RSCC Call to CUNY Students: All Out to Demand Justice for Ramarley!

Source: Huffington Post

JOIN THE WEEKLY VIGIL FOR RAMARLEY GRAHAM!

When: Thursday, May 31 from 5 pm to 9 pm
Where: 749 East 229th Street, Bronx, New York 10466

In early February 2012, a young Black West-Indian teen by the name of Ramarley Graham was murdered by the NYPD. This is not an isolated incident. Just this year there have been dozens of killings of oppressed-nationality people. From Trayvon Martin to Shaima Alawadi, unarmed peoples of color, mainly youth, have had their lives stolen. The perpetrators are not only individual white-supremacist bigots; the u.s Police State is – it can be argued – the main perpetrator in these killings. Whether it be the legality that allows these killers to go unpunished like George Zimmerman, or the actual state itself, it is clear that this oppression originates in the white-supremacist state that is inseparable from the origins of the u.s. and the NYPD is one of the many manifestations of this repressive state.

Richard Haste of the NYPD’s 47th precinct entered the home of Ramarley, with no warrant, and fatally shot young Ramarley. There have yet to be any indictments or prosecutions on the killer Haste. How many of the states’ own laws does it have to violate before we realize it is not for us!? How many more youth of color must be caged, hunted or murdered before action is taken? CUNY students must integrate with the struggles of the working-class, urban poor, and oppressed-nationality communities of NYC.

Every Thursday for the past several months, there have been vigils for this tragedy organized by Ramarley Graham’s family. The Revolutionary Student Coordinating Committee (RSCC) makes a call to action, a call to solidarity and a call to end this oppression for Thursday, May 31 from 5 pm to 9 pm. We call on CUNY students and community supporters to join the Graham family in the vigil in front of 749 East 229th Street, Bronx, New York 10466 (between White Plains Road & Barnes Avenue). The vigil will be followed by a march to the 47th precinct, which is located at 4111 Laconia Avenue, Bronx, New York 10466 (corner of East 229th Street & Laconia Avenue). We will continue participating at every Thursday vigil until the last one on July 19.

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NYC Youth and Students Picket in Solidarity with the VA Prison Hunger Strike

“R-O-S-P is on strike! N-Y-C says fight, fight, fight!”
“1-2-3-4, open up the prison doors! 5-6-7-8, liberate Red Onion State!”

NEW YORK CITY – On Friday, May 25, students at the City University of New York (CUNY) and others in NYC participated in an informational picket in downtown Manhattan to build support for the prisoner hunger strike at Red Onion State Prison (ROSP) in Virginia. Prisoners at ROSP began their strike on Tuesday, May 22 to demand basic human rights and an end to torture in the form of indefinite solidarity confinement.

Several students carried a large banner that read, “Victory to the Virginia Prison Hunger Strike! Turn Every Prison into a Trench of Heroic Struggle!” Others distributed copies of the prisoners’ press release published when the strike began on Tuesday, as well as the strikers’ list of ten demands, with a link to the website of the solidarity committee in VA: virginiaprisonstrike.blogspot.com. Chants rang out on the street in lower Manhattan, as many pedestrians and drivers in cars took the printed materials.

Addressing the gathered supporters, a Co-Chair of the Revolutionary Student Coordinating Committee (RSCC) said, “People in prison are our brothers and sisters, mothers and fathers, our cousins, our family members, they are our people. And we must support them in their struggle for liberation.” RSCC is a student group based in CUNY that mobilized its membership for the action. Individuals from several different organizations also came out to support the picket and spoke about the need to struggle against the mass incarceration of working and oppressed people.

As the hunger strike moves into Day 5, we must continue to support the heroic struggle of the ROSP hunger strikers through phone calls, emails, the Change.org petition, op-ed articles, pickets, and other mass actions. Keep spreading the word! Seize the time!

CUNY Students Reportback from the Founding Congresses of Anakbayan-USA & International League of Peoples’ Struggles-USA in Chicago

During the weekend of May 18-20, students from the City University of New York (CUNY), who are also members of the Revolutionary Student Coordinating Committee (RSCC), traveled to Chicago to take part in important and historic anti-imperialist gatherings.

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Anakbayan-USA

On May 18, we participated as observers in the founding congress of Anakbayan-USA, the first overseas country-wide chapter of Anakbayan, a mass organization of youth in the Philippines with 20,000 members. Anakbayan organizes Filipino youth to struggle against US imperialism and for genuine national and social liberation. It is a component part of the Filipino movement for national democracy, made of workers, peasants, women, youth, students, and other social sectors. RSCC was honored to share the day with the local chapters of Anakbayan-USA from New York, New Jersey, Silicon Valley, San Diego, East Bay, Los Angeles, and Seattle, as well as the League of Filipino Students from San Francisco.

On May 19, we participated as observers in the founding assembly of the International League of Peoples’ Struggles-USA (ILPS-USA), a global alliance of organizations, groups, and individuals promoting and developing anti-imperialist struggles worldwide. Congresswoman Emmi de Jesus of the GABRIELA Women’s Party in the Philippines, Renato Reyes Jr. of BAYAN and founding chair of Anakbayan-Philippines, and Fred Hampton Jr. were among some of the speakers who talked about the importance of the militant struggles of the people both domestically and abroad. More than 50 organizations were present to witness and participate in the assembly.

