By Jose Castillo, news staff
Northeastern University students, Green Party presidential candidate Jill Stein and citizens throughout Boston will join thousands of people across the country on Thursday to participate in the Million Student March.
On Nov. 12 at 3 p.m., students will gather on Forsyth Street to protest rising student debt, advocate for a campus-wide minimum wage of $15 and push for free college tuition at public universities.
“Right now, we are seeing student debt protests in London, we are seeing student debt protests happening in South Africa, and these are some of the things that are becoming a large part of policy discussion nationwide in the United States,” William Smith, a sophomore political science major at Northeastern University and the Boston-area lead organizer of the event, said.
The Million Student March is a national campaign holding a day of action on Thursday. Students all across the country will be participating in events hosted in their respective cities and campuses. The circle-end of Forsyth, in front of Ruggles Station, will be the site of Boston’s march. Nearly 500 students are expected to attend from Boston, Tufts and Northeastern universities, according to Smith.
“Overall, if we can educate more of our citizens, that will only be a boon to us in the future,” Eric Spencer, a senior chemical engineering major and co-director of Northeastern Students for Bernie, the group hosting the event, said. “That affects everyone on a scale that you really can’t see now, and you probably won’t see for 10, 15 years, but I think the effects will be very noticeable.”
According to College Board, tuition at public, four-year colleges and universities has increased by 13 percent in the past five years, while tuition at private nonprofit universities has risen by 11 percent.
At Northeastern, tuition has risen 4.3 percent in the past year – adding to a 15.8 percent increase since 2012 – due to an growing operating budget of $1.034 billion that included plans to construct the $225 million Interdisciplinary Science and Engineering Complex and the $50 million Marine Science Center in Nahant.
“An education is something that is actually integral to your ability to function in the workforce, or really function as a member of society on a larger scale,” Smith said. “So it’s probably not just to punish people for taking out loans to pay for something that is a facilitative good.”
The Million Student March will also call for a campus-wide $15 minimum wage. Last year, a student-led referendum for the measure passed with 76.4 percent of the vote. Currently, students are working with administrators to implement the minimum wage.
At the event, Stein will speak to protesters. In the 2012 presidential race, she received 0.36 percent of the popular vote, according to her website.
Stein has pushed for tuition reform and the abolition of student debt. In an address given at this year’s New Jersey Student Power Conference, Stein remarked on the current state of student debt and demanded the government turn its attention to the needs of students.
“Student debt is not just a disaster for a generation, it’s a disaster for society in general,” she said. “It’s a massive drain on the economy because it prevents young people from using the creativity and ingenuity of their youth – society’s greatest resource – to re-imagine our economy and society, as each generation must do… Because student debt is a major drag on our precarious economy, the Federal Reserve should use its emergency authority to apply quantitative easing to student loan debt.”
The event is garnering mixed reactions from students. Over 200 people have said they’re attending on the Facebook page out of over 1,000 invited.
“I think the cause is important, but it doesn’t affect me personally,” David Siegal, a sophomore mechanical engineering student, who doesn’t work and received a scholarship, said. “If it did, I would [be more likely to go].”
Organizers want to gain the attention of students and the administration alike, in hopes that the protest’s overarching goal of public involvement will resonate.
“These policies are only going to be implemented if you and I, and everyone else, actually calls our representative when we want these bills to go through,” Spencer said. “If we want to see changes go through, we have to do it. Bernie can’t do it, other representatives can’t do it and no one can do it, except for public involvement. That’s the only thing that really makes our system run.”
Photo courtesy Million Student March