More than one protest shook Penn's campus on Thursday.
While many students gathered on College Green in solidarity with the students protesting at Yale and the University of Missouri, others, along with students, professors and campus workers from around the country participated in the Million Student March, a national organization seeking academic reform through what they label as a “decentralized day-of-action.”
They marched for three core demands, aimed at putting pressure on the government to enact education reform. The movement is seeking to achieve a $15 minimum wage for all campus workers, cancellation of student debt and tuition-free public college. They also hope to build a larger student movement and “hopefully start a dialogue,” said College senior John Lesmeister, one of the organizers of the event on Penn’s campus.
At Penn, the group assembled at Perelman Quadrangle and migrated to College Green to join the Students Organizing for Unity and Liberation march in solidarity with students protesting at Yale, the University of Missouri and other colleges across the nation. The group delivered a letter with the set demands to Amy Gutmann’s office, then continued on to City Hall along with the Drexel organization.
The Million Student March movement germinated from conversations with a variety of national organizations. Its original goal was to have a large youth-centered march that would lend itself to building and developing what already exists in student groups and to assist them in gaining publicity. The purpose is to show the power of the student movement by uniting demands and underscoring the issues that exist in the institutions of higher education. Inspired by the successful movements in Quebec and Chile, the Million Student March hopes to create the first step towards mobilization.
The group, along with the Student Labor Action Project is also fighting for Penn to pay Payment in Lieu of Taxes, also known as PILOT. Paying taxes to the surrounding community, particularly for parks and schools, is important to "have an accountability to the community,” said Engineering sophomore Evan Tao, another organizer of the event.
The organizers hope other institutions will join the movement.
“How I see this is going to change things is more in terms of building our movement here,” Lesmeister said. “Penn is a keystone institution."
“We’re fighting for colleges to be more accessible. Obviously a lot of people here have struggles with paying tuition, with work study especially. You used to be able to say ‘I can work my way through college,’ and that’s not really true anymore,” Tao said. “We want to continue to push this for Penn to pay PILOTs, and also for minimum wage, and show that we care about it."
But they don’t hope to end here. The group is hoping to gain media traction with the rally at City Hall. Spencer McAvoy is a student organizer with the IIRON Student Network in Chicago helping to coordinate media for the Million Student March. On reactions from the press, he said “They like to downplay how organized we are and also the extent of our analysis,” and will likely “take these demands as idealistic or entitled.” “I expect what you usually see from the mainstream media,” he added.
While the March was one day of action, the issue will continue to be represented. “It’s one of those things where once you start learning about it, it hits you pretty hard,” said Tao.
Individuals seeking more information on the movement can visit studentmarch.org.Comments powered by Disqus
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