On the last day in Chicago, we joined the national liberation contingent in a massive march of 15,000 people against the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) summit, condemning NATO for its genocidal acts and imperialist war-mongering directed against the oppressed peoples of the world. The contingent included the newly-formed US chapters of Anakbayan and ILPS, as well as GABRIELA (Filipino women’s mass organization), BAYAN (Filipino multi-sectoral mass organization), the Committee to Stop FBI Repression, the US Palestinian Community Network, and the National Boricua Human Rights Network, and others. The national flags of Palestine, the Philippines, and Puerto Rico flew high.

As students in New York City who come from working-class and oppressed-nationality backgrounds, members of RSCC understand the importance of fighting for the national liberation of our homelands. The majority of students in CUNY, the largest urban public university system in the US, come from nations that have been plundered by the US. Our lands have been devastated and the women have been raped by US imperialism. We know who the enemy is.

We believe in fighting for access to education and fighting for a relevant education that exposes the decadence of US imperialism and the suffering of our peoples. We seek to build and support national-in-form and multi-national organizations on CUNY campuses that organize against white supremacy and monopoly capitalism.

Where There is Oppression, There is Resistance

The struggle of the Filipino people against US imperialism is rooted historically in the Philippine Revolution against Spain in 1896, when the US intervened and colonized the island. Since then, the Philippines has been shackled by US imperialism.

The Filipino people continue to live in a backward economy, dictated by the demands of the US and backed by local ruling elements (landlords, compradors, and state officials). As a result, the Filipino people, especially women, are subjected to brutal living conditions, including sex tourism and the militarization of the land.

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Anakbayan-USA and GABRIELA-USA’s banners

Moreover, because the US demands cheap labor, the Philippine state answers the call by exporting the flesh, bones, and labor power of the Filipino people. The majority of Filipino migrants are women. Many come to the US and live thousands of miles away from their families, in order to eke out a living and send back remittances.

But, the Filipino people are steadfast in the struggle against US imperialism. As revolutionary leader Mao Zedong once said, “Where there is oppression, there is resistance.” Centuries of fighting against the US and other colonizers have produced a vibrant movement for national democracy. This movement, in which Anakbayan, GABRIELA, and BAYAN are key elements, unites all the downtrodden sectors of Philippine society to struggle for and build a new world free from oppression and exploitation. Their work is a vital contribution to the international anti-imperialist struggle. All progressive youth and students should support movements for genuine democracy and fan the flames of struggle everywhere among the people.

Breaking With Old Ideas

Over the weekend, we had the opportunity to listen to important speakers and be present for several cultural performances. One of the speakers was Congresswoman Emmi de Jesus of the GABRIELA Women’s Party. De Jesus spoke about reproductive health issues and the use of population control policies to scapegoat women for the rising poverty in the Philippines. This diverts the people from struggling against the three basic problems: imperialism, feudalism, and bureaucrat capitalism. Other speakers were Carlos Montes, a co-founder of the Brown Berets, and Fred Hampton Jr., the son of Fred Hampton of the Black Panther Party in Chicago. Both spoke on the issue of state repression and violence against activists.

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FiRE’s cultural performance

Women from Filipinas for Rights and Empowerment (FiRE) also gave a smoking cultural performance, in which they affirmed the need for a new society, especially for women. FiRE showed how women are at the forefront of the struggles of the urban poor—particularly the resistance to state efforts to demolish shantytowns. Many urban poor communities, where the people live in shantytowns, have faced violent evictions by the police. Women in these communities have been courageously rising up to defend their homes and families against displacement.

Later, youth and students performed many songs during the cultural night. Their songs elaborated on the importance of the peoples’ struggles. In order to break with the old ideas that serve the interests of the ruling classes, cultural performances that speak to the experiences of the most oppressed sectors of society are absolutely necessary.

Because Imperialism Knows No Boundaries…

The national-democratic movement of the Philippines educates, organizes, and mobilizes wherever there is a large concentration of Filipinos. The founding of Anakbayan-USA and ILPS-USA indicates that the national-democratic movement and the broader anti-imperialist movement is growing, and growing stronger. We ended the weekend together by marching with the largest, most militant, and most energetic contingent against the NATO summit. We want to congratulate Anakbayan-USA and ILPS-USA for sharing this celebratory weekend with us. We want to acknowledge Anakbayan-New York and Anakbayan-New Jersey in particular for treating our RSCC comrades as their own! Forward!

Picket in Solidarity with the Hunger Strike at Red Onion State Prison

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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
May 25, 2012

CONTACT: NYC Ad-Hoc Committee in Solidarity with the ROSP Hunger Strike, NYCforROSPhungerstrike@yahoo.com, 347-391-1949

What: Informational Picket
Where: 26 Federal Plaza, Manhattan, New York City
When: 3 PM, Friday, May 25, 2012
4, 5, 6 to Brooklyn Bridge-City Hall / J, Z to Chambers Street

NEW YORK CITY – On Friday, May 25 at 3 PM, members of an ad-hoc committee in NYC formed to support the prisoner hunger strike at Virginia’s Red Onion State Prison (ROSP) will hold an informational picket in front of 26 Federal Plaza. The committee calls on all people of conscience to come out.

On Tuesday, May 22, 45 prisoners in at least two segregation pods in Virginia’s Red Onion State Prison (ROSP) began a hunger strike demanding an end to human rights abuses and torture. The prisoners’ demands include an end to torture in the form of indefinite solitary confinement, adequate medical care, access to complaint and grievance forms, access to fully cooked food and basic sanitation, and the presence of third-party neutral observers to document human rights abuses and corruption among prison officials.

