Who’s Running Virginia Commonwealth University?

Richmond Struggle is proud to introduce to you the people running your school. These are the folks who continually vote to increase the tuition at VCU, even while the University is sitting on a $1.6 billion dollar endowment, one of the largest in not just the country, but in the world. This information demonstrates just how little these people care about the students, faculty and staff at VCU, but unfortunately the problem is much bigger than any of these individuals. The nature of these particular people simply indicates the character of the system they serve. The whole board of visitors is not represented here, because some members are doctors, lawyers, or public servants who seem genuinely well intentioned. But intentions aside, in their position on the Board of Visitors they serve a patriarchal, white supremacist, capitalist system intent on expansion and profit, no matter the cost to students, faculty, staff, or the working class of Richmond. We must understand that no matter who fills these seats, these oppressive social relations will never change unless we force them to: organizing to build power, then smashing their structure and building our own. A genuinely democratic VCU is possible, with workers, faculty, and staff collectively supporting and empowering each other, and building real connections to the marginalized Black, immigrant, and working class communities of Richmond. This vision will never come to fruition, however, if the current administration is not challenged. And, without further ado, we now present…

Michael Rao

It’s good to be President. Michael Rao is really cleaning up in his position at the University, with an annual compensation of over $900,000 every year. University administrators are highly paid, but even in this elite group Rao stands out. He is not only the most highly paid public university president in the state, but the most highly paid state employee in all of Virginia. Clearly, Rao is on the right path. And that’s what life seems to be about for him: rapid growth and development. His career has taken him from Boston to Florida to Montana to Michigan and now to Richmond. Rao’s fast track to success indicates he is more concerned about personal aggrandizement than building a community of students, teachers, and workers. His tenure at Central Michigan University saw rapid growth in both the size and national prestige of the University. Rao’s grand vision involves much the same thing: he calls it the “Quest for Distinction.” In the administration’s own words:

Our strategic plan continues to provide a framework for capitalizing on the outstanding assets that form the VCU experience — a commitment to educational quality, an environment that embraces diversity, an evolving research program with substantial increases in extramural funding, pre-eminent academic programs, an engaged community and a growing alumni base.

The use of “capitalizing” is particularly telling. The goal is to grow the University, mostly through colonizing Black working class areas of the city. Rao’s membership on the board of Venture Richmond, a pro-gentrification think tank, is enough to betray these intentions. The statement above clearly shows that all the most vaunted things about VCU—research, a diverse student body—are seen by Rao as simply tools to support more growth and national distinction. This is not the mindset of an educator—it is the mindset of a businessman. Rao has shown himself to be quite a successful businessman—his $900,000 salary certainly indicates that—but is that the sort of person we want running an institute of higher learning? Higher tuition for students and lower wages for workers certainly promote “growth” of VCU, but who benefits from this growth? A quick look at the board of visitors will show you exactly who.

John A. Luke

The rector and chairman of the Board, John A. Luke is a true capitalist. He serves on the board of the American Enterprise Institute, a right-wing think-tank dedicated to lobbying for pro-corporate and anti-worker initiatives. He is currently Chairman of the Board for Westrock, a $15 billion a packaging and specialty chemical business, the second largest corporation of its type. If “specialty chemical” sounds a little sketchy to you, you’re right. Westrock was formed from the merger of Rock Tenn Company and the Meadwestvaco corporation, the latter for which John A. Luke served as CEO. Some of Meadwestvaco the “specialty chemicals” include sulfuric acid, chlorine dioxide, chlorine, and methyl iodide, chemicals so special that Meadwestvaco, with Luke as CEO, felt it right to release 35,000 pounds of them into the air annually, in 2002 earning them the distinction of the 57th largest corporate producer of air pollution. But hey, when you’re earning John A. Luke’s compensation of $6 million a year, why let breathable air get in the way of your profits?

H. Benson Dendy III

With a name like H. Benson Dendy III, you pretty much have to be part of the American ruling class, and this man does not disappoint. Dendy spent most of his career working in the Virginia State Government, but has since branched out to the private sector. His VCU bio proudly declares that he has “extensive experience in helping international corporations develop business in the United States.” In the wacky world of the ruling class, that apparently sounds like a good thing. How exactly does he do this? Through the time-honored tradition of corporate lobbying (read: bribery and corruption), of course. Dendy uses his government experience to serve as president of the ominous-sounding Vectre corporation. Vectre offers its services to such corporate behemoths as GlaxoSmithKline and JP Morgan Chase to help them buy influence on both a state and local level. Dendy has moved beyond just Vectre, however: he also serves on the Board of Directors of The Advocacy Group, a nationwide initiative that connects corporate power with state lobbyists nationwide. Oligarchy doesn’t just happen—it takes a lot of dedicated people, and H. Benson Dendy III is doing his best to help.

