It seems appropriate that the same summer that Occupy Wall Street was being envisioned also saw the beginnings of New York Students Rising (NYSR). NYSR, a network of SUNY and CUNY college students, was created with the purpose of amplifying the pleas of state college students for an end to the cutting of state funds, an end to the rising of tuition, an end to unfair student loan practices, and the beginnings of students having more say in the administration of their campuses.
In the words of their site’s about page:
NYSR is a statewide network of students and campus-organizations dedicated to defending public higher education and empowering students in New York State. From our campus administrations to the halls of state government, students are an under-represented constituency whose fate is at a perilous crossroads. Students are facing higher tuition and incurring greater debt to attend public universities that are under-funded, increasingly influenced by private corporate interests, and run by unaccountable administrators who receive a disproportionate amount of university resources. There is a pressing need for students to unite and organize to protect our common interests.
Prior to this year I had been going through a big patch of cynicism when it came to activism. On March 4th, 2010, a group of roughly fifty students, including myself (though my main contribution came in the form of providing dumpstered food, led a direct action on my campus which saw about 300 students occupying the Student Services building. The action was able to change the nature of this building for at least one day; similar to what OWS did with Zucotti park for about 2 months though not as amazing. However a lack of a follow-up and certain overbearing personalities among the main organizers led many to feel as though the action had been a disaster and discouraged about student activism. After many years of going by the activist label, had a good and needed moment of self-critique and self-reflection which left me unsure if what I new of activism could work.
That’s why I found it strange how easy I had been convinced to join one of the first meetings of the Purchase chapter of NYSR. The meetings leading up to the first action, in October, were small and seemed to wreak with the same cynicism I had. There were of course more resilient members of our small meetings who didn’t focus all their attention on not repeating March 4th at all cost and who were able to lead the way to a very well done action.
Soon after this day Occupy Wall Street began. Occupy Wall Street seemed to bring new life into those had become cynical of activism including myself. Both those of my generation and those prior were excited to see members of all generations ending what had been a long state of apathy.
That’s when NYSR went silent though. This doesn’t mean that the college activism had stopped though. Many of those involved with NYSR seemed to transition easily to the OWS movement. New networks on top of NYSR were also formed including individual networking between colleges and more organized groups such as the Student General Assembly at Washington Square park. There was a lot to focus on and so NYSR was put on a hold it seemed.
Tomorrow begins the Winter conference for NYSR. I will be attending alongside fellow students from an array of SUNY and CUNY Colleges. CUNY has been very active in the past couple of months alongside OWS. Their relative closeness to each other allows for strong networks and organization. The SUNY Schools are a lot further apart. NYSR and other such networks are beneficial for bringing together the students of the state college system of New York. Fragmented we just seem like college kids raising a fuss. Together, as the entirety of SUNY and CUNY system, with our teachers, faculty, parents, friends, and supporters behind us, we can accomplish our goals.
After more than three months of the OWS movement, I feel that tomorrows conference will be a powerful one. Student activists have learned a lot since the last NYSR and first NYSR conference this past summer. Keep an eye of the students. We are fighting for the future of not just our education but the education of all. Education is a great tool in combating the numerous issues facing our world today. Public education makes it easier for all who are willing to learn to do so. Education should not be given out based upon the monetary assets of oneself or family. Wealth does not determine intelligence then why should it determine who can attend college.
For the sake of our future, we must fight for affordable Public education.
UPDATE: Keep March 6th open and plan to go to Albany…