STUDENT SIT-IN AT TESC, 100 HOURS
an update on the going ons of the sit in going on in Olympia.
STUDENT SIT-IN AT TESC, 100 HOURS
A student sit-in at the Evergreen State College (TESC) has now surpassed its 100th hour and is heading into its fifth day. The sit-in is in support of reinstatement of the banned student group Students for a Democratic Society (SDS).
The student protesters have peacefully occupied the Seminar One (SEM 1) building and have renamed it People's University. On Memorial Day while regular classes are out, the People's University will be in session and holding its first classes. The event will start at 6pm. All classes are free and are open to the entire Evergreen Student Body as well as the Greater Olympia Community with free food and beverages provided and as always children are welcome. These opening events include a lecture by Paul Bigman, a major union organizer from Seattle, on the history of labor struggles, radical labor organizing, and the relationship between labor and student struggles labor organizer Paul Bigman; student-run workshops including "Radical Queer History" and "Security Culture"; and film screenings, including a film about worker takeovers of factories in Argentina after the failure of neoliberal economic policies, followed by a discussion. These events are intended to both highlight and build our capacity as students to manage our own educational institutions with the interferences of administrative hierarchies, who have been silencing our voices.
This sit-in is a part of a struggle for Free Speech on campus and an effort to put to a halt to the trend of deteriorating student rights on campus.
On Friday, May 23 an Evergreen student lost her job as a result of her participation in the demonstrations. Kelly Beckham, 20, was fired from her job at campus Parking Services after being deemed by a "security threat" by Evergreen Chief of Police Ed Sorger. She was notified directly by the police of her termination, rather than by the proper chain of command of her employment. Kelly Beckham, a member of banned student group SDS, was a speaker at the SDS Free Speech rally that preceded the sit-in. The loss of her job was a direct result of her involvement with the sit-in.
During the sit-ins, one student specifically was threatened with arrest by Sorger. Despite empty threats, no arrests have taken place thus far. Art Costantino, the administrator who's office and hallway are being occupied, threatened to expel students from the college if the sit-in continued. Costantino has threatened that violence is an option they weighing the use of to remove peaceful demonstrators. He said he did not have a timeframe in mind in which this might take place.
Negotiations have taken place throughout the span of the sit-in, but have yielded no results thus far. The students refuse to leave until their demand is fully met: the immediate reinstatement of SDS with a public apology by the administration.
Throughout the sit-in, large portions of the Olympia and Evergreen communities have shown their concrete support. Supporters spontaneously show up almost consistently every hour with food and supplies for the demonstrators. This has taken the form of entire cooked meals from scratch or baked cakes. Many of the community supporters that have been present at the sit-in are Evergreen alumni. Alumni are currently circulating a petition for SDS' reinstatement and student rights. Many of the alum have indicated that the student activists are dealing with old problems that existed during the time of their own education at Evergreen, and thus are indicative of the need for the institution to free itself of the burden of its Vice President for Student Affairs, Art Costantino.
Many community organizations from Olympia, and throughout the Northwest, have participated for some time in the sit-in to show their support for Olympia SDS. These groups include Iraq Veterans Against the War, Industrial Workers of the World, and the Revolutionary Communist Party.
Tuesday the 27th, the People's University will be open again. At 7 PM, Ed Mead and Mark Cook, of the George Jackson Brigade, Mark Cook was also involved with the Walla Walla Black Panther Party, will be giving a lecture. Topics they will touch on include organizing within prison, their experience in the George Jackson Brigade, an armed revolutionary organization operating within the Pacific Northwest in the 1970s. Free food and, as always, fun and games will be provided for children.
Immediately following the lecture on revolutionary organizing, SDS has organized a concert to be held on the roof of the Evergreen Police Station. The concert will feature both local Olympia punk bands as well as bands coming from out of the area. This will be the second in a line of concerts held by the People's University. Friday, May 23, SDS hosted a concert within the hallway outside of Art Costantino's office. SDS has also hosted night dance parties for the student community within the occupied building.
The sit-in originated with a rally held on the campus Red Square by SDS Wednesday May 21st at 3 PM. The rally was attended by approximately 150 people demanding Free Speech on campus and reinstatement for SDS. Members of SDS and representatives of student and community organizations, including members of the Evergreen Animal Rights Network (EARN), MEChA, CISPES and the Sabot Info-Shoppe spoke out in support of SDS and against the actions taken by TESC administration that are stifling the free political discourse on campus. Speakers discussed the events leading up to SDS' suspension and the ensuing Free Speech battle, detailing their analysis that the suspension was politically motivated; about the history of SDS and the work it has been doing in the community; and impact that the administration's actions to silence one student group will have on all students. These groups also criticized both the administration's cooperation with local law enforcement after February 14th which lead to the arrest of their students and recent actions of police brutality on campus.
The suspension of SDS was politically motivated and part of a recent trend of silencing political dissent on campus. Foremost responsible for this suppression are the upper-level administrators Phyllis Lane, the Dean of Student and Academic Support Services who initially file the complaint against SDS, and Costantino. The so-called "concert moratorium" that was imposed after the Dead Prez concert on campus, which was used as justification for the suspension, granted Lane and Costantino the ability to decide which events took place on campus, and thus which members of the student community had a voice, at their discretion.
Olympia SDS and their supporters intend to stay in the occupied building until SDS is reinstated as a student group. Olympia SDS is requesting support and solidarity in all forms.
All Power to the people. Student Power.
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Shyam P. Khanna
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