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On top of labor unrest in Chicago and youth unrest in Greece, truckers affiliated with the ever-awesome Industrial Workers of the World are going on strike!
In the face of record budget cuts for universities and colleges across the country -- both public and private -- now is the perfect time for students to assert their influence on important decisions coming down the pike.
Thanks to their insistence that students and faculty have no real say in the budget process, university administrators and trustees have few other places to point the finger of blame (other than to generic woes like the stock market, investor skittishness, state budget shortfalls -- but you'll note they use these excuses just as often during times of surplus too). Idiotic "investments" into massive stadiums and grandiose buildings are permanent, unrecoverable costs. The aspects of higher education that are truly meaningful and important are, unfortunately, all too recoverable: scholarships can be rolled back, professors can be fired, and department budgets can be cut.
Administrators and Trustees are eager to assert responsibility, except when something goes wrong. During times of plenty, the line is "trust us, we're the experts with money, and only we can handle the budget effectively." During times of scarcity and crisis, all of a sudden it's "Don't blame us! We're victims of circumstance and factors outside our control - blame someone else!" If they're so keen on taking responsibility when they're flush with cash, then let's hold them to it when they've mismanaged themselves into the red.
This is an opportunity for students to unite and tell those who run the university "you've had your chance -- it's time for more responsible people (that's us!) to take the reins."
It had all the trappings of a revolutionary moment: a brutal regime, agitated students and workers, tanks, seized radio stations...
If any title will bring out the Ron Paul, Milton Friedman, and Ayn Rand fans, it'll be this one. :)
I was at a teach-in at UMD a week or two ago organized by SDSers to talk about the financial crisis. It was a great presentation - and I'd encourage folks to do similar things on their campuses. It's a great way to engage students about radical/progressive economics.
Afterward I got in a discussion with a right-libertarian - the Milton Friedman, Ron Paul type. His basic line of argument was that there's too much regulation of the financial industry.
I was floored.
The Latest Right Wing Assault on Higher Ed, or "Those who make revolutions by halves do but dig themselves a grave."
One of the few lasting institutional impacts of 60s and 70s student activism is the proliferation of identity-based academic departments: black studies, women's (and now gender) studies, queer studies, native studies, Hispanic studies, etc.
Often these departments are the last havens for dissidents in the professoriat, thanks to disciplines like political science and sociology increasingly de-politicized (largely through emphasis on quantitative than qualitative - if it can't have hard numbers ascribed to it, good luck getting funding - or tenure!). Critics of the way universities are run usually come from these departments too, which makes sense as their very creation stemmed from backlash against a privileged and oppressive curricula and governing structure.
Here's a great example of students taking matters into their own hands, and bypassing "authorized" methods of student participation (student government/council).
Scotland School for Veterans Children has made several changes for the new school year, the result of a student protest held at the end of last school year.
Earlier this month, the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals reaffirmed the right of public school students to criticize school policies. The First Amendment Center:
A three-judge panel agreed that school officials in Watson Chapel, Ark., violated the constitutional rights of three students in 2006 who were disciplined for wearing black armbands or wristbands to school to protest a new policy enforcing school uniforms, and for handing out a flier objecting to the policy.
The administrators agreed in court that the student protest did not disrupt classes or order at the school.
The 8th Circuit panel said that despite restrictive decisions since it was handed down, including the 2007 Supreme Court decision in the so-called "Bong Hits for Jesus" case, "Tinker remains good law." Students in both Tinker and the Watson Chapel case were exercising a right of protest against a government policy — something officials in every school ought to celebrate by example, not denigrate.
Last week, Barack Obama confirmed what many had hoped was a misstatement made in the primaries. Washington Post:
Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) took the occasion to chide Columbia for its lack of on-campus ROTC. "I don't think that's right," Mr. McCain said. "Shouldn't the students here be exposed to the attractiveness of serving in the military, particularly as an officer?" Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.) readily agreed, calling Columbia's anti-ROTC stance a "mistake."
Flash back several months (courtesy For Student Power):
From last night's Democratic debate, as reported by The Hill:
Obama and Edwards both said that they supported withholding funding from higher education institutions that do not provide ROTC programs to students. Clinton initially said she would enforce laws to stop funding but later said of prominent schools that do not have ROTC programs that "there are ways they can work out fulfilling that obligation."
What they were talking about is the Solomon Amendment — a law passed in 1996 (and upheld unanimously by the Supreme Court) that allows the Secretary of Defense to strip a college or university of all Federal funding if the school bans/prohibits ROTC or any other military recruitment on campus.
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Ya gotta use some strategery.