 John W. Snow

At 69 years of age Snow’s net worth of $90 million puts him among the 100 richest people in Virginia, and he’s made a career of defending the interests of his fellow plutocrats. In the 80s, he was an advisor to Reagan’s policy team, and a visiting fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, a neo-liberal thinktank dedicated to furthering the interests of big business through privatization and tax cuts. Other figures associated with it include neo-cons Dick Cheney, Paul Wolfowitz, and John Yoo. He came to Richmond in the 90s as CEO of railway company CSX, which paid him $29.3 million over six years. From 94-96, he was chairman of the Business Roundtable, the main actor behind the passage of NAFTA, which devastated Mexico and Central America to reap profits for corporations. In 2003, he was Secretary of the Treasury under George W. Bush. His main accomplishment there was in selling the Bush tax cuts to Congress and the public, which amounted to a massive transfer of $670 billion from the public coffer to the private hands of the rich. Right now, John Snow is Chairman of Cerberus Capital Management, a multi-billion dollar private equity fund that owns shares in hundreds of multinational corporations. Among its assets is Freedom Group, which it owns wholly. Freedom Group is a coalition of firearms manufacturers, which Snow promised to divest from after the Sandy Hook shooting. Cerberus owns it to this day. Other interesting companies Cerberus owns are Dyncorp and IAP World Services, military contractors that profit from war by selling weapons, equipment, and mercenaries to the United States government for its imperialist adventures. Whether in the US or abroad, murder means big profits for John W. Snow.

Robert D. Holsworth

Robert D. Holsworth is a friend to pigs city-wide. His company DecideSmart Inc. “is committed to an ethos of public service and to providing clients with real world, cost-effective solutions to the challenges they face.” Now whatever the hell that means, we know one of the major clients Holsworth provides with “real effective solutions” is the VA Department of Juvenile Justice, which our city provides with bountiful funding while our schools crumble. There are certainly many “challenges” the department faces in its quest to criminalize and repress the Black youth of the city, but rest assured that Holsworth is finding them “effective solutions.” But that’s not all! Robert Holsworth did Richmond-Pig-in-Chief Rodney Monroe a solid by awarding him a degree for completing 6 out of the necessary 121 credit hours. Holsworth lost his position as dean for this fraud, but now he’s back in action on the Board of Visitors.

William M. Ginther

Want your university run like a ruthless, profit-driven corporation? Look no further than William Ginther. He has lots of experience with ruthless, profit-driven corporations, having spent 37 years of his life as Corporate Executive Vice President at Suntrust Bank. But even more interesting than the company he ran is the company he keeps. Disgraced former Governor Bob McDonnell—convicted by a federal court of felony corruption—received campaign donations of over $16,000. That probably has something to do with the fact that McDonnell later was the one to appoint him to the board. McDonnell may be out, but his appointees are carrying on his legacy. 

Colette W. McEachin

Collete McEachin is Richmond’s Deputy Commonwealth’s Attorney, making her one of the highest-ranking law enforcement officials in her jurisdictions, a real pig’s pig. Her job description is to prosecute defendants for the State of Virginia, a state that disproportionately targets the poor Black population. No matter her own skin color, McEachin serves a key role in this city’s war on the black population, a war that counts among its casualties 85% of our city jail’s prisoners. McEachin is doing just fine for herself, though. She and her husband have multiple houses and apartments throughout Richmond and Washington DC. For her multiple residences. For you, a concrete cell.

Alexander B. McMurtrie Jr.

With a net worth of over $100 million, Alexander B. McMurtrie, Jr. doesn’t have to do much of anything, but keeps busy nonetheless. When he’s not raising your tuition, or kicking back at his multiple estates throughout Virginia, McMurtrie enjoys buying influence in elections. Over the years he has offered hundreds of thousands of dollars of gifts to politicians, in exchange. One of the recipients of his largesse was corrupt, convicted former Governor Bob McDonnell. McMurtrie paid over ten thousand dollars to fly Bob and his family to see a Notre Dame football game, among other things Something tells us he doesn’t show this same generosity to people who can’t grant him favors.

Ron McFarlane

Ron McFarlane is no stranger to the corridors of power. He’s married to Nancy McFarlane, the current mayor of Raleigh North Carolina. With the mayor’s office under their control, the McFarlanes have made sure to help their own circle come to power in Raleigh, and to continue in Raleigh the nationwide project of gentrification and the displacement of poor people. However politics turns out for them, they can always fall back on MedProRx, the $80 million dollar company they own.

Michael D. Frazier

Michael D. Frazier is ruling class to the core. He served for 24 years at corporate giant GE in various leadership roles, including CEO of GE Japan and executive vice-president of GE as a whole. He came to Richmond, however to work as CEO of local GE-offshoot Genworth Financial. For this position, he earns $2.72 million a year in salary and benefits. He’s also tight with disgraced Gov. Bob McDonnell. Frazier is a sports fan, which is why he headed the committee that brought the enormous waste that is the Washington Redskins training camp to town. Michael D. Frazier feels that he has not done enough to our city, however. That’s why his current position is an adviser to Blue Heron Capital and The Frontier Project. These two finance firms are instrumental in the gentrification and displacement plans that the ruling class has in store. Their function is to provide capital and assistance to hip, white business people seeking to displace the historically black residents of neighborhoods like Church Hill and Jackson Ward. The name Frontier Project is apt: they believe these territories must be colonized and civilized. Shame for the people that have lived there for decades, but such is progress. People like Michael Frazier know that progress necessitates casualties. Whether it’s black residents forced out of their homes, or poor students forced out of their school, he’s happy to oblige.
Rick Wagoner

Rick Wagoner is the former chairman and CEO of General Motors. During his tenure, the company lost $85 billion and laid off more than 25,000 workers. Rick Wagoner is one of the many people responsible for the 2008 financial crash that suffered very few repercussions. In exchange for GM receiving almost $50 billion dollars of public money, Obama personally asked Rick Wagoner to resign, which he promptly did. Don’t feel too bad for Rick, though, despite his incompetent leadership he retired with an exit package of over $10 million: $1.65 million in benefits per year for his first five years of retirement, $74,030 per year pension for the rest of his life, and a $2.6 million life insurance policy that can be cashed out at any time. And that’s not to mention the nearly $40 million he “earned” during his tenure. It sounds like GM takes care of its retirees, right? Not so much: while Wagoner was walking away with $10 million, working-retirees saw their benefits slashed.

