In protest against the confirmation of Betsy DeVos, President Donald Trump’s selection for Secretary of Education, SUNY New Paltz students walked out of their classes at noon last Friday, Feb. 10. This walk-out was held in solidarity with others of its kind which occurred in the past week at various universities across the country.
The SUNY New Paltz chapter of New York Student Rising (NYSR), the Environmental Task Force, React to Film and the newly formed New Paltz Action Network all worked in conjunction to plan this demonstration.
Student leaders of diverse college organizations stood in front of Humanities classroom building with signs that read “SUNY New Paltz Stands Against Devos,” “I Am Not a Loan,” “Education is a Human Right” and “Proud Product of Public Schooling.”
DeVos, former chairwoman for the American Federation for Children (AFC), is an advocate for the privatization of education and charter schools. The DeVos family is worth approximately $5.1 billion. Due to the immense wealth of the family, those in opposition of DeVos find issue in her disconnectedness with the benefits of public education.
Third-year philosophy major Galo Vasquez spoke to the value of public education and the necessity of its existence for middle and lower class families.
“All students start and end in certain places,” Vasquez told the crowd. “There is a need for growth and progress, we want to be lifelong learners.”
Between speakers, chants such as, “Whose school? Our school!” filled the cold air as more passing students and faculty were drawn into the event.
“We can never stop learning,” said Kevin King, a third-year economics major and vice president of the Black Student Union (BSU). “Let’s end this push for the privatization of education.”
King called the attendees of the protest to action, telling them to go to the ballot boxed in 2018 to vote for new state representatives that will support the issues students have a stake in.
“I felt the protest went well despite being organized in such a short window of time,” King said. “It shows a huge amount of passion and commitment by the organizers and the students that attended to make their voices heard. This is especially important because it is about their education and the education of the those who will come after them as well.”
Students also made mention to the importance of support for Planned Parenthood, the LGBTQIA+ community, Syrian refugees and the Black Lives Matter movement.
A duty to fight for freedom and to “love and protect one another” has been proclaimed by activists as the conclusive motif for all the protests subsequent to Trump’s inauguration as well as the GOP’s plan to eliminate the Department of Education by 2018.