Student Action NU joins higher education protest in Chicago


Allie Goulding/The Daily Northwestern

Weinberg senior Jackson Paller (center) helps lead a group of protesters during a demonstration for affordable higher education in Illinois. Hundreds of people gathered for the event, including students from Student Action NU.

Allie Goulding, Reporter

In collaboration with two Chicago-based grassroots organizations, Northwestern students participated in a protest Monday against overwhelming student debt and the availability of resources for students of color and from low-income backgrounds.

The protest in downtown Chicago was organized by The People’s Lobby and Fair Economy Illinois, groups who organize support for public policies and candidates that aim to lessen the power of large corporations.The organizations are affiliated with numerous student groups at universities in Chicago, where they organize trainings with university chapters to help them recruit interested students.

Most of the protesters, who started at the Congress Plaza Hotel and moved south toward the Art Institute of Chicago, were students from universities across the city. Some participating NU students attended as members of Student Action NU, a group formed this year for students to organize around social justice issues with an intersectional perspective.

Scott Brown, a co-founder of Student Action NU who helped organize Monday’s protest, said he wanted to raise awareness about the impact of student debt as well as funding for higher education in Illinois.

“Northwestern students care a lot about social justice and want to change a lot of the problems they see in this world, and I think that organizing is a really powerful way to do that,” the Medill senior and former Daily staffer said. “It’s not just about protesting, but also building relationships, campaigns and gaining power, so you can influence change and make the world the one you want to see.”

The protest, called “Shut it Down for Higher Education,” was part of Moral Mondays Illinois, a monthly protest series by Fair Economy Illinois that aims to bring attention to prevalent issues in the state. This was the first one led by students, said Gabby Koones, a Moral Mondays media liaison.

“These protests are saying we want to bring awareness to these issues in Illinois, and we try to do them in downtown Chicago,” Koones said. “It has a big impact on the streets and daily lives of everyone, so they can see what’s going on.”

Protestors were demonstrating in favor of a state bill that would allow undocumented students to receive financial aid from Illinois. They also rallied behind the Financial Transactions Tax, also known as the LaSalle Street Tax, which would tax the trading of financial assets.

McCormick freshman Savanna Ruiz said after attending the launch event for Student Action NU earlier this month, she strongly agreed with the group’s message and decided to show her support at the organization’s first protest.

“I know I am going to be in debt, most likely, for the rest of my life by going to Northwestern, but I don’t want anyone else to go through what I’m going through,” Ruiz said. “This protest allows me to help prevent others from dealing with the debt that I have to, if they choose a state school rather than a private university.”

Brown said he didn’t only want to raise awareness about issues American students face, but also the burdens undocumented students have when applying to receive financial aid.

He said undocumented students at NU have better access to financial aid because of the changes made to NU’s policy. In March, the University announced it would remove loans for incoming students and give scholarships to undocumented immigrants who graduate from U.S. high schools. Brown said most undocumented students across the country don’t have those resources.

“We need to stand together with students all over Chicago and all over the country to change the way things are,” he said.

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