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News and reports

April 29, 2005 | Pages 14 and 15

OTHER STORIES BELOW:
UMass-Amherst
Equal marriage now
Fighting sexism at Bowling Green

Fight racism at NYU
By Elizabeth Wrigley-Field

NEW YORK--Two weeks after a racist and sexist anti-affirmative action "bake sale" resulted in a spontaneous protest at New York University (NYU), students again showed their opposition with a second protest of well over 100 students on April 20. The protest began as a rally and ended up as march around NYU's campus.

Some of the organizers viewed the protest as opposition to the College Republicans, who, they said, violated NYU's rules by charging different cookie prices based on students' race and gender. But many of the protesters opposed the racism at NYU more broadly--with posters defending affirmative action and student speeches against an administrative proposal that will threaten the hard-won Africana and Latino Studies departments.

Pointing out NYU's history of racist incidents, students are determined to keep up the struggle even as the semester draws to a close. The next step will be a debate with the College Republicans about affirmative action.

Originally, students had planned to demand that College Democrats debate College Republicans on the issue. But after one speaker at the rally pointed out that, "We are often disenfranchised by Republicans and Democrats, and we should represent ourselves," students decided that the protesters themselves would take on the Republicans. Some 84 students signed up to help organize this debate.

The protest--and students' willingness to keep organizing even as final exams approach--indicates that racism on campus won't go unchallenged.

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UMass-Amherst
By Yuval Sivan, UAW Local 2322

AMHERST, Mass.--Thousands of graduate and undergraduate students staged a one-day walkout on April 21 to protest the lack of progress in bargaining and the chancellor's plan to take over student groups. Major buildings were left empty as graduate students picketed outside, directing undergrads to a giant teach-in on the student union lawn.

Barbara Ehrenreich, author of Nickel and Dimed, spoke at the teach-in, and Howard Zinn issued a statement of solidarity that was endorsed by the Massachusetts Society of Professors, with more than 200 faculty signing no-retaliation pledges.

The Graduate Employee Organization (GEO) has been bargaining with the administration for more than a year, but the university still insists on imposing large and ever-increasing fees for our health care and eliminating child care subsidies that amount to hundreds of dollars a month per parent. They're also offering paltry wage increases of 2 percent a year, that don't keep up with the cost of living.

To top it all off, the administration wants to eliminate same sex domestic partner benefits--a demand that seems to be coming straight from the office of Gov. Mitt Romney, whose presidential aspirations are served by denying benefits to unmarried gay graduates at the same time that he opposes gay marriage.

Coincidentally, Romney himself showed up during the protest and quickly scuttled into the building through a service entrance. Once inside, he was visibly nervous as he had to contend with both the chanting from outside and dozens of grad students holding up signs and glaring at him from across the room.

Speakers at the teach-in also talked about the continued attacks on support services for African, Latino, Asian and Native American (ALANA) students.

The protest also targeted Chancellor John Lombardi's plan to "restructure" registered student organizations by putting all of them--even the school newspaper--under the control of Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs Michael Gargano. This will eliminate the independence of dozens of student groups, all of which currently fund and control themselves.

It's especially insulting since Gargano has a long history of opposing diversity-related student groups. Last October, e-mails were leaked that showed him conspiring with right-wing student representatives against a minority advocate in the Office of ALANA affairs.

As we chanted all across the university that day, "They say take back, we say fight back!"

Tony Udell contributed to this report.

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Equal marriage now
By Rebecca Lewis

HARTFORD, Conn.--The Connecticut State Legislature voted 26-8 to pass legislation granting civil unions to same-sex couples on April 21. The legislation, however, contained an amendment reasserting that marriage is between a man and a woman and reserving civil unions for same-sex couples only.

The right-wing group Family Institute of Connecticut immediately called for an April 24 demonstration to chastise legislators who voted for it for "chipping away" at the meaning of marriage.

Individuals opposed to creating a system of legalized segregation got together on the same day at the state capitol to voice their outrage that as of October 1, 2005, residents of the state of Connecticut will be living in a state which institutionally and legally endorses segregation. In fact, in a hauntingly familiar scene, the legislation will create two separate lines at the clerk's office--one for straight couples, and another for everyone else.

In an "act of defiance", about 150 people rallied and couples were symbolically married on the steps of the capitol building while the rally opposing civil unions was taking place on the other side of the building.

Although the bigoted rally drew more people, the rally calling for marriage equality now was an important turning point in the struggle for same sex marriage here. Activists from several different groups got together for a series of speeches rejecting the recent legislation as not enough, and criticizing it for its creation of a separate and unequal system of recognizing couples in Connecticut.

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Fighting sexism at Bowling Green
By Patrick Dyer

BOWLING GREEN, Ohio--About 75 people attended an April 15 "Take Back the Night" rally at Bowling Green State University (BGSU) to protest violence against women.

Following the rally, a march was planned with arrangements for campus police to block streets for the marchers. However, police never showed up, and activists eventually marched on the sidewalks.

About 30 minutes after marchers departed, a campus cop did show up--not to help or apologize, but to falsely accuse event organizer Mellissa Marksberry of "not filling out the paperwork." After blaming students for police incompetence, this cop even had the nerve to ask if he could take some of our cookies and coffee back to the station!

In the last year, there have been three domestic violence homicides, and the federally funded Transformation Project, which provides serves for victims of sexual and domestic violence, helped 30 victims fall semester. But the federal grant funding the Transformation Project was recently cut.

Though BGSU initially stepped in to help pay for the program's victims' advocate, BGSU stopped funding the position in December. "We don't have that luxury," explained Vice President of Student Affairs Edward Whipple, who has an annual base salary of $141,235, of the decision to cut the position. "It's sort of cruel. But we just don't have the funds." Meanwhile, students have been forced to hold fundraisers to pay victims' advocate Rebecca Nickels-Theis. It's past time for us to organize a serious fightback against this attack.

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