Faced with increasingly drastic and draconian measures of austerity, and with ever-rising amounts of student debt, young people across the country are beginning to mobilize and organize against the capitalist class and its war on education. This trend is no less present at the University at Albany than in many other hard-hit regions and educational institutions.
The recent passage of the NYSUNY2020 bill has forced SUNY students to face the grim reality of tuition increases of up to $300 every year for the next 5 years. This is clearly an effort by the capitalist class to pass part of the burden of the crisis onto the student body. In response to this, students on campus have united under the banner of the “Save Our SUNY” (SOS) organization in order to fight for their right to quality and affordable education.
The nature of this piece of legislation is not even concealed by the capitalist class and its representatives. They openly admit that it is designed to encroach upon the educational objectives of the university in favor of the economic interests of the big corporations. It even publicly praises the rationality of forcing students to pay for the costs of their economic catastrophe.
Upon the signing of this legislation, Democratic Governor Cuomo proclaimed that this plan would “become the engine of economic growth across the state.”
SUNY Chancellor Nancy Zimpher stated that this action would institute “fair, rational, and predictable tuition reform in New York State,” Or more honestly and to the point: predictable exploitation!
On October 5, 2011, SOS rallied hundreds of students in a walkout to protest cuts to a multitude of humanities programs on campus. The protest was also directed against the massive hikes to tuition as put into place by the new legislation, and the inordinate pay of the administration.
This action involved a march upon the administrative building of the campus which eventually netted the students an audience with the president of the university, George Phillip. Students proceeded to express their anger at these assaults on higher education. Those gathered expressed disdain over the fact that President Phillip makes over $500,000 a year and that his pension is one of the highest held by a state official.
This action was expanded upon later in the semester with a demonstration on the state capitol, during which students pushed a mock boulder with the words “1 Trillion Dollars” scrawled across it, representing the amount of money which is owed by students across the U.S. Many even wore small shackles around their legs marked with the amount of their own student debt. Students then proceeded to march into the capitol building to protest outside of the governor’s office.
The widespread recognition that students are viewed as little more than commodities and that the capitalist class treats the field of education as a field of business as opposed to one of actual learning, shows the growing development of a revolutionary class consciousness in this strata of society.
By recognizing the real nature of profit-driven education, students are being pushed to the forefront of the struggle for a society which is truly representative of their interests. The youth of the U.S. are beginning to seek solutions to their mounting student debt and to the declining quality of their education beyond the confines of capitalist politics. As they do, the ideas of socialism are only growing in their appeal.
Capitalism has nothing to offer students but debt and unemployment, and this is leading young people to seek alternatives outside of the current political structures.
The Democrats have given the students of New York a 30% increase in their tuition rates, while the Republicans have been more than pleased to support such measures.
As children of workers, students need a labor party to stand up for its interests. A party to demand an end to the endless torrent of austerity against education, the abolishment of all outstanding student debt, and the creation of a free educational system capable of providing high quality education to the working class, the only historically progressive class in society.