GSPHE on Organizational Hiatus; Supports Occupy GSU

Georgia Students for Public Higher Education formed in 2009 to address the rising costs of public higher education in Georgia. Since 2009, the organization has changed drastically. As the economic crisis progressed, so changed the political landscape of our state. Our fight against tuition and fee hikes in the university system necessarily grew to include the fights against cuts to the HOPE scholarship, anti-immigrant legislation, the execution of Troy Davis. Recently, GSPHE lent its verve to the international, ongoing occupation of public spaces, as many of its members participated in the occupation of Troy Davis Park (previously Woodruff Park) in Atlanta.
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Georgia Students for Public Higher Education must address the issues that are most pertinent to students and Georgians alike; and thus, the constant threat of further privatization and corporatization of our schools and our state — rule by the 1%, rather than by the 99 — demands our utmost attention. GSPHE has therefore placed its organizational structure on hiatus to promote the development of Georgia State’s very own occupation, which, we believe, has taken up the issues most pertinent to Georgia students.
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Occupy Georgia State began in reaction to Georgia’s ongoing educational crises, fueled so clearly by corporate greed. As do Occupy Wall Street and other occupations, Occupy Georgia State exists as a general people’s assembly, promoting the direct participation and control by students and educators in the functioning of their university. The university belongs to those who use it!
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The democratic participation of students and educators in their university is exactly what GSPHE stands for; and the general assembly at Georgia State is a plausible model of exactly that: a way to involve students, faculty, workers, and allies in the administering of their school, and a way to involve them en masse. The general assembly of Occupy Georgia State is therefore one means available to those who would resist their subjugation at the hands of a corrupt Board of Regents and apathetic administration–both who serve corporate interests over the interests of students, educators, and workers.
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GSPHE continues to resist any attack on education in Georgia, whether those attacks are tuition increases, scholarship cuts, anti-immigrant policies, or one-sided “austerity” measures that remind us how some animals are more equal than others. And the shape of GSPHE’s resistance is presently the Occupy Georgia State General Assembly. GSPHE will maintain its information: we will continue updating the WordPress and making announcements through email and Twitter – but the active resistance of GSPHE is currently bound to the Occupy Georgia State General Assembly.
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Because GSPHE hopes to remain a statewide network, please feel free to contact us about setting up occupations or student groups attuned to the needs of your own schools and communities.
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We encourage everyone to visit the Occupy Georgia State website, Facebook page, and Twitter.
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Please follow these social media to stay informed. The attack on education is an attack on the potential of a generation, and the fight for our generation is merely begun.
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In Solidarity,

GSPHE

NEWS: GSU Students to Hold General Assembly, January 26th, 5 PM

ImageGeorgia State students are organizing a General Assembly in the Georgia State courtyard on Tuesday, January 26th, at 5:00 PM. This General Assembly is modeled after the democratic form that has swept Wall Street, Oakland, and all corners of the globe, building mass participation from below. This General Assembly will be used as an organizing space for the student body and the Georgia State community at large to discuss further plans of action. We hope to see many, many people at this upcoming General Assembly. Take our school back from the 1%. 

NEWS: Board of Regents want to “Consolidate” campuses

Long-known for expanding campuses, the University System of Georgia changed course Thursday by recommending eight colleges merge into four. It’s part of a sweeping plan to cut administrative costs and funnel more money toward students and academic programs.

Mergers have the potential to save taxpayers millions, although Chancellor Hank Huckaby said it’s too soon to predict how large the savings will be. Should the state Board of Regents approve the plan as expected, the consolidations will affect more than 36,000 students at the eight colleges.

Some local leaders impacted by the plan supported it, saying it will provide a greater range of academic programs and make their communities more attractive to business. But mergers are not popular with everyone. Some worried about layoffs and feared working adults will have to travel greater distances to take certain courses.

Hatfield, who serves on the House Higher Education Committee, worried how layoffs would affect the local economy. He wondered how students, many of whom work full-time and support families, would be able to drive about an hour to attend classes at South Georgia College if a course is not taught in Waycross.

He and other local leaders are trying to rally community members to urge the regents to postpone next week’s vote.

Read the rest of the article here.

What happens when GA schools are consolidated? — administrative, faculty, and staff layoffs – students don’t know of the proposal and how it will impact them – if a course is not taught in Waycross, students are expected to drive an hour to attend a class in South Georgia College – many of these students have families and are full-time workers – local community members want to prevent next week’s vote from happening – all of this is in the names of CUTTING COSTS.

The Board of Regents will be meeting:
Tuesday, January 10, 1:00 PM
270 Washington St. SW
Atlanta, GA 30334

 

NEWS: Bill to Bar Immigrant Students

ATLANTA  —  Some Georgia lawmakers want to toughen the state’s stance on illegal immigrants in public colleges and universities. A bill before the state legislature would widen a ban approved last year.

The Board of Regents already has barred illegal immigrants from certain in-demand schools.

A new proposal would extend that ban to all of Georgia’s 35 public colleges and universities, and its 26 technical colleges.

Rep. Brett Harrell is a co-sponsor of the bill, along with Rep. Tom Rice. He says taxpayers may be footing the bill for illegal immigrants’ education because tuition doesn’t cover all costs.

Critics say the bill penalizes young people whose parents illegally brought them here as children.

Lawmakers will consider the bill during the legislative session that starts in January. Last session, they passed a law that bans companies from hiring illegal immigrants.

Read the rest of the article here.

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Countless Georgia organizations, from GUYA to GSPHE, ACLU to Freedom University, have confronted the Board of Regents and university officials repeatedly demanding the repeal of USG policy 4.1.6, and a review of the reasons behind imposing a drastic measure on our schools. If this legislation passes, it proves that the Board of Regents and the Georgia legislature are not interested in the facts, participating in reasonable dialogue, or improving education in Georgia.

This aggressive action taken by lawmakers and the Regents only further agitates and emboldens us.  We need to reclaim our education and our universities for all. We must stop the Board of Regents unbridled assault on immigrants, students, workers, faculty, and higher education in the state of Georgia.

WHOSE SCHOOLS?
OUR SCHOOLS! 

The GA Regents meetings for Spring 2012 are here.

Five Georgia Students Arrested

Four individuals arrested in Atlanta during a nocturnal march in response
to the murder of Troy Davis and at least one GSPHE member in
Jackson. There were others arrested besides GSPHE members, but we don’t have all the information on them.

Charges remain, at this time,  unknown.

Email us if you can contribute financially

georgiasphe@gmail.com

To learn more about the murder of Troy Davis check out this story: here http://colorlines.com/archives/2011/09/the_long_murderous_arm_of_the_law_has_killed_troy_davis.html

Speech at Atlanta’s “Living Walls” conference: Human Rights and the Public Sector

This speech was given by Paul McLennan from Atlanta Public Sector Alliance (APSA) at Living Walls: The City Speaks.

LIVING WALLS: HUMAN RIGHTS AND THE PUBLIC SECTOR

I want to first thank Living Walls for the opportunity to engage in this dialogue. There needs to be more conversation taking place in Atlanta between artists and political activists, especially about this topic of what is happening to our public space and our public institutions. We will need to continue to have these discussions in order to reclaim and expand our public good so it is used in the interests of people not profit.

No one asks whether the fire department made money last year or whether the sales have gone up at the local branch library. This is the public sector. It provides many of the services all residents have a right to receive because they live in a community and pay taxes.

International human rights standards require governments to take the appropriate measures toward the full realization of our human rights to education, health care, housing, and other rights such as transit access. Even during an economic crisis, our local, state, and federal governments and public institutions are obligated to respect, protect, and fulfill these fundamental rights.

But all around the world, we are seeing the public good disappearing. For decades, corporations and right-wing conservatives have promoted a media message and a political and economic program called neoliberalism to attack the role of government and the public sector.

Through institutions like the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund, they began to implement this methodology all over the world. As Naomi Klein describes in her book, “Shock Doctrine,” political and corporate elites have merged in an effort to target public assets that “were the end products of the years of investment of public money and know-how that had built them and made them valuable.”

Budget cuts, austerity measures, and privatization are all part of the neoliberal agenda today which calls for the lifting of all regulations on the movement of capital and the wholesale transfer of public wealth into private hands. Privatization replaces public participation, institutional responsibility, and accountability with a profit motive. This has a negative effect on access to necessary services and the human rights of everyone. The profit motive or market operations – with their inherent injustice – have no place in government or the public sector.

In recent years here in Atlanta, we have seen attacks on the public sector in the form of destruction of public housing; the privatization of Grady Hospital; the growth of for-profit charter schools; fare increases, layoffs, and service cuts at MARTA; the elimination of bus service in Clayton County; and tuition and fee hikes in the University System of Georgia.

The Atlanta Public Sector Alliance believes this global economic crisis we are facing is no accident. It has been manufactured and is the result of years of bad economic policy that benefits the wealthy few while millions suffer. In the U.S., we see misplaced priorities that can find millions for war, prisons, and Wall Street but not for public schools, transit, and health care. In Georgia, we also confront the particular problem of generations of structural racism where Atlanta’s public institutions have been historically underfunded by the state.

Atlanta is at a crossroads. The city is reviving but for whom? Reverse white flight is pushing the poor and people of color out of the city and neighborhoods they have lived in for generations. Growth and change is happening in the city but any revitalization should be done in ways that promote everyone’s human rights.

MARTA

MARTA is a good example of the structural neglect that many public institutions in the city have had to confront. The Metropolitan Atlanta Rapid Transit Authority is the ninth largest transit system in the country and is the largest system in the U.S. that receives no operating help from the state. Georgia ranks 49th in the country in per-capita spending on transportation. Even the proposed new regional sales tax for transportation has language in it that deliberately excludes MARTA from receiving any money that can be used for current operating expenses.

I am a member of the Amalgamated Transit Union which is the largest public sector union in the state to have a collective bargaining agreement with management. The union was formed in 1916 and was recognized when the transition to creating MARTA took place. The union is majority African-American and according to MARTA’s own research, 76% of its 500,000 daily transit riders are also African American. MARTA is a public institution that belongs to the city of Atlanta, Fulton, and DeKalb who have built the system, maintain and work for it, and have paid for it for all these years through the one-cent sales tax.

We believe that the reason for the lack of support for this vital, public asset can be tied to the long racist, anti-union history of the state of Georgia. In the South, the public sector was opened up to African Americans only as a result of the struggle for civil rights which brought down the walls of apartheid segregation. In response to this historic victory, federal money and resources were brought to major Southern cities through programs like the Urban Mass Transportation Act of 1964 which funded mass transit projects that created MARTA.

MARTA has had to contend with competing forces for the few resources that are available. For example, the Atlanta Public Sector Alliance believes that the Beltline project does not contribute to solving the current transportation crisis we face. We already have a core system which is in desperate need of support before we tackle new projects that duplicate service that MARTA already provides. We have to stop the death spiral of fare increases, service cuts, and layoffs that MARTA is currently experiencing that we believe may lead to privatization of the system.

In addition, the Tax Allocation Districts which are being used to support the Beltline subsidize private developers with public money that would otherwise go to Atlanta public schools. After losing a legal battle in 2008, Beltline supporters had to pass a constitutional amendment in order for this corporate welfare to continue. Now, we hear that the Beltline has made it on the list to receive funding as part of the regional transportation wish list. Again, we feel this takes away needed resources to maintain and support our core system.

The Beltline project is speeding up gentrification, creating an increase in property values and taxes, and will displace communities. Supporting the needs of developers, the Tax Allocation Districts are another example of the intrusion of the private sector into the public good in the name of profit.

A HUMAN RIGHTS VISION FOR A NEW ATLANTA

What would Atlanta look like if it was run on Human Rights principles? The communities we work with, particularly people of color, face threats on many fronts. We use human rights as the framework for our public sector, Human Rights Charter campaign. Our focus is on restoring, defending, and expanding the public good. In order to achieve justice for the “public good” in one area, we must organize coalitions of the most affected to fight for the public sphere as a whole. Public housing residents, public sector workers, people with disabilities, people of color, low income families, immigrant workers, teachers, students and faith organizations can win when they see that their struggles are part of a larger whole.

Our charter campaign allows us to continue to be responsive to issues while we simultaneously advocate a people’s program that would reflect a city’s values and institutional practices. We are using this campaign as an organizing tool to build a multi-racial, multi-issue alliance to ensure that all communities have access to services; participate in the decision-making of our public institutions; and fight for the resources these institutions deserve.

We have learned many lessons from our work. These include:

1. Those most affected must lead. Learning from the work of civil rights leader Ella Baker, we believe our job is to work from below with those who are most impacted by the issues.

2. To transform the world, we must engage in a process of action and reflection. This requires a permanent dialogue between us and those most affected.

3. We see the intersectionality of oppressions. “There is no such thing as a single issue struggle,” feminist Audre Lorde says, “because we do not live single issue lives.”

4. Consciousness-raising about structural forms of oppression such as patriarchy, heterosexism, and white supremacy will need to be done in the context of our building a movement for transformative change.

Today, we are facing a world-wide crisis of values. As long as our priorities are more concerned with war and making profits than taking care of the needs of people, our communities will continue to be deeply affected. We have to continue to have dialogues like the one we are having today to figure out the best way forward for building a people-centered, human rights movement. Every successful movement has had a cultural component and we need to better coordinate the work of artists and activists. Together, we can turn this current economic crisis into an opportunity to restore, protect, and expand our public sector and envision a new society.