Jaquelyn E. Stone 

Jaquelyn Stone is a partner at consulting firm McGuire-Woods. The sort of “consulting” this firm does is nearly exclusively that which serves the interests of massive corporations against the working class. For instance, for a large fee they can help your company avoid being charged for committing financial crimes, or as they delicately put it “prevent regulatory inquiries from becoming criminal issues” At the moment, McGuire-Woods is representing telecom giant Verizon against its striking workers. They are also taking the side of Goliath in a suit brought by the Seminole Indian tribe against the bank Wells-Fargo. In addition to her work with McGuire-Woods, Jaquelyn E. Stone also sits on the board of Venture Richmond, the organization doing its utmost in our city to push forward gentrification and displacement of poor black communities.

Well, that was fun…

From these brief bios, the class character of VCU’s administration becomes clear. They are not interested in creating a democratic space for learning. They are interested in rapidly growing the university, earning national distinction, and from that profit. It all comes down to the bottom line. Administration salaries continue to rise at the same time tuition goes up. If the University truly is in crisis—which seems unlikely, given the $1.6 billion endowment—why can’t they just cut their own obscene salaries? While they take home hundreds of thousands a year, students, faculty, and workers are shafted.

The Board has voted to increase student tuition has risen every year for the past decade. If they truly cared about making the University “inclusive,” a freeze on tuition is the only answer. They want “inclusion,” sure, but only from a specific subset of people: the ruling class. As more and more students balk at the idea of taking out predatory loans for a degree that today promises very little, VCU will increasingly become an enclave of the rich. The goal is not to include all students, but to massively increase the size and “distinction” of the school. VCU is metastasizing, buying up land in working class Black neighborhoods, gentrifying the city to make not just VCU but the entire city of Richmond a safe-space for the privileged few. Tuition increases don’t bother them—in their minds, if you can’t afford the tuition, you don’t belong at the school.

While VCU expands in size and prestige, spending its money buying up land and starting new construction, the faculty is increasingly being transformed into a low-wage, precarious body of adjuncts. 76% of VCU’s teachers are now adjunct faculty, taking home a pittance of usually less than $20,000 a year. There are no benefits, no healthcare, and absolutely no job security. The adjunct professor doesn’t know whether she’ll have a job next semester, much less in five years. Factoring in the hours and hours of grading and planning, the adjunct professor makes less than minimum wage, often relying on government benefits like Food Stamps just to get by. Without job security, there is no real academic freedom. Professors cannot take any risks or attempt bold new research when they know they can be dropped at any time if the administration disapproves. The school can certainly afford to pay more, provide tenure, a living wage and job security. But they don’t want to. It’s not about academic freedom for them, it’s about control. A low-wage, precarious workforce is a disciplined workforce. Adjunct, non-tenure track faculty are terrified to explore new or radical ideas with their students, and that’s just what the administration wants.

Professors are far from the only ones exploited. The food and sanitation workers of VCU are in a similar position. In line with neo-liberalism, VCU doesn’t hire food and sanitation workers directly, but contracts it out to Aramark. Aramark is known nationally as one of the lowest paying contractors, paying experienced workers around $10/hour, far less than a living wage. The corporation has been embroiled in multiple scandals regarding wage theft, unfair firings, and other exploitative business practices. They are also deeply connected with the prison-industrial complex, contracting with prisons and serving scarcely edible, maggot-infested food to prisoners, all to increase profits. By contracting out to Aramark, VCU is making sure those that do the most work on campus are paid the least and treated the worst. The workers are the life-blood of the University. It would shut down without their labor, and they deserve better than the corporate criminality of Aramark.

The VCU administration is set on unlimited growth, more construction, more “distinction.” In this quixotic “Quest for Distinction,” the people who truly make up the VCU community are left behind. The students, faculty, and staff of VCU do not care about how nationally distinguished or large the University is. They’re more worried about how much debt they can possibly take on, how they’re going to put food on the table. Just as the administration and Board shares a concern for growth and profit, students, teachers, and workers share a community of interest in creating a truly democratic university. Each of these groups deserve an equal voice in determining how the University is run. It is only through an organized coalition of workers, teachers, and students that we can throw off this parasitic administration, a worthless group of business, politicians, and bureaucrats that have no right to dictate to the real VCU community. At its best, higher education can serve the cause of liberation, liberation not just of its students, but of humanity. It is only in a truly democratic environment that this sort of education is possible. It is only through struggle that this democratic environment can be achieved. And it is only through organization that we can win this struggle.

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Launching Forward on the School Front!

We, as communists and anti-capitalists, are in partnership with Richmond Struggle, who were the only active presence on campus in the final week of last semester agitating against the tuition hikes. There are other Unity Struggle Unity student groups starting up at local high schools. Our purpose is to unite students and workers across the city in order to advance the struggle in Richmond – and everywhere.

