THE HUNTER ENVOY
To the Editor, Hunter Envoy
March 12, 2010
The Hunter Internationalist Club is writing this letter to address your coverage of the March 4 student walkout and protest against tuition hikes, budget cuts and the assault on public education (The Envoy, March 9-23).
At the rally, Hunter Internationalist Club and Class Struggle Education Workers (CSEW) speakers launched the chant “Students and workers: shut the city down,” which was enthusiastically chanted by the protesters. We also called for “No Tuition, Open Admissions” and “Students Ally with Labor,” which can be seen in signs in your page 2 photo and cartoon.
We want to object to your sensationalist and inaccurate claim that the March 4 protest “turned into a violent rally outside Hunter College.” This is wrong. The rally was not “violent,” and to spin it that way is scare-mongering. The real violence is what is being done to our right to education by the powers that be, backed up by a massive police occupation of Hunter.
A pretext for direct police intervention in the March 4 rally was provided by the actions of a small group of supposed “anarchists,” who assaulted and threatened activists involved with organizing the protest (including the vice president of our club). These provocations are the opposite of any real radicalism (including the views of sincere albeit mistaken anarchists), and were eagerly seized on by the Hunter administration as an excuse to ramp up repression.
When the provocation and police intervention opened up a dangerous vacuum at the rally, which could have broken down in chaos, we worked with CSEW activists, the chairwoman of Hunter’s faculty union chapter and others to help keep things going and maintain the focus on the struggle for “No tuition hike, no budget cuts, no layoffs.”
It’s also not a question of the “Hunter community” versus “outsiders,” as some are trying to pitch it. What’s going on here, as students and faculty quoted in your articles commented, is that the Hunter administration and NYPD tried to turn the campus into a “police state” with an “iron fist” on March 4. The Hunter chapter chair of the faculty union (Professional Staff Congress) denounced this police occupation at the rally, and an adjunct activist from CSEW pointed out that the campus looked like a “correctional facility” that day.
Your own coverage note that many students and faculty were outraged at people being denied entry to campus for hours afterwards if they could not show Hunter ID. Any and all amplification was forbidden by the cops and administration, with a student activist immediately threatened with potential arrest as soon as he tried to use a bullhorn outside Hunter West.
We pointed out in a leaflet we put out this week (“Lockdown U.? No Police State at Hunter!”) that this is the latest escalation in the drive to turn Hunter into a little sealed-off “national security state.” The administration and campus “security” have been increasingly aggressive over the past period, arresting Hunter student Agustín Castro at last December’s protest in defense of the Childhood Learning Center (the charges were dismissed by the judge) and having campus police try to block cafeteria workers from using the elevator to deliver a petition since they supposedly “are not Hunter employees.”
The installation of turnstiles by campus authorities is a key part of their plan to “control access.” We say the response to March 4 should be a struggle to: Stop the turnstiles – cops off campus. Otherwise, welcome to “Turnstile World”!
And now the NYPD is arresting people for the “crime” of possessing markers. This was reportedly one of the charges used against people arrested on March 4. Are Envoy readers aware of this? We demand that all the charges be dropped now.
The real story is that the government (from the White House to Albany to City Hall), ruling-class parties (Democrats and Republicans) and CUNY administration are attempting to drive large numbers of students out of public education; that tuition hikes and budget cuts amount to an attempted “race and class purge” against black, Latino, immigrant and other working-class students; and that the Hunter administration tramples the most basic rights of us all.
The same kind of blue wall of police intimidation that we faced at Hunter on March 4 was what met more than 2,000 students, parents and teachers when they spoke out loudly on January 26 against the racist closing of 19 more NYC schools; when MTA “security” manhandled a young African American woman student when she spoke up against the plan to stop student Metrocards; and when racial profiling, stop-and-frisks and worse are the daily treatment received by countless students in this city (more than half a million “random” stops last year, over 80 percent against blacks and Latinos), many of whom live in fear that they could be the next Amadou Diallo.
To defeat the attacks on public education it is necessary to go well beyond the current framework, linking up with and helping unchain the power of New York’s multiracial working class. This is above all a political question, calling for a thoroughgoing break with the Democratic Party, which from President Obama and Congress to Governor Paterson and the state legislature is leading the war on public education and the colonial occupation of Iraq, Afghanistan and now Haiti.
In California, they jacked up college tuition by one-third. In New York, the governor and CUNY administration want to raise tuition by up to 10 percent a year, while cutting back TAP. The rulers of this country are going after teachers with a vengeance, resegregating schools, and making college unaffordable for poor, working-class and many middle-class students and families. CUNY and the New York City Department of Education are run by people who have made a career out of privatizing (and trying to make a profit off) public education. Here at Hunter, March 4 shows the need to demand: “Abolish the Board of Trustees,” replacing it with representatives democratically elected by students, faculty and campus workers.
Kirstine Jungkurth, President
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