MAINE STUDENTS MARCH AGAINST CUTBACKS
I went to Portland today with my friend Peter (who took these photos) to join the rally and march against University of Southern Maine's (USM) proposed cuts of 13 faculty members (nine of which are women) as well as several liberal arts programs.
There have been a series of protests in recent days after USM students learned that their school was being hollowed out in order to be turned into a vocational facility. Calling the teacher firings "retrenchment" the administration of USM is pursuing an austerity program that will have severe impact on the working class students who attend the school.
Obviously the proposed cutbacks at USM are part of the broader attack on poor and working class people across the nation. But key to this return to feudalism is the destruction of public education. The rich suggest that the children of the middle class don't need music, art, humanities, sociology, political science, women's studies, history and the like. Instead the elite tell us that the most working class students can hope for is to be given training for an uninspiring job working for a corporation.
One local lawyer who attended the protest (and took on the case of defending the students right to march when the city turned down their request for permit) told me that he believes part of the agenda is to have USM students "intern" for corporations under near slave wages thus having the vocational institution become a placement agent for the business community.
I was proud to see the young people defending their school and their public education. Most heartening was to see them connecting the dots as they linked the attacks on USM to the broader corporate strategy of destroying social progress and the environment in America and around the world.
The key to success with this issue, and any other, is determination and repetition. Often groups hold a couple protests and then give up. One thing we've learned watching the daily seven-year protest on Jeju Island in South Korea is that when your future is at stake you must stay on the case if you hope to have any real impact.