U students, staff gather to oppose tuition hikes in national day of education protest

Those involved have aligned themselves with the Occupy Wall Street movement.

Freshman English major Rachel Hauser designs protest signs for the National Day of Action for Education Rights, a march and rally happening Thursday at Morrill Hall.

Freshman English major Rachel Hauser designs protest signs for the National Day of Action for Education Rights, a march and rally happening Thursday at Morrill Hall.

Colette Bell

Students, staff and faculty will march and rally to protest tuition hikes and layoffs Thursday on the steps of Morrill Hall as part of the National Day of Action for Education Rights.

For the third consecutive year, students in the University of Minnesota’s Students for a Democratic Society will march on campus as others at universities across the country organize sit-ins, strikes and marches for March 1.

“The fact that debt is this normalized thing is upsetting and kind of frightening,” said SDS member and music education senior Amanda Zimmerman.

Between the 2010-2011 and 2011-2012 academic years, undergraduate in-state tuition increased almost $1,000, from $4,897 per semester to $5,825 per semester, according to data from One Stop Student Services. In the past four years, tuition on the Twin Cities campus has increased between 5 and 7.5 percent each year, according to University data.

Tuition is slated to rise 3.5 percent for the next academic year.

A Facebook page promoting the event presents a “Call to Action” endorsed by SDS, the Women’s Student Activist Collective, La Raza Student Cultural Center, American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees local 3800 and 3937 — the University’s clerical workers and technical employees unions — and more. Their stance, in congruence with the current Occupy Wall Street movement, refers to students, staff and faculty as the 99 percent, demanding transparency and shared governance.

“Everything is better when you get organizations to sign on rather than individuals,” Zimmerman said. “It shows that you have more support, this existing [organization] supports it, rather than if it were just somebody’s opinion.”

A petition with four detailed demands will be available for signatures during the march and rally.

“[Administration] has the ability to save annually $11 million per year by cutting bloated administration,” said Stephanie Taylor, SDS volunteer and a 2009 gender, women and sexuality studies graduate.

The petition explains that pay cuts applied to staff and faculty should be applied to administration as well. After 450 signatures, the petition can move to an all-campus election where all registered students would be able to vote on the issue.

The rally will also include five speakers representing different groups on campus.

SDS encourages students, staff and faculty to join the march, beginning at noon at Morrill Hall, as it travels through Dinkytown and other parts of campus.

Morrill Hall houses many University administrators’ offices, including the office of President Eric Kaler.

“That is why we have our protests at Morrill Hall, just to bring it right out in front of their building,” Taylor said.