Out of an economic collapse and social injustice, a new venue of social media was born: the Occupy Movement. Originating from Occupy New York, these peaceful yet powerful protests quickly spread across the nation. Hundreds of miles south, an extension of the protest movement found its home on the streets of San Antonio. A purposely unorganized group of people from every social and economic background, gathered- and still gather- to call attention to the corruption perpetuated by government and large corporations.
Thus began Students United for Socioeconomic Justice (SUSJ). Created in November of fall 2011 semester, the club has only recently been officially recognized during this spring 2012 semester. Modeled after the leaderless unification of the Occupy Movement, Students United for Socioeconomic Justice has no hierarchical leadership within the group, choosing instead to believe in the empowerment of each member.
The group was collectively founded by UTSA students and other members of the community actively involved with the Occupy Movement. Due to name restrictions, SUSJ cannot operate under the title “Occupy UTSA,” but maintains that they stand in full solidarity with the Occupy Movement.
The group also chooses to not associate with any particular political party and welcomes all ideologies.
Formed to bring local awareness of the Occupy Movement, Timothy Giddens, a senior political science/Mexican American Studies Dual major and one of the group’s founders, says of the group: “we have focused our scope to bring awareness and self-education to the problems of rising tuition costs, student loan debt forgiveness, and taking back education from the banks, corporations, and privatization of higher education.”
Giddens also believes that Students United for Socioeconomic Justice is a group that, out of necessity, should appeal to every student at UTSA. Anyone in the range of age 18 to 34 should expect to be adversely affected by rising tuition and student loans, he contested. Stated by Giddens, “this generation will be the first generation in American history that will not be likely to earn as much as their parents did, and will likely be in debt for life.” A sobering thought, as the number of students who take out loans to pay for school expense increases each year.
Giddens also attests that the Occupy movement should truly appeal to everyone, not simply students, as the Occupy movement tackles issues of social injustice, equality, equity and the economy. A common theme of the Occupy movements was a call to reduce “crony-capitalism” type policies that unfairly favor large corporations at the expense of a more common socioeconomic class or “the 99 percent” as they were often referred to by protesters. Upholding this ideal of the protest movement, Giddens believes “our failure of an electoral system should unite the general public into creating change for the future from the ground up, and move us away from money in politics.”
Gaining traction on campus, Students United for Socioeconomic Justice has, in their short time as an official organization, already held info tables, self-educational teach-ins, meetings, and collaborates with other college Occupy movements, such as Occupy UT in Austin.
Most recently, this past March 22, SUSJ, held a panel discussion on education. The group hosted four speakers from San Antonio and Austin who spoke on such education related issues as state funding, equity in legal cases against the state, teacher activism, the current generation’s economic outlook and rising tuition in regards to student debt.
Off campus, SUSJ has actively taken part in the San Antonio Martin Luther King Day March, International Women’s Day March and protested with UNITE HERE- a group working against the unfair working conditions imposed by the Hyatt. SUSJ also frequently joins in protesting with their sister group- Occupy San Antonio.
For students interested in joining this crusade against social injustice, Giddens said, “we offer hope. We offer leadership and citizen building skills, empowerment through self-education, and access to activism, direct action and participatory democracy. We offer our members a chance to think for themselves in a free space, and we offer an alternative to mainstream culture.”
Giddens hopes the legacy SUSJ might leave at UTSA, is, “to have mass support from students and the community and, in the spirit of non-violent direct action and social justice,” Giddens said.
“We wish to imprint ourselves into history. Ideally, we would love to leave a legacy of social justice and change in the lives of others.”