Rally on quad kicks off fight against increased tuition
Fossil Free AU and Education Not Debt banded together to outwardly oppose future tuition increase to be voted on by Board of Trustees on March 6
Members of student activist groups Fossil Free AU and Education Not Debt rallied on the quad on March 2 with other students in protest of a potential raise in tuition that the Board of Trustees will vote on March 6.
The coalitions ended the rally with a march to President Neil Kerwin's office to present a banner signed by indebted students. The event kicked off a week of activities aimed at placing pressure on the Board of Trustees.
“I am here because I am angry,” Clare Verbeten, a sophomore in the School of Public Affairs, said into a megaphone. “I’m angry about the financial burdens AU has placed on my family. I am angry about the stress they’ve caused us. I’m angry about the lack of empathy they have shown, not only for me, but for too many of my friends and colleagues at this school.”
The direct-action student coalition Education Not Debt began last semester in response to a vote on increases in tuition happening this Friday. Around 100 students gathered on the quad, where students shared their stories about crippling debt from college loans.
Rebekah Frank, a junior in the College of Arts and Sciences, is not a member of either student group that made up a majority of the crowd, but came to campus two hours earlier than usual to be a part of the protest.
“I am out here partially because I am a first-generation college student,” Frank said, as protesters chanted around her. “And every time I go home there’s a conversation of like, ‘how are we going to afford next year?’”
Anna Sutton, a third-year student in the Global Scholars program, is a veteran organizer from Fossil Free AU. Sutton spoke to the crowd about her struggles to find the money to pay for her last year of education.
“I am fed up with a system that’s supposed to support me, making me feel like I am irresponsible for trying to rise above the financial limitations of my childhood.” Sutton said. “I am not a loan.”
At the end of the rally, the protesters presented a banner with handwritten messages about student debt to Meg Clemmer, the assistant to the office of the President, who represented Kerwin since he was not in his office.
The Education Not Debt coalition plans on keeping the pressure on Kerwin and the board as Friday’s vote nears. The social media campaign will be active leading up to the end of the week, organizer Rachel Ussery, a freshman in the School of International Service said.
Education Not Debt will also take part in the Student-Worker Alliance event at 7 p.m. Tuesday.