Editor’s Note: We are happy to announce the launch of our comrades’ new student organization at VCU, USU, which stands for Unity-Struggle-Unity. The process of unity-struggle-unity is a necessary condition for the internal life of miltant, fighting organizations. If there is no struggle, then there is no need for organization, principled unity can only ever be built through a process of struggle. Ideas have to clash and debate has to occur, so the air can be cleared and decisions made. This is why our comrades have chosen USU as their organizational name to reflect this crucial principle. We, as RSCI, welcome this development and look forward to the collaboration between students and workers as we unite for the purpose of building autonomous working class power in Richmond.

 

USU Points of Unity

  1. We, the members of VCU’s Unity Struggle Unity, want you to know our University is bankrupt – both financially, and morally. We are tired of having our tuition increased yearly; we are sick of being harassed by campus cops; we hate how pervasive sexual assault is on campus; we want to fight fascism in Richmond; we want better wages for workers. Everything is fucked up, and we know we can’t click our heels and make it go away. That is why we must unite and struggle.
  2. We, as communists and anti-capitalists, are in partnership with Richmond Struggle, who were the only active presence on campus in the final week of last semester agitating against the tuition hikes. There are other Unity Struggle Unity student groups starting up at local high schools. Our purpose is to unite students and workers across the city in order to advance the struggle in Richmond – and everywhere.
  3. Even if you aren’t a communist, but you are sympathetic to our goals, we want you on our side. However, we are not a platform for electoral politics and we never will be. We aren’t gonna help you collect signatures to beg the wealthy for more scraps – we are here to antagonize the rich as much as possible. We are an outlet for anyone who has been fucked over by VCU, the frat bros, and the campus cops.
  4. To be more explicit, we are fighting for an end to tuition, to get police off campus and out of Richmond, to put an end to white fraternities, to disband the Board of Visitors, and to force President Rao to resign. Actually, we want everything. We want a new world and a new school. And this is possible. You can feel VCU spreading with tentacular force down Broad Street – taking over every black home, displacing every black family. What happened to Jackson Ward? What happened to our country
  5. Every year, our tuition rises. Every year, more new luxury cars full of wealthy students pull up to the dorms and unpack new white faces. Every year, we lose our favorite exhausted adjunct professors to different universities. Every year, we sink deeper and deeper into debt. Every year, we take out another predatory loan that is hocked to us by not just our banks, but by our school. Every year, the Starbucks creeps outward and gorges on new parts of the library. Every year, our student fees increase by at least 2.5%. Every year, we are presented with statistics on race that are already a decade old. Every year, we are promised humanities initiatives but are forced to fumble with non-functioning sinks while the business school glows in the dark. Every year, President Rao stays a millionaire. Every year, our economy tanks deeper into darkness. Every year, our university dies with our future. Every year, we work and we borrow in order to work and to borrow. Every year, our university produces the compliant, indebted workers that our present job market so desires. Every year, our tuition rises.
  6. Let’s make this the year that all the aforementioned shit stops – on our campus, in our neighborhoods – in our city – in our state – in our country. That’s all.

Report from Richmond Alternative School

This whole process is quite peculiar when you consider the fact that RPS took CCP back under city control to create RAS only a few years ago. Why would the city, which was obviously disappointed in the way SESI ran CCP, return its most vulnerable students to a parasitic company that profits off their education or lack thereof?

Editor’s Note: The following is a brief report sent by an anonymous insider, highlighting the situation at Richmond Alternative School, one of the initial schools slated for closure by the RPS School Board due to budget shortfalls. The RSCI feels it important to begin providing coverage that is otherwise missing from local media regarding the continued degradation of working class resources in the city while also providing a voice for the working class and poor people who otherwise are censored, mis-characterized, or shut out from the media in the city:

What you are about to read does not scratch the surface of what I know due to my experience at Richmond Alternative School. This report is extremely limited due to a deadline that needs to be met. Maybe one day I will transcribe a more complete version of my tenure at RAS but for now I will focus on some of the institutional politics that goes on in the Richmond Public Schools system.

Upon signing my contract with Richmond Public Schools to work at Richmond Alternative School I was promised many things that did not come to fruition, including a teacher coach. A teacher coach’s job is to help teachers with their lesson planning, observe classes, and provide feedback and constructive criticism. As a new teacher you can imagine my disappointment to not receive this very important and necessary resource. Although I did not get a teacher coach, my English and math-teaching counterparts did. My feelings of resentment quickly turned to relief when I discovered the ways my colleagues were being treated by the teacher coaches. Instead of receiving constructive criticism the math and English teachers were often berated in front of their students and given busy work that did not benefit anyone, or so I thought.

These teacher coaches worked for a company called Catapult Learning, a company that merged with Specialized Education Services, Inc. in July 2015 to create the nation’s largest provider of contracted instructional services according to Catapult Learning, Inc., the new official name of the merged companies. These companies may sound familiar because SESI was given the Richmond Alternative School contract in 2004 in order to establish the Capital City Program, better known as CCP. I must admit this is where some of the information gets a little hazy because the information I am about to disclose was received from a principal at CCP during a casual conversation a few years after CCP became RAS. SESI either subcontracted or received the subcontract from another company after whichever company that received the contract from RPS realized they could make a larger profit by subcontracting it to a third party. Mind you, the students that attend RAS and attended CCP are among the poorest residents in Richmond.