ROSP is a supermax prison in southwest Virginia that holds more than two-thirds of the prisoners (more than 500 out of nearly 750) in solitary confinement. Out of the 500 in solitary, more than 170 are mentally ill. State officials claim that the average length of solitary confinement at ROSP is 2.7 years, rising to a maximum of nearly 7 years. Upon investigation, the Washington Post discovered one mentally-ill prisoner who had been in solitary for more than 14 years. For reference, the American Bar Association calls for an end to the solitary confinement of the mentally ill, the American Civil Liberties Union has filed lawsuits against the use of solitary confinement, and United Nations investigators have condemned the practice.

ROSP has earned a reputation for serious human rights abuses and torture. A Human Rights Watch investigation of ROSP found that the conditions at the prison raised “serious human rights concerns,” that the VA Department of Corrections allowed “abusive, degrading or cruel treatment,” that prison staff “use[d] force unnecessarily, excessively, and dangerously,” that conditions were “unnecessarily harsh and degrading,” and that prison staff subjected prisoners to “racist remarks, derogatory language and other demeaning and harassing conduct.”

The hunger strike at ROSP is important not only as a struggle against human rights abuses and torture, but as a part of the larger struggle against the racist system of incarceration. Virginia is coming under increasing pressure to re-examine its practice of solitary confinement, including requests from legal organizations for federal investigations. Despite mounting public pressure, the human rights abuses and torture continues. Between December 2011 and January 2012, Kevin “Rashid” Johnson, a prisoner and founder of the New Afrikan Black Panther Party – Prison Chapter, was physically tortured by prison staff and then transferred out of ROSP to another prison. The hunger strike by the brave prisoners, who will surely find themselves up against repression and continued torture from the prison administration is part of an emerging tide of struggle, inside and outside prison walls, against racist mass incarceration. The prisons themselves have always been an important trench of struggle against exploitation and oppression in this country.

The hunger strikers inside need our full support! All out in solidarity with the prisoners of ROSP!

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ANALYSIS: A RSCC member’s view on the way forward for the CUNY movement after the violent attack on students at Brooklyn College

CONDEMN THE BROOKLYN COLLEGE ADMINISTRATION’S VIOLENT ATTACK ON POLITICAL ORGANIZERS AT CUNY! WITH THAT SAID, WHAT IS THE WAY FORWARD?
– A member of the Revolutionary Student Coordinating Committee (RSCC), NYC

We must all condemn the Brooklyn College administration’s use of violent police force against a non-violent political demonstration on the campus on May 2nd. Videos and several eyewitness accounts recall the police roughing up and punching students, youth, and faculty in the hallway in front of Brooklyn College president Karen Gould’s office when they demanded to speak with her regarding tuition hikes, student debt, and lack of democracy in the university. A statement from the Professional Staff Congress (PSC), CUNY’s teachers union, says, “we found the conduct of some individual officers to be wholly unprofessional,” and details accounts of officers aggressively berating faculty members for “leading students to take this action, teaching them to be violent etc.” In addition to the physical and verbal assaults, two students were arrested and spent a night in jail. We demand the immediate dropping of all legal and academic disciplinary charges against the students.

One of the young women arrested, Julieta Salgado, can be seen on video prior to her arrest addressing president Karen Gould, exclaiming that “our leader should lead” and calling on her “to care about us”. The blog of the Brooklyn College Student Union, one of the groups who organized the action, writes in a letter to president Karen Gould dated May 8th to “express to you our profound shock and dismay at the overwhelming security response”. However, there should be nothing shocking about the attack. Time and again the CUNY administration has shown that they are not “our leaders” and clearly do not “care about us”.

It is hardly the first time that the CUNY administration has used violence and intimidation by their “peace officers” against people engaged in political work on the campuses. Just last November 21st, 2011, CUNY students and youth were physically attacked by the administration’s thugs at Baruch College when we tried to enter what was supposed to be a public hearing regarding their plan to raise tuition $300 every year for the next five years. This resulted in the arrest of 15 people, and many others reported being hit with batons and punched in the face. The year before, on March 4th, 2010 day of action to defend education, Hunter College was flooded with NYPD officers the morning before a protest was supposed to take place, suddenly instituting a new rule requiring everybody entering the building to have Hunter College ID, turning away and delaying students and faculty who lacked the proper identification, causing people to miss and be late to their classes. These are just two of many recent notable examples.

In addition to police violence at large political gatherings such as those mentioned, various individual students involved in day to day political work at CUNY, including myself, have been monitored, followed and harassed by the administration’s “peace officers” on campus for periods of time. This type of behavior goes hand in hand with the NYPD’s systematic racist spying on Muslim student and community organizations, not only in New York City, but even out of state, in various areas that fall outside of NYPD’s legal jurisdiction. This is a policy that both police commissioner Ray Kelly and mayor Michael Bloomberg support, claiming it “keeps us safe”. This conduct is in some ways reminiscent of the FBI’s Counter-Intelligence Program (COINTELPRO) of the 1960s and 70s which targeted the civil rights movement, and later the anti-imperialist movement against the Vietnam War, when the U.S. government purposely attempted to disrupt and destabilize political organizations by spying on and infiltrating them, as well as arresting, and sometimes even assassinating its leaders. Everybody from Martin Luther King Jr. and his Southern Christian Leadership Conference, to Malcolm X, to the Black Panther Party was targeted.

