By Holden Fatheree
Dons for Fair Tuition (DFFT) is making a genuine effort to present student opposition to the proposed tuition hike. That said, their efforts could be more substantial.
What DFFT lacks is a strong voice. The organization’s leadership has failed to express the indignation and anger within the student body at the tuition increase. Times like these require loud and even abrasive voices from students — politeness and decorum need to be sacrificed in the face of the administration’s proposed tuition increase. I don’t say this just to nitpick DFFT; I say this as an observation of the political reality at USF and successful grassroots movements.
Part of DFFT’s problem is that some of its leadership also holds positions in student government. In my opinion, this has handicapped DFFT. The role of an activist and the role of a government official are separate.
Being an activist means using one’s voice to advance a cause and amplifying the voices of those who share that cause — the power wielded by activists is often not as tangible as that found in official positions. Serving in government is constraining and limits the scope of what one can say and do. The trade-off is that it provides one with power and resources that can be used to advance causes one believes in.
The student body needs voices that are not constrained by the formalities of office. As students, we don’t have money or prestige. All we have are bodies; our bodies. There are more students than there are administrators and members of the Board of Trustees.
If enough of us make noise, if enough of us scream bloody murder at this tuition increase, then maybe we’d be able to generate the only thing that speaks louder than money: publicity. In order to create that storm though, in order to unleash those voices, we as students need to organize outside our formal senate. ASUSF Senate certainly has a role to play in this tuition fight, but they can’t be the leaders. It has to be ordinary students, those most impacted by this hike and what it represents, who have the ability to speak freely about it.
When I look at my friends to see their response to the proposed tuition increase, I see resignation. They feel that there’s nothing that can be done to stop this tuition hike. But they are not unwilling to fight. When I encourage them to take a stand, I can see the disappointment when all I can point them towards is a petition and a letter-writing campaign. Even my friends who are raring to take on the administration have not expressed any interest in the methods undertaken by DFFT.
There is an opportunity for mobilization here; we just need leaders who can properly capitalize on it. We don’t need endless protests of hundreds (though of course, those would help). What we need is constant opposition to the tuition hike to the point where it becomes a nuisance for administrators.
DFFT is organizing a protest against the tuition hike for 8 a.m. on Friday, Dec. 6. It’s early, but no USF student should miss it if they are able to attend — everyone should go, and they should bring a friend. This protest is our chance to let out our unfiltered frustrations and anger, free from the careful language of our student government and official representatives. We should take this opportunity to find other students who are angered, and we should make contacts — we need to organize ourselves rather than relying on an existing institution.
At the protest, we should also be aware of who is not there, like those who are unable to show up because they have to work in order to combat their existing loans. No one should be left behind, and those who are able should show up on behalf of those who cannot.
I will be there, will you?