This is all significant because the same year that Catapult Learning and SESI merged to create Catapult Learning, Inc. was the year that another alternative school, Aspire, was established at the Richmond Technical Center. So, just to give you a little recap to help you connect the dots, before the 2015-2016 school year SESI and Catapult Learning merged to create Catapult Learning, Inc. That same school year RPS provided RAS with teacher coaches that work for Catapult Learning, Inc. and a new alternative school, Aspire, was created. The writing was on the wall. Richmond Alternative School was to be privatized by a company that was collecting data way before anything was official or finalized. These teacher coaches were not there to help the teachers better educate the students, they had a vested interest to see the teachers and therefore the students fail so the city could rid itself of its school to prison gateway. To make matters worse, RPS put out a request for proposal that had a turnaround time of less than a month, hardly anytime for a competitor to propose an alternative to Catapult Learning, Inc.

This whole process is quite peculiar when you consider the fact that RPS took CCP back under city control to create RAS only a few years ago. Why would the city, which was obviously disappointed in the way SESI ran CCP, return its most vulnerable students to a parasitic company that profits off their education or lack thereof?

VCU Board of Visitors and Richmond City Council Rubber Stamp Cuts to Working Class Education

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On May 13th, the VCU Board of Visitors voted to authorize a 2.8 percent increase in tuition and fees for the upcoming academic year. This is only the latest in a long series of annual increases, which are the local manifestation of a state and national attack on higher education carried out in the interests of capital.

Tuition hikes make VCU increasingly inaccessible to working class students. Increasing tuition is a key factor in the ongoing process of gentrification in Richmond, contributing to the displacement of the black working class. An unaffordable university is required to make the city center a sterile playground for predominantly white professionals. The only adequate response to this ongoing attack is building unity between workers and students on the basis of struggle
against the bosses and bureaucrats.
A small contingent from RSCI carried out agitation against the vote. The Board of Visitors timed their final meeting to pass the tuition increase at the end of the semester after most students had already gone home or were burdened with finals. We see this action as only a beginning. We look forward to building militant mass action that is required to force concessions from the university administration. The future is only bright if we renounce the helpless dead end of lobbying, petitions, and voter registration in favor of organizing as a material force to impose our interests.

 

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On the same day, the Richmond City Council held a meeting where Council members voted to continue the defunding of the already dilapidated RPS system after silently “listening” to the frustrated and angry comments of students, teachers, and others. Richmond officials can find more than a hundred million for a new jail to warehouse the black working class, but when it comes to keeping the schools open—or even repairing schools to the point where they no longer pose a daily risk to the health and safety of students—money is nowhere to be found.
RSCI members used the public comment period to point out to those in attendance that the crisis of public education cannot be resolved by appeals to elected officials whose job is to represent the business interests that own this city. Only through organizing independently of electoral parties, non­ profits, and bureaucratic unions on the base of our common class interests can we begin to reverse the degradation of our living conditions of those in power.
Appealing to City Council or voting for this or that bogus “reform” candidate will only divert our energies from the task at hand: the unification of students, parents, and teachers in a struggle to stop school closures, improve living conditions, and democratize education.

 

VCU Board of Visitor Profiles

Richmond Struggle Committee Initiative would like to introduce you to the board of visitors at VCU. These are the people who are voting to increase the tuition at VCU and we think it is important for everyone to know a little bit about them. While we find this information to be interesting and important for demonstrating just how little these people care about the students at VCU it is not just about these particular individuals and what they are directly responsible for, but what their social roles are. We must understand that no matter who fills these seats under the capitalist, white supremacist system, these social relations will never change unless we force them to by smashing the structure through which they hold power.

 

john snow

John W. Snow

At 69 years of age Snow’s net worth of $90 million puts him among the 100 richest people in Virginia, and he’s made a career of defending the interests of his fellow plutocrats. In the 80s, he was an advisor to Reagan’s policy team, and a visiting fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, a neo-liberal thinktank dedicated to furthering the interests of big business through privatization and tax cuts. Other figures associated with it include neo-cons Dick Cheney, Paul Wolfowitz, and John Yoo. He came to Richmond in the 90s as CEO of railway company CSX, which paid him $29.3 million over six years. From 94-96, he was chairman of the Business Roundtable, the main actor behind the passage of NAFTA, which devastated Mexico and Central America to reap profits for corporations. In 2003, he was Secretary of the Treasury under George W. Bush. His main accomplishment there was in selling the Bush tax cuts to Congress and the public, which amounted to a massive transfer of $670 billion from the public coffer to the private hands of the rich. Right now, John Snow is Chairman of Cerberus Capital Management, a multi-billion dollar private equity fund that owns shares in hundreds of multinational corporations. Among its assets is Freedom Group, which it owns wholly. Freedom Group is a coalition of firearms manufacturers, which Snow promised to divest from after the Sandy Hook shooting. Cerberus owns it to this day. Other interesting companies Cerberus owns are Dyncorp and IAP World Services, military contractors that profit from war by selling weapons, equipment, and mercenaries to the United States government for its imperialist adventures. Whether in the US or abroad, murder means big profits for John W. Snow.

 

Dr. Bob Holsworth, well-known political analyst and director of VCU's public policy center. For Player's Corner feature.

