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.

 

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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.