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Free Student Union at Evergreen State College

category international | anarchist movement | other libertarian press author Wednesday July 02, 2008 06:05author by Olympia SDS - Students for a Democratic Society Report this post to the editors

What is it?

The free student union (FSU) is an organization designed to empower students in a democratic and open way to take control of our education and our lives on the Evergreen State College (TESC) campus. It is made up the students of the TESC. It is open to every member of the student body.

Why a Free Student Union?

The Free Student Union is a tool for collective bargaining, which will communicate the students concerns to the college with less bureaucracy, less delay, and more forcefulness than the current system. It is an open forum for students to voice their concerns and ideas about TESC and it’s policies and an organization to take action in response to those concerns.

How does it work?

The union members will meet in Student Community Forums in order to set union policy. Student Community Forums will be held frequently through out the year so that the union can stay up to date with the changing concerns of students and so that students can be informed about changes at our school. All free Student Union members will have the power to call a Student Community Forum through a simple process of signature collection. The issues the Free Student Union decides to Focus on and they way it does so, will be determined by the Student Community Forum. There are many different actions the Free Student Union can take in interacting with the administration and trying to get student concerns addressed. Meetings with administrators and demonstrations are tools the union can use. So are communicating with off-campus media and working with local organizations to put community pressure on the administration in favor of student interests. Stronger tactics could class walkouts, student strikes, and tuition strikes. The things we do are up to you! In the end, TESC needs us as much as we need it and the Free Student Union can and will use this fact in negotiating with the college. While the Free Student Union will be non-hierarchical (no president, representatives, or other officials), the Student Community Forum will have the power to select people to carry out its decisions. Also, a volunteer group of organizers accountable to the union as a whole will do the administrative work necessary to holding Student Community Forums as well as actively building union membership within the student body.

What makes the FSU different from the Geoduck Union?

The Geoduck Union acts on the principles of representative democracy (much like our own two-party system in the US). And although there are over 20 representatives in the Geoduck Union, attendance of these representatives has been very low, making it difficult for that body to fulfill its mission and ability to represent the entire student body. Because of this, the Geoduck Union is inefficient and ineffective in meeting the needs of student on our campus. The Free Student Union would operate under the principles of participatory and direct democracy. This means decisions would be made would be made directly by those who are affected most of them and on our campus that means us, the students! When we cut out the middle person we empower ourselves to make real and lasting changes that affect our everyday lives. That’s what democracy looks like!

What does the Free Student Union mean for Student Groups?

Short answer: nothing. Long answer: a lot! The Free Student Union is more than just another student group on campus. It’s a resource and a tool for us to make a difference on our campus. In fact, a Free Student Union at our school reinforce the effectiveness of student groups to get things done because we as students would have more influence over decisions made on our campus. The Free Student Union would be there working for and strengthening all students and that means student groups too!

What about time?

The great thing about the Free Student Union is that it doesn’t take much time to do a lot. For many students it’s really hard to get involved in student groups and other activities because of the realities of work, family, and other responsibilities on top of a full academic schedule are just too much. A body like the Free Student Union makes collective bargaining easy, efficient, and democratic. The Free Student Union allows all of us to have a say in what goes on at TESC without devoting all of our time to making the world a better place. We can all be leaders and organizers within this model.
The Free Student Union gives us the power to decide what happens here without the time commitments necessitated by other types of groups. You decide how much time you put in!

Examples of when a Free Student Union would have been Awesome at Evergreen:

Bringing Iraqi student to Evergreen
Dealing with the sexual assault in the fall
The arming campus police
The graffiti on campus
Dead Prez concert
The use of prison labor on campus
Clearcutting in Evergreen woods
Faculty Hiring

A recent history of student unions

Currently in the US, there are student unions forming in Providence, RI and New York City. Student unions have a much larger presence in countries all over the world, but none are stronger than in Quebec. In 2005 student unions and students all over Quebec went on strike against budget cuts to the Grants and loans program for students. Entire universities were shut down, mass marches ensued and occupations of intersections and buildings occurred. In the end, the demands of the students were met. This is just one example of the power organized students actually hold.

How can I join?

Free Student Union cards re available at pick-up sites around the university. Take a card and sign your name on it. Fill out your contact information and put it in the drop-off box. Also keep your eyes open for a union organizer.

What if I don’t want to join the union but I am interested in it?

Give your email to a union member. The address will be added to a listserv that will keep you updated about union activity but will not make you a part of the union.

Inspired by- Student Syndicalism, by Carl Davidson

Transcribers note: I got this pamphlet at the northwest SDS conference, my only criticism is that it is a trade union (of only students) compared to an industrial union (which would include faculty and staff).

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