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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.

At 6 p.m., the 25 non-DePaul students were threatened with arrest if they did not leave 55 E. Jackson Blvd. Bohrer said 2-3 faculty members stayed to support the group. The fifteen DePaul students remained in the conference room until approximately 8:30 p.m.

The floor was sealed off to those trying to join the protest or catch a glimpse of the action.

At 6:45 p.m., two DePaul students, freshman Michelle Hauer and junior Amanda Walsh, tried to join the group upstairs but were threatened with arrest and interdisciplinary action if they did.

"This is a place for education and they don't even care," Hauer said.

Walsh said that they asked Dean of Students Art Munin what the consequences would be if they reused to leave. Hauer and Walsh said Munin did not answer their question and motioned towards the phone, which the two girls believed to be a threat that he would call the police. Munin could not be reached for comment.

"The university argues that the tuition hikes are raised with inflation, but it actually is raised four times the rate of inflation," Hauer said.

Fr. Holtschneider said it is true that DePaul raised tuition higher than inflation in previous years, but the proposed hike for current students, 2.5 percent, is just under inflation at 3 percent. The 5 percent increase for new students, however, is above inflation.

"The university should expect backlash if they chose to hike tuition during the worst economic crisis of our lifetime," said Bohrer.

Occupy DePaul announced that night they will hold another protest and sit-in Friday night at the Lincoln Park Student Center.

DAY 2: FRIDAY, MARCH 2

The university released a statement about what happened Thursday night at 9:30 a.m. Here is part of the statement:

"The university strives to keep tuition affordable through its budgeting process, allocation of institutional resources in support of scholarships and fundraising. Raising money for scholarships is the top priority of the current fundraising campaign.

"Like many institutions, DePaul University is facing increases in the costs of serving our students. DePaul makes prudent use of tuition dollars by continually investing to enrich academic quality and provide the best educational opportunities for students as possible. These investments increase the value of a DePaul degree and ensure that the university remains competitive."

The university was also prepared for the protests the following day.

The Student Center's entrance on Sheffield Avenue was closed and students needed to show their DePaul student ID to enter from Kenmore Avenue. Several Public Safety officers, including Director of Public Safety Bob Wachowski and a few Chicago Police officers were at the scene.

At 9:45 p.m. Rev. Jesse Jackson arrived in front of the Lincoln Park student center. When the protest started at 10:00 p.m., Jackson stood on the statue of Father Egan and led the group in prayer. DePaul students and non-DePaul students participated. A couple DePaul students and two from the Coalition Against Corporate Higher Education stood and gave their reasons for their frustration.

"I'm pissed off because they won't let us into that building," Amanda Walsh said. "This is the second time they haven't let me into a DePaul building in two days. I pay too damn much to be told I can't go into a building that I belong too."

Then the group proceeded to enter the Student Center. They crowded the door, which prompted Wachowski to issue a warning, that if they wanted to enter they had to stop.

By 10:50 p.m. over 30 students walked to the third floor to participate in a sit-in. Ten minutes later, one student started to take orders for blankets, food and other supplies and said they planned to be there all night.

"We are going to fight this long and hard," said graduate student John Murphy.

They discussed their frustration over the tuition hikes and used social media to try and gather more to join the sit-in. One participator, who strongly voiced his or her opinion, was a professor and Ph.D. student.

"You can't work off of debt you owe because you stay enslaved to the system that enslaved you," he said. "This isn't an issue of economics, it's an issue of justice."

Student Government Association President and SRAC representative Anthony Alfano also joined and said "in solidarity, I will sit with you."

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