On April 2nd the president of the University of Minnesota, Eric Kaler, will be delivering his annual “State of the University” address to both the campus community and to important actors in state politics and big business. Students for a Democratic Society at UMN knows that this “State of the University” will neglect the issues impacting students, staff, and faculty at the university today.

In response to President Kaler’s address, SDS will be bringing together students to highlight and speak to the work, concerns and struggles they are engaged at the university and in the community. Concerns like discrimination, inaccessibility and livable wages for staff and faculty who make our university work.

SDS will join other groups to highlight the work that represents their needs and their issues in a “Students’ State of the University.” The “Students’ State of the University” will be held immediately after the officially sanctioned scripted deliver of President Kaler’s media spectacle in order to highlight the growing gaps between administration and students, staff and faculty at the university.

Amongst the disparities we will highlight are responses to the typical rhetoric of President Kaler and his administration. Rhetoric about issues like “Campus Climate,” which has been veiled rhetoric referring to access, diversity, inequalities and safety at the university. In his 2014 address he stated, “Advancing equity and diversity is a priority of mine… too often, students of color come from families of limited means. Thus, a necessary step to increasing the number of students of color is to make the University more affordable.” However far from building bridges to communities of color he and his administration have held the line and even gone as far as attacking students of color.

Kaler stated that in order to achieve this goal, “the environment of campus could be more welcoming.” His idea of a welcoming environment has included white washing the diverse cultural centers that provided safe spaces for our diverse student body. It has also included ignoring the groups like Whose Diveristy? who have worked extensively to create an inclusive environment. Kaler has gone further then ignoring the group, he had several of its members arrested in a peaceful sit-in at his office. For Kaler, arresting students of color who work tirelessly to challenge the university to achieve his “priority” of advancing equity and diversity on campus  is having them arrested in attempts to engage in meaningful change that goes beyond rhetoric and empty dialogue.

Kaler has also “changed” crime alerts, to exclude race, “in some cases,” and will likely trump this as an act of inclusiveness while being able to uphold “safety” as a standard for a largely middle class white student population. Despite this many students, including a group of doctoral students have highlighted that research has show race in crime alerts is far from effective and actually does not correlate to proper suspect identification. This gesture was made as a meaningless concession to those, like Whose Diversity? and others that have highlighted the impact of race as a description used in crime alerts for students of color on campus. Far from creating a “welcoming” environment it creates one of unwarranted suspicion of students of color from their white peers.

President Kaler also spoke about a “Strategic Plan” last year in his State of the U speech. The stated goal was to be “faculty driven” and that it was extremely important that “staff, students and stakeholders voices are there too.” Yet these voices have been routinely ignored. The university staff remain under-compensated and routinely have to fight the board of regents 3 minute time limit for their voices to be heard and subsequently ignored by university leadership. President Kaler has also done little to trim excessive administration bloat and golden parachutes while maintaining the status quo for the already outrageous tuition charged by the university. Far from “rejecting complacency” President Kaler has upheld it.

President Kaler and his administration have most notably upheld complacency in their response to research misconduct and systemic and institutional negligence. A review of these practices, including those that saw research subject Dan Markingson die in 2004, wrote that “weakness in policy and practice were evident and require attention,” adding that “in the context of persistent internal and external criticism…the University has not taken an appropriately aggressive and informed approach to protecting subjects and regaining lost trust.”  Voices within the university including students, staff and faculty have been joined by a chorus of concerned community members including former Governor Arnie Carlson to publicly demand accountability and outside investigation of misconduct. Most recently at a Faculty Senate hearing many staff went as far as demanding accountability from the top, including resignations.

While President Kaler likes to talk about “Grand Challenges” and rhetorically wage a PR campaign to appease corporate donors and state lawmakers. President Kaler has upheld a “tuition freeze” as his great achievement for students. Far from making the university more accessible, it has maintained the status quo. The bottom line remains that over the past decades tuition has risen at outrageous rates, far exceeding inflation and mirroring increases in administrative costs. A real victory to celebrate will be when tuition is decreased. Further, Kaler and his administration have remained idol in trimming top heavy spending, offering livable wages and benefits to staff and their families, creating an inclusive environment for a diverse students body and they have consistently failed to hold themselves accountable for academic and research negligence and misconduct which undermine the very foundations of our university.

The time for hollow rhetoric has passed. President Kaler has proven himself to be just another scripted talking head that is unwilling to take the necessary actions to meaningfully address “Poverty. Social Inequality. Religious intolerance. World Hunger. Climate Change. Disease,” and the other challenges he highlighted in his opening remarks of his 2014 address. For those that are tired of such empty PR media spectacles to boost alumni fundraising and corporate donations, join SDS and its partners in our “Students State of the University” on April 2nd following Kaler’s speech. Let’s discuss the real issues and begin doing the work necessary to build a better, more tolerant, more inclusive, more accountable and more accessible university and community.


Join us at 6pm on April 2 in Ford Hall.

