Today, Sunday 10/20, the City College/CUNY administration has taken over the Guillermo Morales/Assata Shakur Student and Community Center.
As of early Sunday morning, the North Academic Center, which houses the Morales/Shakur Center, and the library were both closed during the day. Though the library has since reopened, the Morales/Shakur Center remains closed, despite a policy for all CCNY buildings to be open 24 hours during midterms week to allow students to study. Police, CUNY Security, and administrators have been refusing to let students into the Morales/Shakur Center, and have already arrested one former CCNY student. The administration has placed a sign in front of the Morales/Shakur Center that reads “Center for Professional Development.” A University representative informed students in a press release that the Morales/Shakur center has been closed and will be designated furthermore as a Career Resource center. Books, documents, and personal belongings of students were removed from the center and are being held and “examined”.
An emergency press conference will be held before a CUNY demonstration Monday, October 21st, 12:30pm, outside City College at 138th St. and Amsterdam Ave.
The Morales/Shakur Center–won through 1990s CUNY struggles–has been an invaluable space for community groups to meet on campus, for students to connect with their political elders, and for movement histories to be retained and shared in Harlem. The Center has provided a space for students to organize around a number of issues recently, including the addition of gender identity into the school’s anti-discrimination policy, and the combating of rape culture at City College.
The closure of this space is a serious assault on our right as students to organize and cultivate community. This follows the September 17 arrest of six CUNY students peacefully protesting David Petraeus’s teaching appointment. Furthermore, the CUNY Board of Trustees plans to impose a policy broadly curtailing our right to political assembly on CUNY campuses at its next November 25 business meeting.
Please join us Monday, October 21 at 12:30 pm outside the North Academic Center to hold CUNY accountable for its stifling of student voices and disempowerment of community organizing.
Teaching college is a white-collar job. It is not dangerous or degrading; it happens on college campuses, which often are pleasant and have trees and sometimes inspirational phrases about learning carved into stone buildings; it is—except for the low pay and lack of benefits and constant uncertainty about the future—a good job. Karen Gregory calls this a “cruel double standard: you’ve made this choice to go into a bad career that has high social status.” Many of the comments directed at her, and others who raise the adjunct issue, are concerned with protecting the sanctity of teaching. A professor should not be so vulgar as to talk about the material reality of her life.
Michelle Obama kept up her tradition of delivering graduation speeches that tackle America’s struggle with discrimination, using her final commencement address as first lady to warn against Donald Trump and his campaign of intolerance.
While the first lady did not mention Trump by name during her speech to the graduates of City College in New York Friday, she delivered some thinly veiled shots at the controversial businessman who has taken his campaign of Birtherism so far he’s now attempting to succeed her husband after working tirelessly to delegitimize him for years.
“All of you know for centuries this city has been the gateway to America for so many striving, hope-filled immigrants,” Obama remarked to the students at one of New York’s oldest public institutions, adding that the school has long been a place where students “didn’t have to hide their last names or their accents”
The story of the United States, the first lady reminded the graduates, striking a stark contrast between Trump’s vision of a scared and insular nation, is one of “the son of Polish immigrants named Jonas Salk who toiled for years in a lab until he discovered a vaccine that saved countless lives. It’s the story of the son of Jamaican immigrants named Colin Powell who became a four-star general, secretary of state, and a role model for young people across the country.”
“It’s the story that I witness every single day,” the first lady said, “when I wake up in a house that was built by slaves, and I watch my daughters — two beautiful black young women — head off to school, waving goodbye to their father, the president of the United States.”
CUNY Students Deliver Petitions to Stop Tuition Hikes
May 21, 2014
New York City – On Wednesday, May 7th, 2014, the People Power Movement-Movimiento Poder Popular (PPM-MPP) organized a delegation of students from seven CUNY schools throughout New York City to deliver petitions with a total of 1,883 signatures to New York governor Andrew Cuomo demanding to stop CUNY tuition hikes now!
In addition, PPM-MPP demands that CUNY be free, and that there be popular control of the CUNY board of trustees giving students the power to vote for the members on that board. This direct action took place on the heels of a prolonged CUNY struggle rooted in a legacy of student resistance against racist and elitist attacks on education.
The CUNY Struggle: Then and Now
Within the past sixty years, students have successfully gone on strike twice and forced CUNY to implement Open Admissions and open ethnic studies departments in 1969 and to stop tuition hikes in 1989. Recently in 2011, when Cuomo approved a “rational” tuition policy to increase tuition per year for the next five years, CUNY students mobilized again to stop it. They knew that there’s NOTHING rational about charging poor and working class people more for an education that should be free in the first place, all while the rich continue to enjoy tax-free income by exploiting us. And now, this delegation showcased what CUNY students continue to do best: hit the streets!
As we stood in front of the building that hosted the Governor’s office, CUNY students, along with a professor from the Professional Staff Congress at LaGuardia Community College, vented about the injustice of paying for an education that should be provided as a right to all and not a privilege for a few. Chants and poems rang through the dense and congested streets of downtown Manhattan as students proclaimed their dignity within an agitated crowd of young people fighting for power and change.