Far from a conspiracy theory, COINTELPRO is well documented, clearly revealing the role of the U.S. government not only in representing and protecting the rich and powerful people who control it, but also in dismantling all political opposition, real and imagined, by any means necessary. Similar lessons have been learned by many participating in the Occupy Wall Street movement recently, where we see the police force again being used as a tool of political suppression, protecting and serving the imperialist U.S. government from opposition of all kinds, peaceful and otherwise.

A brief review of historical facts shows that the institutions of power in this capitalist society, from the U.S. federal government all the way down to petty bureaucrats like president Karen Gould and CUNY administrators, are against anybody who expresses dissent and seeks even minor reforms. Because of this, we should be highly aware of the repressive and violent nature of the system and should be careful about how we conduct actions, peaceful or otherwise, that might provoke the authorities to attack and crack down on us. There is a need to be more strategic in order to avoid endangerment and needless arrests and assaults on protesters, both those intending to be arrested as well as those merely caught in the middle. Confrontational actions conducted without mass support often become self-sacrificing and counterproductive.

An example of these self-sacrificing tactics can be seen right before the police attacked the May 2nd Brooklyn College protest. Videos show 6 students sitting down and linking arms in front of Karen Gould’s office. Officers can be heard warning them that if they do not move, they will be subject to arrest. The students, in turn, claim that they will refuse to move. Given the relatively small size of the protest (Brooklyn College Student Union blog claims over 100 people, organizer Charlie Kerr claims 30-40, videos show about 30, PSC statement describes “small but noisy group of supporters and observers”) and unpreparedness to deal with a violent attack that they should have seen coming, these tactics should be rethought, and abandoned. Everyone should stand in full support of militant action against enemies of the people if it is well strategized and has mass support, but as organizers we should not set up ourselves and others for a beatdown. We should do our best to be prepared to defend ourselves politically and physically if necessary. If that is not possible we should attempt to avoid open confrontation with a much stronger enemy. This is an essential rule in defensive war, if we are to be strategic and successful in our aims.

Instead, the self-sacrificing approach taken by some of the Brooklyn College student draws an immediate parallel with the political practice of many Occupy Wall Street protesters, many of whom view arrests as badges of honor, sometimes seeking them out in order to make moralistic symbolic statements about “resistance” while often failing to defend themselves and others from beatings, arrests, and legal charges. The PSC statement on the incident acknowledges that “many students and our members identify with and participate in Occupy Wall Street”.

The failure of the Occupy Wall Street movement to have a coherent strategy and politics is reflected in disastrous incidents such as the Brooklyn College May 2nd action. This criticism is made not to justify the unjustifiable actions by administrators and cops, but, to know our enemies, and prepare to deal with such enemies properly. A CUNY movement which underestimates the willingness of the administration to use police violence against us is ignoring recent and past history of the CUNY struggle, and will fail to draw in the proletarian populations of New York City with the most to gain from access to CUNY, that is, black and brown youth who are primarily targeted for exclusion. It is these same populations who are regularly criminalized just for walking down the street. It is unlikely that they will be eager to throw themselves at the mercy of the racist police and court system, or work with anybody who leads them to do so.

P.S. – The day of this writing, May 10th, 2012 was the day of Students United for a Free CUNY’s self-proclaimed “CUNY Wide Convergence against police repression” in response to May 2nd attack against Brooklyn College organizers. It began with a small rally and speak out in front of the Hunter West building of about 30 to 50 people, followed by a march including about the same number. Most individuals in the crowd were people who have been organizing within CUNY for some period of time. There weren’t many new faces to be seen, despite the misleading title of the action being “CUNY Wide Convergence”. This substantiates our thesis that the May 2nd action was conducted without mass support, and that the politics being put forward by the groups involved are not taking hold among any significant amount of students, outside of the small activist circles.

We need to consider why the movement for a “free CUNY” isn’t catching on with most students. We need to take a moment to stop calling for protest actions one after the other, and reconsider the overall political strategy and message of the movement we are trying to build. Is a “free CUNY” simply a question of dollars and cents? Are we fighting for nothing more than a discount? Who are the populations most affected by the tuition hikes? How do we connect the struggle for CUNY to the overall change that is so desperately needed in society?

RSCC (Revolutionary Student Coordinating Committee) has, since it’s founding in January been the main student based group in CUNY that has put the struggle against white supremacy within the CUNY at the forefront of our struggle. We do not see CUNY as one in a sea of important social issues, we see it as a vehicle to reach the minds of the section of proletarian youth who have, against all odds, made it to college. In our fight we consider the oppressed nationality (black and brown) youth within CUNY to be the vanguard of struggle, the social base of our movement. Because I don’t have the time nor the space here to outline our politics thoroughly, I encourage you to read our Points of Unity document, as well as our platform for CUNY.

