Students March to CUNY Central OfficeStudents post outside 80th Street to voice grievances
On May 10 roughly 110 students gathered outside Hunter College to protest CUNY’s response to a demonstration last week, where two students were arrested outside the office of the Brooklyn College President Karen Gould. Hunter College was well prepared for the planned protest, during which about 50 students marched to CUNY’s central offices on 80th Street. No violent confrontations or arrests occurred, although the march did briefly disrupt traffic when it left Hunter College.
University Public Safety personnel, including Deputy Director John McKee and several assistant directors, arrived to Hunter College ahead of the protesters and many precautions were taken. Several SAFE officers, University Public Safety’s emergency response team, were stationed at various points inside the building, including two on each of Hunter’s bridges connecting to the East Building and a few more dispersed throughout the campus. Public Safety officers from Kingsborough Community College, City College and LaGuardia Community College were also stationed on the bridges.
As protesters took turns discussing their grievances with the modern higher education system using the “people’s microphone,” the terraces on Hunter East and Hunter West were closed. Access was also restricted to Hunter East’s 17th floor where two Hunter College Public Safety officers guarded the president’s office. The fire exit near the east bridge on the third floor of Hunter West was also locked, although exits to the same fire tower were not locked on other floors.
At 3 p.m. the students began to march off campus up Lexington Avenue under the escort of the commanding inspector of the 19th precinct and a Community Affairs sergeant. The march turned east on 70th street where the protesters took to the streets, blocking traffic. The march then continued up Third Avenue, further blocking traffic before the NYPD managed to move the march to the sidewalk. Additional NYPD officers did not arrive to escort the march until the march reached 72nd Street, where a van, two scooters and one sergeant joined the march.
Public Safety stopped following the march once it left the block of Thomas Hunter Hall, however Deputy McKee and the other suited University Public Safety officials arrived to 80th Street ahead of the march.
When the march reached 76th Street it turned east once more and passed the Robert F. Wagner Middle School. The march roughly coincided with the end of classes at the school and the young students watched intently as the protest passed by. Several of the middle schoolers joined the march in solidarity.
“I think a lot of people are not getting a proper education and it’s going to lead to an economic downfall,” said Alex Rodriguez, 13, and eighth grade student at the middle school, “because people don’t have the right jobs.” Rodriguez said he felt compelled to join the march because “it’s not fair that a lot of people cannot get to college because it costs too much.”
The march eventually made its way to York Avenue where it turned east onto 80th Street towards the CUNY offices. When the protesters arrived in front of the office, they called for CUNY Chancellor Matthew Goldstein to see them personally with the chant, “Goldstein Goldstein, come on out, face the students you sold out!” After some time outside the office, CUNY agreed to send University Director for Communications and Marketing Michael Arena to represent the chancellor outside of CUNY Central’s entrance.
Arena attempted to speak to the crowd, however he used a completely inaudible voice. At a distance of less than two feet, his voice could barely be heard saying, “you are all very much welcome,” before the crowd began to mock the volume of his voice by repeating his statement on the people’s microphone. After this incident, Arena did not attempt to address the crowd again until right before he entered the building again. Speaking in a regular voice, he told the crowd, “you have very interesting stories. I am very appreciative that you told me your stories. I listened very closely to every word of it.”
Before issuing this statement and returning inside the building, the demonstrators subjected Arena to harsh public ridicule and insult. Arena did not return phone calls to the Envoy in time for this printing.
At around 4:15 p.m., shortly after Arena left the scene, the crowd began to disperse. Although the protesters were peaceful, the NYPD stood ready to handle any situation that may have arisen. Seven officers from the Manhattan North Task Force waited with flexicuffs at the corner of 80thStreet and East End Avenue. Other NYPD officers from the 19th precinct and the Patrol Services Bureau were positioned directly in front of CUNY’s offices.
By 5 p.m., most University Public Safety and SAFE personnel and left Hunter College. Access to Hunter East’s 17th floor had been restored, however the terraces remained closed. According to Hunter College Public Safety, little in the way of mischief occurred on campus during the protest, although a fire hose was activated in Thomas Hunter Hall and a banner was dropped from a club office window on Thomas Hunter Hall’s third floor.
Kimberly Devi Milner, Associate News Editor, made a video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?
Article updated at 12:38am on May 11.