A Standoff with Security Guards
As we entered the building to deliver our petitions to the governor’s office, security threatened to arrest us for being on private property. We eventually found out that Governor Cuomo leased his office in a private building, which we believe is of questionable legality, especially as it provides a pretext to prevent access by the public to public officials, which is its Constitutional right. This is a clever tactic used to justify the repression of direct actions such as ours. However, we were not intimidated and waited until Cuomo’s representative came and took our petitions. We ended our direct action with powerful chants and high energy, determined to win.
The struggle to stop tuition hikes and eliminate tuition altogether will take more than this petition. We must build a mass movement, which will take time, and we believe this petition is just the first step towards our goal of a free and community controlled CUNY. PPM-MPP is organizing to complete an objective left unfinished: to have free quality education controlled by the people of our own communities.
The People Power Movement-Movimiento Poder Popular is a democratic people’s organization dedicated to educating, agitating, and organizing for Popular Control of our schools, workplaces, housing, transportation, policing, levels of government, and all areas that affect our lives, to achieve Fundamental Social Change. We identify with the interests and aspirations of poor and working people and consider the anti-racist struggle central in our efforts to obtain a humane society.
At the City University of New York, we are seeing tuition hikes of three hundred dollars per year until 2016. Many would argue that despite this, CUNY is still more affordable than a lot of other public colleges in the United States and that as students we should count ourselves lucky that our tuition is so cheap. While there may be some truth to this, with the cost of education going up and financial aid being reduced for so many, affording CUNY is not as easy as it once was for an increasing number of students. Many students are being forced out of college due to the rising cost at an institution that was free up until 1975.
Why is this happening? Well there is a much larger trend in the United States where we are seeing colleges increase tuition, while at the same time we see a decrease in aid provided- particularly at the legislative level. Over the last few years students have lost access to many federal grants and other financial aid opportunities, often blamed on budget cuts. This has led to a ballooning of student debt over the past few years, surpassing national credit card debt at over one trillion dollars. This is the next big problem and, just like the housing crisis, it disproportionately affects people of color. A report from the Center for American Progress, progressive public policy research and advocacy organization, highlights this fact : “African American and Latino students are especially saddled with student debt, with 81 percent of African American students and 67 percent of Latino students who earned bachelor’s degrees leaving school with debt.”
Similarly with the housing crisis, where lenders targeted people of color for bad loans with terrible interest rates, the same could be said for lenders such as Sallie Mae, the nations largest corporation that handles student loans. It is no accident we’re seeing tuition hikes and an increase in student loans. Sallie Mae has a hand in orchestrating this, having spent over 25 million lobbying politicians since 2002. For years they previously functioned as a federal loan servicer, turning a profit whether students paid back their loans or not. Chris Hicks,Student Debt Campaign Organizer with Jobs with Justice notes that Sallie Mae has been charged within a class action lawsuit of racial discrimination, “Through its company-wide discriminatory policy Sallie Mae intentionally violated civil rights laws, the Equal Credit Opportunity Act (ECOA),and the Truth in Lending Act (TILA) in the origination or underwriting of private student loans with the goal of increasing its earnings at the expense of minorities” says Hicks, “Sallie Mae’s practices have resulted in minority applicants being charged disproportionately higher interest rates and fees than those charged to similarly situated non minority applicants.” On top of that, Sallie Mae processes tuition transactions at CUNY, SUNY, and many other universities- further profiting off of students at their expense.
So what to do about this? Well, one idea is to kick Sallie Mae off of our campuses by cutting the contracts they have with CUNY and SUNY. This is exactly what New York Students Rising, a statewide student organization dedicated to defending public higher education, is setting out to do in conjunction with Jobs with Justice. Isabelle Nastasia, Director of Development for New York Students Rising commented, “New York Students Rising is committed to empowering low-income students and student of color – in the past, we have mostly focused on budget cuts, tuition hikes and local campus issues of how to make our educational institutions more democratic…” says Nastasia, “When we came across the Sallie Mae campaign that Jobs with Justice is putting together it seemed like a no brainer. Very few organizations are framing student loans as predatory the way that mortgages were in 2008 but I’ve looked at the lawsuit reports being filed around the violation of the Equal Credit Opportunities Act, its over one hundred pages of testimony about students of color being targeted for subprime loans…its clear that this is a racial justice issue.”
To learn more about New York Students Rising and how you can get involved visit nystudentsrising.org or email email@example.com.
Harlem, NYC: Protest to save the Morales-Shakur Center at City College of New York (CCNY), October 21, 2013.
“This is a threat to all progressive, radical and revolutionary organizing and activism in NYC. The siege of the Morales-Shakur Center marks the escalating intensification of the repression of anybody challenging the status-quo and unless all progressive forces unite at this point, the repression will become even more draconian.”
The Morales/Shakur Center was a 23 year old autonomous and liberated safe space at CCNY for radical activism and social service programs. But on October 20th, 2013, the CCNY administration illegally raided, shutdown, and took over the Center on a Sunday morning, and during midterms week.
This is a racist and repressive attack against CUNY students, against Harlem community members, and agaisnt oppressed people worldwide.
WE SAY NO! NO CENTER, NO PEACE! ¡SIN CENTRO NO HAY PAZ!