FullSizeRenderMINNEAPOLIS, MN – On December 12, 2014, students will deliver a letter to the Board of Regents members protesting the University of Minnesota’s high tuition and administrative bloat. The protest is being organized by UMN student group Students for a Democratic Society (SDS).

Nationwide, student loan debt recently surpassed $1.2 trillion. SDS applauds the Board of Regents and the administration on their decision to implement a two-year tuition freeze following a student referendum in the spring of 2012, and we urge the Board to continue on this course. However, SDS is concerned that the Board is failing to do enough to eventually lower tuition and alleviate the financial burden faced by students. SDS is also concerned that decisions regarding tuition and costs are being made without the input of those most affected, and that protracted cost-shifting onto students may violate the University of Minnesota’s Charter.

In the Spring of 2012, the student body voted by an overwhelming margin (85% in support) on a referendum demanding our university make progress towards becoming a truly public university. The demands were as follows: first, that tuition and fees be frozen and that all future decisions regarding the cost of education at the U be put to a student vote; second, that the university budget be made transparent and brought before the student body as early as possible to seriously solicit student input; third, that the salaries of administrators making more than $200,000 a year be kept in check and reduced by at least 10%. Despite the successful democratic vote, only the first demand was partially implemented.

The price of education has quadrupled in the past two decades, not only at the University of Minnesota but nationally. At UMN the cost of in-state tuition has grown at a geometric rate since 1960. This is an unsustainable practice. Minnesota needs to reverse this trend for the future viability of truly public higher education in our state, as is advocated in Section 12 of the University’s Charter: “…tuition in all of the Departments shall be without charge to all students…”

While there are administrators making over $400,000 – more than the president of the United States – departments such as Chicano Studies are facing elimination and costs are being shifted onto students. SDS considers this an unacceptable use of public funds, especially with news of an upcoming budget surplus of $1 billion.

SDS believes that education is a right, and Minnesota needs to provide the opportunity for affordable higher education. Minnesotans could lead the nation on the issue of economic accessibility and gain national esteem by lowering tuition and increasing public access to the state’s land-grant institution.

SDS is a national, multi-issue organization that works to build power in schools and communities. Entirely student- and youth-led, SDS has over 100 active chapters in high schools, colleges and universities across the U.S. SDS at UMN was founded in 2006 and has been organizing for education rights since then.



On July 9th, 2014, the Minnesota Board of Regents approved a pay raise and contract extension for UMN President Eric Kaler, bringing his base pay up to $625,250 per year with built-in reviews for additional annual raises and a total compensation package peaking at nearly a million dollars per year by the time his contract expires in 2020.  SDS opposes this decision and sees it as a direct affront to our demands for economic justice and education rights at UMN.

While pledging to cut administrative bloat, after being identified as one of the most wasteful and top-heavy universities in the country by the Wall Street Journal, the University of Minnesota has continued on its course of privileging the needs of wealthy administrators and disregarding the needs of students, staff, and faculty.  SDS calls on the university to reverse this course immediately.

Students at UMN graduate with record levels of student debt (almost $30,000 on average), which many will never be able to pay off. The Board of Regents and university administration need to prioritize lowering tuition and fees and expanding scholarship programs for working class and non-white students instead of approving pay increases for an already overpaid administrative body. This is at the core of what SDS stands for and demands for UMN.

Kaler himself recognizes that he is already overpaid and highlights the central problem, stating “there’s no doubt its a large salary, but we’re in a marketplace.” As universities across the country cease to operate as public institutions and increasingly operate like corporations in a competitive “marketplace,” administrative pay has assumed a bloated and CEO-like quality.  UMN’s top administrators should be paid like the top administrators in other public institutions. The Governor of Minnesota makes $120,000 a year, members of the U.S. congress make $174,000 a year, and state legislators in Minnesota make $31,140 a year – providing a reasonable ballpark for university administrative pay. Even taking U.S. President Barack Obama’s $400,000 a year salary would require a massive reduction to Eric Kaler’s pay and many of his top administration as well.  Fourteen University of Minnesota employees made more than Barack Obama did in 2013 alone.

This same corporate drive in higher education is pushing tuition higher and higher each year and living standards for university workers lower. In the 1990s tuition doubled at UMN and that figure doubled again in the 2000s. The two-year tuition freeze expires at the end of this year, and Kaler’s pay increase is just one more sign that the university has not yet changed it’s course of increased costs for education, reduced public access, and increased administrative bloat. Now is the time to reverse that trend, before the next round of tuition hikes. Join SDS in calling for a truly public university; a university with more diversity, dramatically lower tuition, a living wage for all university workers, and fewer overpaid administrators!  Until we see these changes, a good place to start is to Chop from the Top!


We are happy to announce that Students for a Democratic Society at UMN – Twin Cities will be hosting our annual national convention in Minneapolis, MN OCTOBER 11TH AND 12THWhile much of the organizing is still in the works, we want YOU TO REGISTER NOW!




