RUSA president among arrested in student debt protest
Police arrested 36 students yesterday, including Rutgers University Student Assembly President Matt Cordeiro after a four-hour rally outside of Sallie Mae Corporation headquarters on 7th Street in Northwest, D.C.
“Sallie Mae, you can’t hide, we can see your greedy side,” protesters chanted from the streets outside the headquarters with about 300 students blocking the street in front of headquarters.
Navya Lakkaraju, a School of Arts and Sciences junior, said the march was just one of the several actions that occurred during the 43rd annual United States Student Assembly Conference.
Lakkaraju said she was in charge of blocking off an intersection, with the help of about 300 students of USSA.
Cordeiro was one of the 36 students arrested during the Sallie Mae protest when he and a group of students sat in front of the entrance of the building. Donggu Yoon, a New Jersey United Students member, and Bryan Miranda, a first-year RUSA Livingston Campus representative, were also arrested during the protest.
During the weekend’s 43rd Annual Grassroots Legislative Conference, students and members of the USSA across the country gathered to lobby to their legislators on Capitol Hill on issues affecting students, including student loan debts.
“Students loans debt is becoming a problem,” Cordeiro said. “There are interest rates really hurt students who are struggling to pay back their loans, some of them reaching over $70,000 to $80,000 loans.”
The Project on Student Debt found in 2010 that the average student debt among graduating college seniors was $25,250.
“I have my own personal student loans. They aren’t as high as the national average, but they are better than ones with big loan companies,” said Cordeiro, a School of Arts and Sciences senior.
Cordeiro said the only way to get out of the loans is to die.
The rally looked to spread awareness and seek responses to the student loan debt. A group of students sat in front of the main entrance and asked for a meeting with Sallie Mae CEO Albert Lord, Cordeiro said.
“Police were there at the rally beforehand. All of the interactions with us were friendly,” he said. “They said if we didn’t leave, we would be arrested. … We were held for five hours in a holding cell with 36 students with student government from around the country.”
Cordeiro said after the rally, students went to their legislators to continue to ask for their support against student debt.
He said his phone was taken away as he was taken to the holding cell.
“I got my cellphone back with text messages and voicemails and Facebook notifications,” he said. “I know a lot of my friends and people at Rutgers who are having trouble with their student loans. We need to do something.”
John Connelly, RUSA vice president, said he found out about the incident through social media. Connelly was unable to attend the meeting due to personal reasons.
“It was a trending topic on Rutgers Reddit, and a few different media outlets are noticing,” Connelly said. “The average Rutgers student may not know who Matt Cordeiro even is, but it is getting their attention and that is something.”
Connelly, a School of Arts and Sciences junior, said he has not heard anything negative about the leader’s actions.
“I haven’t encountered any negatives, but if I had given some I would respond that I want a student government that would stand up for me to the extent where they would give up their rights for me,” he said.
Connelly said the end goal of the rally was to draw public attention to their cause and get answers, similar to the way the April 13, 2011 “Walk Into Action” did.
“Last year’s ‘Walk Into Action,’ we put public pressure on the administration, and we did see a lot of ground gained with the transcripts,” Connelly said.
Following that protest, the University administration granted that the first eight transcripts a student requests would be free.
“I’ve seen awareness building,” he said. “People are already paying attention.”
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