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Get involved in struggle for lower college tuition

The "Walk into Action" on Wednesday united interests throughout the University. Representatives from the New Jersey University Students demonstrated that they are committed to working in the best interests of students. Minority-student groups organized and represented themselves in large numbers, cognizant of the fact that when funding is cut, minorities will be hit harder and faster by the cuts. Union representatives waved signs exclaiming, "power" and "dignity," demonstrating the fact that when students unite with workers, our power multiplies.

As University President Richard L. McCormick stepped out of his office and delivered a weary, repetitive and bureaucratic statement about how none of the tuition hikes are the administration's fault, how he is the one who lacks power, and how we are demanding action from wrong people, the sentiment in the crowd split. Do we believe an administrator, a bureaucrat, whose essential function is to say, "Well, we don't do that in this office. You'll have to go down the hall" and who, at the end of the day, is personally unaffected by student loans, tuition hikes, raise freezes for unions and crowded buses? Or do we demand more and require that McCormick make promises to the student body now — in front of camera crews and hundreds of passion-driven students?

While I am incredibly thankful and proud of all of my brothers and sisters who organized and came out Wednesday to fight back, I felt that this potentially momentous, revolutionary opportunity to reclaim power was anti-climactic. In order to build-up for the event, the struggle of students to pay for college was made into a symbol for the larger class struggle going on today. The stickers used to advertise for the "Walk into Action" stated, "Take class action." The signs held up by dozens of students read, "Students and Workers Take Back Our Economy." And yet, when McCormick told us that we were barking up the wrong tree, we remained silent. We did not fight back or demand more.

The fact that we took his statements at face value, turned around and walked away from Old Queens, could show that Rutgers One Coalition, as a newly-organized coalition of diverse forces within the University, is still fresh and needs to have a planned response when speaking truth to power. To McCormick, though, it could seem as though we are weak. He revealed his astute ability to stun a student rally into speechlessness with very few words and no concessions.

We will have to prove in the coming weeks the seriousness of our intent. United student movements are gaining attention and power every day across the country. Workers movements are making international headlines. We each live a class struggle every single day when we take an overcrowded bus on bumpy, pothole-filled streets between campuses. We live a class struggle when we pay our tuition and when we have to move off-campus because on-campus housing is neither available nor affordable. We live a class struggle when we eat unhealthy food because it's the cheapest option.

In New Jersey, Wednesday represented a statewide day of action. As the days continue, students and workers can pose a serious threat to the bankers, politicians and bureaucrats who don't mind digging us deeper into debt. Each of us needs to be involved. Each of us needs to know that every single thing that we enjoy at this University can and will be taken away from us if we do not fight for it. If you were not present on Wednesday, there will be continued opportunities to get involved in the rising tide of student power. The first will be this Sunday at 2 p.m. at Voorhees Mall. Allow your voice to be heard in the fight.

Mary Ann Thomas is a College of Nursing senior majoring in nursing with a minor in women's and gender studies.

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