Youth in Action

Student Militancy Pressures UC to Repeal Ban on Affirmative Action

By MARC LISPI and JULIA WALLACE

 

SAN FRANCISCO-On May 16 nearly 400 students rallied at the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF) to protest the meeting of the UC board of regents and to demand that they repeal SP-1 and SP-2.

SP-1 and SP-2 were passed in 1995, eliminating considerations of race and gender in admissions and hiring at all UC campuses. Ever since their implementation, the number of students and faculty of color on UC campuses, especially at UCLA and UC Berkeley, have dropped significantly.

This past year, students throughout California have been organizing for a full repeal of SP-1 and SP-2. On March 8, at UC Berkeley, the regents meeting was greeted by 3000 protesting students.

And on March 14, at UCLA, 2000 students and community members again met the regents. This event concluded with 200 students occupying Royce Hall. The Los Angeles mayoral debate, which was scheduled for that time, was subsequently cancelled.

The purpose of these protests was to put enough pressure on the UC regents to enact the repeal of SP-1 and SP-2. Instead, the regents voted on a resolution entitled “RE-28.” Although this resolution does repeal SP-1 and SP-2, it also states that the University of California must “uphold the laws of the state,” which include Proposition 209. This reaffirms that the UC admissions will not consider the race or gender of their applicants.

Additionally, RE-28 insists that admissions criteria “rest with faculty and administration.” This shifts the focus from the UC regents to the admissions board.

What’s worse, RE-28 was passed with a unanimous vote by the regents. This means that even the several advocates for SP-1 and SP-2 and Proposition 209 voted in favor of RE-28.

The biggest advocate, Ward Connerly, claimed that his vote for RE-28 should exemplify his willingness to compromise. (Connerly did not mention, however, his stated intentions as of April 14 to collect signatures in order to outlaw any tracking of race except for prison use; i.e., the calculation of racial distribution of universities, workplaces, communities, etc. would be outlawed; only the racial distribution of prisons would be calculable.)

The truth is that RE-28 is nothing close to a compromise; it is simply a rewriting of SP-1 and SP-2 in different words, as well as a deceptive maneuver to deflect attention from the regents.

However, the student protesters were well aware of the ruse behind RE-28. Once the resolution was passed we rejoiced, but only because it legitimized our fight, reminding us of our collective power.

Speeches at the end of the rally addressed these concerns. The common perspective was that the fight was nowhere near over. Students stated that education should be a right for everyone, not a privilege for some; that we must continue to work on individual campuses as well as collaborate statewide.

We were conscious that nothing has changed in the admissions process. We also realized that our collective efforts forced the regents to acknowledge the flaws of SP-1 and SP-2, not because the regents suddenly had some change of heart.

Many students pointed out that our struggle is a part of a larger struggle. We realize that education, whether in kindergarten or graduate school, should be available to anyone that wants to attend; i.e., post-secondary education should have open admissions just as K-12 has open admissions.

But we also realize that to achieve such a goal requires constructing many more schools, from universities to pre-schools.

And students are beginning to realize that affirmative action and even open admissions will not fully eliminate the inequities in the educational system. Instead, these problems will not be eliminated unless we fundamentally change the political/economic system; a system that is run for the profit of the few off the work of the many; a system that prefers low-paid, struggling workers to educated and liberated workers; a system that prefers profit over production for human needs.

Penn State agrees to student demands for Black rights

By DAVID BERNT

 

Students at Pennsylvania State University are demanding that their university support the rights of Black students. The students won a major victory on May 2 when the administration agreed to their demands for the expansion of the African and African American Studies Department and the creation of a African Studies Research Center.

The university also agreed to protect leaders of the Black Caucus who have been subject to death threats from racists upset by their activism.

The university had proposed cutting back the African and African Studies Department and consolidating its offices with the Women’s Studies Program. The department currently employees only four full-time faculty members.

Students responded by demanding more faculty for the African and African American Studies Department, a research center, and strengthening affirmative action programs. After they made their demands, several student leaders begin receiving death threats. The university was notified about the threats, yet did not respond.

Students held several rallies and were joined by students, religious leaders, alumni, and the NAACP. Under pressure from the students, the university agreed to most of their demands.

In a statement released on May 2, Penn State announced the creation of the African Research Center and an increase in African and African American Studies faculty to 10 tenure-track professors.

Mumia referendum wins at Northland College

By ROB WELSH

 

ASHLAND, Wis.-On May 16 a coalition organization on the Northland College campus here succeeded in getting the student government to pass a resolution calling for a new trial for the internationally recognized political prisoner, Mumia Abu-Jamal. This coalition was made up of students, young workers, peace activists, and members of Youth for Socialist Action (Ashland chapter).

The effort to pass a resolution through the Northland College Student Association (NCSA) was attempted last year by a similar group of students. But due to the rabidly conservative student government bureaucracy, the debate was held up for three weeks in discussions, in which time the written resolution, supported by over 350 students, was voted down.

An NCSA committee was then set up to write their own watered-down resolution. In an excellent display of bureaucratic maneuvering, the committee wrote and passed its own impotent document, which called, basically, for Judge Yohn to do his job. Our coalition defined this outcome as unacceptable and proposed another effort in the fall.

In November 2000 YSA members went to Grinnell College in Iowa to hear a speech on Mumia’s case and the death penalty by Mumia’s former attorney, Leonard Weinglass. The inspiring talk gave a fresh perspective to the Ashland YSA.

