Less than a dozen students skipped class to protest tuition, textbook prices and student debt starting at noon today in front of the University Center on University Drive.
The students are part of a nationwide movement called Student Walkout, which is a part of the Occupy Wall Street movement, and it encourages students — from middle school to graduate school — to protest the higher education system, said Jorge Lugo, a technical engineering junior in the protest.
“This is our time to speak out and be heard,” said Carl Gibson, a history senior. “We encouraging students to stand up and walk out at 12 p.m. and walkout wherever they are and join us in the center of campus.”
Gibson, who was telling students walking by to question the University over megaphone, said the group was there to encourage students to speak out.
“I think we’ve been trained since, really, kindergarten, first grade in our education systems to learn how to wait in lines, learn how to raise our hands when we want to ask a question, learn how to follow rules — not question authority,” Gibson said.
“People never really think about the systems that they’re in and whether or not equitable, whether or not they’re fair, whether or not they’re democratic, and so we’re calling on students to just challenge those norms and really think about these issues, and if they want to speak out, encourage them to do so.”
Lugo said he was there to protest “class warfare” and undervalued degrees.
“A lot of students can’t afford to pay their tuition, or for their textbooks, and there’s a class warfare going on where the rich get a better education than the poor or even the middle class. In fact, the middle class is dying out,” Lugo said.
“A lot of students get a good education four years, two years, six years, but yet, they got to look for a job at McDonald’s or at Books-A-Million, and even if they have a really good education, they’re afraid to put on there that they have a Ph.D because they’ll be overqualified for the job. So, it’s about how screwed up this education system really is.”
Linda Walker, a history senior, said she skipped her class because she’s concerned about her and her fellow classmates’ futures.
“I joined the movement because I think it’s time for students to stand up and to demand more from our educational institutions. I think democracy should be something that we practice and not something we should just read about and theorize about in classrooms, and so that’s why I’m here today, and that’s why I walked out,” Walker said.
“I’m concerned about the rising cost of tuition; I’m concerned about the increasing debt that students are graduating with; I’m concerned about the future. So, that’s why I’m here.”