Raleigh-Durham Fight Imperialism Stand Together (FIST)

Revolutionary socialist youth in the US South

Students and workers strike, occupy, fight back

Posted by raleighfist on December 9, 2009

By Scott Williams

Chapel Hill, NC

On Nov. 19, thousands of students, workers and faculty on campuses across the University of California system protested and blockaded a meeting of the U.C. Regents, where the regents approved 32 percent tuition and fee increases, furloughs of campus workers and continued budget cuts. Several days of huge protests, seen throughout the media, ended with nearly 60 arrests and showed the potential of opposition to the “business as usual” attacks on jobs and education by the U.C. administrators.

On Nov. 20, protests intensified as six buildings across the U.C. system were occupied by students. Students demanded the recall of fired housekeepers, more money from the state of California for education, and many more extensive demands based around their right to education, jobs and affordable housing.

At the University of Illinois, graduate student workers voted to strike on Nov. 16. Just two days later, after thousands of workers participated on picket lines and hundreds of classes were cancelled, the 2,600 graduate students won tuition coverage and wage increases.

Students, workers and faculty from across the world have decided that it is time to protest, occupy and strike. In Germany on Nov. 17, for example, 80,000 school and university students hit the streets and went on strike in 60 cities. More than 60 universities have been occupied by students in opposition to tuition hikes and budget cuts in the past two weeks.

Short of mobilizing, striking and occupying, students, faculty and workers have no voice in the decisions of their universities. At most public universities, major decisions about programs, tuition and budget cuts lie in the hands of a dozen unelected, unrepresentative millionaires.

Although seen as havens of “liberal” thinking and progressive social movements, our universities serve the purpose of increasing profit margins, whether by educating workers, providing subsidized research for pharmaceutical companies and defense contractors, investing billions of foundation money into the stock market, or constantly privatizing the functions of the university.

Universities are important points of struggle in times of crisis. Whether it’s the cuts and eliminations of programs representing oppressed peoples, the declining numbers of tenured professors who receive a decent wage and benefits, or the increased short-staffing of workers who are the backbone of the university, universities remain, and have always been, an important arena of social conflict.

Students, faculty and workers are not responsible for the gambling speculation and overproduction that led to the economic crisis and subsequent job losses and tuition hikes. By forcing them to pay for the crisis, administrators are being met with a growing resistance.

The occupations and strikes at universities in California, Illinois and throughout the world show an enormous potential for the struggle against the boom-and-bust capitalist system. While cuts, furloughs and tuition hikes have no end in sight, now students and workers are learning to struggle and unify in their opposition to university leaders who cut jobs and education in the name of balanced budgets.

Williams is a member of the North Carolina chapter of the youth group Fight Imperialism, Stand Together (FIST).

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