The General Assembly of the Graduate Center, CUNY Stands in Solidarity with The Students for a Free Cooper Union

We, the General Assembly of the Graduate Center of the City University of New York stand in solidarity with the Cooper Union Student Occupation. We believe Cooper Union should be free. We believe that CUNY should be free.

We are inspired by the Students for a Free Cooper Union who have taken action to call attention to the institution’s plans to impose tuition on Cooper Union students for the first time in the institution’s history. Their courage and foresight have powerfully challenged the current administration’s assault on Cooper Union’s 150-year commitment to excellent tuition-free education. We stand with these students in their rejection of the restructuring of universities based on austerity policies and a fallacious logic of “comparative affordability.” Colleges and universities with long histories of free admission should not be forced to compete with the tuition rates at other institutions. We refuse this logic of competition and oppose the commodification of education and on every level.

We see the student occupation of Peter Cooper Suite as a legitimate and necessary direct action. The occupation intervenes in an illegitimate decision-making process from which students have been excluded. We believe students and educators must be a part of the governing structures of their universities. We support Students for a Free Cooper Union in their denunciation of the current administration and their demand for transparency, accountability, and direct participation in governance. We echo them in denouncing the CUNY Board of Trustees as an illegitimate governing body and demand more faculty and student control of the City University of New York.

Until 1976, CUNY too offered tuition-free education to New Yorkers, and we still live with the memory of the struggle against tuition implementation. Tuition degrades the quality of life of students and their families and it necessarily leads to the exclusion of those who cannot pay. As we know all too well at CUNY, tuition increases always disproportionately affect working class people and people of color. Tuition implementation is a classist project. Tuition implementation is a racist project.

We support the call for President Bharucha to step down. The Cooper Union administration must enter into good-faith discussions with Students for a Free Cooper Union and they must unconditionally include student voices in all future decisions which bear on the structure and governance of the University.  

We categorically denounce any past, present, or future use of violence to force these students to desist and to intimidate others from addressing these issues. We also demand that the Cooper Union administration make a public statement ensuring that no legal retribution against these students will be taken. Students must be respected and listened to, not silenced, sidelined, belittled or repressed.

The occupation at Cooper Union is an inspiring demonstration of student power and a radical demand for more student control over the future of the university.

in solidarity and struggle,

The General Assembly of the Graduate Center,
The City University of New York

Five Theses on the Student Strike

Five Theses on the Student Strike

I. As students, we strike at the heart of an economy that depends on an education system that exploits us, disciplines us, and profits from us.

To strike as students is to recognize ourselves as workers in the present and future economy. Our labor is necessary to produce and reproduce an educational system which is a source of profit and plunder for the 1% and a source of disciplined and exploitable labor power. A student strike is a refusal of this role at every level—from high schools to colleges and universities. So long as the employing class profits from our knowledge, we should not pay tuition and be plunged into debt in order to be employable. Instead, we should be guaranteed a wage to learn.

II. We strike to reject a system that divides us.

We strike because our desire to learn must not be used to maintain violent social divisions. We reject a system that exploits our differences and divides us along race, sexual, gender, and class lines. We are taught that education is our best means to ‘get ahead’ in life, yet, many are also left behind, devalued, discarded, or simply excluded. We reject a system that forces us into vicious competition and pits us against each other.

III. We strike against a failing system that robs us of our future.  

We strike against the devaluation of our education through austerity measures, rising tuition and budget cuts. We strike against being doomed to lifelong debt, constant training and re-skilling, and against a system that saddles us with the cost of producing exploitable workers for the market. We refuse an educational system governed by the dictates of competition, individualism, and profit.

IV. We strike to affirm and create education as we want it.

We strike for an educational system that serves our collective needs and desires. We want to be decision-makers in our collective future, for knowledge to be a genuine commons and not a source of profit.

V. We strike to build our collective power and create something new.

To strike is to realize our power to determine our everyday lives. We refuse to let our bodies and our minds be held hostage to the current educational and work regimes, to collaborate quietly as the violent logic of capital bankrupts us of our present and future. We strike together to build a better world and reclaim our future.

- by Students at the CUNY Graduate Center, first published in
Tidal (2012)

 

THE CUNY PROTESTS: by David Harvey

 

THE CUNY PROTESTS

David Harvey

The proposal to impose a large tuition increase throughout the CUNY system at a time of lagging personal incomes and widespread unemployment makes absolutely no sense.  It undermines the right of all New Yorkers to have access to a decent public higher education at minimum cost.  The proposal emanates from a hysterical attachment to a politics of austerity and debt reduction in recessionary times.  This policy does not reflect economic necessity. It derives from the political power of big money interests – what I call “The Party of Wall Street” – to impose callous solutions on the mass of the population while they themselves pay nothing.  The most vulnerable elements in the population are thereby forced to pay for a recession they did not create, while those who drove the economy to the brink of disaster gain even more control over the national wealth.

