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.
Trailer for N28 Event: http://youtu.be/d2YVwMRLjw4
Follow @OccupyCUNYGC on Twitter
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 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:
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.
 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.