Students for a Democratic Society at the University of Minnesota demands justice for unarmed 19-year old Tony Robinson who was killed by police Friday March 6 by police in Madison, WI and an end to all racism and injustice plaguing our campuses and communities across the country.

UMN SDS stands in support of students in Madison and everywhere who are standing up and walking out to demand justice. Justice begins in every community with equal access to resources. Youth of color are subjected to the injustice of major failures of education from the achievement gap to the school-prison-pipeline when young people of color are criminalized. They are also subjected to an opportunity gap in higher education and access to equal economic opportunities. Finally they are subjected to the repression and violence of the state through racist police practices seen in the forms of harassment, violence and disproportionate policing of communities of color.

People of color are confronted with injustice and inequalities in every aspect of American society from the education and legal systems to the capitalist economic structure that puts profits over people. In education for example students of color face a major achievement gap in a system that excludes and marginalizes their culture, history and values. In Minnesota for example, amongst the worst states in the education achievement gaps graduation rates for ELL students is 64%, 60% for Latino/Latina students, 60% for black students, and 50% for American Indian students.

Nationally students of color are disproportionately disciplined for activities that are no different than their white peers. Black boys for example are 3.5x more likely to be suspended. They account for 46% of suspensions while composing only 18% of the student population nationally. This is due to racist practices institutionally and also racist practices from teachers individual bias. These systems and practices criminalize youth of color and contribute to higher drop out rates for students of color disrupting their potential for success.

In the legal system injustice and inequality are best demonstrated by incarceration rates. The US incarcerates the higher proportion of its population in the world. The US accounts for 25% of the worlds prison population while only having 5% of the world’s population. Of the 1.2 million people in prison 58% are people of color.

While only 12% of the total US population is black over 40% of those arrested are black. Black men are incarcerated at a rate 6x higher than their white peers. One in ten black men have been incarcerated in the US. Studies and research have found consistently that the rate at which crimes are committed is constant across racial demographics but enforcement is disproportionately focused on communities of color and communities in poverty. The recent DOJ reports about Ferguson highlight this fact but also offer a case study that is institutionally routine across the US today.

People of color are also more likely to be killed by the police. These are the results of systemic and routine practices. Over the past 40 years a black person is on average 4.2x more likely to get shot and killed by law enforcement than whites. While 13% of the US is black, they account for 26% of police killings. American Indians are the most likely oppressed nationality to by killed by police in the United States. They account for .8% of the national population but 1.9% of police killings. These “justifiable homicides” are nothing more than systematic murders rubber-stamped by the legal system echoing a long history of racist violence and terrorism in US history.

Economic inequalities have been consistently maintained since the days when US capitalism boomed on a slave based economy. Since 1989 peak values of wealth ratios were reached and have been in decline ever since. For example he unemployment rate nationally has fallen around 5% in 2014 but is below 5% for white communities while remaining at over 10% for black communities and over 6% for Latino/Latina communities. The median wealth of white households in 13 times greater then that of the median wealth of black households and 10 times greater than that of Latino/Latina households. In the years since the end of the “great recession” in 2010 median household earnings have fallen in the black community by over 50%. Median wealth has fallen as well representing both a decrease in earnings and savings. Across all communities of color in the US since 2010 median household incomes have fallen. Home ownership rates have likewise fallen for communities of color.

These trends represent a renewal of segregation in US society that represents systemic oppression and exploitation of communities of color. The results are felt in communities like Madison, WI not only when their youth are killed but in everyday life.

Madison is only a short distance away from Wisconsin’s largest city Milwaukee, one of the US’s most segregated cities. A city where police have routinely terrorized communities of color and killed unarmed citizens. Among them is Dontre Hamilton, a 31 year old suffering from mental illness who was murdered in a downtown park. Another is Derek Williams who died in the custody of Milwaukee police pleading for help because he could no breathe. Milwaukee police have a long and well-documented history of brutality towards communities of color.

These practices of police brutality are only symptoms of the greater social injustices and racism in US society today.  Racism and inequalities are the plagues of systems of colonialism, imperialism and capitalism ravaging our social fabric today. We must end racism and injustice across our society by challenging them everywhere they exist. Every institution perpetuating these plagues must be challenged and SDS stands firmly opposed to it anywhere it exists. We’re committed to taking on racism and injustice on our campuses, in our communities and across our country or anywhere else it exists. 

We demand justice for Tony Robinson and all those brutally murdered by police and state violence. We demand an end to the harassment, intimidation and attacks on communities of color. We demand and end to all practices of racism individually and collectively in our society. We affirm our commitment to the struggle for justice and the destruction of racism! When communities of color are under attack, we join with those who stand up and fight back! 

Students for a Democratic Society at the University of Minnesota condemns the racism of the Sigma Alpha Epsilon (SAE) at the University of Oklahoma. UMN SDS demands accountability from all institutions of higher education regarding racism and discrimination on our college and university campuses.

