Minnesota students get activism advice

A group of Chilean anarchists came to Minneapolis on Thursday, offering advice to students confronting tuition hikes.

by Fernando Nunez

A group of Minnesota college students concerned with rising tuition gathered at Minneapolis Community and Technical College on Thursday to learn about student activism from a Chilean anarchist group.

Students in Chile have protested the country’s high tuition in recent years, and one group, Frente de Estudiantes Libertarios, is now touring the U.S. teaching American students to organize themselves and rally for higher education reform.

Tuition costs were the students’ main issue at Thursday’s event. At the University of Minnesota, tuition for an undergraduate resident student has increased by more than $5,000 since the 2003-04 academic year, according to Office of Institutional Research data.

“Tuition has skyrocketed recently, certainly in the last decade,” said Christopher Simmerman, a University sophomore and member of Students for a Democratic Society. “This skyrocketing tuition stratifies higher education even more than it was before, to the point where only people that are well-off can afford it.”

Gabriel Ascui, a biotechnology student at the University of Chile, and Pablo Abufom, who graduated with a master’s degree in philosophy from the same university, led the discussion Thursday.

Abufom said the U.S. student groups he has seen are too dependent on their colleges for funding, which can compromise their activism efforts. He suggested these organizations pursue funding on their own instead of relying on the administration or student government.

“In Chile, we raise our own funds. We don’t spend time waiting around for the institution to give us funding,” he said.

To effectively lobby for lower tuition rates, Ascui said American students should aim to build support for their cause and research historical tuition costs to thoroughly understand the issue and be most effective in their activism.

Gender, women and sexuality studies senior Rosalia McNamer said she’s unsure about what student organizations could tackle issues regarding higher education reform, though it is an important cause for the Chilean and American students.

“Everybody is really concerned about the cost of education, and I know that … their slogan was ‘No more profit without education,’” she said.

McNamer transferred to the University from MCTC, where she was involved with a feminist student group that she said had clear goals for its activism. But it’s less clear what matters to each student group at the University, she said.

“We’ve had tuition inflation in this country for decades now, and as far as I know, there hasn’t been any successful student movement in the U.S.,” said Sara Glesne, a University senior studying journalism.