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Tuesday, July 29, 2014

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Student Union of Michigan rallies in the Diag

By Molly Block, Daily Staff Reporter
Published November 29, 2012

The Groove percussion group’s performance in the Diag came to an abrupt stop on Thursday when the Student Union of Michigan started rallying to demand a freeze on tuition increases at the University.

The event — which was coordinated through Facebook and described as “the rally we’ve all been waiting for” — was intended to make a statement to University officials that the price of an education continues to increase.

The rally also protested high student loan rates, University expenditures like campus construction and a lack of transparency between the University and its students, according to group members.

The rally was centered on speeches by group members, including LSA sophomores Marion Berger and Zach Feldman and Rackham student Martin Vega. LSA freshman Gurdit Suri also spoke on behalf of the Coalition for Tuition Equality.

Berger and Feldman focused on increasing the prevalence of the student perspective in administrative affairs and the student debt crisis.

“This group at the University of Michigan is a small part of a larger international student movement,” Berger said. “Across the world, students are rising up and fighting back against constantly increasing tuition and decreasing democracy on campus.”

She added that rising tuition costs compromise diversity within the student body.

“The constantly rising tuition prices are pricing out lower and middle income students leading to a decreasing amount of minority students on campus,” Berger said.

Suri said the Coalition for Tuition Equality supports the efforts of the Student Union of Michigan in their attempts to promote equal opportunity to an affordable public education.

“We stand today before you for a cause,” Suri said. “A cause dedicated to what is, and what should continue to be, a basic fundamental human right within the United States — equal access and opportunity to education.”

Vega, who is also a University staff member, gave a speech that highlighted his personal and professional connections to the issue.

“I expected this University to be an engine of equality,” Vega said. “Five years in, I can say that the University of Michigan has failed its public mission.”

Members of the group said they were inspired by the Quebec Student Movement, which effectively overturned a tuition hike by the provincial government, and ongoing student movements in Chile and Puerto Rico. They added they hope to see increased democracy and student involvement in future University administrative matters.

The rally concluded with a march to the Fleming Administration Building to deliver a letter to University President Mary Sue Coleman demanding a tuition freeze for the upcoming academic year.

LSA senior Yonah Lieberman, a member of Coalition for Tuition Equality, said he was surprised by the number of rally participants in attendance supporting the Student Union of Michigan’s cause.

“I was impressed by the turnout,” Lieberman, who is also a columnist for The Michigan Daily, said. “Sometimes you think rallies on the Diag aren’t going to have a big turnout, but this was a really good turnout for the Student Union of Michigan’s first real event.”