RSCC has also, since its founding, challenged politics among the left that try to mask the racist character of the system to instead talk about narrow economic issues like tuition and debt, which are only one of many ways in which poor and working class students are excluded from CUNY (language requirements, many people don’t even graduate high school or get GED’s etc.). Examples of the narrow economic centered politics we have been combating manifest themselves in many forms. One straightforward example was displayed clearly today, just hours before the supposed “CUNY Wide convergence” at Hunter, when the Brooklyn College Student Union facebook page posted: “Today is not just about the cops assaulting and arresting peaceful students, its about TUITION HIKES and the repression that we face when fighting austerity measures…” Once again, prominent voices in the CUNY student movement attempt to reduce every issue, including racist police state violence, to the issue of “fighting austerity measures”…

While economic issues are obviously important and are intertwined with other forms of oppression, this analysis is far too narrow, and does not have the substance to actually articulate the needs and demands of oppressed peoples in the CUNY system. If pressed, most political groups in CUNY give lip service to the idea that the tuition hikes are racist. They will probably even admit that police violence faced by Occupy and the CUNY movement is part of an overall white supremacist police state within the U.S. Yet they fail to follow that idea towards its logical conclusion: WE LIVE IN THE MOST POWERFUL IMPERIALIST STATE IN THE WORLD TODAY, THE U.S. EMPIRE! Because of this, oppressed nationality people are the most fertile social base for revolutionary ideas and activities. We recognize that the struggle within this imperialist country must be directly related to the struggle of the world’s colonized and imperialized nations. Because the U.S. empire imposes violence on oppressed nationality peoples, both here and in our homelands, we have a world to win (literally) by engaging in class struggle. The super-exploitation of our homelands, that parasitic imperialist economic system, is what allows people living in America to have relatively higher living standards. So when we limit our politics primarily to fighting austerity, we are forgetting the imperialist super-exploitation that allows the social safety net (and other first-world benefits), as they call it, to exist as it does.

RSCC Position Paper: LEVEL THE TWO-TIER CUNY SYSTEM!

 LEVEL THE TWO-TIER CUNY SYSTEM: A POSITION PAPER ON PATHWAYS
—Writing Group of the Revolutionary Student Coordinating Committee (RSCC), NYC

OUR DEMANDS IN RESPONSE TO PATHWAYS

We demand:

1. Automatic transfer of all credits between all schools in the CUNY system.

2. Abolition of the two-tier system in CUNY, through the transformation of all community colleges into senior colleges, while maintaining the trade and vocational programs.

3. Abolition of the Honors College and transfer of all its resources to the SEEK and College Discovery programs.

4. One-third voting representation for students, one-third voting representation for working-class and oppressed-nationality communities, and one-third voting representation for faculty on all bodies that make curriculum, hiring and other departmental decisions. Student and community representatives to be elected by the students and the communities.

POLITICAL STATEMENT

The ability of students to transfer from the community colleges to the senior colleges in the CUNY system is a key issue in the struggle to open up CUNY to serve the working-class and oppressed-nationality communities in NYC. For many decades, there have been tremendous obstacles preventing community-college students from transferring into and graduating out of the senior colleges. As described by SEEK founder Allen B. Ballard in his 1973 book The Education of Black Folk: The Afro-American Struggle for Knowledge in White America, each of the senior colleges has established “substantial barriers to students wishing to transfer from the community colleges’ liberal arts programs,” forcing community-college students to “make up large numbers of courses” that are “required for graduation from the senior colleges but not required in the community college liberal arts programs.” The majority-white faculty has been a major driving force behind the creation of these barriers.

Due to the openings created by the debate on Pathways, now is the time for students to raise the demand for the automatic transfer of all credits between all schools in the CUNY system. The struggle over transfer policy is part of the struggle to transform the racial composition of the senior colleges to reflect the racial composition of the high school population in NYC and to achieve full equality for Black and Latino students in CUNY. Black and Latino students constitute the majority at five out of six community colleges (excluding Kingsborough), but only six out of eleven senior colleges. At senior colleges like Baruch and Hunter, the enrollment of Black and Latino students continues today to be disproportionately low. Furthermore, the Graduate School remains an overwhelmingly white institution, where only 8.1% of the students are Latino and only 6.4% are Black. The professional schools in Law and Journalism are similar to the Graduate School (see Appendix A. Key Facts on CUNY, with Stats from the CUNY OIRA).

The most striking aspect of the ongoing discussion on Pathways, CUNY’s new general education and credit transfer policy (see Appendix B. Summary of Pathways), is the absence of this demand for automatic full-credit transfers. The perspective that students from proletarian and oppressed-nationality backgrounds must have full access to every school in CUNY, regardless of the racist expectations of the administration or the majority-white faculty, must be part of the Pathways debate.

Level the two-tier CUNY system. Schools are not gated communities.

The PSC is circulating a petition to repeal Pathways that pays lip-service to student transfer as a “genuine and important” problem, but does not explain why the problem exists on such a massive scale and why the faculty has never done anything substantial to address it. Now that the CUNY Board of Trustees is implementing Pathways, which is a flawed policy that nevertheless addresses the transfer issue, the faculty finally intervenes in a major way, in order to maintain the status quo and defend their privileges.

Given the 40-year record of the faculty on this issue, going back to the CCNY faculty senate’s opposition to the 1969 Black and Puerto Rican student strike and the CCNY faculty’s efforts in 1973 to impede the transfer of community-college students by segregating their records, the faculty’s claim that, yes, they too believe student transfer is a “genuine and important” issue seems disingenuous. This 40-year record of blatant exclusionary attitudes and general inaction shows us clearly that the white-dominated professoriate cannot be relied on to make curriculum decisions in the interests of the students and the oppressed-nationality communities, which contain the most proletarianized sections of the population of NYC.

