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Working In These Times

Friday, Mar 5, 2010, 12:09 pm

Seattle Students Take to Streets on ‘Day of Action’

BY Adam Case

SEATTLE, WASH.—In conjunction with Thursday's national "Day of Action to Defend Public Education," 500 people gathered at the University of Washington's quad here on March 4 to protest cuts to the state's university budgets.

Students congregated at the center of campus, and then moved through the city's University District chanting, “Keep U-W the school we love, not some bullshit country club,” and “They say fee hike, we say let’s strike” to halted traffic and nearby onlookers.

Part of the crowd moved up 45th street, screaming “Take I-5!”, the nearby interstate. But a leader of the march replied, “We don’t have enough people to do that!”

“The cuts hurt everybody,” says Eunice Howe, a student organizer with the Worker Student Coalition, the University of Washington organization that coordinated the walkout. The strike's goal was "to build and strengthen the student base here on campus, and to also build solidarity between workers and students.”

Complaints here about the state education budget cuts mimic many of the pains felt by students and workers in the Golden State.

“Tuition is increasing 32% in California, and this school year it was raised [at the University of Washington] 14%, and they propose it is going to increase another 14% for next year... together that’s almost as much as California," Howe says.

Phill Neff, a teaching assistant (TA) at the University of Washington and member of the Worker Student Coalition, believes many TAs are "forced to work more than their 20 hours agreed in their contracts." Neff says TAs are being forced to deal with more undergraduate students, resulting in less time to interact with students.

Members and supporters of the Student Worker Alliance say that janitors at the University of Washington are facing lay-offs and work speed-ups. 

Howe explains she feels that public education in Washington, like in California, is being threatened.

“This year is the first year that more from the school comes from tuition then from the state, and it doesn’t make any sense because we’re a public school and we should be funded publically, not privately through students,” she said.  

For more on this week's student protests at public universities on the West Coast, go here, here and here.

Adam Case, a former In These Times editorial intern, is a San Diego-based I.W.W. organizer and freelance writer. He has traveled extensively throughout Latin America, encountering guerrillas, intellectuals and change-makers. But most of the time he tries to indulge his passions, which include surfing, social justice and a good Philly Cheesesteak.

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