Posts tagged University of Michigan
Posts tagged University of Michigan
By The Student Union of Michigan
The past few decades have seen a dramatic shift in our university and universities around the country. Once widely accessible to the people of our state, University of Michigan tuition has gradually risen beyond the reach of many incomes. This forces deserving students to either search elsewhere for their education or take on thousands of dollars of debt. This trend has many causes and consequences, but for students there is one solution: student power.
A surge of questions likely flows through people’s minds when they are handed a radical zine such as this one. The primary one: why? Why are you handing me this? Why should a student at the University of Michigan become involved? I am sure you have at least some inkling that things in this country are not as they should be. Even from just the occasional news story, it’s easy to see that our society is far from the “American Dream.” However, the wide array of societal problems can often seem alien to us here on campus. Here at Michigan, haven’t we “made it”? Aren’t we, “the leaders and the best” on our way to a bright future?
The short answer to these questions is no. Our futures, not just as students but as people, are threatened- to a degree perhaps unparalleled in the past 40 years. Both within the university and outside of it, young people face issues that challenge our right to a better future. However, while we face these great challenges we retain the right and responsibility to fight back.
To start with, let’s look at a few of the problems that confront us as students at Michigan. For many of us, a basic challenge is the ever-rising cost of tuition. Each year, the cost of being a Wolverine rises hundreds, if not thousands, of dollars. In the past twenty years, in-state tuition has more than tripled (adjusted for inflation), moving education beyond the grasp of many and forcing most of us to take on crippling debt. To ensure that the University of Michigan, and college in general, remains affordable, something needs to be done to change this pattern of oppressive costs.
Regents we are here to say that you are elected officials. You are accountable to the public that you are privileged to serve. Well the public is here. We are here to tell you that you have failed in this service. There was once affordable public education. Today there is only an expensive commodity. You sell this commodity to wealthy students. To the rest of us you offer a more ominous exchange: an education for a lifetime of student debt.
You tell us State de-funding creates difficult challenges. We agree. But you have responded to this challenge by stripping benefits from workers; raising tuition; and decreasing tenure-track positions. You say cut back: we say fight back!
You have demonstrated your inability to stand for public education. Your agenda today / represents what you do stand for. You value funding start-ups over students; and you value billions in construction over accessible education. We are demonstrating what we value. We the students the staff and the faculty. We who teach and participate in class; we clean the campus; we fix the buildings; we contribute to public knowledge. We are here to reclaim the University for the public who makes it run.
You endeavor to attract the richest and whitest not the best and brightest. You support construction not instruction. We have another vision. Job security and intellectual freedom for faculty and staff; a student body without student debt; and a community that shatters race and class divisions instead of reproducing them.
This university claims to be an institution of inclusion and equality. Our vision works for the future when this may be true. Your vision ensures a public forever divided. We reject your vision!
But Regents we know that your failure is shared. The State Legislature shares it; the student loan sharks share it; the Governor shares it; the U.S. Congress shares it. The President shares it. When we address you, we address them too. We address you as representatives of a bankrupt system.
We, the true motor of the university, will not continue to be passive consumers of a product that should not, cannot, must not be for sale. We reclaim the university as a public space whose true owners are the students, the faculty, the staff, and the community members who make it run. In solidarity with our peers across the country, we struggle for a true public education. We are Occupy U of M and we are the 99 percent!
Instruction not construction!
The following is one of the premier articles from Diag Dissent, the official blog of Students Allied for Freedom and Equality (SAFE). This blog is a medium through which student activists can engage social justice on campus.
