Florida State University students rallied in a march from Westcott to the Capitol building to protest the corporatization of education. The outrage from students began through the appointment of incoming university president, Sen. John Thrasher.
FSU Board of Trustees voted 11-2 in September to select Thrasher as the next university president. Thrasher supporters believe that he is the best person to help the university achieve their $1 billion goal in the “Raise the Torch” campaign launched in October.
Students, faculty and alumni expressed their opposition over appointing a university president without an academic background.
Lakey, a FSU progress coalition member, organized the rally and has helped lead a national campaign against the corporatization of education at FSU over the course of three weeks.
Students from Michigan to Virginia have joined in the campaign supporting the FSU students and alumni fight. There have been a total of 27 other schools across the country in support.
“It’s pretty spectacular. We’ve only had three weeks of campaigning and we’ve garnered support from 27 schools across the country,” Lakey said. “They’re taking photos in solidarity and pushing this out on social media. They are also doing teach-ins at several schools to show solidarity.”
Commissioner Joanne McCall encouraged the protestors to use their voices by voting in tomorrow’s election to get Governor Rick Scott out of office.
Thrasher served as Scott’s re-election campaign chair before being appointed as the new FSU president. Scott’s campaign also received $75,000 in August from Koch Industries and Jack R. Anderson. FSU agreed to allow Koch to have influence over faculty hire, graduate assistant hire and curriculum in exchange for Koch’s $1.6 million donation to the university’s Department of Economics.
FSU is the second highest Koch funded school in the country. George Mason University is the first.
Kimberly Anderson, a FSU Graduate Assistant, spoke at the rally about the invasion of the education system by corporate interest calling the donation made by Koch a “business transaction” and a “bribe.”
“Today is about a lot more than Thrasher. It’s about the corporate takeover of universities,” Anderson said. “We need to remember what education is about and when corporate businesses come into tell you what to think, it compromises everything. I am hoping to get enough attention on this and let the Board of Trustees know everyone is watching them. I am also hoping to sway the Board of Trustees decision, but I don’t think it will.”
Protestors carried signs that read “Thrasher = racist” to show their frustration over Thrasher’s role in the division of the FAMU-FSU School of Engineering.
Zachary Schultz, a chairman for Students for Democratic Society, discussed his opposition in Thrasher’s role with fellow protesters after the rally ended.
“I participated today because I’ve been fighting John Thrasher for almost a year now since the split of the FAMU and FSU Engineering School,” Schultz said. “It was convenient timing that he would put forth an initiative that would benefit FSU. It shows that he would carry out racist initiatives to benefit himself.”
The protests over education corruption will continue throughout the coming week.