Unfortunately, a section of politically-active students is uncritically tailing the faculty’s stance. One student organization, Students United for a Free CUNY, is circulating its own petition that simply repeats the demands of the PSC for the repeal of Pathways and for the implementation of a new undefined but “more effective” credit transfer policy. Rather than offering up students to be led by the faculty on this issue, student organizers must put forward independent demands for the automatic transfer of all credits and for breaking down the barriers between the community colleges and the senior colleges.

We appeal to the students in SUFC who understand the importance of the transfer problem to resist the influence of the PSC on this issue and to challenge the white-left organizations in the CUNY student movement that do not prioritize the struggles of Black, Latino, and other oppressed-nationality students in CUNY for full access. It is shortsighted to claim to defend Ethnic Studies at the senior colleges when large numbers of oppressed-nationality students cannot even get in the door.

While the professors act as the gatekeepers of the white-liberal college model, we recognize that the CUNY administration wants to impose a uniform corporate model, one that will boost their numbers in the higher-education rating systems, such as the US News & World Report’s yearly rankings. This is their motivation for creating Pathways. The CUNY administration wants to implement an assembly-line style education meant to arbitrarily raise graduation rates and create robots to serve the capitalist ruling class. The fact is that the CUNY administration does not care about educating our oppressed-nationality peoples, who attend one of the worst K-12 public education systems in the US. Pathways is not meant to give us a well-rounded education that serves the interests of our communities. There is no consideration of the content, rigor and purpose of what we are learning.

All of this demonstrates the desperate need for a self-defining CUNY student movement that does not take direction from either the administration or the white-dominated faculty. Proletarian and oppressed-nationality students must exercise our ability to be self-defining and independent. We should not tail the narrow demands of the white faculty and we should not go along with the corporate plans of the administration. Above all else, the CUNY student movement must serve the interests of the most exploited and oppressed communities in NYC. It must fight for the exploited and oppressed to have full access to CUNY and for the content of a CUNY education to be oriented towards uplifting the communities. We must elevate the political consciousness of our people and raise demands such as guaranteed admission for all high school graduates and all holders of high school equivalent diplomas, no tuition, a liberating education and community control (see Appendix C. The RSCC Platform).

We must demand the abolition of the two-tier system in CUNY, through the transformation of all community colleges into senior colleges. The two-tier system, where there are community colleges on one end and senior colleges on the other end, should not exist. The CUNY administration and some faculty want to maintain the image of the senior colleges as an exclusive property reserved for the “best” students. For many students, community college is a roadblock to getting a bachelor’s degree. The community colleges are underfunded and have fewer resources than the senior colleges. Every student who enters CUNY must have the option of obtaining at least a bachelor’s degree and going on to graduate school, law school, and other professional schools. We call for abolishing the Honors College, an exclusionary project that most embodies the separation of the CUNY system into tiers. Its resources must be transferred to the SEEK programs at the senior colleges and the College Discovery programs at the community colleges. At the same time, because we recognize that our people need jobs to provide for our families, we stand for maintaining the existing trade and vocational programs. CUNY must have a tremendous commitment towards remedial education and must be fundamentally oriented towards serving the communities that are experiencing educational genocide in the elementary and high schools in NYC.

We must look at the reality facing Black and Latino youth in NYC. Only 13% of Black and Latino high school graduates are ready for college, according to official city statistics. The other 87% will most likely not go to the senior colleges, but will be attending the community colleges in CUNY, if they go to school at all. The fact that under Pathways many Black and Latino students will be going through one less obstacle to get a bachelor’s degree is something that we support.

We recognize that Pathways is flawed. It does not provide for the automatic transfer of all credits from the community colleges. There must be continued struggle over defining the Common Core structure, in terms of Ethnic Studies, language, and science requirements. Representatives of the students and the working-class and oppressed-nationality communities must have decisive voting power over curriculum, hiring and other departmental matters.

However, everyone must ask themselves, how did things get to this point? How did we end up more than 40 years after the 1969 struggle with a Pathways policy imposed by the CUNY Board of Trustees? The main reason is the 40-year lack of activity and – at some points – flat-out exclusionary attitudes of the majority-white faculty on this issue.

HISTORICAL BACKGROUND

Black and Puerto Rican students marching in front of Shepard Hall before taking over the South Campus of City College in 1969.

To fully understand the origins of the transfer problem, we have to briefly trace the historical development of CUNY admissions policy, from the period before the 1969 strike to today. Prior to the 1969 strike, senior colleges like City College (CCNY) required an academic high school diploma and an average of at least 82 for admission (Allen B. Ballard, The Education of Black Folk: The Afro-American Struggle for Knowledge in White America, Harper & Row: 1973, 122). Community colleges typically required an average of at least 75 for admission (David E. Lavin and David B. Crook, “Open Admissions and Its Outcomes: Ethnic Differences in Long-term Educational Attainment,” American Journal of Education, Vol. 98, No. 4, Aug. 1990,  399).

As a part of their demands during the 1969 strike, the Black and Puerto Rican Student Community (BPRSC) proposed a new admissions policy that would guarantee a spot on the entering CCNY freshman class to all high school graduates and all holders of equivalent diplomas, as well as full remedial courses, to ensure that “the racial composition of the entering freshman class be racially reflective of the high school population” (Five Demands).

