Emerson College’s only independent, student-run newspaper since 1947

The Berkeley Beacon

Emerson College’s only independent, student-run newspaper since 1947

The Berkeley Beacon

Emerson College’s only independent, student-run newspaper since 1947

The Berkeley Beacon

ECSU tuition hikes rally demands more financial aid, organization freedom

Madla Walsh
The chant, “This is what democracy looks like,” echoes from the crowd during the financial aid rally in the 2 Boylston Place alleyway on Friday, Feb. 23, 2024. (Madla Walsh/Beacon Staff)

Editor’s Note: Members of SJP, DSA, and ECSU have asked to remain anonymous due to safety concerns. As our campus’ student newspaper, The Berkeley Beacon is dedicated to upholding the best interests, safety, and trust of the student body.

Around 30 impassioned members of the Emerson community participated in the tuition hikes rally in 2 Boylston Alley on Feb. 23, hosted by Emerson College Students’ Union (ECSU), Emerson College’s Democratic Socialists of America, and Emerson Students for Justice in Palestine. The rally demanded more financial aid and freedom to organize from the college.  

Before the commencement of any chanting or speeches, a member from Emerson College’s Police Department (ECPD) approached one of the rally leaders. Students were warned that if noise reached a certain level and the general public could not walk through, ECPD would have to get involved. 

The first speaker approached the megaphone and yelled, “If we don’t get it,” referencing more financial aid, with the crowd then yelling back, “Shut it down!” 

Speakers said the rally is an important example of the student body becoming a united front to create collective power, tackle financial aid hikes, and demand freedom reform for students. This power could grow beyond Emerson, they said, and create change for more institutions that need change, including advocating for students from underrepresented and marginalized communities to gain access to any form of higher education. 

Students were encouraged to “take back their rights” by chant leaders and organizers. With recent punishments made to some unaffiliated organization members by the Student Affairs Administration, attendees were warned. 

One speaker said Emerson may now be “approaching a state of emergency for on-campus activists.”

Other speakers said these penalizations were carried out because the administration may be starting to see the power held by student activists. Speakers questioned these investigations, disciplinary write-ups, and efforts to persuade organizations to affiliate by administration. One speaker asked, “What is that but a silencing tactic?” 

Leaders said the administration’s efforts are not going to work for them or their supporters. Speakers then took the stand, listing their demands. 

Emerson College Student Union demands more financial aid
A student holds a sign while speakers from the Emerson Student Union, Emerson Students for Justice in Palestine, and Emerson Democratic Socialists of America lead the rally. (Madla Walsh/Beacon Staff)

Their first demand was for more financial aid. One leader referenced the Princeton Review’s “Financial Aid Not So Great” list, which placed Emerson as number one for worst financial aid. Speakers said this was a sign of the problems within Emerson’s administration. 

Speakers expressed frustration as “shareholders at Emerson” for the continuous yearly tuition raise. Financial aid has not been able to rise at the same rate as tuition, which inspired chants like, “You raise tuition,” and the crowd responding with, “We raise hell.” This demand for more financial aid also led leaders to yell, “Whose money,” with the crowd yelling back, “Our money.” 

Their second demand called for freedom to organize as unaffiliated organizations without penalty, with their third demand demanding recognition as organizers of unaffiliated organizations representative of the student body. Leaders shared that ideally, these requests would be shared in cohesive conversations with administration members. 

One speaker explained that these demands may be the only way to create change because, as organizations, they will not affiliate and will not dissolve.”

Their final two demands include transparency and negotiations. Leaders found it important for students to have full access to where their money is going. With this change, students would have the freedom to negotiate if they disagree and don’t feel like their tuition provides sufficient resources.

One freshman student attendee, who asked to remain anonymous, said they attended the rally because they’re at Emerson on scholarship funds. 

“I’ve recently found out … it’s very possible for me to lose my scholarship with tuition hikes,” they said. “Obviously, my scholarship doesn’t raise in tandem, which is incredibly upsetting.”

The student said this is not a singular issue, and students all across campus will be affected by the hikes. 

“I know so many people who are here because of scholarships and financial aid, and it’s just so incredibly evil to deceive us and not make that transparent,” they continued.

The rally ended with speeches about why Emerson students are special and how they can use this energy to create change. 

“All of us here are students who are creative, smart, intelligent,” said one of the speakers. “All of us need money so that we can function and … not live our lives in debt … as artists, filmmakers, and writers.”

“​​We need to work together so that we are supported,” they added. “This is our community; let’s take it back.”

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About the Contributor
Valentina Baez
Valentina Baez, Staff Writer
Valentina Baez (she/her/hers) is a Venezuelan-American student journalist from Miami, FL. Her Journalism Major coupled with her minor in Political Science has provided her with an understanding of the intersectional news coverage she’s interested in. She is currently the beat reporter for the Emerson College Student’s Union and occasionally likes to write other stories for the news section. She is a Junior and will be graduating early in August of 2024.

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