2006 article: Student Activists Under Attack at City College of New York for Honoring Black and Puerto Rican Liberation Heroes
by Brad Sigal | Fight Back News Service read the entire article here
December 18, 2006
A Center for Organizing
The Morales/Shakur Center houses various activist groups and projects. Students for Education Rights was the group that led the student strike that won the space for the Morales/Shakur Center from the CUNY administration in 1989. Union de Jovenes Dominicanos and Dominicanos 2000 use the Morales/Shakur Center for their activities, including running a Pre-University Program that works with hundreds of high school students from the community. Student Liberation Action Movement is an activist group at CUNY formed in 1995 in opposition to another round of tuition hikes. The Messenger, which was started as an alternative newspaper at CCNY in 1997, uses the center too.
The key to beating back the attacks on CUNY is building a broad but militant, politically independent and multi-racial student movement. No single race or nationality predominates at CUNY. In order to mobilize large numbers of students on campuses across CUNY it is necessary to build multi-racial unity. But that unity can’t be built on the basis of simplistic slogans like “Black and White, Unite and Fight!” It must be based on an understanding of the white supremacist character of the attacks on CUNY and open admissions.
One of the biggest obstacles to building the kind of multi-racial movement that can win is the temptation to build the movement on the basis of the lowest common denominator and the narrowest of demands such as simply opposing the tuition increase. The problem with this approach is that it doesn’t deal with the fact that the cuts are coming down differently on different people.
The core of the movement at CUNY has always been Black and Latino students because they are the ones paying the highest price for each round of cuts. For a white student from Staten Island going to CUNY because it is cheaper than SUNY (the state university system), a $400 tuition increase will make them $400 poorer. For a Dominican student from Washington Heights, a $400 tuition increase may mean they can’t go back to school next year. Fighting the cuts has a different sort of urgency for different students. In order for white students to help build a multi-racial movement they need to acknowledge the way that white privilege operates within CUNY and the larger society and commit themselves to fighting it even when it goes against their own immediate interests.
This is taken from “Some Thoughts on The History of Slam” found here.
The Struggle Over Who CUNY Serves
CUNY is not like most university systems in the U.S. CUNY was founded in 1847 as the “Free Academy” to educate the working class and had free tuition from 1847 until 1976. The large majority of students are from working class and poor families, and the majority of students are oppressed nationalities.
But CUNY hasn’t always been that way – continual rounds of student and community struggles since the late 1960s transformed CUNY from an almost-all white institution to a university that attempted to reflect the class and race of the students coming out of New York City’s high schools. In 1969, the few Black students that were at CUNY’s flagship campus, City College (CCNY) in Harlem, with support from the surrounding Black community, took over campus buildings demanding that the mostly-white City University should adopt ‘open admissions’ so that Black and Puerto Rican high school graduates in New York City would get a chance to go to college and get the support they needed when they got there.
After a series of building takeovers and fights against cops and some racist white students, along with rounds of negotiating with CUNY administrators, they CUNY administration gave in and agreed to open admissions for the following school year. Literally overnight, the class and racial composition of CUNY was radically transformed, and CUNY became an institution that to a much larger degree than before ‘served the people’ of New York City rather than being a mostly-white bastion aimed at mostly serving business interests.
An example of what we can do when we are organized and united.
“Hostos Community College: Battle of the Seventies” written by Ramon Jimenez. The entire article can be found at leftspot.org.
Abstract: A personal historical account by the Coordinator of the Coalition to Save Hostos Community College during the 1975–76 New York City financial crisis. This 9-month, South Bronx-led community struggle began with traditional peaceful civic advocacy and then developed into a civil disobedience movement armed with aggressive militant tactics. The collective nucleus was composed of students, professors, professionals, community groups, constituency groups, and individuals supported by a citywide network. The campaign resulted in the longest takeover of an academic institution in the history of New York City, and emergency legislation that saved the first Spanish-English bilingual college in the history of the United States