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student unionism

July 5: an Important Anniversary for Youth and Student Organizing

Today, July 5, contains two auspicious anniversaries that speak to the power of people, especially youth, to effect change.

Voting in the Ballot Box - 40 Years Ago Today

18-year-old voting rightsThe second key anniversary today is President Nixon's 1971 signing of the 26th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which guarantees voting rights to all citizens over the age of 18. Previously, for federal elections the age had been set at 21, with several states setting 18 as the cut-off age for state and local elections.

The ugly hypocrisy of sending 18-year-olds off to die in foreign lands but not allowing them to vote at home -- and the effective organizing and campaigning around it -- was a key factor in getting the Constitutional amendment passed. Electoral rights are not the pinnacle of political power for individuals and groups, but only the baseline. And today, even this bare minimum is under attackCampus Progress reminds us:

Rutgers Student Occupation Day 2

For background information about the occupation, and a summary of its first day, check out my previous blogpost here.

UPDATE: 9:00PM: The student occupiers have left the building without arrest or (as of yet) any university disciplinary action.

The students made it through the night in the President's office in Old Queens, an administration building.

Eleven stayed the night, locked in by the police, and under constant threat of arrest and removal. Students were unable to get food, water, of medicine from the outside. Thankfully late at night via a makeshift pulley using an extension cord, students were able to get provisions (possibly including a pizza that UW students phoned in in solidarity!). 

This morning the sit-in students were officially allowed food by the administration, after many chants by protesters of "let them eat!"

At noon today the students held a press conference. Check out newly-released video from the first day of the occupation:

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.

Toward a Student Unionism: New Pamphlet and Interview with Jasper Conner

Jasper Conner is an organizer with the Southern Appalachian Mountain Stewards, and a former SDS organizer at George Mason University and in DC. Jasper has just released a new pamphlet on student unionism. From the pamphlet:

If we are to address our common crisis as students, as current and future workers, as people living on this planet, we need to focus on building our power. Students are fighting amazing campaigns, but if we want to hold onto these changes, we have to organize beyond individual policy changes at our respective schools. We must organize for institutional power over our universities and create a way of holding onto that power.

Learn About Student Unionism - First Hand!

I'm pleased to report that the Democratizing Education Network (DEN) is holding a retreat on student unionism this October 19-22 in Montréal, Québec. Canada has a vibrant student union movement (expecially compared to its nonexistent counterpart here in the states), and it looks like the workshops will be taking place during a strike!

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