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NEIU students walk out for gay rights

By Doug Lee | March 19, 2004 | Page 11

CHICAGO--More than 200 students walked out March 11 and held a rally to demand equal rights at Northeastern Illinois University (NEIU). The rally coincided with an event in downtown Chicago, where hundreds of people gathered to demand the right to same-sex marriages.

A few professors came with their classes, and many staff joined the walkout. The rally focused on fighting for gay rights--both on campus and more broadly. Last semester, more than 300 students, faculty and staff took a stand against Heterosexuals Organizing for a Moral Environment--a reactionary, antigay group that had been coming to campus for the past few years--and succeeded in forcing them off campus.

So while the struggle for gay rights was in the forefront, the rally also became a forum for airing a long list of grievances--against the administration, about workers' rights and union issues on campus, about immigrants rights in the U.S., about the war on Iraq and so on.

Speaker after speaker addressed the connections between these struggles, and NEIU's Village Square filled with chants of "Equal rights for all students." NEIU claims to be the most diverse college campus in the Midwest, but the administration has done nothing to ensure a campus that's free of racism and bigotry.

With an arrogance typical of NEIU's administration, school officials tried to "relocate" the rally but were unable to when the students stood their ground. Later, a fight broke out in a meeting of the Student Government Association (SGA) when the SGA vice president and several senators who had joined the walkout confronted the SGA president about why he had not attended the protest.

Students tried to track down NEIU's president, who was notably absent, as well as the vice president of student affairs, who refused to speak, to demand answers about the lack of rights on campus. The walkout was just the beginning of a fight that began over gay rights last semester and has evolved into a fight for the equal rights of all on campus.

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