The Sigma Alpha Epsilon is a fraternity founded in 1856 and boasts a history of racism and exclusion of members of color. In 1903 the fraternity proudly upheld itself as a group reserved exclusively for “members of the Caucasian race.” Since then it has continued nationally to exercise racism in practice. For example in December 2014 the Clemson chapter was suspended for holding a “Cripmas” party, themed with Crip gang culture and appropriating black culture. Since the OU incident students in a Seattle area chapter of the fraternity have been accused of a similar incident of racism.

The racist remarks of its members at the University of Oklahoma represent a Greek culture that systematically remains segregated and largely excludes people of color. At all institutions of higher education we must uphold values of tollerance that say no to racism and discrimination. The administration of our universities must condemn all racism and uphold a zero tolerance policy for any such racism, discrimination and intolerance.When fraternities and sororities, like SAE, contribute to a culture of racial injustice and exclusion, SDS demands that our universities act immediately to stifle their influence by penalizing these institutions and removing them from campus life.

 Students for a Democratic Society opposes racism and demands racism off campus! 

Students for a Democratic Society UMN stands in solidarity with Whose Diversity and those activists arrested in the righteous act of civil disobedience in President Kaler’s office on Monday. We call upon the university to immediately drop all charges against students!

As Minnesota’s flagship state education facility, the University of Minnesota does not serve all Minnesota students but rather privileges some while systematically and institutionally burdening others. Rather than being a strength and pillar of the community, offering young people upward mobility, it has maintained the status quo of privilege to benefit a few at the expense of many others.

While the population of Minneapolis is 18.6% African American while the U has only 4.1%. The Latino community of Minneapolis is 10.5% whereas the U has only 2.6%. Many more indigenous American Indian Minnesotans and immigrant populations like Somalis and Hmong are also greatly underrepresented.

Many of these populations share a disproportionate amount of poverty in Minnesota as well. The poverty rate amongst communities of color in Minneapolis that are over 50% for the African American and American Indian communities, and over 40% for the Latino community whereas their white neighbors see a poverty race of around 10%. Further, poverty’s worst impact is on children. Children of color represent 95% of the 176,000 Minnesota children living in poverty today.

Additionally these students tend to live in communities that experience a greater impact from predatory lending, higher rates of unemployment, disproportionate levels of problems related to health and wellness, higher rates of violence and an education system that fails them. Students of color in communities across Minnesota and the United States also are sold out by an education system of school-to-prison pipeline as the result of disproportionate punishments wielded against students of color relative to their white peers.

Rather than being a part of the solution to these social plagues in American society the University of Minnesota has mirrored the inequalities and injustice of it. In addition to underrepresentation of students of color, the University also has fewer faculty of color, has fewer tenure professor tracks in ethnic studies departments and routinely criminalizes people of color with racist crime alerts that spread fear amongst students and the community of the peers of color.

The University administration released a statement Monday that it has a belief in “frank conversations” about the “issues that affect the campus community,” but it has consistently balked at the opportunities to do so. The opportunities to have such dialogue have always existed but neither President Kaler nor the Board of Regents has ever been interested in anything but discussing such matters on their terms in one-sided scripted speeches and behind closed doors, meeting in lavish administrators’ offices. This has maintained a status quo of talking without listening and words without actions that has served the University’s administration and bottom line of dollars over students well. If administration had decided to act upon its “beliefs,” then Monday’s protest would have never been necessary. That said, it is necessary and important that students stand up and fight for justice because the University of Minnesota and its administration certainly will not. If the U is going to be a center for democracy, education, progress, and transformation, it will be because students have fought for and won it, not because administration has talked about or mandated it as policy.

Whose Diversity and others have both recently and historically challenged the University’s narratives about equity and diversity on campus including challenging the white-washing of the only inclusive safe spaces for diversity at the student cultural centers in Coffman Memorial Union. They have demanded a more inclusive, tolerant, and accessible campus and education for students in Minnesota, especially students of color. They have called for a more diverse faculty and more tenure tracks for ethnic study departments like Chicano Studies that now faces elimination by the university altogether, only further marginalizing an already oppressed group of students (additionally the University has remained hostile to Latino and Chicano students with racist publications producing images and documents perpetuating hostile and harmful stereotypes of Chicano and Latino student culture).

Like those that have come before, Whose Diversity is on the correct side of history, the side that has demanded justice and tolerance, action and progress.  Their demands echo the unfulfilled demands of the 1969 Morrill Hall takeover reminding us all that protests like these matter and they result in meaningful gains for students and the community, gains like the African American and African Studies Department and the Chicano Studies department. These victories, this history of struggle, explain precisely why such dialogue threatens the University administration, because it has the ability to undermine authority and empower students to act.

The urgent tasks before us will not be easily concluded or quickly accomplished. This dialogue and the changes necessary are too important to be kept behind closed doors in lavish administrators’ offices. These struggles may take every year of our college careers to wage and mean passing the struggle on to the next generation of student in order to achieve meaningful changes and victories. Any successful dialogue undertaken must be inclusive for our whole community and must result in nothing less than action.

If the university community wants change, the administration has demonstrated that we as students must fight for it. Students must lead the dialogue and follow through with the actions necessary!

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!


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