Thursday, November 24, 2011

ISU leads student occupation of president's office

I have been at CSU for twenty-five years, and yesterday--along with a day in 1994 when students refused to allow the provost to take over a student protest rally--was the greatest day in those twenty-five years.
The Independent Student Union (ISU) led well over 100 students over a two hour span in forcing the administration to shut up and listen to what students had to say about the many frustrations they experience from the incompetence and indifference of administrative offices and services at Chicago State: Fs on the transcript rather than withdrawals because of lost paperwork, failure to help new students to find their advisors and get properly registered for classes, failure to properly manage the university’s image including highlighting the many accomplishments of students, faculty and alumni, failure to honor outstanding student achievement, and failure to improve communications. These instances of failure to treat our students as they deserve are a disrespect to them. At Chicago State, with its overwhelmingly African American student enrollment, they are a racist disrespect.
The faculty played an auxilliary role of helping students to prevent the administration from seizing control of their occupation. This was an honor to the faculty present who stood behind and facilitated this expression of working class power.
In the second hour the administration, with the help of a student plant who is a representative to IBHE, tried to turn the tables by complaining that ISU failed to "work through proper channels." As a communist, I observed that this was precisely the strength of what the students did. The "proper channels" are a way of keeping us in our place, under the control and dominance of the administration. What made the occupation of the president's office a powerful event is that it broke the rules, occupied the president's office against the administration's wishes and despite its efforts to deflect student anger toward the government and legislature (though these are proper targets too), and empowered so many students to assert both their diginity and their power. This is an expression of working class democracy.
I commend the faculty who helped with this powerful protest. I congratulate ISU for empowering so many students. May ISU long be a vehicle by which students are enabled to become active against social injustice and the many harms of racist capitalism!

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