in the middle of midterms, a struggle persists in the hallways of this school.

as the oregonian reported recently, the university of oregon athletics department has literally taken millions from the general fund (including tuition dollars) over the last several years, in unpublicized back-alley deals between johnson hall and the jacqua crowd. diverted funds subsidize an annual budget of $78 million, and there’s no telling how many tuition dollars athletics will decide to embezzle next year.

nike subsequently enlists the use of every student athlete, not to mention 90-95% of the sneaker-wearing student body, for prestigious roles as walking advertisements so that it can move more sweatshop-produced apparel.  the company marks apparel for both athletes and fans thus making its logo visible to millions each football game. nike uses human beings as billboards, so they can sell clothing made for pennies under inhumane conditions by other human beings.

similarly, the administration of the school continues to give itself raises while cutting the hours available to service workers on the bottom of the chain. efforts by former uo president lariviere to privatize the university were dealt with severely by governor kitzhaber through the ous chancellor (haven’t seen lariviere in a while). the message was clear: this is a public business. no actions toward removing it from the clutches of the state of oregon will be tolerated.

a  uo professor i was talking with recently confided that he was sad to see the university treated more and more like a business, saying that instead he’d like to see schools retain value as communities of learning. but this ideal seems impossible at this university, whose goals remain winning rose bowl victories, keeping the olympic trials on campus and somehow getting more people to come to the men’s  basketball games. new and bigger sports venues dwarf academic buildings where students pay more and more each year to attend classes.

the battle for autonomy and resource control rages on. but by what right can the nike execs with their ill-gotten billions claim control for themselves? for that matter, what right do the suits down at johnson hall claim responsibility for the responsibility in distributing both rights and resources?

there’s a clear distinction in this school between the values of the student body and the aim of the administration. for example, dps has already bought guns and tasers for the “defense” of campus, even though this is overwhelmingly opposed by the student body (election results).

similarly, the proposed emu renovation, to be paid for to the tune of $100 per student per term, has now been voted down twice by the student body. yet plans continue as scheduled for the multi-million-dollar renovation, which at initial stages included an enormous concert hall and a nike store.

autonomy and access to education are being hi-jacked in alarmingly increasing increments by a small group of individuals and their corporate sponsors. but this sort of thing is nothing new.

this planet has a long history of small groups of people seeking to usurp the resources of the rest of their community and deprive them of their freedom. kings, emperors and american settlers did this on the basis of divine right, through god-supported domination and slavery projects.

less pretentious groups have used force as justification for subjugating other people groups. in modern-day israel, water is withheld from settlers and their lives are held in jeopardy due to a dispute over indigenous rights. the same thing is happening to latin americans on the southern border of the united states. whoever was here first gets their dues, and everyone else is subject to their rule.

but in the modern world, yes, here at the u of o, we’ve grown beyond that foolishness. on this “public” land, where a group of men with badges decide who’s in or out, the pithy claim of indigenous rights has been deferred to the market. yes, whoever can pay the most can earn the right to goods, services and the use of the land.

autonomy has been reduced to a market commodity, and resources are bought and sold without a thought of where they come from and how their extraction has affected the earth or its peoples. history can be read as a long list of all the ways that small groups of people justified taking away the rights and resources of the few.

all of us who attend this school are privileged in some way. many can’t afford to be here with us. some were born elsewhere, and find themselves in the nonsensical category of being an “illegal” human being. to a large extent, it is only through class privilege that

but we don’t have to stand for this. we don’t have to cooperate with an administration that wants to raise tuition to pay for football games, that wants to make generations of students pay for a new money-making concert hall, that makes decisions that not only disregard but directly oppose the voice of the student body as expressed in the yearly elections.

we may not have direct power, but we can strike. we can refuse to go to school, to work. we can demonstrate in the streets until our voices are heard.

today, may 1st, in solidarity with those who cannot afford to attend school or have been deemed “illegal” by the us government, we can refuse to go to school. join me as i go downtown to demonstrate against the banks that foreclose on folks illegally on a regular basis. (more info here)

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