Every year student activists from around the country come together for plenaries, workshops and to learn about how to build a larger, more united student movement around issues that are relevant. 

This year, you can be sure to hear students and speakers at the convention discuss issues like TUITION EQUITY, EDUCATION RIGHTS, ANTI-WAR CAMPAIGNS and fighting back against POLITICAL REPRESSION.

Whether your in SDS or not, we want you at the convention. Meals will be provided, housing will be provided and travel stipends may be available depending on need and cost.

Not able to attend the convention but want to support in other ways? Please donate! Every year the hosting chapter and our national group put a lot of funds into our national convention. Many chapters receive little or no money from their universities. SDS survives off students and youth tirelessly working and fundraising. Support the student movement – give to SDS! Donate here: http://www.newsds.org/give-sds

Is your organization interested in tabling at the convention? Please email umnsds@gmail.com for information about sliding scale fees and accomodations, or register your table HERE.


If you dare to struggle, you dare to win!

Since 2006, Students for a Democratic Society (SDS) has grown to be the largest student-led anti-war, education rights, and international solidarity organization active in the US today. SDS has launched campaigns and won major victories fighting for tuition equity for undocumented students, fighting back against white supremacy and police brutality, fighting for justice in Palestine, opposing US military intervention, and chapters have worked on their local campuses on many other issues all across the country.

Now we need your help. On October 10th – 12th in Minneapolis, MN, SDS will host our 9th annual national convention at the University of Minnesota. Our annual national convention provides a platform to debate ideas in the public forum, hold workshops to learn from students who engage in struggles around the country, grow the student and youth movement by attracting new activists and organizers, and ultimately forge ahead towards a future free of war and oppression with a respect for human rights and dignity.

However, with the rising costs of education that leads many students permanently into debt, many of the students who are struggling just to stay in college won’t be able to attend the convention and fight for change without your donation. Your contribution will help provide a formative experience in a young person’s life that will have a lasting effect on their social and political consciousness.

Please donate directly to the hosting SDS chapter. If you would prefer to mail a check, please make the check payable to: Students for a Democratic Society and mail your donation to:

UMN SDS | 1930 Elliot Ave S #3 | Mpls, MN 55404

This contribution will help cover food, housing, and travel expenses for our SDSers at chapters nationwide. This will help us continue our mission to struggle to:

  • Defend education as a right for everyone!
  • End the wars. US out of Afghanistan, the Middle East, and everywhere.
  • End police brutality and the attacks on oppressed nationalities
  • Legalization for all immigrants.
  • End homophobia and discrimination.
  • End the attacks on civil liberties and stop NSA surveillance of our emails, phone calls, and communications.
  • Stop political repression of Muslims and Arab-Americans, anti-war activists, radicals, or those who don’t agree with the system.
  • Free all political prisoners including Chelsea Manning, the Holy Land Five, Mumia Abu-Jamal, Leonard Peltier, and anyone else being held for their political beliefs.

Thank you in advance for your contribution. We hope we see you at the convention and on the streets!

Initially published in FightBack! News

Students for a Democratic Society (SDS) at the University of Minnesota won a important victory this week, successfully defending itself from administrative sanctions aimed at SDS for its central role in organizing protests at Condoleezza Rice’s April 17 ‘distinguished lecturer’ speaking event.

SDS urged faculty and community groups to demand the university drop the charges, and after a barrage of phone calls, letters and emails, the administration was forced to do so.

Many of the charges leveled at SDS were alleged ‘violations’ of policies designed to silence free-speech on campus by outlawing the basic necessities of any large protest. As one example, the use of amplified sound on campus is only permissible within a narrow one-hour window on weekdays, and even then only with the appropriate permit, which can take over a month to pass through the university bureaucracy for approval. For going on a march at the end of a rally, protesters can be found in violation of moving from an approved protest area or of being otherwise disruptive to the campus environment. These policies are an attempt to chill student activism.

The charges brought against SDS for organizing a protest are outrageous, given that top university administration have consistently defended Rice’s scheduled speaking event, and $150,000 speaker fee, on the grounds of protecting her “free speech.”

Another important activist group on Minnesota’s campus, Whose Diversity?, is currently being targeted for similar repression. Whose Diversity? is accused of violations to the Student Code of Conduct for protesting university administrators at a public relations event that promoted an artificial image of ‘diversity’ at the University. Whose Diversity? demands substantive, not superficial, diversity, and for articulating this at a public event, ten organizers were charged with being “disruptive” and “failing to comply” with university officials. The punishment for speaking out against university administrators could range from a warning to expulsion and the revocation of degrees

Students for a Democratic Society at the University of Minnesota continues to stand with Whose Diversity? and recognizes their struggle as a struggle of all students for justice, equity and inclusion on campus. The collective efforts of student struggles on campus are united in fighting the repression of administration and recognize a common goal to defend the right to dissent on campus. It is in solidarity that SDS continues to struggle for justice with Whose Diversity? and calls upon the community to engage with and support the fight for equity and inclusion on campus. SDS is asking that its supporters, who were so vital in its successful fight against university repression, now give their full support to the Whose Diversity? organizers who are facing repression.