Robert D. Holsworth

Robert D. Holsworth is a friend to pigs city-wide. His company DecideSmart Inc. “is committed to an ethos of public service and to providing clients with real world, cost-effective solutions to the challenges they face.” Now whatever the hell that means, we know one of the major clients Holsworth provides with “real effective solutions” is the VA Department of Juvenile Justice, which our city provides with bountiful funding while our schools crumble. There are certainly many “challenges” the department faces in its quest to criminalize and repress the Black youth of the city, but rest assured that Holsworth is finding them “effective solutions.” But that’s not all! Robert Holsworth did Richmond-Pig-in-Chief Rodney Monroe a solid by awarding him a degree for completing 6 out of the necessary 121 credit hours. Holsworth lost his position as dean for this fraud, but now he’s back in action on the Board of Visitors.
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William M. Ginther

Want your university run like a ruthless, profit-driven corporation? Look no further than William Ginther. He has lots of experience with ruthless, profit-driven corporations, having spent 37 years of his life as Corporate Executive Vice President at Suntrust Bank. But even more interesting than the company he ran is the company he keeps. Disgraced former Governor Bob McDonnell—convicted by a federal court of felony corruption—received campaign donations of over $16,000. That probably has something to do with the fact that McDonnell later was the one to appoint him to the board. McDonnell may be out, but his appointees are carrying on his legacy.

 

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John A. Luke

John A. Luke is first and foremost a businessman, and he brings that attitude with him to the world of educations. As President, Chairman, and CEO of the Richmond packaging corporation MeadWestVaco. In 2002, with John Luke then as now at the helm, MeadWestVaco was named by researchers at the University of Massachusetts Amherst as the 57th-largest corporate producer of air pollution in the United States, with roughly 35,000 pounds of toxic chemicals released annually into the air, including sulfuric acid, chlorine dioxide, chlorine, and methyl iodide. When he’s not poisoning your air—or figuring out how to spend his $5 million a year compensation for it—Luke sits on the Board of Trustees at the American Enterprise Institute, a right-wing thinktank dedicating to pushing forward pro-business, anti-worker legislation and otherwise making the lives of the ruling class that much easier and ours that much harder.

 

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Colette W. McEachin

Collete McEachin is Richmond’s Deputy Commonwealth’s Attorney, making her one of the highest-ranking law enforcement officials in her jurisdictions, a real pig’s pig. Her job description is to prosecute defendants for the State of Virginia, a state that disproportionately targets the poor Black population. No matter her own skin color, McEachin serves a key role in this city’s war on the black population, a war that counts among its casualties 85% of our city jail’s prisoners. McEachin is doing just fine for herself, though. She and her husband have multiple houses and apartments throughout Richmond and Washington DC. For her multiple residences. For you, a concrete cell.

Former Delegate Alex B. McMurtry, left, a commission member, talks with Del. G. Glen Oder, R-Newport News, chairman, right, at the General Assembly Building in Richmond, VA Wednesday, Sept. 8, 2010, as Gov. McDonnell's commission on government Reform & Restructuring met to discuss reccomendations, among them, privatization of state ABC stores.

Alexander B. McMurtrie Jr.

With a net worth of over $100 million, Alexander B. McMurtrie, Jr. doesn’t have to do much of anything, but keeps busy nonetheless. When he’s not raising your tuition or kicking back at his multiple estates throughout Virginia, MrMurtrie enjoys buying influence in elections. Over the years he has offered hundreds of thousands of dollars of gifts to politicians, in exchange. One of the recipients of his largesse was corrupt, convicted former Governor Bob McDonnell. McMurtrie paid over ten thousand dollars to fly Bob and his family to see a Notre Dame football game, among other things Something tells us he doesn’t show this same generosity to people who can’t grant him favors.
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Ron McFarlane

Ron McFarlane is no stranger to the corridors of power. He’s married to Nancy McFarlane, the current mayor of Raleigh North Carolina. With the mayor’s office under their control, the McFarlanes have made sure to help their own circle come to power in Raleigh, and to continue in Raleigh the nationwide project of gentrification and the displacement of poor people. However politics turns out for them, they can always fall back on MedProRx, the $80 million dollar company they own.
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Michael D. Frazier

Michael D. Frazier is ruling class to the core. He served for 24 years at corporate giant GE in various leadership roles, including CEO of GE Japan and executive vice-president of GE as a whole. He came to Richmond, however to work as CEO of local GE-offshoot Genworth Financial. For this position, he earns $2.72 million a year in salary and benefits. He’s also tight with disgraced Gov. Bob McDonnel. Frazier is a sports fan, which is why he headed the committee that brought the enormously waste that is the Washington Redskins training camp to town. Michael D. Frazier feels that he has not done enough to our city, however. That’s why his current position is an adviser to Blue Heron Capital and The Frontier Project. These two finance firms are instrumental in the gentrification and displacement plans that the ruling class has in store. Their function is to provide capital and assistance to hip, white business people seeking to displace the historically black residents of neighborhoods like Church Hill and Jackson Ward. The name Frontier Project is apt: they believe these territories must be colonized and civilized. Shame for the people that have lived there for decades, but such is progress. People like Michael Frazier know that progress necessitates casualties. Whether it’s black residents forced out of their homes, or poor students forced out of their school, he’s happy to oblige.

