By Emily Bruzzo, Staff Writer
Published in print Sept. 10, 2014
They may have been few in number, but the UNCG students who met last Thursday for the Greensboro chapter of the North Carolina Student Power Union (NCSPU) are looking “to make some noise.”
The students, proponents of radical politics, met for the first time this semester to discuss NCSPU’s future on the UNCG campus, and to prepare for their statewide conference in Raleigh this Saturday where students from across the UNC system will, as they put it, “Stand up,” and “Fight back.”
“The main reason we’re even having this meeting is to find out what we want from UNCG,” said Aaron Bryant, UNC- Greensboro’s NCSPU campus organizer. “What should we be fighting for?”
Bryant’s question seems to be the fire that has fueled the NC Student Power Union since 2010, when its predecessor, the NC Defend Education Coalition, was first established.
According to NCSPU’s official website, the NC Defend Education Coalition began with a group of UNC system students who felt their education and student rights were in jeopardy.
Starting with demonstrations fighting budget cuts and raised tuition, as well as demands for better access to public higher education for undocumented students, the coalition began what would become a series of organized actions speaking out against the state government.
In 2012, after the UNC Board of Governors proposed significant tuition increases for all UNC system schools, the coalition assembled more than 200 students in protest, even taking over the conference room after the Board’s meetings to stage what they called, a “People’s Board of Governors.”
It was in the summer of 2012 that the NC Defend Education Coalition became the NC Student power Union, and the organization began to strategize about forming statewide student unions.
Since then the organization has continued to take an active role in North Carolina politics, with issues such as student debt moving to the forefront of its agenda.
UNCG’s NCSPU chapter met to discuss how the organization’s statewide agenda would coexist with the members’ campus goals.
The members agreed on their desire to better organize and mobilize UNCG students, as well as develop more effective organizing models for other established UNCG groups. They discussed forming coalitions and working to build bridges between existing coalitions.
Educating UNCG’s student body about social issues, especially in favor of minorities, also became a focal point for the group.
However, the group’s strongest shared sentiment was the desire for action.
“I think that if we can show people that sitting around and talking about things doesn’t make as much of a difference as actually going out and getting active, we will get more done,” said Alesha Caldwell, a Psychology major who is also involved in a Pan African Coalition called Siasa.
Dhruv Pathak, a History and African American Diaspora Studies major, argued, “I don’t believe students are apathetic. I think that there’s a lack of consciousness about what’s going on. I also think there’s a bit of tunnel vision.”
Pathak says that UNCG’s NCSPU chapter needs to focus on building leadership that will continue what he and his colleagues start.
“This very apolitical campus needs to become a very politicized campus. We don’t have to all agree with each other’s politics, but there just has to be some type of politics. There just has to be some type of social consciousness,” said Pathak.
Bryant shared Pathak’s discontentment with the state of UNCG.
“UNCG wants to be a school like NC State. I think that’s a problem. I think when you focus so much of your attention…on how great it is that the university is expanding and that we’re spending all this money on sports teams… you neglect the arts, humanities, and critical thinking. If you’re taking away resources from things that teach you skills as important as reading and writing in a school, that’s a fundamental problem…UNCG is just trying to meet the deadlines and stay within budget,”
“I’m obviously upset at UNCG and Chancellor Brady because they’re the ones taking the action,” Bryant continued. “But it’s important to note that they’re taking the actions that the state government has told them to take. What I want to bring to Student Power is, yes, UNCG is making some bad decisions, but they’re working in a bad framework.”
“I want students to know… that what it all comes down to is are you willing to look around at what’s going on and take transformative, radical, revolutionary, action against what you see. If that’s the case then this is the group for you.”