist, sexist, homophobic and other discriminatory practices For instance, the refusal to address the issue of blood drives, which blatantly discriminate against those of us in the LGBT community.
- the increase in funding and resources for area studies and to further develop non-existing area studies (like gender/masculinity studies, LGBT studies, etc.).
- we demand a diverse academic staff (ethnicity and gender) to ensure appropriate professors for area/regional studies.
8. Justice for workers. Issues for adjuncts continue to arise, but their needs are constantly overlooked. Provide them with better health benefits, equitable compensation and access to tenure track. We demand an end to the expendability of the adjuncts and the other workers, and call for implementation of fair contracts, for we, the students, stand arm in arm with the workers. Same enemy, same fight, workers and students all unite!