Suddenly, there was this camaraderie that I previously found difficult to foster in a decentralized urban campus. All of us, despite our generous scholarships, still have to work to pay for our tuition, books, housing and/or supplies. Most of us came from homes with single parents, parents with serious financial debt or parents who never obtained college degrees. Many of us are students of color. A few students have had to take entire semesters, or even years off of schooling due to financial stress. However, all of us had trouble finding the time and resources to implement a policy change that would benefit us as working-class students. We even had trouble finding a time to meet, because all of our work schedules would clash.
Little by little, membership waned; a few students left the Alliance because they left school altogether, in order to make a living. Some of the most thoughtful, intelligent people were forced to halt their educations because their socioeconomic status wouldn’t allow them to continue. When I asked one of these people about an upcoming student action, they said, “I don’t care anymore. I’m focused on making money now. I don’t have time to fight for my right to an education, when clearly it’s not meant for people like me.”
A Diversity of Tactics
One thing that has alleviated most of our organizational issues is the internet. Because most of us had trouble finding a common time to meet, we exchanged our ideas from our homes or jobs. We had to continue the momentum somehow; by setting up a listserve, we could outline some objectives, and notify each other of upcoming events and job opportunities. We arranged a blog, printed flyers with statistics we collected from the government and wrote a zine that we eventually sent to members of the administration. Each member of LISA shared their personal story, describing the difficulty of attending school in the city with limited resources.
The administration’s interest in us peaked once we delivered the zine; they invited us to meet with them. We double-checked our calendars and drafted a proper platform and list of demands to back up our zine. After a couple of students briefly met with them in person, they made public the availability of emergency funds, which low-income students could use for supplies and bills.
Other secret resources for students gradually started popping up. Suddenly people were able to earn work-study money for their internships, or receive scholarships that had previously been kept hush-hush by the financial aid department. The correspondence between financial aid and low-income students has increased since the zine.
These resources had stayed hidden because people were too intimidated by the bureaucracy to navigate it or negotiate with administrators, but we accomplished the majority of our work from the comfort of our cheap computers. Even though I can’t afford a fancy Macbook Pro like many of my peers, I can still access the internet from any place at almost any time, whether it’s from my school, the local library, or even my phone. It’s safe to say that the internet is the most accessible medium through which anyone can learn about the issues, form a community and implement change, no matter if you’re living in a big city in the East Coast or a small Midwestern town.
Although most of LISA has parted ways, and even cities, have no doubt that we’re still scheming. We’ve even contacted similar organizations at neighboring private schools and state schools alike. Somewhere online, the momentum is picking up again, and it’s only a few clicks away.