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Occupy DePaul: Students fight back with three days of protests

DePaul says 'tuition hike,' students say 'debt strike'

Published: Monday, March 5, 2012

Updated: Monday, August 27, 2012 16:08

Occupy DePaul

Bartosz Brzezinski

From right to left: Michelle Hauer, Michelle Maxwell, Kristen Gallagher and Stacey Bear rally in front of 55 E. Jackson to protest tuition hikes proposed by the Board of Trustees at DePaul University. Students were told they would be arrested if they tried entering the building.


As if straight out of the 1960s, students under the "Occupy" banner used this weekend to demonstrate their frustrations over rising tuition costs using peaceful protest.

Over the course of three days, they took their fight to both DePaul campuses to debate over the proposed tuition increases.

DAY 1: THURSDAY, MARCH 1

DePaul students met students from Northwestern University, Roosevelt University, University of Illinois Chicago, University of Chicago, Columbia College, Shimer, St. Xavier and East West University at Grant Park to participate in Occupy's nation wide National Day of Action for Education.

According to Occupy's website, the National Day of Action for Education called on "all students, teachers, workers, and parents from all levels of education—pre-K-12 through higher education in public and private institutions—and all Occupy assemblies, labor unions, and organizations of oppressed communities, to mobilize on March 1st, 2012 across the country to tell those in power: The resources exist for high-quality education for all."

Altogether the Chicago group was about 200-300 strong, according to participant and DePaul graduate student in philosophy Ashley Bohrer.

From Grant Park, they marched to the Chase Tower, 10 S. Dearborn St., because Chase Bank is the largest holder of student debt, according to Bohrer.

Before 3 p.m., 40 students marched to 55 E. Jackson Ave. and went to the 22nd floor where the university's administrative offices are located. The group asked to see University President Rev. Dennis H. Holtschneider, C.M., who agreed to meet with the group at 4:30 p.m.Fr. Holtschneider met with the students in a conference room. Fifteen were students at DePaul; the rest were non-DePaul students.

Fr. Holtschneider said they were a respectful group and that they wanted to talk about tuition issues at DePaul and also tuition concerns at the national level. In the meeting, the students requested that the university freezes tuition for next year, the holding of additional public forums where people could talk about these issues, and for Saturday's Board of Trustees meeting in the Lincoln Park Student Center to be canceled.

At Saturday's meeting the Board of Trustees were slated to vote on the Strategic Resource Allocation Committee's proposal. The University's Strategic Resource Allocation Committee (SRAC), a seven-member committee made up of faculty, staff and student representatives, proposed the tuition increases. SRAC debates for several months during the Fall over the university's budget, how much the university needs to account for rising costs, and how much they should raise tuition.

They turns their recommendation over to Fr. Holtschneider, who chooses to accept or deny it. If accepted, the recommendation goes to the Board of Trustees, which has the final vote. The board would vote on SRAC's recommendation for the 2012- 2013 school year during their Saturday meeting.

"The board doesn't work for me, I work for the board. I can't cancel their meetings," Fr. Holtschneider said about Occupy DePaul's request for him to postpone Saturday's meeting. Instead, Fr. Holtschneider will offer the students four dates next month to hash out the students' issues and concerns.

"If you want to have a voice in that process you really need to be involved in the Fall because that's when DePaul really debates those issues with all the information very publically given out," Fr. Holtschneider said. "DePaul does not operate in the backroom, we operate very out there and we started that eight years ago when I arrived. It's a nice process that way."

Bohrer said Fr. Holtschneider refused to disapprove SRAC's recommendation to raise tuition or give them the opportunity for an open forum before the vote. She said the meeting lasted around 30 minutes. During that time the students talked with Fr. Holtschneider, the Chicago Police were called.

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