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Milwaukee SDS Advances as UWM Chancellor Resigns

By Daniel Ginsberg

March 4th protesters in Milwaukee.

Milwaukee, WI – Milwaukee Students for a Democratic Society (SDS) and the movement for education rights at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee (UWM) is celebrating a victory just as school begins. UWM Chancellor Carlos Santiago declared he is resigning by October 1, 2010.

Targeted in an ongoing campaign to defend tuition, jobs, and other student services, the Chancellor was rocked by protest every step of the way in his plan to balance a $20 million budget cut on the backs of students and workers.

“We demand, “Chop from the Top!“” explained Mike Gold of Milwaukee SDS. “We told the Chancellor that if the politicians are not going to hold the bankers and wealthy elite accountable for their economic crisis, cuts to our education are not going to be taken out of the pockets of workers and students; that money can come from the salaries and benefits of the Chancellor and high level administrators.”

Over 20 student groups and campus unions rallied to the cause over the last year, attending and supporting speak-outs organized by SDS and eventually forming the UWM Education Rights Campaign. When the National Day to Defend Public Education on March 4th arrived, hundreds at UWM came out in support. SDS led a march to the Chancellor's office to deliver campaign demands and signatures of support.

Upon hearing of the march, the Chancellor locked the doors of his building and had UWM and city police bust up the protest. Chancellor Santiago backed up the decision to mace, rough up, and arrest peaceful protesters. The arrested students became known as the Milwaukee 16, gaining nation-wide attention.

The attempt to use police intimidation backfired overnight. By the next day, another protest was planned outside the Chancellor's office. A forum put on by students and covered widely by the press, countered the lies the university administration promoted concerning March 4th. Progressive lawyers lined up to defend the students. Entire departments of university faculty came out with statements in support of the Milwaukee 16.

Chancellor Santiago finally agreed to a student demand, a public forum. Nearing the end of school and drawing in hundreds, the forum was covered by every media outlet in the city. Angry students, faculty, and community members filled the room along with a handful of university Regents. The Chancellor was booed and hissed for denying wrongdoing on March 4th and displayed a great amount of arrogance towards the popular education rights movement.

Shortly after, the UW System Board of Regents witnessed once again the anger and frustration at UWM. Typically quiet in the summer, two-dozen protesters crashed the summer Board of Regents meeting. They declared their intention to resist more budget cuts and to demand the dropping of the charges against the Milwaukee 16. The movement was not letting up.

One week later, UWM began negotiating to drop the charges against the Milwaukee 16. In August, with school soon resuming, the Chancellor declared his resignation, intent to leave six days shy of the next National Day of Action to Defend Education on Oct. 7th.

Looking forward, Milwaukee SDS is modifying their campaign, this time with demands for the next incoming Chancellor, who will be selected before the 2011-12 school year. The education rights campaign will continue, with this new campaign adding to its demands to end war profiteering at the school.

“Chancellor Santiago's resignation was good for our movement,” commented Natasha Morgan of SDS. “It's one less hurdle in our way and we're all very exited about this year's education rights movement. October 7th is going to be a big day here in Milwaukee and across the country.”

Chancellor Santiago, left, and a student, right, at an education forum

March 4th, gathering for the march in the student union

March 5th picket to protest March 4th arrests.

Protesting Board of Regents meeting.

#MilwaukeeWI #EducationRights #StudentsForADemocraticSocietySDS #March4thMovement