SDS has sent its thanks its faculty and community supporters who stood with it in fighting against administration repression. Matt Boynton, a University of Minnesota SDS member, said, “More than anything else, we want to recognize this as a major victory and to thank everyone who supported us. We would not have won without the support of faculty, staff and community members. We hope Whose Diversity? organizers will be cleared of their charges and we can all share a victory very soon.”

The SDS victory against repression on campus is a major one that will be celebrated as the group carries its work forward to the SDS National Convention, which is being held at the University of Minnesota next fall.


SDS at the University of Minnesota is facing punishment for our part in organizing a peaceful and wildly-successful protest against war criminal Dr. Condoleezza Rice. Dr. Rice was brought to campus to deliver a lecture on the “Legacy of Justice,” and was paid $150,000. After an unsuccessful attempt to have her invitation revoked, SDS worked with both citywide anti-war and other student groups to organize a protest against Dr. Rice’s presence on campus. Shortly after the protest, University administrators contacted SDS to inform us that we are facing possible punishment for the action. 

While SDS has not yet been formally charged, the University is looking into the claim that we have violated the University’s extremely limited outdoor sound policy which, on weekdays, allows for the amplification of sound only between noon and one. This policy was clearly designed to stifle protest and free speech on campus, and in this case is being enforced to punish SDS for a protest that the administration did not want to happen in the first place. If charges were to be lodged against us, SDS could face punishment as harsh as having our rights as a student group revoked. If the administration decides to pursue individual charges using the ‘student code of conduct,’ SDS members could face penalties as harsh as expulsion or the revocation of degrees. We know these are not idle threats as the administration is currently using the student conduct code to punish members of another progressive student organization, Whose Diversity?

Now, we ask for all of our supporters and all supporters of free speech on our campuses to call and tell the University of Minnesota that SDS should not face sanctions for our protest against Condoleezza Rice. The Student Union Activities office has threatened sanctions against us simply for exercising our right to free speech. We will not stand idly by as they silence political expression.

Take Action: Contact the Student Unions and Activities Office to tell them that SDS and Whose Diversity? should not face sanctions for exercising free speech on campus. 

Denny Olsen, Senior Associate Director of Student Unions and Activities, 612-625-6295olsen013@umn.edu

Maggie Towle, Director of Students Unions and Activities, 612-624-9941towle002@umn.edu

Danita Brown-Young, Vice Provost for Student Affairs and Dean of Students, 612-626-1242dbyoung@umn.edu

Eric Kaler, President, 612-626-1616upres@umn.edu

Published on 28 Apr 2014
On April 17, 2014, Dr. Condoleezza Rice gave the Distinguished Carlson Lecture at the University of Minnesota as part of the series of events entitled, “Keeping Faith with a Legacy of Justice,” sponsored by the Hubert H. Humphrey School of Public Affairs in commemoration of the 50th anniversary of the American Civil Rights Act of 1964. Dr. Rice, an accomplished African-American woman, currently holds a faculty position at Stanford University, where she also served as Provost. During the Bush Administration, Rice served as National Security Advisor, and as Secretary of State, where she had significant influence in crafting foreign and domestic policies for the War on Terror.

Given Dr. Rice’s impressive record of accomplishments, it may be surprising that her visit has generated a storm of controversy on campus. Students for a Democratic Society (SDS) demanded that the invitation be rescinded on grounds that her involvement in the prosecution of the War on Terror raises serious ethical concerns. The Minnesota Student Association (MSA), as well as President Kaler, countered that universities are places for the free exchange of ideas and that we must welcome those with differing viewpoints instead of banishing them from campus.

The authority of Dr. Rice to speak on the subject of a “legacy of justice” has also invited hot debate. Some have noted that as a successful African-American woman, her experience can shed light on how minorities and other disadvantaged groups can overcome obstacles to succeed. This experience implies that she can speak with authority on the legacy of the civil rights movement. Others have objected, arguing that she is not a recognized advocate for nor expert on American civil rights and that her actions while in public office resulted in serious human rights violations that run counter to the principles of the civil rights movement.

The controversy surrounding Dr. Rice’s visit provides an excellent opportunity for the university community to reflect on issues of both free speech and accountability. What is “free speech”? What constitutes a violation of freedom of speech? Who speaks for the civil rights movement and its legacy? Is the concept of civil rights something that stops at the borders of the U.S.? What is the role of universities in holding public officials accountable for their actions in office, be those domestic or international?

Joe Soss, Cowles Professor for the Study of Public Service

August Nimtz, Professor of Political Science and African American and African Studies
Major (Ret.) Todd E. Pierce, U.S. Army JAG Corps
Naomi Scheman, Professor of Philosophy and of Gender, Women, & Sexuality Studies, and President of the U of M chapter of the AAUP
Amanda Zimmerman, Students for a Democratic Society


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