Wear the Square at the MU
Published: Tuesday, February 5, 2013
Updated: Tuesday, February 5, 2013 02:02
With signs reading “Freeze Tuition Now” and “schools not prisons,” 40 people circled around the Memorial Union steps for Associated Students of Oregon State University’s Wear the Square rally in protest of tuition increases.
Chalk signs written into the sidewalk on the edges of the MU Quad led to a group of students chanting slogans like, “Hey hey, Ed Ray, we refuse to pay,” and a giant red board asking students, “What does $460 of tuition mean to you?”
While some members of the Wear the Square movement were swept up in the midst of the activities, others were asking students passing by to sign a petition against tuition increase and to stand in solidarity with the movement.
Drew Deatherage, Wear the Square member and an ASOSU employee was the first to speak to the crowd, stating he was in $25,000 worth of debt and continued higher education cuts by the state is the reason student debt is climbing so high today.
“Affordable access to public education is a right,” Deatherage said before ending his speech with the call, “What does democracy look like?” and the students in attendance responded, “This is what democracy looks like.”
Next to speak was ASOSU’s Vice President Dan Cushing who started off by announcing that he emailed President Ed Ray last week to request his support on freezing tuition. President Ray’s response was measured and questioned what freezing tuition would look like on campus.
“We will not make any commitment regarding tuition, until we have a much better idea about how much funding the legislature plans to include in our budget,” Ray said in a written response to Cushing’s email.
He went on to say it would be “irresponsible” to make any decisions so soon into the legislative session, stating that the budget for the biennium of 2013-15 will need to be seen. Ray also said the increased tuition is the result of state legislature decreasing per-student funding for higher education.
After the rally, Cushing said in order for the legislature to respond to students’ requests on this campus, Ray’s support will be needed.
“We stick to our original request,” Cushing said when asked about the president’s response. “Tuition increases won’t stand.”
After the two opening speakers, the stage was passed off to any students who wished to tell their story. After a few speeches regarding the increases here in Oregon, graduate students filled the stage and continually brought up how they do not pay tuition, but stand in solidarity with the undergraduate students who do.
“[Students] are not going to have higher education systems except for the very few unless we have a tuition freeze,” said Dan Ritter, a graduate student at OSU and member of the Coalition of Graduate Employees.
Ritter continued on to say that the CGE is in support of the movement.
“We are here in solidarity,” Ritter said. “If we keep doing things like this we can freeze tuition.”
Solidarity for students continued to be a theme throughout the rally. Along with the several graduate students who spoke, Gloria O’Brien, local union president of ServiceEmployees International Union, also got up to pledge her solidarity with the Wear the Square cause.
A change of pace came from Sidney Householder, another graduate student, who addressed the value placed in education and the reality of owing money to the government for a degree.
“It’s discouraging when the value you place in education is only worth the money you make because of that education,” Householder said.
While all the focus was on the steps of the MU, the classes ended at 12:50 p.m. and students crisscrossed through the quad, seemingly unaffected.
After the event was finished and volunteers pushed the total of petition signatures up more than 400, the organizers were pleased with their results.
“It was fantastic,” Matthew Palm said. “We’re letting the legislature know that they are not going to privatize education in Oregon.”
Deatherage was optimistic, he went on to say this initial protest got other students engaged and was a good start for continued efforts that will be made at the Oregon Legislature and on campus by the Wear the Square movement.
Since the beginning members of Wear the Square have stressed the importance of student participation and announced to the students who were there on Monday afternoon that the next meeting to plan future action will be Wednesday at 6 p.m. in Snell 149.
As for what those actions will be, Cushing was unsure if another rally will be in the future. More work with the administration in attempt to get their support will be made, and work with the state legislature can now begin. Monday was the official opening of Oregon’s legislative session for 2013.
“It was a great turnout, a whole bunch of people showed up,” Cushing said. “But I don’t know if there will be another rally, we’ll check with our fellow students.”
Ricky Zipp, news reporter