Baltimore, Maryland – Students at Johns Hopkins University (JHU) and community members in Baltimore protested against the creation of a private university police force by disrupting two town hall meetings on September 22 and September 29, the first of which led to some antagonism with JHU’s VP of public safety, Branville Bard. The creation of a university police force – the Johns Hopkins Police Department (JHPD) – was postponed for two years in response to the anti-police brutality protests of 2020. Now the university is fast-tracking the process with minimal input from students or the community, despite active opposition going back to 2019 when several anti-JHPD activists were arrested for occupying a university building for around a month.
The life of a graduate student looks much closer to that of an average worker than many universities care to admit. After completing core courses, most students at this level devote the equivalent of full time working hours or more towards research. Levels of compensation and protections vary across the country, but many graduate students are simply handed paltry stipends that hardly cover their needs, and ultimately amount to pathetic hourly wages. At Johns Hopkins University, many graduate students are producing much-needed research on the COVID-19 pandemic. These students produce vast profits for the university, but don’t even receive a living wage for their innovative and lucrative research. TRNN Editor-in-Chief Maximillian Alvarez interviews Johns Hopkins graduate students.
When over 40 Cambridge students and academics occupied the elite U.K. university’s BP Institute earlier this year, they were escalating one of the newest, fastest-growing campaigns focused on dissociating higher education institutions from fossil fuels. For just over an hour, activists from the grassroots initiative Fossil Free Research held a sit-in inside the building named after one of Europe’s largest oil producers, while making speeches and staging a street theater production that called attention to links between BP and the school. “We’re drawing attention to how the fossil fuel industry continues to infiltrate prestigious academic institutions, mooch off their credibility, and even exert influence over the production of knowledge crucial to shaping climate policy,” said Ilana Cohen, a lead organizer for the international Fossil Free Research campaign, who is currently a senior at Harvard.
On Thursday, September 8, students, teachers and other university workers took out a massive rally in the Constitution Square in Athens protesting the deployment of police on campuses. Activists from the Students Struggle Front (MAS) and Communist Youth of Greece (KNE) were among those who participated in the mobilization. They condemned the conservative New Democracy (ND)-led government’s bid to put the university campuses under police surveillance. The protesters in Athens denounced the deployment of ‘University Police’ at the National Technical University of Athens (NTUA), Athens University of Economics and Business Administration and National and Kapodistrian University of Athens. Protests and marches were also held in Thessaloniki against the presence of riot police at the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki. The Communist Party of Greece (KKE) expressed solidarity with the students and condemned the deployment of police in universities.
After more than two years of pressure from student climate activists at the University of Washington, the University’s Board of Regents passed a resolution to divest the school's endowment, worth more than $6B, from the fossil fuel industry. The resolution, released last Friday, would move investments of around $124 million currently funding fossil fuel projects into "climate solutions." This move would add UW to a long list of public and private universities which have committed to removing investments in fossil fuel projects. “Moves like this are necessary to restore our faith in institutions during a crisis which will define the next several generations,” says Brett Anton.
Tempe, Arizona - Beneath the veneer of liberal civility at Arizona State University (ASU), located in Tempe, lies a long history of the campus welcoming white supremacists and fascists, excused by a hand-wave towards public university inclusivity. Such was the case when the Phoenix Anarchist Federation and the wider community received word that the College Republicans United (CRU), the even more grotesque sibling of the ASU College Republicans, had invited Jared Taylor to speak on campus. Taylor, a noted white supremacist who has gained notoriety as the brains behind the American Renaissance conference, which helped popularize fascist ideas to a broader and often younger audience, is not the first virulent fascist to be hosted by the CRU.
American University administrators resumed negotiations Friday morning with staff who were on strike this week demanding higher wages and equitable pay. It was the first bargaining session administrators held with the staff’s union since contract negotiations failed last week due to disputes over raises. The bargaining session comes at the end of a nearly week long strike which began Monday and coincided with move-in week for undergraduates. The strike officially ended 3 p.m. Friday, as planned. It is unclear when the current round of negotiations will end. The strike kicked off at the Washington College of Law on Monday, and the union has spent much of the following days marching and chanting on the university’s main campus near residence halls.
