I was intrigued by your article about the pending student strike in the Feb. 18 edition of The Horizon. I understand student concerns about the rising costs of tuition, student debt, etc. and the article is correct that the ratio of state funding levels to what students pay in tuition and fees has changed dramatically in recent years. However, as a scholar who has studied political activism and mobilization, I would like to offer student activists some suggestions:
1) Strikes are sometimes effective because they are disruptive. Students not attending class in and of itself would not necessarily disrupt normal proceedings. Moreover and more importantly, activists need to think about how the action is (or can be) framed. Students striking could easily be dismissed as students just seeking a good excuse to skip class and then your message would be dismissed and lost. You may want to reconsider the type of protest action you take – perhaps a demonstration of some sort would be more fruitful than a strike.
2) Activists also need to consider carefully the target of their actions. I do not honestly think Indiana University is the suitable target for many expressed concerns. If you want tuition and fees reduced, that probably cannot be done without harming University operations (and thereby students) without replacing the funds. Given how much the state has recently shifted the cost burden to students, perhaps targeting the state legislature to shift back some of that burden would be more fruitful. The state legislature would also be the proper target for the demand listed in The Horizon to “abolish HB1402/SB590.” Indiana University cannot abolish acts of the legislature.
3) You might consider partnering with the University. Allies and networks can be valuable assets in activism. It would be wonderful also for the University to have increased state funding and certainly a number of the concerns expressed are directly related to revenue issues. IU has a lobbying office that tries to influence the state legislature and many students visit legislators in special events organized by Hoosiers for Higher Education. Maybe partnership would be a constructive strategy for student concerns.
4) Finally, I encourage IU Southeast students to inform themselves about relevant issues that may not draw the attention of the Student Power IU group based in Bloomington. For example, going back to the issue of state funding, you may not know that the formulas that determine levels of state funding are, in some ways, particularly disadvantageous to our campus – we do not get credit for any students from Kentucky despite our approved reciprocity agreement. That means we do not get any state financial support for a sizable percentage of our student body necessitating that we do more with less. This issue, and others, probably would not be something that students from other campuses would be aware of. Perhaps you could meet with IU Southeast Vice Chancellor for Administrative Affairs Dana Wavle and learn more about particular concerns relating to state funding and, again, be a beneficial and constructive partner in advocating for more resources for our campus community.
Jean E. Abshire, Ph.D.
Associate Professor of Political Science and International Studies