Such a policy would aim to correct the educational genocide committed against Black and Puerto Rican students by the elementary and high schools in NYC. Black people and Puerto Ricans were 40% of the high school population back then, but only 9% of the students at CCNY (Five Demands). The BPRSC explained that the abuses imposed on Black people and Puerto Ricans were “done by the people who run the City to promote white privilege” and that “the ruling class forces our children out of the high schools so that their children can be the only ones to attend college” (Five Demands).

In the aftermath of the Spring 1969 strike, the BPRSC and faculty representatives reached a settlement agreement for a proposed admissions policy for the Fall 1970 semester. Under the negotiated policy, half of the Fall 1970 CCNY freshman class would be admitted based on grades as before and the other half would be admitted based on “graduating from schools that traditionally had sent few of their graduates to college” (Ballard 125). If adopted, this would have meant that Black and Puerto Rican students would gain access to CUNY in substantial and proportional numbers for the first time.

However, after a massive backlash of opposition from white-supremacist elements, including NYC mayoral candidates, the white-dominated CCNY faculty senate, and the white-dominated City College Alumni Association, the negotiated agreement was shelved, never to be implemented. Instead, the Board of Higher Education passed what became known as the Open Admissions policy, allowing the consideration of class rank in the admissions criteria of the senior colleges and opening up the community colleges to all high school graduates.

The new Open Admissions policy mandated that an average of at least 80 or a class ranking in the top half of one’s graduating class would guarantee admission to the senior colleges and graduation from high school would guarantee admission to the community colleges. It must be understood that even though Open Admissions was a major victory for the oppressed, it was not the actual demand of the 1969 strikers for full access. The new policy constituted a compromise won through militant struggle.

The Open Admissions policy did not fundamentally alter the two-tier structure of CUNY. The Black and Puerto Rican communities continued to fight hard against the tracking of their young people into the community colleges, against the isolation of the community colleges within the CUNY system, for full access to the senior colleges, and for full equality within each and every CUNY school (Ballard 129-130). However, because the new admissions policy continued to allocate students to specific senior or community colleges based on their averages or class rankings (Ballard 131-132), rather than providing for enrollment by lottery, it contributed to the situation today where certain senior colleges like Baruch, Hunter, Queens and Staten Island still have disproportionately low numbers of Black and Latino students, while Black and Latino students are channeled into the community colleges in large numbers. Furthermore, ever since its creation, there has been an ongoing struggle to maintain Medgar Evers College as a senior college, against administration plans to turn it into a community college. MEC has a 89.3% Black student enrollment.

Since 1969, there have been persistent efforts by both the administration and the faculty to cut away and ultimately eliminate the Open Admissions reforms that had been won by the Black and Puerto Rican communities for all working-class and oppressed-nationality students. In the early 1970s, the CCNY faculty governance body opposed the automatic transfer of community-college credits and the admission of community-college students as upperclassmen (Chris Gunderson, “The Struggle for CUNY: A History of the CUNY Student Movement, 1969-1999,” citing an interview with Ron McGuire). The Board of Higher Education had enacted a progressive policy admitting all graduates of community colleges with two years of credit (“Faculty Hits BHE On Transfer Policy,” City College Observer Post, April 6, 1973). In response to this policy, the CCNY Faculty Council sought to segregate the records of students transferring to City College from the community colleges, threatened to refuse to recommend transfer students for degrees, and defended its stance on the basis of protecting the quality and standards of City College. Later, in 1976, the high school graduating class rank eligible for admission to the senior colleges was raised from the top half to the top third. In 1976, tuition was imposed for the first time. By the mid-1990s, class rank was eliminated as an admissions criteria at the senior colleges, marking the formal end of Open Admissions.

A THEORETICAL POINT: BOURGEOIS STANDARDS, PROLETARIAN STANDARDS

Many have approached the debate on student transfer from a perspective of protecting “standards” of admissions and “standards” of educational quality in CUNY. This approach fails to understand the class bias and class character of any “standard” of admissions or educational quality.

The bourgeoisie has one set of standards. They measure applicants by grades, test scores, and ability to pay. They call this “merit,” never explaining that all of these measures are determined by the conditions of class exploitation and national oppression. They want to train students who will serve ruling-class interests. They do this, on the one hand, by simply pushing out working-class and oppressed-nationality students, and on the other hand, by training all students in the ideologies of the ruling class. They call this a quality education.

The Filipino student movement knows what’s good!

The proletariat has another set of standards. People must be admitted to CUNY based on the simple fact that they come from working-class and oppressed-nationality backgrounds, regardless of grades, regardless of test scores, and regardless of ability to pay. The original negotiated settlement after the 1969 strike tended to embody this approach, allowing half of the incoming freshmen class to be admitted based on “graduating from schools that traditionally had sent few of their graduates to college” (Ballard 125). Once enrolled, students must have full access to remedial education, in order to counter the educational genocide taking place in the elementary and high schools. The quality of a CUNY education must be measured by the number of graduates who become committed, life-long servants of the exploited and oppressed, who are also experts in their specific work areas.

Without this understanding of class bias and class character, any discussion of “standards” only reinforces the exclusionary policies of the bourgeoisie.