 

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Rick Wagoner

Rick Wagoner is the former chairman and CEO of General Motors. During his tenure, the company lost $85 billion and laid off more than 25, 000 workers. Rick Wagoner is one of the many people responsible for the 2008 financial crash that suffered very few repercussions. In exchange for GM receiving almost $50 billion dollars of public money, Obama personally asked Rick Wagoner to resign, which he promptly did. Don’t feel too bad for Rick, though, despite his incompetent leadership he retired with an exit package of over $10 million: $1.65 million in benefits per year for his first five years of retirement, $74,030 per year pension for the rest of his life, and a $2.6 million life insurance policy that can be cashed out at any time. And that’s not to mention the nearly $40 million he “earned” during his tenure. It sounds like GM takes care of it’s retirees, right? Not so much: while Wagoner was walking away with $10 million, working-retirees saw their benefits slashed.

 

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Teresa Carlson

One of Carlson’s official bios states, in the typical lingo of big business, that she “has more than 20 years of experience as a business executive driving innovation and change and producing successful business results.” We all know what “innovation” and “successful business results” means for us, the working class. It means lower wages, if not termination, increasingly exploitative working conditions, and the sacrifice of more and more of our life, health, and sanity in the name of corporate profits. Nowhere is this more true than at the company where Carlson currently holds an executive position, Amazon Web Services. Even among ruthless corporations, Amazon is notorious for the egregious working conditions in its warehouses. Workers are constantly on their feet, rushing from one package to the next, covering over 12 miles a day in un-air-conditioned buildings that often exceed 100 degrees. In fact, one worker was killed in the Richmond warehouse by these conditions in 2013. Nevertheless, desperate people continue to sign up to endure these conditions for only $11/hr and no benefits (if that—Amazon has also been accused of wage theft). Now, that’s what you can call “successful business results”!

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Jaquelyn E. Stone

Jaquelyn Stone is a partner at consulting firm McGuire-Woods. The sort of “consulting” this firm does is nearly exclusively that which serves the interests of massive corporations against the working class. For instance, for a large fee they can help your company avoid being charged for committing financial crimes, or as they delicately put it “ prevent regulatory inquiries from becoming criminal issues” At the moment, McGuire-Woods is representing telecom giant Verizon against its striking workers. They are also taking the side of Goliath in a suit brought by the Seminole Indian tribe against the bank Wells-Fargo. In addition to her work with McGuire-Woods, Jaquelyn E. Stone also sits on the board of Venture Richmond, the organization doing its utmost in our city to push forward gentrification and displacement of poor black communities.

 

Update on the School Front: City Council is Part of the Problem

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April 26th – RSCI militants have been working around the clock since initiating struggle around the crisis of Richmond Public Schools.

Including:

  • developing a newsletter with regular updates on the state of the struggle
  • distributing the newsletter to students and their allies affected by the slated school closures
  • discussing and informing students about the significance of this struggle and its larger implications for the East End and the city in terms of gentrification, destruction of public housing, inadequate housing, inadequate jobs, and the overall degradation of the black, poor, and working class.

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Today we marched, from MLK Jr Middle School to City Hall, rallied out front, and then took our seats for the city council meeting. The set agenda and meeting procedure was largely formalistic and substanceless. There was no real democracy in this space. The meeting began by covering announcements, congratulations, and formal recognitions to various groups, the most ironic being the celebration of a white, West End neighborhood association. Everyone at the meeting filled the chambers because of the school crisis. They opened up the floor for public comment, only half of the registered speakers were in attendance, and the called names were quickly shuffled through, the city council was quick to close the comment section of the meeting.

It was only when an RSCI militant interrupted the formalistic jargon being spoken by city council that a new space was opened for a real expression of working class hostility directed at these city officials, challenging their authority and claims of an inability to properly fund the schools. The crowd was stirred by this attack and provided the room for mass democracy to momentarily emerge with two black working class women severely attacking the council, one woman brought to tears describing how hard it is for her to have to work two jobs, and also have to deal with the destruction of the public school system.

Others had lined up to go to the floor and speak as well, but the council tried to halt the derailment of their agenda. RSCI militants encouraged people to speak out, broke city council rules that we were “not allowed” to stand up and we were “not allowed” to clap in agreement of a person speaking. This was a powerful moment, to have these women place shame upon these officials. The police and security tried to remove and silence us, but we refused to leave.

After this first wave of disruption subsided, the city council was placed on the defensive. Several members paid lip service that they didn’t want to see schools close, but basically claimed that they didn’t know where any additional funds were located, while implying the School Board was misappropriating funds. They acknowledged the historical legacy of the school system being neglected, but offered no way forward.

It was at this time that another RSCI militant interrupted and told the city council that they can’t fix this problem, that they admit their incapacity to address this fundamental issue that goes to the heart of living under the white supremacist, capitalist state. After emphasizing this, the militant was kicked out and removed by security.

We consider this intervention at this particular site of struggle a success. We created the space for mass democracy, where exploited people were given a window to speak bitterness at those who are the source of their degradation, who are functionaries of the white supremacist, capitalist state. It is correct to view them as the political enemy of the masses in their struggle to defend their right and access to public education. We are fully aware that this success is simply the beginning of a struggle against the white supremacist capitalist state that will require continued work to develop. Even if the city refrains from closing all the schools their attitude towards the working class of this city is clear and must be opposed.

These governing bodies all deny responsibility in the replication of this oppressive system, that it is out of their hands, and they are merely appendages of a larger structure that forces them to govern the wealth of the city for the interests of the rich. In fact their only proposal to deal with these “budget shortfalls” is to “generate more revenue”. So essentially they say we can solve the problems of capitalism and white supremacy with more of the same.