Grapevine, Texas - More than 100 Grapevine High School students walked out of class Friday morning in protest of new district policies that limit how teachers talk about race, gender and sexuality, impact which bathrooms transgender students can use and give trustees a greater say over what books are available in libraries. The teenagers left class during third period as a stand against ideas they decry as transphobic and amount to a “gag” on teachers. “We are here to show that the school board cannot get away with treating our education, our lives, as a playground for politics,” one of the organizers, Marceline Temple, said in written remarks. “We will not let this school board treat the existence of minorities as a controversy.”
Fifty years ago, no symbol of university complicity with the military angered more students than the on-campus presence of the Reserve Officers’ Training Corps (ROTC). The manpower requirements of the Vietnam era could not be met by conscription, draft-driven enlistments, and the graduating classes of military service academies alone. The Department of Defense also needed commissioned officers trained in DOD-funded Military Science Departments at private and state universities. Anti-ROTC campaigning became a major focus of the campus-based movement against the Vietnam War. Critics demanded everything from stripping ROTC courses of academic credit to, more popularly, kicking the program off campus.
This week, graduate students from more than fifty colleges and universities across the United States launched the Graduate Student Action Network (GSAN), a coalition centered around fighting for abortion rights and other forms of reproductive justice. GSAN’s first action is to coordinate a National Student Day of Action for abortion rights, to be held on October 6, the anniversary of the day a federal judge first blocked the draconian anti-abortion law in Texas. The network includes graduate student unions, graduate student governments, and student advocacy organizations like Socialists of Caltech and CUNY For Abortion Rights.
The decade since the abolition of the university fee cap in 2012 has felt painfully long for staff and students. Universities are no longer fertile ground for public knowledge but an exercise in marketized competition, commodification and over-inflated managerialism. Accordingly, students are increasingly framed as consumers entrapped in swelling debt, while overworked academics are forced to dedicate more time to admin than to teaching or research. It’s not that the university sector is strapped for cash. With more than 2,500 managerial staff on six-figure salaries and the average vice chancellor raking in £250,000, students know exactly where their £9,000 a year is going. Moreover, with the decline in direct government funding and the near abolition of teaching and maintenance grants, universities are becoming bigger players in the finance sector.
In Brampton, Ontario, a small team of young organizers has begun taking on the businesses that exploit them, one case at a time. The Naujawan Support Network, a collective of international students and migrant workers from Punjab, India, has won back more than $200,000 Canadian ($154,000 U.S.) in stolen wages in just over a year. “We started a year ago because we observed that there was an increase in suicides among international students,” said Simran Dhunna, one of the founding members of NSN. “Every week we would see GoFundMes raising funds to cover the costs of sending the corpse of a young worker back home. A big reason behind it was the exploitation people faced.” Over 30 percent of international students in Canada come from India, and while enrollment of Indian students in Canada has increased by nearly 200 percent over the last five years, many are struggling.
Tel Aviv, Israel - This month, City University of New York’s (CUNY) law school faculty unanimously passed a resolution endorsing the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) Movement, joining a chorus of American universities advocating for Palestinian rights. Harvard University’s Crimson newspaper endorsed the movement earlier this year, with 50 of the school’s faculty members supporting the decision. And in March, the Middle East Studies Association also voted to endorse the BDS movement. As college campuses across the U.S. grow in their support for Palestine, their administrations – many still having relations with major Israeli universities complicit in Israel’s occupation of Palestine – appear less likely to agree.
As a first-year master’s student and associate instructor in the School of Music at Indiana University (IU), Chelsea Brinda was forced to sell her blood plasma to survive. Her stipend of just $9,000 was far below Bloomington’s living wage. Eventually, she stopped selling her biofluids, got her first credit card and took out student loans. Brinda, now a Ph.D. student at IU earning just $16,500 a year for teaching one or two courses a semester, told Truthout that she struggles to balance her own hefty workload as a student with her personal life, the courses she teaches and her part-time job as a COVID tester on campus. “I feel like I’m shortchanging my students. I’m not giving them the best that I could,” Brinda said.