For more articles and opinions. check out the blog http://diagdissent.com/
This past summer, I was in Jabalia, Gaza visiting my uncle’s home. It was about 2:15 am, and my 3-year-old cousin, Susu, thought it would be funny to start throwing peaches at me. Meanwhile my mother, brother, sister, uncle, and his wife, were counting down the last minutes until the electricity was supposed to come back on. We had gone 11 hours straight without electricity that day. Suddenly, for the third time during my 2-month-long visit to Palestine, the sound of an explosion rung in the living room. For a second, I thought that the missile had hit our building, but then I remembered the descriptions my friends and family had given me when explosions hit nearby. Shaking walls, shattered glass, and blinding dust were all a part of their vivid recounts, something that not many people around the world have to live through, but all the people of Gaza do. Our building wasn’t hit, but our cores where shook. Although it had happened twice before, this was a sound that I could never get used to. Susu immediately began crying and my uncle ran to him and embraced him in his arms. As he stroked his hair, all he said was “la la yaba” (“no, no, daddy”) until his son stopped crying. My uncle looked at me and shook his head. The only thing I thought to say at that moment was “Don’t be afraid, Susu, it’s going to be okay.” My uncle smiled and put Susu down.
“How do you know that, Suha? We don’t have the right to make promises like that anymore. Actually, we never did. We Palestinians don’t have the right to promise our children anything. We can’t promise them college, we can’t promise them bread, we can’t promise them a home, we can’t promise them security, we can’t even promise them life. What kind of fathers and mothers are we? We don’t have the right to be parents. Look what they did to our people, we’re not even a people anymore, we’re just animals. Actually we’d be lucky if we were treated like animals. Why do I have to see my son crying and shaking in fear almost every night? Why can’t I have the peace of mind knowing that my son can someday just have the HOPE of having a happy life, away from missiles, away from bombs, away from this shit that we live in?! I don’t even know why your father lets you come here. Our lives are worthless. The world has forgotten about us. Or they never cared to begin with. The Arabs are shit and America is shit. The whole world is shit! We don’t have anyone but God. And it looks like He’s not on our side either. Do yourself a big favor in the future, don’t ever let your children get a Palestinian citizenship or even come back here. Stay American. At least you’ll be a human being.”
The conversation was interrupted as my uncle’s neighbor shouted to him from outside. He and my uncle tried to get a generator working, knowing that it would be a while until the electricity is restored.
My mind drifted back to my life here in the states. I remembered all the protests that I was a part of, the ‘stands in solidarity’, the ‘dialogues and discussions.’ Things I always thought would some day change the atrocious conditions my family was living in. In that brief moment that dragged excruciatingly on, they all seemed so worthless, so hypocritical…
There were two lands that I called home, Palestine and the USA. One’s name is imprinted on the F-16’s, the machine guns, the tanks, the tear gas that is used everyday to dehumanize, disillusion, and slaughter my other home. Yet, I still thought that America and the rest of the world would always defend my right to “life, liberty and security of person.” The rights I always thought I had simply because I was human, suddenly became the ones I owned only because I was an American, and that privilege was lifted the moment I stepped foot into the occupied territories of Palestine. That cringing sound of an airplane that would never cause me to flinch in America, now caused my heart to drop as I would pray it wasn’t my last night.
Up until that moment, I always felt that I was a victim. After all I had been an Arab-Muslim woman living in America, but in reality, it was the opposite. I was a part of the human race as long as I stood outside of Palestine. I still had a voice, I still had the right to plan and promise, I still had hope, something that my people couldn’t fathom they’d someday own as well. Guilt overtook me as I realized that when I lived in America, I was a part of the ‘they’ my uncle was referring to. I was a part of the ‘they’ that allowed my uncle to become demoralized and dejected. I immediately decided to stop thinking about it and returned to tickling and playing hide and seek with Susu until the night was over. I was uncomfortably comforted by Susu’s innocence, wishing I could be in his shoes, have his views, if only for a little while.