We must have no faith in these governing bodies, we have to form our own organizations and parallel structures to counter theirs. They make it clear they will only continue with more of the same. If we want something new, if we want a real change in how the city is run, then we must do it ourselves and we must struggle to build our collective power through political organization to break free from the yoke of this system. No more illusions, no more avoiding struggle, we have to intensify our efforts.

STOP SCHOOL CLOSURES!

STUDENTS AND THEIR ALLIES SEIZE POWER!

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Update on the School Front

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April 20th – After a recent city council meeting to potentially amend budget proposals, the likelihood for closing Armstrong and other schools are high. As expressed by School Board Member Mamie Taylor:


“With a vote of 6 to 3, the Board majority…voted to uphold the administration’s recommendation to close Cary, Swansboro, Armstrong, Overby Sheppard, and Southhampton schools and grossly impact Blackwell, Carver and three high schools (George Wythe, TJ, and John Marshall). The vote also impacts Clark Springs, which was closed in 2013 (with exception) to save $1,000,000.00.

In addition, with a vote of 8 to 1, the Board voted…to create a hub (bus) system for middle and high school students next school year; all without public input. This means that parents will be responsible for ensuring that their children (6th graders through 12th graders) arrive at an elementary school location chosen by administrators. From there the children will be bused to their perspective schools. The expected savings for this incredible inconvenience is less than $400,000.00. It cost the district and taxpayers almost the same amount to replace stolen keys at John Marshall High School this year, and the District survived.”

The School Board for RPS is actively participating in the destruction of Richmond public education. The ability to have a state-funded school system was fought for with the blood of oppressed black people and their allies. This concerted effort between the School Board and the City Council has to be stopped, to be resisted, to rebel against if working class, black, and poor people of the city are to halt the loss of their basic rights – such as education.

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According to sources participating in this struggle, City Council is already placing restrictions on the local masses to voice opposition to their plan. Apparently at the next City Council meeting on the 25th there will only be a handful of speakers allowed to speak and they cannot mention the budget or funding. Why are these bureaucrats attempting to silence the masses? We cannot allow them to set the terms in which we struggle to stop their onslaught they lead against students and allies.

STOP SCHOOL CLOSURES!

STUDENTS SEIZE POWER!

Struggle At VCU

The Board of Visitors with President Rao have decided to increase tuition, once again, by $358 dollars. They increase these costs, trying to generate revenue off the backs of the students. Their choice to increase cost is a choice to increase the barrier between the predominantly black working class of Richmond and access to an education at VCU.

The predominantly black working class and poor of Richmond are also facing several school closures and budget shortfalls in the Richmond Public School System. Both of these campaigns by those in power are attacks upon poor people, further degrading their condition in the city, while consolidating the power of VCU and its dominance alongside local developers who want to turn Richmond into an affluent white urban playground.

This is only one example of the continuation of the white supremacist social order. We need to build organization to struggle against these onslaughts, while building real power to demolish the rich and their control over the resources of the city.

STOPTUITION

Report on the Student Walkout

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April 11th – RSCI organizers were initially greeted with roughly 80 students who marched from Open High School. Open High School is an alternative school within the RPS system and is known for its laxity towards its student body, which has facilitated the OHS students an ability to sustain walkouts over the past two years. And once again the RPS administration threatened the entire RPS student body that they would be suspended for walking out at the 2PM proposed time, despite this only being 30 minutes prior to the end of school. The level of intimidation did not end there, it was reiterated by numerous principles at other schools – going so far as to place security at building exits. One group that had dared to leave their school in southside was confronted by security who attempted to remove the students from the vehicle.

These are all clear signs that the administration – the same administration that proposed the closures, which created this point of struggle – DO NOT want the RPS student body mobilized. They recognize the danger it poses to them if the students were to organize themselves for their own interests, which run contrary to the interests of the administration – who are primarily concerned with their overinflated pay and careers.

After the initial wave of OHS students, other students scattered from across the city schools converged and teamed up with OHS students as they all marched and chanted “Who are we? RPS! What do we want? More money!” countless times around City Hall. RSCI organizers identified student contingents from Huguenot, Armstrong, Wythe, Open, and Community High Schools. It was a great chance to network with these mobilized students who dared to defy the administration. Our featured leaflet, along with another pamphlet, were distributed among the students and initiated conversation on the subject matter. What is the relation of the RPS school closures to white supremacy? How and why the school system got the way it did. And what we can do about it by forming student struggle committees?

Time will tell if RSCI organizers are capable and able to help build student struggle committees with the students to engage in struggle around their concrete demands against specific class enemies across these schools. So far, the budgetary issue being discussed by City Council has been postponed until April 25th. No clear decision has been made if the needed budget will be met, or if school closures are to happen. In the meantime RSCI organizers shall continue to work with all student contacts gathered thus far through this struggle in order to further consolidate and make proper preparations for the continued struggle against the RPS administration.

Struggle on the School Front

Local militants have begun the process of forming student struggle committees within the Richmond Public School system and within the Virginia Commonwealth University. We are actively networking with other students and their allies to build independent working class organization that can take political action to halt the assaults upon working class students – whether they be school closures or tuition hikes – in order to go on the offensive and win working class demands for working class power.

Better education and infrastructure for the masses!

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