Student Power

“If they won’t let us dream, we won’t let them sleep” – School walkout in the South

UNCG Walkout

Students at University of North Carolina – Greensboro walk out to fight back against the rising cost of higher education

By Dhruv Pathak

“If they won’t let us dream, we won’t let them sleep”

Frederick Douglass once said that “Power concedes nothing without a demand. It never did and it never will.”  History is riddled with stories of courageous marches, protests and too many martyrs. Most think that we don’t make history anymore and that the past is a “foreign country” –  this is not true! We the youth, the students, the people make history every day. In line with that, today a few of my friends, organizers and my organizing friends came out to the University of North Carolina-Greensboro to stage a walkout. At 1PM EST, we walked out of our classes and came together in order to fight back against the rising cost of Higher Education.

This walkout ended up being the talk of campus, people were clearly angry or at least paying attention to their newsfeed.  It was a dreary morning but miraculously the sun was shining bright when the rally was set to begin. Slowly but surely students, faculty and staff started to gather at the Elliot University Center (EUC) lawn, our student center.

“Money for students and education, not for expansion and administration”

Our agenda was clear; we are tired of the rising costs of higher education when it should be free for everyone. Administrator’s pockets are bloated, students are being left in depraved conditions and our faculty is being “left to wither on a vine.” So we are sick and tired of this vicious circle of the capitalistic system crippling us with insurmountable debt with zero guarantee of a decent paying job.  That is why we fight.

Speakers were mostly comprised of students but we had two incredibly indignant faculties that enraged the crowd with hard hitting, eye opening facts.  Our topics ranged from cuts to “marginalized” studies to undemocratic university practices to bloated administration. From the get-go it was clear that regardless of what we talked about the whole day people were angry and it was going to stay that way.

“No ifs, no butts, no education cuts”

            A lot of people who criticized what we did, said that we should work with the administrators and our NC General Assembly to come up with solutions to fix these issues. We always have and will use the “proper” channels first because we are told that it is effective and it works. But when going to the administration does not work, when writing letters to our politicians doesn’t work, when going to listening forums doesn’t work what do we do then? We take the power into our own hands, we no longer asked to be heard but we demand it.  A quick history lesson, when the Civil Rights Act of 1964 was passed, was that done because John F. Kennedy then Lyndon Johnson invited the civil rights organizers to lunch to hash it out?  No it was done with years and years of mass civil disobedience, direct action and making uncompromised demands. We celebrate MLK Jr. every year here in Greensboro; do you think he would have taken kindly to the notion of negotiating with our oppressors? I can’t speak for him but I can assume he wouldn’t.

Not only was there anger seeping from the crowd but the air was filled with solidarity, students supported both the Portland and University of Illinois teachers who went on strike. Even going past simple student solidarity, most were excited to hear one of our speakers talk about the fight for $15 campaign and worker-student solidarity.

“Whose university? Our University!”

Our walkout invoked tons of emotional out pour, ranging from anger to disappointment; it just went to show that students are far from apathetic. But they are scared; feel hopeless and are left with grand illusions of the higher education dream. Our generation is not lost but the revival because we are facing some serious issues that are not leaving folks too happy. It starts with an organized, few engaging the general populace but with undying, uncompromising passion that I know exist in every one of us this world can become a more just place, it just has to start somewhere.

February 19th, 2014 showed us a lot about the future of the movement, specifically the student movement here in NC. It showed us that 1.) Mass mobilization is possible 2.) Students are not apathetic and 3.) It cannot stop now, we have to keep going. So long as the capitalistic war on students continues, so does our fight, you think we are giving up that easily? Not a chance. Don’t believe us – just watch.