Solidarity made this possible
explains how socialists at the University of Massachusetts Boston organized a defense campaign against an attack by administrators--and won.
THE UNIVERSITY of Massachusetts Boston (UMB) student chapter of International Socialist Organization (ISO) won a small but significant victory as our campaign for free speech has come to a close.
We concluded our semester-long battle with the UMB administration by regaining access to our funding and continuing on as a student club. We would not be in the position we are now without the solidarity we received from supporters across the country throughout our campaign.
Such a victory is not only important because it makes organizing a lot easier for us, but it is a necessary step forward in the fight for a university that encourages student activism, rather than challenging it. Every e-mail sent to the administration and every signature on our petition has made a tremendous difference and made our victory possible.
Our struggle and victory has taught student activists a couple important lessons: First, public campaigns work, and second, when we fight, we can win. Political attacks on student dissent are nothing new to student activism. We must be prepared to respond to such attacks, and as our experience at UMB has proved, if you launch a public campaign to challenge them, it's possible to win.
University officials had charged the ISO with "mismanagement of funds" and "posting violations," which resulted in the freezing of our club funds. We were summoned to a hearing with student government so our case could be heard and they could vote on the decision.
While we attempted to initiate a conversation about poster policies and how we could work together to encourage student activity, rather than punish it, the student government didn't seem interested in "discussing the ethics" of the policies and voted to keep our funds frozen because they were there to simply enforce the rules.
At this point, we reached out to fellow students, professors and activists and asked for their support by doing a few things that may seem small, but were essential in our success. We asked our supporters to sign our petition; send letters to a few people who were behind the attacks, including the chancellor and the student activities director; and come out to any of our hearings with student government.
As we gained more support, the administration and student government took us more seriously, and their tone drastically changed. The student government granted additional hearings and ultimately unfroze the funds.
The people who run UMB are on track to completely change the face of UMB through their "25-Year master plan," which would privatize the university on the backs of current students. As student activists who believe education is a right and the role of education should go beyond the training of the next generation of workers, we completely oppose the administration's current agenda.
We want smaller class sizes, a democratic voice for students on campus, better treatment for professors and workers, and opportunities for quality education for all people. The administration wants the opposite and will do whatever it takes to quell student dissent and opposition on campus. The ongoing harassment we have faced is a direct result of the work we have done in attempting to shift the tide.
While the dispute may be a small one, it sets an important precedent. Campus activists everywhere face harassment and repression from their administrations, and if we are confronting the status quo, we unfortunately need to expect it. As we continue to face attacks, it is crucial that we continue to stand up for our rights and strengthen solidarity on our campuses.