Today: Jun 17, 2024

Connecticut students come together to demand say on tuition cost

The CCAG held a student summit on higher education this past weekend at CCSU.

Josh FalconeGeneral Assignment Reporter

Over the weekend a “Student Empowerment Summit on High Education” summit was held on the campus of Central Connecticut State University. The event was open to all higher education students and faculty from the state’s colleges and universities.

R. Sam Chaney field canvass director of the Connecticut Citizen Action Group in Hartford said there were many goals of the summit with the hope of addressing tuition increase being one of the biggest ones.

“The whole goal of the summit is to provide students a perspective on students’ struggles regarding tuition, gender issues, and other issues that happen on campus,” Chaney said. “And get a perspective on how these things are happening nationwide, and here in Connecticut.”

The summit consisted of workshops, discussions, and nationally recognized speakers, that were based on student power and how students can work for change, Chaney said.

“The workshops and discussions are kind of designed to give students a lot of background on these student struggles,” he said. “More importantly lots of ideas and practical organizing tools, so they can really build power within themselves and organize themselves to speak out, and speak out loudly and effectively for change.”

The speakers who spoke at the summit included Angus Johnston, a historian of student activism and student government as well as the founder of the website studentactivism.net, and a professor at the City University of New York. Sophia Zaman, who is the president of the United States Students Association, was also a guest speaker.

Chaney said the summit also had environmentalists and a wide range of student activists all coming together to share their experiences or “toolboxes” on how to make changes on the area universities.

“Our main focus right now is obviously tuition,” Chaney said, “because that affects everybody and it doesn’t just happen by accident. It happens because conscience decisions are made by the state legislature to continue to de-fund our higher education priorities and when I say de-fund, I mean de-fund through real investment.”

The CCAG held a student summit on higher education this past weekend at CCSU.
The CCAG held a student summit on higher education this past weekend at CCSU.

Chaney said he hopes the state’s students come to the realization that they can make a difference with their presence and voice.

“We really want students to know that it is totally profitable and not uncommon for them to come together and really stand up against these issues, it is just a matter of organizing themselves and getting that done.”

Noah Vertefeuille was another organizer of the summit and he said the involvement of Connecticut students and faculty is important.

“With this summit, we want to get students really involved in higher education and in the government,” Vertefeuille said, “and really have their voices be heard at the Capitol.”

Vertefeuille, a UConn student, said the issues being presented at the summit have been important to him since he started his college career at Quinebaug Valley Community College in Danielson and he witnessed where the cuts hit the most.

“We had this place called the learning center there,” he said. “And the learning center at Quinebaug was basically where the tutors were and where students who had difficulty learning the work could go. Over the years the tutors got cut and all full-time tutors were cut by my third year there, and all tutors were on a volunteer basis.”

Vertefeuille said that many students attend community colleges because they are unable to get accepted to four-year schools or they work too many jobs and are struggling. For them, when essential parts of the education system begin to be cut, such as tutors, that is a red flag.

“I really think things need to be done so that students are represented in the Capitol because one of the things is, they are getting represented by people who haven’t been to school in 20, or 30 years,” he said, “so they are not in touch with what is happening right now.”

Vertefeuille said that students need a fresh face in the Capitol to explain what is going on.

“To be a concise opinion from students,” he said, “saying we all believe this, we’ve all talked about this, this is what we think needs to happen.”

The inspiration behind getting the summit organized over the past year was the student protests in Montreal, Chaney said, where students organized in the streets to protest tuition increases and won.

“With over 100,000 students in our state university system and community college system, I see no reason why that many students can’t get a similar response to the same kind of issues here in Connecticut,” Chaney said.

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