In a remarkable display of solidarity, thousands of students struck classes yesterday. A growing coalition of both undergraduates and graduates organized this strike for four key demands, including the rollback of student fees, funding for diversity outreach and accountability, an end to unwarranted and unconstitutional police patrols in dorm hallways and regaining student control over student space. Grassroots organizing has been taking place over the past two weeks to galvanize the student body and ensure student participation.
The strike began at 8:45 a.m. as picketers protested across the campus. Throughout the day alternative educational teach-ins were held on topics varying from issues of state funding in higher education to policing of dorms. The sessions ran from 9:30 a.m. to 12 p.m. then resumed later in the afternoon. At 11 a.m. in the Cape Cod Lounge organizers held a press conference to present the demands of the student strike. At noon the Student Union Ballroom was home to a massive rally, as close to 1,500 students stood shoulder to shoulder and chanted to express discontent with the administration. Several speakers took the microphone and offered their personal reasons for supporting the strike.
In spite of the cold and miserable day, nearly the entire crowd then marched from the Student Union to the Whitmore administrative building -entering energetically to flood the second and third floors. The 90-minute occupation successfully broke the administration’s stonewalling by securing a promise in writing to meet about the students’ demands, despite the Interim Chancellor Thomas Cole Jr.’s vacation leave and Vice Chancellor Gargano’s convenient absence.
The rally then left Whitmore and students marched along North Pleasant Street to restate the demands to the administration that they need to reverse course and seriously negotiate with student representatives. In a powerful show of solidarity and control, hundreds of highly motivated students marched peacefully through the rain to the Campus Center. The marchers concluded in the Campus Center restating their demands and directing interested parties to the afternoon teach-ins.
As students and allies we delivered a loud wake-up call to the snoozing administration to fund and be held accountable for diversity, address the astronomical and unsubstantiated rise in student fees and acknowledge the spaces built with student fees as rightfully for student use and the growing concern over the unwarranted invasion of police in student dorms.
The rally and the teach-ins held in the Student Union were a reminder of the true intention of the building, which was built in 1957 and funded entirely by student fees. However, through the decades, Auxiliary Services and the administration have slowly privatized student space, giving outside businesses priority for rooms and charging exorbitant equipment fees. We showed for a day that this space still belongs to us, not for the profit-making schemes of the university.
The inspiring turnout for yesterday’s events is only the beginning of the development of a student movement. Today the strike will continue with increased picketing across campus and more alternative educational teach-ins. This strike – a tremendous step towards building the power – needed to hold the administration accountable to student demands. During the Whitmore occupation, Joyce Hatch and other administrators agreed to begin to negotiate with elected student leaders. Next Tuesday, November 20 at 3:30 p.m. in conjunction with the first in a series of negotiations, organizers are calling on students to speak out and continue to address our demands.
Most of all, we have been encouraged by the outpouring of student support and passion. Yesterday’s strike, rally and occupation of Whitmore shook the administration, yet they are only a beginning. We will continue to fight until our demands are met.
Representatives from the SGA and GSS
This letter does not necessarily reflect the opinions of The Massachusetts Daily Collegian editorial board.