APPENDIX A. KEY FACTS ON CUNY, WITH STATS FROM THE CUNY OIRA

Today, the City University of New York (CUNY) consists of 11 senior colleges with a total enrollment of 141,400 students, six community colleges with 97,700 students, and four graduate and professional schools with 33,000 students. CUNY is governed by the Board of Trustees, composed of 17 members, ten of whom are appointed by the Governor, five by the Mayor, one who is chair of the University Student Senate, and one who is chair of the University Faculty Senate. The BOT is composed almost entirely of various ruling-class functionaries, with deep individual ties to corporate and state interests.

The CUNY faculty is overwhelmingly white. Out of 7,331 full-time faculty in 2010, only 933 were Black (12.7%), 777 were Asian / Native Hawaiian / Other Pacific Islander (10.6%), 455 were Latino (6.2%), 187 were Puerto Rican (2.6%), and 17 were American Indian / Alaskan Native (0.2%). Excluding Medgar Evers College, only 798 full-time faculty were Black (11.2%).

The CUNY Graduate School is even whiter than the faculty. Among the total enrollment of 4,701 students, 13.7% were Asian / Pacific Islander, 8.1% were Latino, 6.4% are Black, and 0.1% were American Indian / Native American. These numbers are significant due to the role of the Graduate School as a transmission belt into the CUNY faculty, indicating that the faculty will remain white-dominated for a long time, unless drastic and fundamental changes are made to both the racist hiring practices of the academic departments and the racist admissions policies of the Graduate School. The stats are similar for the Journalism School and the Law School (respectively 5.4% Black and 7.6% Latino; 8.5% Black and 12.3% Latino).

At the undergraduate level, as an indication of the significance of the gains won by militant Black and Puerto Rican students in 1969, every school except two (Queens and Staten Island) has a majority of Black, Latino, Asian and American Indian students. Black and Latino students by themselves constitute the majority at five out of six community colleges (excluding Kingsborough) and six out of eleven senior colleges. However, schools such as Baruch, Hunter, Queens and Staten Island continue to have disproportionately low numbers of Black and Latino students.

In Fall 2011, a total of 2,378 new students transferred from CUNY community colleges to the senior colleges with degrees and 3,417 new students transferred without degrees.

APPENDIX B. SUMMARY OF PATHWAYS

The CUNY Board of Trustees passed the Pathways resolution at its June 27, 2011 meeting. The resolution established a general education framework, with a Common Core of 30 credits for all CUNY schools and a College Option of 12 additional credits for each senior college. All undergraduates must complete the 30-credit Common Core to get an AA, AS, or bachelor’s degree. All non-transfer baccalaureate students must complete the 12-credit College Option. All baccalaureate students transferring from the community colleges must complete 12 College-Option credits if transferring with 30 or fewer credits, 9 College-Option credits if transferring with 30 or more credits without a degree, or 6 College-Option credits if transferring with an associate degree. Most importantly for students, Common Core credits transfer automatically among all colleges without further evaluation and College Option credits transfer among all baccalaureate colleges without further evaluation.

The Chancellor approved the 30-credit Common Core Structure proposed by the CUNY Pathways Task Force on December 1, 2011. The structure is split into a 12-credit Required Core and an 18-credit Flexible Core. The 12-credit Required Core contains the following allocations: English Composition (six credits), Mathematical and Quantitative Reasoning (three credits), and Life and Physical Sciences (three credits). The 18-credit Flexible Core contains six three-credit courses, at least one from each of the following areas and no more than two in any discipline or interdisciplinary field: World Cultures and Global Issues (explicitly including ethnic studies and foreign languages), U.S. Experience in its Diversity, Creative Expression, Individual and Society, and Scientific World. The policy bars colleges from requiring 4-credit courses for the Common Core, allowing them only to offer optional 4-credit math or science courses that satisfy the Common Core.

The Common Core structure and Pathways policies are to be evaluated and modified each year for the next three years beginning in 2013 and once every three years afterwards.

APPENDIX C. THE RSCC PLATFORM

RSCC at May Day in NYC, 2012.

Affirmed at February 12, 2012 general membership meeting.

1. We want the seizure of CUNY by oppressed people as a form of reparations for slavery, colonialism and imperialism. We want community control of CUNY and the opening-up of every campus for the community’s use. We want the abolition of the CUNY Board of Trustees.

2. We want guaranteed admission to every CUNY school for all poor, working-class and oppressed-nationality students, the abolition of systematically exclusive admission practices (e.g. placement exams, standardized tests) and an end to tuition.

3. We want a democratic and scientific education system to replace the current reactionary white-supremacist patriarchal capitalist education system. We want an education that exposes the exploitation and oppression of the US Empire, informs us of our true history and prepares us to struggle for liberation.

4. We want administrators and teachers who harass, threaten and punish students for political organizing to be removed. We want teachers who suppress progressive and revolutionary ideas to be removed. We want the abolition of all policies that prevent political organizing and the expression of political dissent by students, faculty and staff.

5. We want an end to police brutality, harassment and intimidation in our communities. We want all police to be permanently banned from CUNY. There was never a CUNY police force until the early 1990s. We want any security force to be controlled by the community.

6. We want all of the measures that materially improve our study and living conditions, such as childcare, healthy food, transportation, tutoring, remedial classes, sports facilities, healthcare and housing.

7. We want to transform the schools into centers for promoting national consciousness, developing women’s leadership and providing students with skills to serve our communities. We want to transform the schools into base areas for advancing all of the peoples’ struggles for liberation. We want CUNY to be a tool for achieving these goals.