Students march across campus in support of free tuition, cancellation of student debt
On Nov. 12, UC Davis students rallied together in support of the “Million Student March.” The march, which began at the Memorial Union and traveled throughout campus, is a national movement that demands free tuition from public universities, the cancellation of all student debt and a minimum wage of $15 per hour for all campus workers.
Prior to the protest, students gathered in solidarity to show their support for students of color at the University of Missouri following a string of racially-charged incidents.
According to the protesters, the country has exceeded $1 trillion in student debt since 2012 and the average amount of debt a UC Davis student leaves with is $25,000.
Before the march began, students and organizers gathered at the MU flagpole to create a “web of debt” to symbolize how much debt each individual possesses. Students attached pieces of paper with their current amount of student debt onto a physical web to emphasize the cumulative debt of the student population.
The march followed the recent freeze on UC tuition, which began earlier this year and will last until the end of 2017.
Sam Alavi, the director of the ASUCD Office of Advocacy and Student Representation (OASR), voiced her opinion on who the students can hold accountable for this debt crisis.
“I personally think that our state legislature and our governor would be the best to notify of these issues,” Alavi said. “Because they are so far removed from college life, they forget what it is like to be a student.”
She also put an emphasis on the fact that a large amount of the state’s budget goes to prisons rather than to our education system.
“We spend a lot of unnecessary money on prisons, which prevents many people from going to schools like UC Davis,” Alavi said.
While Aiden Coyne, a research analyst for OASR, echoes Alavi’s point, he also believes that officials at UC Davis and within the UC system also play a part in influencing the massive student debt.
“I know politics [isn’t] popular, but we need to keep our politicians accountable,” Coyne said. “[Gov.] Jerry Brown, [UC President Janet] Napolitano and Chancellor [Linda] Katehi need to be made aware of these issues.”
In response to the protest, Andy Fell, associate director of news and media relations at UC Davis, recognizes the urgency of the student debt crisis.
“These are important national issues and students should certainly be working to raise awareness around the affordability of education,” Fell said.
OASR sees this protest as a way for local government representatives to feel the pressure of student burden.
“There needs to be transparency between students and the university,” said Elijah Pipersbury, OASR coalition coordinator.
Students protesters echoed the opinions of the organizers. Samantha Romero-Bothi, a third-year biochemistry major, expressed her feelings toward the lack of community within UC schools.
“The UC’s are [raising] their costs to compete against each other,” Romero-Bothi said. “They are like businesses.”
Emphasizing the fact that she transferred to UC Davis because of the financial aid package she received, Romeo-Bothi was able to provide an account for what the university assists with and what the university fails to provide.
“The financial aid gives me enough for tuition, but it does not cover basic living costs,” Romero-Bothi said. “I initially went to a community college because I knew I couldn’t afford going to a college like UC Davis.”
In regards to the march, Fell points to an article written by Chancellor Katehi for The Huffington Post, where she discusses the needed collaboration between students and administration in regards to addressing student debt.
“The overriding issue for me as leader of a public higher education institution is being able to ensure access and affordability as we also maintain institutional excellence,” Katehi wrote in the article. “It’s our responsibility — and opportunity — to do all we can to give them a helping hand. To me, this is what higher education is all about.”
Written by: Nick Griffen – email@example.com