By Raymond Page
Last Thursday, Binghamton University students’ gathered in protest to participate in what is being referred to as The Million Student March.
In a display of national camaraderie, students from over 100 college and university campuses across the nation marched in solidarity; declaring in one audible voice, their collective demands for livable working wages, free public education and loan forgiveness.
Jonathan Taubes, a member of the Executive Board for Binghamton College Progressives says that $15 Per hour is not too much to ask for.
“If minimum wage in this country kept up with the pace of inflation, it would be even higher than that.”
There is currently a national grassroots movement called Fight For $15. According to Taubes the result of this political activism has led to both Seattle and Los Angeles raising their minimum wage to $15 per hour.
“The Million Student March is a nationally organized event,” says Sara Hobler, double major in history and sociology and President of the College Progressives organization.
“There is immense pressure for people to go to college. You need a bachelor’s degree for basically everything these days, but for highly coveted jobs—you need a master’s or in some cases even a doctorate,” she says.
Chanting phrases such as, “the students united will never be defeated” and “no ifs no buts, no more education cuts,” Hobler led the impassioned crowd of frustrated students as they picketed and rebelliously rallied for their collective cause.
But not all students agree with these demands. Although the cause is considered by many to be a worthy endeavor, jumping from minimum wage to a staggering $15 per hour may be a bit extreme.
“They are asking for too much,” says junior graphic design major, Evan Bavarsky.
“None of this stuff can happen overnight. They need to try and go for a reasonable goal and then bit-by-bit, work their way up to a bigger goal,” he says.
“To ask for an immediate change is definitely an extremist thing.”
Math and chemistry major, John Voigt believes that complete debt forgiveness is excessive. He feels that it would certainly help a select demographic, but not without creating negative consequences as well.
“There might need to be some changes in the way the government allocates funding in order to subsidize such a drastic debt forgiveness program. Certain things would need to be cut to make increases possible in other areas.”
Although, plans have been proposed, none of them have come to fruition.
One plan in particular would place higher taxes on speculative trading on Wall Street. This is a way to penalize high-risk traders, while simultaneously generating much needed revenue in the process. The thinking here is as follows: if they are going to profit by engaging in risky behavior, some of those earnings should fall into the lap of the educational system.
Hobler and Taubes are resolute in their convictions.
“We will not stop until our demands are met,” says Taubes.
“We are just getting started.”
Hobler, a native of Buffalo, was awarded a high school scholarship to Binghamton University. Due to extremely low graduation rates among her academic peers, Buffalo school district encourages graduating students to pursue college level education by providing funds for students to be used at any SUNY campus of their choosing.
Buffalo’s Say Yes to Education program and is a non-profit organization geared toward sending economically disadvantaged students to college.
“I want others to have the same opportunity that I did,” says Hobbler.
“My dad works in the labor union and I’ve been going on strikes since I was 3 years old. Growing up in a world surrounded by low-wage workers was eye opening and I’ve seen the impact that giving these people opportunities has had.”
“We’re all humans and we all deserve a chance,” she says.
Offering a variant perspective, tax-paying resident of Binghamton, Cora King has a few choice words for these protestors.
“It’s all about greed and nothing in this world is free. I had $142 taken out of my paycheck weekly to pay off my debt. I scrambled, I saved and I busted ass. They need to pay too.”
King feels that the burden will invariably land on taxpayers.
“I’m not paying out the nose for these kids that don’t want to pay their bills. It’s just not fair.”
Even Taubes agrees that any drastic change in minimum wage could spell economic disaster.
“Do I think this should happen tomorrow? No! It has to be phased in. Doing this overnight would be a massive shock to the economy. It needs to be done over a term of several years.”
But this does not mean that the conversation should be forgotten.
“Student debt is often spoken about as a future crisis,” says Taubes. “Many economists speak about a student-debt-bubble that will ‘someday’ explode. But we are feeling this right now. Let’s reverse this trend. Let’s invest in education and stop screwing over the middle class.”
Whether or not you sympathize with the plight of local students is immaterial. The fight is not tomorrow or the day after; it’s here and it’s today.
Students of the Binghamton University progressive movement remain vigilant and unwavering in their convictions.
“We are not going anywhere,” says Hobler.
“Our voices must be heard and we will not stop until our demands are met.”