New York City Students and Labor Rally: Three Grievances
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
New York City Students and Labor Rally: Three Grievances
New York, NY (November 29, 2011): An unseasonably warm Monday afternoon greeted the much anticipated actions of student activists and labor organizers following the violent crackdown on CUNY students and faculty at Baruch College last Monday, November 21. Students from across CUNY and universities city-wide, and workers represented by the Professional Staff Congress, the Transit Workers’ Union, Communication Workers of America, United Federation of Teachers, the Laborers International Union of North America, the American Postal Workers’ Union, the United Auto Workers’ Union, and others gathered by the hundreds in front of an effectively shut-down vertical campus building at Baruch College. The shut-down followed President Mitchell Wallerstein’s call announced Saturday to reschedule all classes beginning after 3pm on Monday and granting all staff administrative leave for the afternoon.
Wallerstein’s decision to close the university followed what he and the administration claims were restrained and earnest attempts to protect students and trustees last Monday, November 21. Numerous examples of independently shot footage clearly demonstrate that students, not CUNY security, were attacked with excessive force when bottle-necked in the lobby of Baruch’s vertical campus building after being denied access to the Board of Trustees Public Hearing. While presented as a public forum where students, faculty and staff could share their thoughts on proposed changes to adjunct health care and tuition hikes, a number of CUNY students who signed up to speak were unable to gain admission. Independent reporting by courageous student journalists for Hunter College’s student paper The Envoy also demonstrates that the NYPD was overtly involved in the policing of CUNY students inside Baruch college. The testimony of CUNY faculty and students arrested last Monday corroborates this evidence.
Monday, November 28 marked the annual meeting of the CUNY Board of Trustees, wherein implementation of proposed tuition hikes, the possibility of adjunct healthcare, and added just last week, a proposed $15M increase in spending on CUNY security were discussed. Students, labor, and the CUNY community rallied at Madison Square Park; gathered in front of Baruch; and marched around the vertical campus emphasizing three main demands:
1. End the privatization of public education. Citizens of New York City and CUNY community members recognize that the New York is the City University of New York. The troubling moves away from a truly public institution, of which the 35% tuition hikes are one example, mean less access and less opportunity for all New Yorkers. Professor of English at Hunter College, Sarah Chinn, recounts that on the faculty solidarity march from Madison Square Park to Baruch Monday afternoon, a woman stopped to ask what was going on. Several informed her about the protests against tuition hikes and she responded “my son’s going to Baruch next year. I don’t know if we can afford higher tuition.” Chinn then noticed that the woman “and her 12 year old daughter picked up signs and marched with us.”
2. Stop the criminalization of NYC students and the excessive policing of education space. Last Monday’s events clarified what many in New York City know too well already, that police and security forces do not bring the sense of personal security conducive to an open learning environment or required for intellectual creativity to flourish. The violent detainment of 15 CUNY students and faculty and the unnecessary arrest of 5 students and faculty is indicative of a campaign of intimidation and silencing of dissent on CUNY campuses. Following the events at UC Davis this month, the increasing presence of security on CUNY schools, and the outrageous proposal to increase security spending by $15 million while simultaneous tuition hikes and threats to adjunct healthcare are being debated, students, faculty, staff, associated labor, and the community at large stand against the criminalization of students and faculty and demand that the CUNY administration take significant steps to remove police presence on CUNY campuses.
3. Abolish the undemocratic CUNY Board of Trustees. Nothing shows the devastating aloofness of the CUNY administration more deftly than the decision to cancel undergraduate classes and regular administrative activity on the Baruch campus to ensure an uninterrupted meeting on the 14th floor. The CUNY community recognizes that its undemocratically appointed Board of Trustees has more in common with the 1% than with the diverse educational community it is mandated to serve. Closing the campus on Monday was a clear intimidation tactic deterring CUNY students, faculty and staff, and community members from attending the public meeting where the Board would make the decisions that effect the entire community.
The student-led march started south on Lexington following a Speak Out hosted by Students United for a Free CUNY in front of Baruch. Barbara Bowen of the Professional Staff Congress endorsed the march, despite its not being planned before and encouraged members to stand with and by students. The growing crowd weaved its way back to 25th street to meet trustees as they purportedly prepared to leave the building through a back door around 6pm. A large crowd faced two rows of NYPD police officers chanting, “Abolish the Board of Trustees.” Back in front of the main entrance to the vertical campus building, chants continued, including “Tuition was free when [Board of Trustees Chancellor Matthew] Goldstein went to CUNY.”
Reports indicate that at least four CUNY students were arrested. One was released later Monday evening.
The boisterous musical styling of the Rude Mechanical Orchestra kept spirits high throughout the afternoon. Final mic checks included details about the December 1st union rally, the next CUNY-wide General Assembly (Saturday, December 3rd at 3pm at Brooklyn College) and the echoing declaration from student activists through a 4-tiered human mic that “this is just the beginning.”