Students for a Democratic Society at the University of Minnesota recently launched the Campaign to Save Our School (Campaign SOS) in order to bring to the university’s attention the numerous contradictions between the mission of the UofM and the policies that are currently in place. Campaign SOS focuses on issues such as increasing the transparency of the university, creating equality and fairness in university policies, ensuring that the university becomes a socially responsible institution, and expanding the right to higher education.
On Tuesday, September 29th university provost Tom Sullivan held a closed event inviting “student leaders” to participate in a conversation to discuss important issues. Despite not being invited to the event UofM SDS decided that this would be a perfect opportunity to bring the concerns of the SOS campaign to the administration and to demand answers.
As SDSers entered the meeting room Tom Sullivan, Gerald Rinehart, and other administrators quickly fled to Sullivan’s office. When the administrators finally returned to the meeting Tom Sullivan prefaced the meeting by stating, “I want to respect the rights of the students that were invited and the time that they have to visit with us about it, and the other students that are here, if they have issues or concerns I’d be more than happy to receive them but I want to, at this time, give the students that were invited an opportunity. We can cover all the issues, but particularly the issues of the students that were invited.” SDS members were surprised and impressed that the provost was willing to listen to their concerns, but the provost quickly recanted his previous comment.
After allowing several “student leaders” to discuss their issues with the provost, SDS members took the opportunity to voice their concerns. As one SDS member began to make a comment about disproportionate tuition increases for graduate students Vice Provost Gerald Rinehart abruptly cut the student off pressing that SDS was not invited to the event. Tom Sullivan agreed with Rinehart, and when called out on his change of mind Provost Sullivan lied, “I said we would accept questions or comments in written form from students who were not invited but in attendance. That’s what I said.” An SDS member presented the written list of demands for the SOS campaign, which the provost offered to receive after the meeting. Before he was then able to shift the conversation back to other issues SDS members were able to secure a meeting with Tom Sullivan and Gerald Rinehart.
SDS members presented the list of demands to Provost Tom Sullivan following the meeting and received a verbal agreement, from both Sullivan and Rinehart, to schedule a meeting with SDS. This is a huge victory for the Campaign to Save Our School as it is the first time the administration has officially offered to hear the concerns of the campaign. This is an important step towards creating a more just university; join Campaign SOS to keep the pressure on the administration.
To get involved in the campaign please email firstname.lastname@example.org. If you would like to read the demands of Campaign SOS please visit umnsds.wordpress.com/demands.