In early December a benefit concert (“Jams 4 Justice”) was held by YSA and the campus Native American organization to raise money and awareness of Mumia and Leonard Peltier. The event was a success and fueled our momentum.

By February 2001, Lake Superior Socialist Action and Ashland YSA had set up the Northern Mobilization to Free Mumia Abu-Jamal with other regional activist organizations. In Ashland, on the Northland College campus, the Mobilization decided to rekindle the resolution and put more effort into it.

Armed with more energy and a better understanding of how to build a united front we made great progress. Through petitioning, tabling, film showings, and discussions we were able to reach a large section of the student population and win many supporters, not to mention our fair share of opponents (one being the county sheriff!).

In early May, the Mobilization felt it had all it needed to approach NCSA in the hopes of passing a new resolution. Despite formidable support by the students, the student government bureaucracy was hesitant to pass such a strong resolution on a “convicted killer.”

It was then posed by the Mobilization that a referendum be set up for all the students to cast their vote on the issue. This was approved, so on May 7 voting tables were set up and ballots were cast. The following Wednesday NCSA announced that the resolution had passed by nearly 100 votes!

Northland College is a very small school (800 students) but much can be deduced from this victory. The main lesson we (YSA) learned is that united front-type coalitions, set up and run democratically on a principled position, can be very effective in winning a broad strata of the selected population.

That is exactly what we were able to do and in the process we found ourselves educating many people on the facts of Mumia’s case, the U.S. injustice system, and the racist death penalty. FREE MUMIA!

Rage Against Racism in San Jose

By CARLOS PADILLA

(Students for Justice)

 

SAN JOSE, Calif.-On May 26 over 100 people, mainly college students, marched in the streets, to protest racism in the city. They chanted slogans against police brutality, racial profiling, and the statues of genocidal murderers (i.e., Christopher Columbus) placed in public areas.

The city of San Jose has continued to ignore the racist acts committed by police officers, the city council, and the corporations that rule the city.

The city’s police department has stated that police brutality does not exist and that the officers who have committed murder were doing their job according to procedure. In the past two years there have been 11 murders committed by the men in blue. One victim was paralyzed and cannot move from his bed.

The march also solidarized with Jim Cosner, a long-time activist in the Santa Cruz area, who on March 8 took a sledgehammer to a statue of Columbus in City Hall, which read, “Discoverer of the Americas.”

Cosner is now being charged for a “hate crime” against Italian Americans, though he acted to protest the genocide of Native Americans committed by Columbus. Many compare this with the example of a Jewish man taking a sledgehammer to a statue of Hitler placed in a Jewish community and being charged with a hate crime against Austrians.

The march started at 11 a.m, from First and Hedding and proceeded to City Hall for a brief rally, after which it continued to Cesar Chavez Park downtown.

The march was meant to make the people of San Jose and City Hall aware that the people will not tolerate racism. The residents we passed in the streets were eager to buy newspapers and take flyers from activists.

As the march filed into Cesar Chavez Park, the demonstrators were greeted by over 200 Palestinians who were rallying to protest the Israeli takeover of Palestine.

The activists chanted for Palestine as the Palestinians cheered them on. Many speakers made it clear that they were fighting the same struggle; racism is a problem committed by the U.S. as well as Israel.

Speakers at the rally dealt with racism in San Jose and nationally. Political prisoners like Mumia and Leonard Peltier were brought up as victims of this country, which puts people of color in prison to silence dissent and to discourage others from joining the struggle..

“The people of San Jose will have to speak up, and I think it is about time for them to get into the streets without fear,” said Antonio Villa, a resident of San Jose who is a victim of police brutality.

Harvard students and workers demand living wage

By DAVID BERNT

 

On May 8, 40 students ended their 21-day occupation of the offices of Harvard University president Neil L. Rudenstein. The students, organized as the Progressive Student Labor Movement, were demanding that the board of trustees pass a provision for a “living wage” of $10.25 per hour for all university employees and employees of private contractors who do business with the university.

The students have been campaigning for the university to adopt the living wage provision for the past two years with little response from university officials.

Over 400 employees of Harvard make less then $10.25, and many earn less then $7 per hour.

Most low-wage workers are janitors or cafeteria workers. Several hundred more workers employed by subcontractors and temp agencies also make less then $10.25 per hour.

Workers and students are infuriated that the elite university pays its workers so little despite Harvard’s immense resources. Harvard freshman Madeline Elfenbein said, “Harvard is a multibillion-dollar corporation that has been masquerading as an institution that serves humanity.”

A Harvard custodian said, “How does Harvard justify paying a person $8.50 an hour with the kind of money they have?”

The students ended the office occupation after three weeks, when the university agreed to set up a committee composed of workers, students, faculty, and administration. The administration also agreed to re-open contracts with two unions, SEIU Local 254 and HERE Local 26, which represent low-wage workers.

The administration has agreed to wage increases but they have not agreed to the $10.25 per hour rate advocated by workers and students. Whether the workers actually gain significant increases still depends on pressure from workers and students.

Although the campaign is far from over, the students and workers have won a victory in having built a broad movement in support of Harvard workers.

They have received support from several lawmakers, the city of Cambridge, over 100 Harvard faculty members, alumni, and the AFL-CIO.