'Black Students for Revolution' hold rally at U of Illinois

Black students at the University of Illinois are calling for a revolution, saying they won’t stop until the school puts an end to its “system of tuition-peonage” and abolishes its “strongholds of male power.”

At a Friday rally, UI’s Black Students for Revolution (BSR) presented a list of demands to its administration, touching on issues from tuition hikes and minimum-wage laws to Greek life and housing options.

In its first demand, BSR calls on its school to “immediately and permanently halt tuition hikes,” arguing that the current cost of higher education “is unsustainable and must be radically disrupted.”

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“While students are being handcuffed with loans, private lenders are making a profit and the federal government is spending public funds on wars, drones, [W]all [S]treet bailouts, and corporate subsidies,” it continues. “Situated at the intersection of white supremacy, capitalism, and patriarchy, today’s education model marginalizes and excludes both the working class and students of color.”

Another demand bashes the Greek Life system as an institution of sexual violence, saying the “toxic masculinity” found in fraternities perpetuates both racial and gender-based violence.

“Fraternities have long existed as strongholds of male power, a power predicated on racial as well as gender based violence. We believe that the multiple occurrences of rape, sexual assault, and sexual harassment within fraternities is not coincidental, but the logical outcome of the toxic masculinity upon which these organizations are founded,” the document asserts, later suggesting that all fraternity members should be required to complete sexual assault awareness training at the start of each academic year.

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Next, after demanding lower tuition costs, BSR goes on to argue for lower costs of living for transgender students as well as the establishment of a higher minimum wage for all university employees.

Currently, the list of demands claims, UI’s all-gender housing options are significantly higher priced than standard housing options, leading BSR to argue for a “discounted rate” on gender-neutral housing equivalent to a “less expensive standard housing option.”

Meanwhile, BSR demands that UI hire an independent consultant to “review the salaries of all university employees” in order to stamp out any “gender and race-based pay inequality” while also calling for a higher minimum wage for all university employees that meets the minimum standard of living.

“We believe that adequate shelter, food, water, and health care are human rights owed to all workers, and that a living wage is a first step in ensuring that for all people,” it says.

Finally, BSR demands that the university “cease and desist job outsourcing” and rather “hire directly from underrepresented populations” in the surrounding areas, saying the school has a “moral responsibility” to provide jobs to the unemployed.

“Clearly, the university plays a critical role in the employment/unemployment viability of Urbana-Champaign’s population—a role that carries with it a moral responsibility to support the historically exploited communities surrounding it,” BSR contends.

BSR concludes its list of demands by endorsing the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) movement, claiming the school has a responsibility to divest from “companies with egregious human rights violations.”

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Among such companies, BSR suggests, are “the coal industry and other corporations [that] produce fossil fuels,” “all private prison corporations,” and “all private military contractors and weapons manufacturers.”

Twenty-five other student clubs and local organizations signed their names to the list of demands and joined BSR at its rally on Friday, which BSR called “an initial starting point for a new era of student and community organizing in an effort to strengthen autonomy and unity amongst the various oppressed groups in Urbana-Champaign.”

“The multiple organizations that worked in solidarity to construct this list of demands and organize this rally condemn the toxic patterns of economically exploitative, racially oppressive, and gender/sexual discriminatory practices that drastically deteriorate the material and social conditions of underrepresented groups and individuals on the campus and in the community,” a press release for the event explained.

UI told Campus Reform that while organizers of Friday's protest have not yet reached out to the school, it is "always ready to meet with students to let them know what we're doing now and to look for ways to do even more together." 

"We're proud that our students are engaged in important social issues," the school said in a statement. "Many of the points raised are ones we've been working with students to address. We know we can achieve our shared goals more quickly when we all work together as a community." 

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