From Monday April 16 to Friday April 20, Montclair State University's chapter of Students for a Democratic Society hosted a week-long occupation on their Student Center Quad.
The setup began Sunday evening as SDS members put up their first tents preparing themselves for a entire week of activism to raise awareness of real issues that affect higher education: tuition hikes, student loan debt, lack of state funding, lack of administrative transparency, student rights on campus etc.
|Day 1 of the encampment|
The setup of the occupation sparked the curiosity of the general public. Tents, signs, and banners were prominently displayed on the quad as students, faculty, and staff workers came up to the SDS table to receive free food, informational literature, button pins, and student debt stickers (HELLO, MY NAME IS ALDO AND I AM $10,000 IN DEBT). Students were also encouraged to call their state legislators to advocate for two Tuition Cap bills that are currently on the floor of the NJ State Assembly (A2464) and the NJ State Senate (S1569).
As SDS and other students camped out over night, the University Police Department (UPD) patrolled the area every night before midnight. This was due to the administration’s pathetic little attempt to restrict the ability of the students to protest. Rules were imposed on the occupation such as only being allowed to occupy half of the quad and not allowing anyone to sleep inside tents. SDS and company slept outside of the tents instead, a hilarious loophole that was continuously exposed. Thankfully, the warm weather was on the side of activism.
Despite the restrictions on Freedom of Speech, Occupy MSU received positive media coverage for its protest: (Click)
-SDS member Aldo Guerrero appeared on camera in News 12 New Jersey. Although it aired on TV, the footage is not readily available for online viewing.
-WMBC also showed up
-And finally, various student journalists and photographers came to observe as well.
|Professor Samuels talking about MSU's Student Government|
Throughout the week, teach-ins of various subjects were hosted by guest speakers. Here is a list of some teach-ins that took place:
-The Problems of MSU's Student Government by Professor Jack Samuels
-History of American Student Activism by CUNY Professor Angus Johnston
-Marginalized Groups in Progressive Movements by Femvolution President and SDS Member Leah Stone
-Fairness in the Economy by U.S. Senate Candidate for the Socialist Party Greg Pason
-Discrimination in American Law by S.P.E.C.T.R.U.M.S President Alan Akins
-Black Family Discussion by SDS Member Carlo Rossi
-NATO, War, & Imperialism by SDS Member Justin Wooten & Professor Grover Furr
-Animal Welfare 101 by Animal Rights Activist Constance Li
-Meditation & Non-Violent Resistance by Professor Maughn Gregory
-Progressive Music performed by Rutgers Student Christian McFarland
|Leah Stone about to begin her teach-in about marginalized groups in progressive movements|
The idea of Tent State University originated from Rutgers University who recently hosted their 10th Annual Tent State. Montclair State SDS, Rutgers, and Rowan University agreed to encamp in solidarity in an attempt to create a unified and powerful statewide voice that addresses the issues of higher education. It is time for the state of New Jersey and for the United States to treat higher education as a serious issue.
SDS was satisfied with Occupy MSU / Tent State University. Hopefully this will be an annual event that will serve to fight for a more just and accessible system of higher education.