Students marched from the front steps of Old Main to the front lawn of President Denise Trauth’s house holding signs and chanting demands for free tuition and an end to student debt Thursday afternoon.
Bobcats who participated in the Million Student March attempted to accelerate the momentum of a nationwide protest along with students from over 100 schools.
They could be heard chanting slogans like “education should be free, no more debt for you and me,” and “banks get bailed out, we get sold out” as they marched across campus.
The protest was a call to action from students who were advocating for tuition-free public institutions, cancellation of all student debt and a $15 minimum wage for university student employees.
“It starts with a march today, tomorrow it could end up with more walkouts and the occupation of campus,” said Rudy Martinez, political science and philosophy sophomore.
Martinez said to him, the march was the start to a national dialogue critiquing where faculty members stand on the issue of student debt and rising tuition. He believes students trying to achieve higher education are treated like consumers.
“An education must be purchased, for it has become a commodity,” Martinez said. “Let us not forget these are schools not corporations.”
It does not surprise Martinez when people scoff at the idea of a free college education.
“Our current broken system does not allow us to think of such things,” Martinez said. “The money is there, but it is being hoarded by a criminal bourgeois class that aims to perpetually exploit the workers and students of the world.”
Taylor Cavin, co-president of Bobcats for Bernie and elementary education senior, said the protestors know their demands will not be accomplished by merely a day of marching. Cavin said the protestors want to achieve solidarity with Trauth on the issues being protested.
“It’s more about the discussion, showing that we are here, unified and that we really do want change,” Cavin said. “(Trauth) is actively participating and getting paid by a system that continues to put people at a disadvantage that just want an education.”
Tom Wakley, a current Democratic candidate for U.S. Congress, said he attended the assembly because he understands what students are going through. Wakley said he relates to those suffering debt from school because he is in $100,000 of student loan debt himself.
“It has been difficult for me since graduate school,” Wakley said. “It is an impossible situation you are putting yourself into when you take on that amount of debt.”
Walkey said the Million Student March reminds him of protests by the American youth in the 1970s.
“Now it is 40 years later and we are at that point again with a new generation of young folks,” Wakley said. “They can change things if they get out there and vote.”
Wakley said that even if Bernie Sanders, senator of Vermont and Democratic presidential candidate, were to win the presidential election, he could not make changes regarding student debt and raising minimum wage on his own.
“He needs people in Congress that share the same values as himself,” Wakley said.
Students must vote if they want to see change happen, Wakley said. He said there is “more than enough” money in Texas to support free education.
“All the (public) colleges are already supported by oil and gas royalties,” Wakley said. “All we have to do is renegotiate those contracts and take more royalty payments. There is more than enough money coming in.”