Strike Debt and the Occupy Student Debt Campaign declare our solidarity with the students currently occupying the clock tower at Cooper Union, and with all those who demand free education for the 99% rather than a lifetime of indebtedness to the 1%. At night, the occupied clocktower glows red-- a beacon of rage and hope that radiates across the city like an ancient pharos.
Most immediately, the occupiers are protesting the decision made by the unaccountable Board of Trustees to introduce tuition for graduate studies -- a first step in eroding the historic mission of the institution to provide education "free as air and water," in the words of the school's founder.
We support the occupier’s demands:
1. Cooper Union maintains its commitment to free education
2. Cooper Union immediately implements increased financial transparency
3. That President Bharucha step down.
But the occupiers define their strike within an far broader sequence of struggles on the part of students around the city, the country, and the world against tuition-hikes, austerity, privatization, and predatory debt.
Indeed, their struggle is only the latest to fight back against a decades-long campaign to transform education from a common good to a private commodity and a means of transferring wealth upwards at the expense of students’ futures. We refuse to tolerate the shackling of an entire generation of students with debts they should never have been made to take on in the first place. We declare the failure of the United States education system to safeguard education as a fundamental right. We are alarmed that our broken system is increasingly used as a model for other governments around the world as part of the restructuring of the global economy as a whole in the interests of the 1%.
No one should have to go into a debt for the basic things of our common life--including not only education, but housing, healthcare, food, transportation, and more. Thus, we call upon all debtors to recognize their connection to the struggle unfolding at Cooper--and to help expand it beyond a single institution through coordinated action.
Looming large in our memory is the "infinite strike" in Quebec earlier this year, where student struggles against tuition-hikes radicalized an entire city under the sign of the red square. This has in turn become the emblem of the debt-resistance movement in the United States--an indication that we are all "squarely in the red."
Students for a Free Cooper Union has woven this red thread into the occupation. In recent days they have staged an inspiring performance of collective creativity, combining bodies, voices, feelings, spaces, objects, images, and technologies in new political configurations. The dangerous imaginations and inventive capacities of young artists, architects, and engineers are being unleashed, becoming a new kind of selforganized cultural power that far exceeds the space of the studio or the classroom. A red-square banner reading "Free Education for All" has been dropped at Cooper Hall; massive red streamers have been blasted out of the windows; legions of red balloons are in the air; and the clocktower no longer tells time in minutes and hours; it now signals a red alert of historic proportions and declares a state of emergency.
What is at stake in this emergency? It is ultimately a matter of life and debt, freedom and bondage, commonwealth and enclosure.
We hear the alarm, and with it the clamor of casseroles and the ringing of voices from Quebec to Buenos Aires and beyond. We hear your call and respond in turn:
WE ARE NOT A LOAN!
STRIKE DEBT/FREE EDUCATION!
LET’S PAINT THE TOWN RED!