As the sun set on the Diag, about a dozen protesters circled the block ‘M’ Saturday as part of the Million Student March — a movement calling for tuition-free public colleges, a $15 minimum wage for campus workers and elimination of student debt.

The demonstration was originally scheduled for Nov. 12, but was cancelled due to rain. Despite the weather, roughly two dozen students showed up on event’s original date.

University students chalked phrases like “Let them learn” and “Education for all” as part of the event, which was hosted by Students for Sanders. Members of the Student Socialist Union and the Student Labor Coalition were also in attendance.

Chanting “Education is a right, not just for the rich and white” and “No cuts, no fees, no corporate universities,” demonstrators also held signs that read, “Raises for workers and administration,” “Fight for 15,” and “We are students, not customers.”

Many protesters expressed their concern for what they say is economic injustice embedded in the education system. Education junior Aingeal Jones said education should be a right in this country and college should be attainable for all.

“If we’re telling students in public schools that they need to go to college and you need a college education to be able to get a job in this country, then college education should be something that is provided in the same way that we give high school education,” she said.

Jones said she has witnessed the effects of high tuition costs firsthand. She previously tutored at Beecher High School just north of Flint, Mich., where she said she encountered many students who felt defeated and unmotivated because they knew they weren’t going to be able to afford college.

“It was really disheartening and saddening to me that there are people who really feel that they have no options in life just because they can’t afford college,” Jones said. “And I don’t think that anybody deserves to be poor or homeless just because they can’t pay for an education.”

Echoing the experiences of her students, Jones recalled her own struggle in high school. She said she was also convinced that she didn’t have any options after graduation. Even after four years of hard work, she remembered the obstacle tuition posed.

“My mother was 15 when I was born, and I have two other younger siblings,” Jones said. “I was lucky enough that when I transferred here, I got a scholarship … seeing how different that has made my life has even furthered my belief that this is an opportunity that we need to give to students.”

LSA sophomore Nicholas Kolenda, president of Students for Sanders, emphasized that the event was meant to bring awareness to all forms of inequality. On Facebook, he wrote that this demonstration was also “in solidarity for what is currently happening in Missouri as well.”

“Socioeconomic inequality can really exacerbate issues of racial inequality and of discrimination in society,” Kolenda said. “It continues the de facto policies that exist that bring down a lot of minority communities.”

LSA junior Rebecca Wren, a member of the Student Labor Coalition, said she didn’t realize the reality surrounding her at the University until she was responsible for paying her own rent and expenses.

“I’m a first-generation student, and I’m also working class,” Wren said. “After I was out of the dorms, I was responsible for rent … worrying about groceries and about how when I graduate, I’ll have no money saved. It just hits you in the face, and you realize, ‘Why don’t people care? Why aren’t people doing anything? How is this the way it is?’ ”

To bring awareness to such issues, Wren is helping to organize a Mock Wage Board on Nov. 17 where minimum wage workers and the general public will discuss raising the minimum wage at the University to $15 per hour.

Wren claimed that higher education should serve as an example for society as a whole and should work to challenge existing societal issues of equity, including but not limited to income inequality. She said it is her role as a student to learn about these injustices and to take action.

“I think we’re reproducing those inequalities,” Wren said. “I think the University thinks it’s really progressive. But if you look at it, it’s kind of like this disparity between what we say about how we’re leaders and best and we’re challenging these things, but what we’re actually doing is kind of different.”

After walking past the protest, University alum Tamera Waltman, an Ann Arbor resident, expressed support for the students. As a parent of two daughters, she said she and her husband have made many sacrifices due to rising tuition costs. They both plan to work several years past their desired retirement age.

“Not only are they enmeshed in student loans, so are we,” Waltman said. “It’s a burden if you can pull it off. And if you want that for your children and you can’t pull it off, it’s heartbreaking.”

While she believed raising the minimum wage was a necessity, she expressed skepticism about the funding for tuition-free public schools. However, she said she hoped to see it pass.

“I just don’t know where the money would come from,” she said.

Kolenda noted that on the whole, conversations surrounding the multifaceted economics of education tend to be left out of the political sphere — a problem, he argues, that stems from politicians’ tendency to overlook the needs of millennials. He said this is a result of a “vicious cycle” wherein younger voters don’t go to the polls because they feel they won’t be heard.

“Because of something that happened — maybe it was lower voter turnout — politicians stopped listening to our needs completely,” Kolenda said. “And since politicians stopped listening to our needs and wants, a lot of Millennials feel that there is no point in voting, and then the politicians continue to not represent our interests. It’s like a self-perpetuating cycle.”

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