This untoward proposal for a tuition increase must be collectively resisted by all elements within with the CUNY system, from Administrators and Faculty to Students and all the many employees (from Security Guards to Janitors) of an educational system that has served the economic interests of the state and the interests of the people so well over so many years.

It is therefore tragic to see rights of association, assembly and protest, rights guaranteed by the Constitution, trampled upon by policies formulated within the CUNY system that seem designed to deny the right to protest and to restrict the possibility for open and and pacific dialogue.

The response of some CUNY administrators to the protests has followed an unfortunate pattern that is now emerging right throughout the United States, which is to respond with untoward force and sometimes outright police violence to all those who are protesting the astonishing levels of social inequality that have now become the norm in the United States.

The problem is not simply that the disparities in wealth and income are inherently unfair, but that the concentrations of wealth and money power in the “one per cent” now so distort the political process, the means of communication and even our educational system, as to displace and defy the will of the people through resort to the corruptive power of the almighty dollar.

The CUNY system is an enormous asset for the State of New York and for its people.  I call upon all elements within the CUNY system to collectively mobilize to resist the untoward imposition of this added economic burden of increasing tuition upon students and their families.  Debt peonage for life, the creation of an ever more deeply indebted class of graduates from CUNY, is no real solution to the problems of public indebtedness.  It simply transfers the burden of debt to a class of people least able to handle it.  Our goal should be to create a higher educational system in CUNY that is free, fair and not debt-encumbered for individual students.  This is the political solution for which we must all systematically strive.  That solution will only become possible if the rights to freely assemble, associate and protest are also systematically protected and supported rather than systematically and forcefully denied.

I call upon all those with the interests of CUNY and the people of New York State at heart to support the protests and to seek to initiate a process of reform of public education in the State of New York that delivers free and fair education for all.

 

28TH NOVEMBER, 2011

-David Harvey, Distinguished Professor, CUNY Graduate Center

 

CUNY Students Rally for Education and Against Anti-Democratic Lock-Down

A People’s Assembly to Defend Education,

An action endorsed by the Professional Staff Congress, set for Monday, November 28 at 4 p.m.

Media Inquires: Dominique Nisperos (510) 788-0085 / Elizabeth Sibilia (347) 249-2326

New York, NY (November 27, 2011) – In a defensive move, City University New York’s (CUNY) Baruch College President Mitchel Wallerstein announced yesterday his decision to cancel all classes beginning after 3:00 p.m. on Monday, November 28th at the school’s Newman Vertical Campus. The lock-down coincides with the 4:30 p.m. convening of the CUNY Board of Trustees, to finalize contentious votes on across-the-board $1,500 tuition increase and the allocation of up to $15 million to expand security inside CUNY schools.

The campus lock-down is planned even though CUNY’s own legal department shows that the meeting falls under New York State Open Meeting Law and is legally required to be open to the public, including any CUNY students who wish to attend as long as the room is at legal capacity.

“This desperate and unethical move by the Board of Trustees and Baruch officials represents a victory for students and the public” explains a doctoral student in Anthropology at The CUNY Graduate Center who also teaches at Hunter College. “They’ve gone to such great lengths to shut us out on the 28th because they finally get that we have the power of numbers, righteousness, and ideas on our side.”

While Wallerstein asserts the campus closure is necessary to “ensure the safety of all students, faculty and staff during the period surrounding the meeting,” many students and faculty opposing the fees see the move as a further example of the misdirected priorities of the system’s administration.

A week prior to the scheduled meeting, hundreds of CUNY students were denied access to a purportedly public hearing at their own university. A peaceful attempt to hold an alternative hearing and sit-in in the building’s lobby was met with CUNY security officers wielding batons to jab, shove, and hit students and faculty. Despite administrative claims otherwise, video evidence documents that CUNY Officers initiated an unprovoked attack on students and the presence of New York Police Department Officers within the school. 15 students were arrested, several injured, and five held in jail overnight in New York’s central booking.

University faculty view these acts as attempts to silence the growing dissent at CUNY and have responded to the brutality with a student solidarity campaign, collecting more than 2,000 signatures petitioning for the resignation of Chancellor Matthew Goldstein–who also doubles as a Trustee of the JP Morgan Funds.

“I’m proud to teach at a university where students take their education so seriously that they are willing to protest to defend it, even when faced with brutal police violence,” says Anthony Alessandrini, Associate Professor of English at Kingsborough Community College. “The violent attacks on student protesters at CUNY and other universities is an attack not only upon their right to express their views, but an attack upon their fundamental human right to pursue their education.”

A coalition of students from across CUNY’s campuses has organized students, staff, faculty, community and union members for A People’s Assembly to Defend Education, an action officially endorsed by the Professional Staff Congress (PSC), a rally for increased access to public education, democratic decision-making, and against policing and police brutality. The event will convene on Monday, November 28, at 4:00 p.m. Outside of Baruch College’s 25th Street Vertical Campus building.

