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IU on Strike protests across campus

POSTED AT 12:12 AM ON Apr. 12, 2013  (UPDATED AT 12:13 AM ON Apr. 12, 2013)

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The sound of drums mixed with the sound of chanting and chatter filled the air behind Woodburn Hall.

About 250 students, faculty and staff carrying signs and banners painted with slogans like “No debt bondage” and “Double the 4, we want more”  assembled near the red clock. Those walking by slowed down to watch, some snapping photos or asking others what was happening.

On the sidewalk, some handed out flyers and pamphlets, asking those walking by, “Would you like some information?”

Right next to the clock tower, a small group of girls on stationary bikes, raising money for Bike To Uganda, looked around at the sudden crowd, as if unsure what to do or whether to continue.

One said, “This is bullshit.”

A dozen yards away, several tour groups headed towards the crowd, parents and prospective students trailing behind their guides. The next stop on their tour was Woodburn.

As the crowd condensed into a line, one tour group began to weave through the crowd. The tour guide gently nudged some in the crowd out of the way, in attempt to clear a path to the entrance to the building.

A man in the crowd instead of moving away came towards them. He handed flyers to the parents and said “Welcome to $30,000 of debt.”   

Thursday, the IU on Strike movement reached its climax with a campus-wide demonstration protesting tuition rates, lack of diversity on campus and wage freezes, among other issues.

“The University has sort of turned into an institution based on producing workers and making profits, excluding certain people and exploiting the workers,” said IU student Stephanie McGee, a participant in the strike. “I see the strike as a chance for rejecting the social rules we’ve been given by the University.”

At night, protesters occupied Woodburn Hall. Police asked protesters to leave by 11 p.m., and at about 10:45 p.m. they arrived to remove protesters and close the building.

Officers said they would arrest those who did not leave.

After the officers closed the doors, one person allegedly shattered a window pane on the south entrance door. IU Police Department Sgt. Shannon Ramey said one person was arrested for shattering the glass.

Ian Woodke, an IU student at the Woodburn occupation, said no one shattered the window deliberately. Rather, he said, it broke in the chaos of people leaving the building.

Protester Mike Smith traveled from Indianapolis to participate in the strike. He said he wanted to stand in solidarity with the students resisting the increasing cost of higher education.

“It’s important because education is something people aren’t getting fair access to,” he said. “A lot of students all over the country and the world can’t even get jobs in their field.”

The protesters launched their march from the clock tower behind Woodlawn. They marched past the Indiana Memorial Union and Chemistry Building, through the Old Crescent and through Ballantine Hall.

“No cutbacks! No fees! Just fire the trustees!” they chanted. “They say cutbacks, we say fight back!”

The march ended at Franklin Hall as some entered in an attempt to disrupt the Board of Trustees meeting. There, police tried to keep the protesters back, but the protesters continued to chant and eventually bang on the doors in an effort to get inside.

Although the trustees meeting was open to the public, there was not enough space to seat every protester, Interim Chief of IUPD Laury Flint said.

“The crowd was unruly and loud to say the least,” Flint said. “It was determined they would disrupt the meeting.”

IUPD agreed to let in five people at a time, but the crowd decided that was unacceptable and left, Flint said.

McGee said she felt it would be a waste of time to argue with the police. She returned to Woodburn with the other protesters to discuss their next move. Some activists, however, stayed and attended the meeting.

Associate Vice President of University Communications Mark Land said the strike did not disrupt the trustees’ session and was not mentioned by board members.

“There was a pretty good crowd of folks outside Franklin Hall, so it’s pretty safe to say everybody’s aware there were people out there expressing themselves,” he said. “Once the session got started, those who came in were respectful and were welcomed into the room.”

The strikers reconvened for a planning assembly in the second floor lobby of Woodburn. Students leaned on the wall or sat cross-legged on the floor as they took turns proposing plans to move forward with the demonstration.

One male student stood up and addressed the group enthusiastically, discussing the importance of doing things as a group and keeping up the momentum.

“You all inspire the fuck out of me,” he said.

Another female student asked the group to think about how much they learned that day by skipping class to attend the demonstration, as opposed to how much they would have learned on an ordinary school day.

Flint said despite the “very loud, very vocal” demonstration, there were not any lengthy disruptions Thursday. IUPD did not have to intervene at any point.

Today, the protesters are reconvening at 10 a.m. for a second march.

“So far, things have gone very well,” Flint said. “I think overall, we can be very pleased with our student population and the way that they’ve handled this strike.”

— Matt Stefanski contributed to this report

 

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