We left around 5 a.m. to our apartment in Rimal, still no electricity. Before I went to bed, my dad took our passports in order to reserve us a spot on the Gaza-Rafah border so that we could plan our leave weeks later. When I pulled out my two passports from my dad’s waist bag, I stared at both documents. In one hand I carried what made me a ‘human’ and in the other, the exact opposite. A feeling of hypocrisy, contradiction, and overall confusion overtook me whole. I am a living paradox, two incompatible entities housed within one body. But the truth is, I have yet to grasp what it means to be a Palestinian, an American, and a human being living in the world today. One thing that I have become completely conscious of is that the right to liberty does not apply to every human. The right to life is selective at best, and the right to security of person is a mere façade. I’ve realized that these rights are the standards of select human beings, but not for Palestinians. Not yet. The hope that this may one day be a standard for Susu and his grandkids is a dream too far down the road to be declared a universal standard. For the sake of accuracy, a decree ought to be issued to call it by its true name: ‘The Universal Declaration of Human Rights for everyone, but Palestinians.’
By: Suha Najjar
Welcome to another year of the Harbinger. We’ve managed to stay alive and even grow a little stronger, despite the best prayers of conservative FBI informants everywhere. We thought we’d start this semester off with an short explanation of some of the values and ideas that guide us as Anti-Capitalists, allowing us to set right some false assumptions the power structure, and Fox news in particular, has helped cultivate.
Our group, The Student Socialist Union is a multi-tendency leftist organization. We embrace the common ideals of Socialism, Communism, and Anarchy in an effort to build a united front against capitalism. The enemy is too strong for us to be caught up in sectarian bickering: only through coordinated action can we hope to seize our future back from those who seek to sell it for a better bottom line.
Socialism is not the boogie man that the right likes to build it into, but a centuries old ideology of liberation and equality. It encompasses a wide variety of theories all based around the idea that in this modern age, with the vast wealth that our society produces, there is no longer any need for hunger, homelessness, or major inequalities. We believe that the means of production, that is the factories, land and machinery used to produce commercial goods, should be held in common among the people that work and utilize them. Wealth is created through group action, and should be divided amongst the group, not hoarded by an individual. State Socialism, Communism, and Anarchism are extremely dynamic and varied theories, what follows are mere sketches of the ideas entailed in each.
Socialism, as a term is the most general of these ideologies, and has been used to refer to everything from the Labour party in Britain to the Bolsheviks in Revolutionary Russia. The basic idea of socialism is that the majority of the population to take control of government, be it through democratic or revolutionary means, and administer the means of production through the state. This is usually done through a workers party which represents the will of the people, and administers the state in their interests. Socialists governments generally launch a broad platform of educational, medical, housing, and other social programs, also bringing major industries and utilities under the control of the government, and by extension the people.
Communists believe in a radical reorganization of society to create a truly democratic way of life. Generally they believe in worker’s control of the means of production; economic democracy, meaning decisions of what and how much to produce are made by the community; and the end of private property. Some communists see socialism as but the first step on the road to a communist society. They see using the state to redistribute wealth and create the structure of the future society: organizing communes and planning the economy. Others believe that communism should be brought about from the grass roots by expropriation, and localized organizations of working people who come together to create national and international economic organizations.
Finally, Anarchists believe that inequality and oppression are caused by coercive , force based authority. It is a common misconception that anarchists don’t believe in any sort of organization. This is false. Anarchists believe in voluntary democratic organization who’s decisions are enforced by the community, without professional police or army. They believe the people should overthrow the state without taking power, decentralizing decision making to the local level and administering the economy through trade and regional economic unions. Generally Anarchists seek a communist future without resorting to state authority to create it.
It is the goal of our group to find the unities within these ideologies, namely their opposition to capitalist exploitation and sham democracy, belief in worker control of their own lives and jobs, and a more equitable distribution of wealth. We must stand together to oppose the corrupt immoral system of global capital, and fight in concert for a truly better tomorrow.
There might be a tendency in some to look at the recent attacks on organized labor in Wisconsin, Michigan, and elsewhere as products of a couple of right-wing crackpots who managed to get themselves elected, but a close look at recent history demonstrates that the environment for organized labor has been hostile for quite some time. Unions are, of course, one of the very few remaining counter-balances to corporate power, which makes them a near constant target of both legislation and propaganda. The Michigan Daily’s coverage of the current organization drive of graduate student research assistants (GSRAs) should come as no surprise then, as it is characterized by either lazy reporting, outright deception, or both. What is most disheartening about this coverage is that the facts are all available, yet The Daily still decided to publish an editorial against the drive with scant attention to the reality of the situation.
