By Bryan Daley
Education has long been a catalyst for social awakening and the student voice is a hardened tool with which students can put folks on notice and enact positive change.
We witnessed the strength of Latin-American students in the East LA walk-outs surrounding immigration reform in the late 60’s. Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) members, like the amazing Ella Baker, organized students to challenge segregationist oppression nationwide. Ethnic studies programs only exist throughout our countries higher education system, because black and brown students of San Francisco State University stood up and demanded to see themselves represented within course materials. Chinese students took a stand for the sake of democracy and free expression in Tiananmen Square circa late 80’s, and some would say that this battle is still being waged today by Hong Kong’s students.
These radical grassroots movements typically came from a place of extreme need and a lack of effective channels that they could engage with and effect change; there was a need for radical mobilization toward immense structural change. A passionate will to act combine with a lack of access to the halls of power, left the students with little choice but to protest and advocate for their needs to be met.
By now you may be asking: what do these amazing folks have to do with City College?
If you picked up a copy of the Guardsman at any point last semester, you probably know that the main narrative on campus is one of financial crisis. Although class cuts, layoffs, and overall downsizing may not seem as dire as the conditions of social injustice that SNCC, the Black Panthers, and so many others rose up and lost their lives to combat, the long term effects on student success and enrollment can be devastating.
In an overdue, yet somewhat ill-timed, attempt to balance our budget, we begin disenfranchising more students by turning them away from classes that they need to graduate, failing to replace key staff classified staff that offer support to students (thus offering less overall out-of-class support), or discontinuing equity funded programs that students heavily depend upon like the clipper card scholarship.
While students grow more and more frustrated with the current condition, many leave school without ever truly starting their educational career, which will only serve to hurt our funding and, in turn, hurt the colleges funding.
As students, what options do we have? You can reach out to your friendly neighborhood Student Trustee, via email or instagram (firstname.lastname@example.org and @daley_decree) and empower them to take on the issues that are facing you. As your representative to the board I am here to serve you and advocate for your best interest, but my institutional power ends there.
With that said there is only so much that I can do as one student. As a student body, our collective voices have so much more power than any position that any one person can hold. If you’ve got the time, get involved! Run in our upcoming Associate Student Council special election, join SMAC (Students Making A Change), join RiSE (Reimagine the Student Experience), serve on a Participatory Governance Committee. A few of these organizations have paid position, that will value the time that you put into advocating for your needs and the needs of your community.
In the words of Coretta Scott king, “The greatness of a community is most accurately measured by the compassionate actions of its members.”