The “Education is NOT a Commodity” Rally was held by the League of Educators and Students Slashing Tuition (LESST) on Wednesday, October 3rd, 11:30a-1:30p at the EMU Amphitheater on the University of Oregon campus.
LESST is composed of undergraduate and graduate students, especially
from the ASUO Multicultural Center and the Graduate Teaching Fellows
Federation (GTFF 3544), classified staff from Service Employees
International Union (SEIU 503), as well as some faculty members. Our
current purpose is simple: raise awareness about the increasing rate of
This year’s graduating seniors are paying 40-45% more tuition than
what they paid as incoming freshmen. Tuition increased 6% for 2010/2011,
9% for 2011/2012, and 6.1% for 2012/2013. Just as tuition is at record
levels, so is enrollment, meaning that more students crowd the
unexpanded classroom space. Meanwhile, the University of Oregon has an
$89 million surplus. Where does tuition money go?
It doesn’t go to paying educators. Graduate Teaching Fellows, who are
graduate students that do 31.5% of the teaching and grading at the
University, are paid at or below the federal poverty line. The
administration uses the high cost of our tuition waivers to justify this
low pay for graduate students. Classified staff also struggle for fair
wages and benefits. And the faculty recently won a fight against the
University and its hired union-busting firm last year as they formed
their union, United Academics.
We at LESST do not think education is an investment. As American
philosopher, John Dewey, once claimed “Education is not preparation for
life; education is life itself.” But that life should not be burdened
with student loan debt, nor exhausted by attempting to balance a 40-hour
work week to pay for full-time student tuition. These conditions hamper
education, and therefore hamper life itself. And that’s a logical
Undergrads, grads, faculty, staff, and the community are coming
together at a rally to speak together about these issues. The rally
featured Beatriz Gutierrez (Vote or Vote, undergraduate student), Karyn
Smoot (UO Survival Center, undergraduate student), Thomas Walker (UO
Survival Center, undergraduate student), Jacob Barto (GTFF VP
Operations, graduate student), Judith Lechner (GTFF president, graduate
student), Michael Stern (UO faculty), a member of SEIU (TBA), Phil
Barnhart (Oregon House District 11), and Peter DeFazio (US House
Representative for Oregon’s 4th district).
There was also a speak-out, which gave space for students and
educators to voice their own stories regarding tuition, as well as a
march through campus.
-Dana Rognlie, PhD student and Graduate Teaching Fellow, Department of Philsophy at the University of Oregon.