The editorial, published on February 21st, 2011 states that, “the Graduate Employees’ Organization is lobbying to bring graduate student research assistants under the umbrella of its union, and the University is declining to negotiate this issue with GEO.” This opening is false, and sets the tone for the entire piece. It is true that the University has decided not to discuss GSRAs at the bargaining table, but GEO is not seeking to include GSRAs into their contract. Rather, they are asking the University to recognize the democratic rights of GSRAs to organize as employees of the University of Michigan, and the University has paid this request no mind.
Just as the events of Wisconsin aren’t the isolated actions of a fringe element in American politics, but of a coordinated and deliberate attempt to destroy unions, neither is the GSRA campaign to organize the result of a whim of the GEO leadership. It is the result of workers attempting to take some control over the conditions of their employment. In the 1970s, when GEO first came into existence as one of the first graduate employee unions in the country, the drive was to organize all graduate students that were also employees of the university. That included the 300 or so graduate students who were research assistants at the time. The University’s stance, which was subsequently supported by a court ruling, was that research assistants were not in fact employees of the University, and therefore could not join an employee collective bargaining unit. Today, there are upwards of 2000 research assistants at the University of Michigan, and many have problems that sound remarkably similar to the problems of employees: compensation and workload, vacation, and the conflation of academic and paid research work, not to mention the fact that budget cuts are likely, and the easiest targets of such cuts are workers outside of a bargaining unit.
The Daily might avail themselves of this brief history, and to take the current nationwide assault on the labor movement into account. Their recent editorial is only the latest articulation of what seems to be a very limited grasp of all the factors at play. They also make it difficult to chalk this up to mere journalistic laziness. Indeed, readers of the most recent editorial might come away with the idea that there is only one authority on this matter: the University. The editorial quotes the associate vice provost Jeff Frumkin twice, but includes no voice from GSRAs or GEO. In so doing they assure that the half-truths that rest as this editorial’s premise remain uncorrected and the voices of all the parties involved are left to be interpreted through the slipshod assertion of the editorial board that states:
“In an interview with the Daily, Frumkin said the University doesn’t think it’s in GSRAs’ best interest to join GEO because a collective bargaining agreement wouldn’t properly address the specific issues related to each GSRA research project. Many GSRAs agree with this sentiment and have indicated that they don’t want to join GEO.”
Many GSRAs probably do agree with this sentiment. In most unionization campaigns there are people who side with management, typically those who have little to complain about, and perhaps an unwillingness to empathize with their fellow workers. What is also true is that many GSRAs disagree with this sentiment and have decided to voice their support for unionization, but this latter fact does not make it into the editorial. Ultimately the Daily calls for the very same position GEO has sought to put forth at the bargaining table, admitting that “If GSRAs want to campaign for unionization that is their right.” But if this is actually The Daily’s position why not ask the University to agree to a democratic process? And why follow this claim of respect for the right to organize with a decidedly biased opinion on whether they should organize or not? The editors write:
“There are undoubtedly situations in which a GSRA may require assistance in dealing with a faculty member or the conditions of his or her work at the University, but unionizing may not be the most effective solution. Instead, the University must be willing to help GSRAs by expanding or implementing necessary resources.”
This passage becomes even more troubling when considering the title of the piece “One union doesn’t fit all” Of course, those involved in labor struggle know that a collective voice is by far the most effective way of leveraging the power of management, who, despite The Daily’s distorted view of the world, will never extend themselves for their employees unless put under pressure to do so. A collective voice provides that pressure. Many GSRAs do require assistance, and that is why they have decided to organize. The Michigan Daily would do well to pay more than lip service to the notion that GSRAs have the right to organize and let their democratic voice be heard, both in the pages of their publication, and by the University.
By: Will Hutchinson