Rutgers Students Occupying President's Office!
For even newer info, check out the blog post for Day 2 of the occupation.
UPDATE: 4:44pm: I just talked to a student in the office - she said it looks like they're about to be arrested. Anyone near New Brunswick should get their ass to campus, to stand up against this!
UPDATE: 5:06PM: The Rutgers VP of Student Affairs told students that after the building closes at 5:00, the students will be "trespassing". It's six minutes past 5:00 now. RU's General Counsel was just seen walking in the building. Word is that some students will be leaving voluntarily, and others will refuse. Media is present: NBC4 has a camera on scene, and the AP has done at least one interview.
UPDATE: 5:13PM: This is actually one of several sit-ins over the past week, including at William & Mary, Emory, Tulane, and of course, the University of Wisconsin.
UPDATE: 5:58PM: No arrests yet. However, USAS has a page where you can email or call Rutgers Prez McCormick to give him a piece of your mind.
BIG UPDATE: 6:40PM: Rutgers students will NOT be arrested tonight! They'll be staying overnight, apparently with 2 cops present in the building. EPIC WIN.
UPDATE: 8:20PM: Students are now getting mixed signals about whether they can stay in overnight or not. Only time - and the size of crowds outside - will tell.
UPDATE: 8:30PM: Scroll down to the bottom for video of the sit-in!
UPDATE: 10:12PM: Via twitter, 11 students are inside, still no food or toiletries allowed in.
As of 10:30AM today, sixteen Rutgers University students are occupying President John McCormick's office in the Old Queens building. This action comes on the heels of several weeks of organizing, including a dramatic storming of the administration building to deliver petitions, holding rallies, and of course, the start of the annual Tent State University.
I had a chance to speak with one of the organizers, John Aspray, this afternoon. Aspray is an organizer with the Rutgers Student Union, a Senator in the Rutgers University Student Assembly, and co-chair of New Jersey United Students.
"The police are allowing us to drop off supplies, but they've locked down the building, and aren't letting any more students in," he said. Apparently the rest of the building is fully staffed and operating normally -- the real test of the police's handling of the situation will be when office hours end tonight.
"This was a very organic process, leading up to the occupation. Students wanted to escalate tactics, and hold a study-in in the President's office." Students have vowed not to leave until at least two of their five demands are met:
- We want President McCormick to FREEZE tuition so Rutgers students do not have to take out excessive loans to pay for a PUBLIC education.
- We want SCHOLARSHIPS for underprivileged / first generation college students.
- We want Rutgers to provide FREE transcripts for its undergraduate students.
- We want support for the rights of ALL University affiliated workers.
- We want the Rutgers University population to have a voice in decisions made by the Board of Governors—INCLUDING TUITION COST! THREE voting Student Members, ONE voting Staff Member, ONE voting Faculty Member—all elected by their respective constituencies: NO APPOINTEES!
Despite the rainy weather, students assembled outside the administration building at 2:00 this afternoon for a demonstration in solidarity with the students inside. Luckily, they had some convenient cover under the large pavilion-tents that Rutgers is setting up for its alumni-oriented "Rutgers Day" this Saturday.
Students have yet to receive official word from the Rutgers top brass. "McCormick is coming back to campus tomorrow, from sunny
FloridaCalifornia," Aspray said.
This study-in is the culmination of long-term organizing and coalition-building, particularly around the Rutgers United Student Coalition (a grouping of many activist and student groups on campus) and the Rutgers Student Union (the recently-rebranded student group that started the Tent State tradition almost 10 years ago).
The Role of the Student Government
In Spring 2010, a slate of student organizers swept the Rutgers student government, which has roughly $50,000 at its disposal, and last week's elections increased their majority. Having a sympathetic student government has been crucial for not only access to resources and supplies, but for the legitimacy it has lent the actions in the eyes of the administration and the local media.
The previous student government was "more interested in padding their resume and getting letters of recommendation from administrators than representing students," Aspray said. "If we didn't have student government behind us, there'd be more openings for opposition. It does give us legitimacy. Not to mention the control of student resources that we've freed from the grip of resume-builders."
Video from the Star-Ledger: