Gloria La Riva, the Presidential candidate of the Party for Socialism and Liberation, has written an open letter to Tyler Kissinger, Student Body President at the University of Chicago, who faced sanctions, including possible expulsion, for helping student activists occupy a university building. The student occupation demands included a $15 hour minimum wage for university workers, divestment from fossil fuels and opposition to campus police racial profiling. As this statement goes to press, the New York Times reports that Kissinger was placed on probation but allowed to graduate with his class on June 11.
I just read about your case today.
It is appalling that the University of Chicago administrators are even contemplating action against you or any other students. The University of Chicago is extremely rich. It is outrageous that there are UC workers on campus who do not even earn $15 an hour!
I am in complete solidarity with you, Tyler, and inspired to hear of your courageous stance, supporting other students who are acting in defense of workers’ right to a decent wage, the fight against fossil fuels, against police brutality and for disabled students services. Students who are socially aware and take collective action, risking their education to defend other people, should be saluted and supported, not sanctioned.
It is outrageous that the University is actually contemplating action that could jeopardize your years of education and your future.
The doors of higher education and opportunity were opened to me in the early 1970s when a courageous group of Black and Latino students took over a building at Brandeis University in 1968 to demand affirmative action for less advantaged youth, among other issues.
That struggle was part of a sweeping movement across many campuses, from San Francisco State University to Columbia University, in the late 1960s.
I completely identify with you and your fellow students, because I also took part in two building occupations at Brandeis, in defense of affirmative action when it was under attack. I have always believed that just as important as education is social activism.
The fight against apartheid in South Africa by youth who occupied University of California Berkeley and other campuses, those today who struggle today for divestment from Israeli apartheid, who support campus workers, the fight against police brutality, against racist symbols and universities’ slave history, this is but a harbinger of what is to come: an even broader, mass, nationwide student movement with great potential power to make real change on and off campus.
Today, students in the United States are saddled with enormous debt and no guarantee of a job after graduation. Certainly, this is a new era for students and youth who see injustice all around them, who refuse to sit by while injustice reigns, to take collective action to make universities accountable.
Tyler Kissinger and the students’ organization demanding $15 min. wage for workers, and university police accountability, among other issues, should be listened to and their just demands met, with no punishment of any of the students.
Our campaign of Gloria La Riva for President and Eugene Puryear for Vice-President is in full solidarity with you and the UC student activists.
Yours in solidarity
Gloria La Riva