Teach-In, Speak-Out, Rally for higher ed.
Four buses, carrying up to 232 students and a message, will depart for our state capitol in Olympia on Nov. 28, and Student Government (S.G.) wants you to be on one.
Students concerned about rising tuition, larger class sizes, and fewer faculty members will convene with protesters from other colleges at a special legislative session during which lawmakers will be deciding what to cut from our state's budget.
The message? Don't cut higher education.
It may seem simple, but the stakes are high and the choices the legislature have are few.
S.G. and members of the faculty organized a series of advocacy workshops intended to help students identify the issues, consider solutions, and learn how to affect change.
Along with some of the workshops, on Nov. 16 Student Government hosted an hour-long series of short speeches followed by an open mic session. Student Prime Minister Luke Tchao, Shoreline's mayor Keith McGlashan, and 2012 gubernatorial candidate and Attorney General Rob McKenna's daughter Madeleine McKenna all addressed the audience.
"We have been beaten down by our ignorance, by our apathy, by our lack of duty and social responsibility," Tchao said. "We need to realize that we are the answer to our own problems."
The mayor didn't speak for too long, but had some words of encouragement and advice.
"When I walked into the building today, it was so impressive to feel the buzz that was going on throughout the building," said McGlashan. "It's so impressive that this is all student driven."
He said he was going to fight for higher education, and so should students – and make it personal. "The one thing that moves people the most is to hear the individual stories of students," McGlashan said. "Please do write letters, write emails, make calls and do go up on the hill when that rally happens. Be sure to somehow tell your personal stories. To be there face to face with them is really impactful."
McKenna brought a prerecorded campaign video of her father's featuring a rock 'n' roll soundtrack and clips from a speech on education. He supports a "fifty – fifty" plan for tuition where the cost would be split evenly between students and the state. The details for how that would be funded were unclear, besides "lean management principles" that Madeleine McKenna said has saved a lot of money in the Attorney General's office.
She was the U.W. student president last year, and was enthusiastic about the level of engagement among students at SCC. "I would have been thrilled if A.S.U.W. could have turned out this level of engagement."
Several hands went up after her speech, and she fielded a couple of questions from audience members who were skeptical about the chances of funding more education without any new revenue. Then the Student Government asked that questions be held in order to get on with the agenda.
Then the audience members took advantage of the open mic.
"I'm a 99 percenter, I'm a DECA, I'm Phi Theta Kappa, and I'm mad," Steve Kesting said. "We're being reactive to a situation that's going to require us to do something now. We can't wait for another six months."
"Remember," honor student Levon White said, "After we go to Olympia, we need to keep that momentum going."
Evan, a student in the Zero Energy program, got up next to say, "I feel like my generation has been anticipating this movement for a long time … I'd like to remind my fellow American citizens that we are not powerless. Get together, do it. Use the information that you got today to make a change."
"We are here for our future," an international student from Taiwan said, "We are here for higher education. Not higher tuition."
Monica Dardis, a student who is a self-described "future educator," also spoke. "If we had an income tax, it would create a lot of solutions to the deficits that we have … Also, I think we should use our rainy day fund. Because if this isn't a rainy day, I don't know what is."
Here's a glimpse at some of the workshops and what students learned at some of the other advocacy workshops this month:
Economic Causes and Consequences of Budget Cuts in Higher Education
This workshop was taught by economics instructor Tim Payne, who showed students that Washington State ranks number one in the country for the most regressive tax system.
That means the more money you make, the smaller the percentage of your income goes to taxes. Poorer households, on the other hand, pay a larger percentage of their income. "Washington State has by far the highest burden on the poor," Payne said.
Even some of our taxes that seem like they are equal – everyone pays the same dollar amount – end up being a much bigger burden on lower income families because they're spending a much larger percent of their income.
The Revolution Will Not be Televised
Ruth Gregory, who teaches Cinema 201 here at SCC, talked about the way media conglomerates have essentially formed a "domination of the media marketplace." It's a dangerous situation when so few companies – namely G.E., Time Warner, Walt Disney, Viacom, CBS, NBC/Comcast and News Corp. – own so much of the media that we consume.
One example Gregory gave of how they try and influence the messages that we receive is of the Michael Moore documentary Farenheit 9/11.
A Disney affiliate financed the movie, but then decided not to release it, apparently because it portrayed George Bush (who's brother Jeb was the governor of Florida – where Disney World is) and the Saudi royal family (who Disney had financial ties with) in a negative way. Despite the fact that the movie was obviously going to be profitable – it ended up being the top grossing documentary of all time – Disney blocked it for political reasons.
The media is not always going to be on the side of the consumer – or student – but there is another way to get attention.
"If there is a mass of students there when the legislative session opens, that's going to be really impactful," Gregory said.
Active Listening and Expressing
Dr. Ernest Johnson, a multicultural studies instructor, facilitated this workshop that was, more than anything, just an opportunity for students to talk to other students about the budget cuts.
Johnson had students organized in several sets of two rows, facing each other. For about a minute each, students would talk to the person across from them, first about what gives students the right to talk to their representatives, and then about how the budget cuts will affect them. After one minute passed for each person, one row got up and moved to the left and started again with a new partner.
The room was buzzing each time; students said they were already paying as much as they could afford, and some said that their degree was going to take longer than anticipated because of classes being cut.
Other workshops included the History of Student Activism; Writing Effective Messages for Political Action; and Public Speaking Workshop.
There will be another workshop at 1 – 2 p.m. on Nov. 21, titled Article 26 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights: The Right to Education.
Buses to Olympia will be leaving from SCC at 10:30 a.m. and 11:30 a.m. on Nov. 28. All students are welcome, but will need to fill out a couple forms in the Student Leadership Center before boarding.
Go to Shoreline.edu/sba/budgetcut for details.
Cam Keeble, Editor in Chief