URL: http://www.occupycunynews.org

Trailer for N28 Event: http://youtu.be/d2YVwMRLjw4

Follow @OccupyCUNYGC on Twitter

PRESS RELEASE: Board of Trustees Public and Budget Hearing, Baruch College, CUNY #occupyCUNY[1], November 21, 2011

WE CONDEMN the use of police violence against CUNY community members who were protesting peacefully at the public Board of Trustees Public and Budget Hearing at Baruch College on November 21, 2011. We also reject the official statement[2] released by the administration of the City University of New York regarding those events.

STUDENTS, FACULTY, AND STAFF peacefully entered the Baruch lobby to attend the public meeting of the Board of Trustees and were immediately met by a line of police carrying large wooden truncheons and blocking access to the building. Students who were on the official roster of speakers were also denied access. At no time did the students, faculty, and staff attempt to push past the massed police officers, nor to confront them physically in any way. The police directed us to the first-floor overflow room where the meeting would be televised live. Knowing that our voices would not be heard in the broadcast room, we decided that we would hold an assembly in the lobby and allow people to tell their stories and testimonies of experiences as students at CUNY. Most of us sat down on the ground so that speakers could stand and be heard.

THE POLICE ATTACKED US shortly after we sat down and began pushing us toward the wall, responding to our peaceful, lawful protest with physical confrontation. The suggestion provided in the CUNY administration’s statement that anyone “surged forward toward the college’s identification turnstiles, where they were met by CUNY Public Safety officers and Baruch College officials” is a categorical lie, and this is documented in video footage of the events (see below). As the officers continued to push us away from the public meeting, they blocked all exits from the lobby but a single, revolving door, through which we were forced to walk one at a time. Many of the peaceful protesters were shoved violently by the campus police, jabbed and struck in their ribs with wooden truncheons, and left badly bruised. At least one student was struck in the face. It was a miracle that no one was more seriously injured. Those who refused to leave were told that they would be arrested; when one person identified himself to officers as a CUNY faculty member and asked on what charge he would be arrested, he was not given an answer. Another officer blurted, “Because it’s a riot!”

WE DEPLORE THE USE OF VIOLENCE against peaceful protesters. We deplore the criminal charges made against peaceful protesters exercising their Constitutional rights of free speech and peaceful assembly. We also deplore the CUNY administration’s misrepresentation of the events at Baruch, devised to obscure its complicity in violent action against its own students, faculty, staff, and community.

###

Video footage of the event can be viewed at the following links:
www.youtube.com/watch?v=Czi4Htwti44
http://vimeo.com/32494471
http://youtu.be/YAX4tzcPM9E
http://youtu.be/JpX48XIStEw
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nkBGMULZKxY
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wGMS5G3gxq8
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NGvO8TQSLQk
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gSeNS77XJd0
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Klsh3YlhEg8
https://www.facebook.com/video/?id=168721598130
http://www.theticker.org/about/2.8215/students-united-for-a-free-cuny-escalates-at-baruch-nvc-1.2675035#.TstLcvEWUTk


WHO WE ARE:

We are CUNY. We are of the working class of New York City. We teach the working class of New York City; we teach the immigrants who have come to New York to live and work; we teach the present and future public employees of New York City. Our brothers, sisters, children, cousins, nieces, nephews, grandparents—they are police officers, firefighters, social workers, teachers, factory workers. WE ARE NEW YORK CITY AND WE STAND WITH NEW YORK CITY. We are CUNY students, who believe in this university and in this city. We are CUNY faculty, who have chosen to teach at CUNY because we believe in the mission to educate and elevate our sisters and brothers. We are the 99%, and we demand a public education system that is truly public.

For standing with our brothers, sisters, and students, we have been assaulted by police officers who have not yet accepted that they have a legal responsibility to refuse unlawful orders, and that they have a moral responsibility to follow their conscience when they are told to turn on their own. Our fight is not with the Police Department of the City of New York, but the NYPD has chosen to fight their own brothers and sisters, mothers and fathers, and children. We have no desire to be in conflict with them, but if they continue to “just follow orders” in the face of all moral, ethical, and political compulsions to the contrary, then we have no choice but to resist them. But we will resist them peacefully, civilly, using our rights to do so. We do not want to fight them; we want them to realize that our fight is one fight. We know that they know this.

The students and teachers of the CUNY system stand with all of those who believe in the mission of public education, and the crucial importance of education for the public. We stand against those who seek to privatize an institution that was established to serve the most disadvantaged of New Yorkers. And we refuse to passively accept a program of tuition increases that would disenfranchise our students, whom we love and we fight for every day of the week. We do our jobs based on heartfelt and hard-won principles; we study in order to be better citizens and workers, we teach to be better citizens; and we ask that the city’s police, firefighters, public employees, teachers, transport workers, shopkeepers, students, factory workers, service workers, care workers, health workers—THAT THE WHOLE CITY STAND WITH US.


[2] CUNY Newswire. “STATEMENT FROM THE CITY UNIVERSITY OF NEW YORK”. 21 November, 2011. (http://www1.cuny.edu/mu/forum/2011/11/21/statement-from-the-city-university-of-new-york-2/). Accessed 21 November, 2011.