PSU protesters shut down trustees meeting, demand members pay for tuition
- Though the protesters were there primarily to protest a tuition increase and advocating for a $15 minimum wage, they spent much of their time arguing for stricter gun control, and leveraging allegations of racism at the administration.
Students at Portland State University (PSU) shut down a Board of Trustees meeting with accusations that the school perpetuates a “corrupt decadent white-supremacist capitalist patriarchy hetero-patriarchy.”
They began their protest by covering their mouths with black tape and sitting silently through the meeting’s open comment period, at which time anyone could step forward to speak to the board. As soon as the open comment period ended, protesters broke their silence and disrupted the meeting, forcing the board to take a recess.
More than 100 protesters gathered to prevent the approval of a four-percent tuition hike while demanding a $15 minimum wage for all PSU workers.
“I have been here before—poured out my heart—and told this board that this place is racist, and what I just put on his table is 1,000 signatures to support $15 for all PSU workers,” one student said to a vacant panel of board members who eventually retreated to an alternative location in the basement of their administrative offices where they passed a resolution to increase tuition.
Chair Pete Nickerson told The Oregonian that without a tuition increase the school would be forced to cut $6 million from its annual budget. The school’s budget routinely increases in order to sustain the hiring of new faculty and staff members, as well as new student services, a portion of which could be a result of demands to support diversity and inclusion efforts at PSU.
Even though the protesters claimed to be boycotting a rise in tuition, they spent most of their time arguing for stricter gun control, and leveraging allegations of racism at the administration.
“So those flowers are probably for me when I die on this campus, if possible, because I am black and Muslim and this school is pretty much 70 percent white, and I will be targeted. With that said, we need this campus disarmed,” one student said as she pointed at a bouquet of flowers that was presented to the board by student Bakari Hill.
“If and when I become another statistic,” Hill said of police shootings, “put flowers on my grave.”
One transgender student claimed she felt unsafe at PSU knowing that “men with guns” are free to roam about campus.
“I’m a transwoman of color and for me to just walk across campus, like, that’s, I mean—I see you [points to a police officer standing in the room] and I think that’s great, like, that you’re, you know, um, like, you’re here, but, like, you know, like, what you represent to people like me is that, like, is violence, the threat of violence, and I hope you know that, and just, like, basically, I do not feel safe here. I’m pretty sure all of you do not feel safe here with, like, men with guns here, and mind you, Oregon was founded on white supremacist capitalist ideology,” she said to a round of applause from her fellow protesters.
She then went on to accuse her peers who support Donald Trump of white supremacy as she criticized the board for not responding appropriately to instances of Trumpism.
“Those messages of white supremacist are still going on right now. If you go out this room right now you will see a sign that supports Trump—that same ideology, and for a student like myself and other brown students walking around campus seeing that, how do you think we feel?” she asked. “And we have told the board of cowards over and over again and what are they doing? Looking down at their fucking papers not even paying attention to us because they don’t care. To them, we are just their slaves.”
Another former student encouraged her compatriots to refrain from casting a vote in November’s presidential ballot lest they be participants in a “corrupt capitalist system.”
“I’m sorry but do not give a vote. Women died to get the vote. If women that died to get the vote could see what the system was now … they’d say: ‘oh, hell no! This is a corrupt capitalist system.’ Don’t feel the Bern, don’t fall for Hillary’s BS, and you know what the rest of its got going on so I’m not even going to go there,” she said, even though presidential candidate Bernie Sanders has built his campaign on an appeal to college-aged students with promises to support free tuition and $15 minimum wage laws.
PSU president Wim Wiewel said the board has tried to sit down with student activists but all invitations have been rejected.
“It’s really galling to hear the accusations that, ‘you’re not willing to listen to us,’ when in fact all invitations to sit with us have been turned down,” he said.
Protesters have shut down board meetings at least twice before. This time, however, they were accompanied by the local Black Lives Matter chapter and “$15 Now.”
In addition to demanding a cap on tuition, a $15 minimum wage, and the disarmament of campus police, activists called for a cut in administrators’ paychecks in order to freeze tuition hikes.
However, assuming PSU’s top administrators completely forfeited their annual salaries, the school would still be about $1.5 million short of the $6 million needed for next year’s budget. Among PSU’s highest paid administrators is Jilma Meneses, chief diversity officer, who allegedly makes $193,500 a year.
H/T Progressives Today.
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