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UW-Milwaukee rally says ‘Education is a right’

By staff

Milwaukee students protest for education rights.

Milwaukee, WI – Students for a Democratic Society’s call for a National Day of Action to Defend Public Education was answered by the Education Rights Coalition, Milwaukee SDS, undergraduate and graduate students, union members and community members who rallied on the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee campus, March 14.

At present the U.S. government spends about $128 billion on education, a meager amount compared to the $851 billion military budget. Additionally, student loan debt has surpassed $1 trillion, more than the U.S.’s level of credit card debt.

Rallying in Spaights Plaza (during midterm examination week), students held signs like “Chop from the top!” and “Education is a right!” and a large banner that read “Fund education not occupation!”

Tiffany Strong from SDS, Jorge Maya from Youth Empowered in the Struggle (YES), and Gilbert Johnson, Vice President of AFSCME 82, gave personal testimony to the rising cost of education and its unaffordability, especially for disabled, undocumented, poor and oppressed nationality students.

Gerardo Alvarado, an organizer from Youth Empowered in the Struggle, said, “Until scholarships are available for undocumented people the rates for immigrant students attending college will be low.”

After rallying in Spaights Plaza, the demonstrators marched to present their list of demands to Chancellor Michael Lovell and Vice Chancellor Michael Laliberte at Chapman Hall.

Reminiscent of a protest a couple years back when 15 students were arrested in a standoff with UWM police outside Chapman Hall, the coalition members were met once again with a locked building guarded by university police. A sign on the north entrance read “No admittance! Use east entrance!” When asked if they could enter as a group a police officer replied “not today!” as he let in individual staff members.

Protesters refused to leave until an administrator met with them and received their demands. They then were greeted by another officer and Dean of Students Jim Hill, who asked for a representative and who claimed they did not know where the chancellor and vice chancellor were. Hill insisted he would present the demands to the chancellors himself. After stating the demands of the protest in a mic-check outside Chapman Hall, the coalition members marched back to Spaights Plaza where they held several more mic-checks in and around the student union, again announcing their demands.

The Education Rights Coalition presented the following demands: that all student loans be forgiven; chop military spending and more money for Pell grants; Increased availability of scholarships for disabled, undocumented, poor and oppressed nationality students; and increased availability of funds for state employees.

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