On Thursday, November 1, the TSEU university caucus held a teach-in about the privatization of campus services at UT-Austin. The purpose of the event was to discuss the recent privatization at Texas A&M University, build awareness about the issue, and brainstorm strategies for stopping future university privatization attempts. The event was co-sponsored by United Students Against Sweatshops (USAS), a national student organization working at UT-Austin that has been working in coalition with the TSEU organizing committee on campus. Over 50 UT staff, faculty, and students attended the teach-in.
After a brief meet and greet, the teach-in began with a panel discussion. Participating on the panel were Willie Mae Bolar (TSEU worker/organizer, A&M System), Dr. Halcyon Watkins (TSEU Activist, A&M System), Billy Yates (USAS), Sophia Poitier (USAS), and Anne Lewis (TSEU Executive Board and UT employee). TSEU assistant organizing coordinator, Jim Branson, moderated the panel discussion. The panel presented perspectives on the Texas A&M privatization, building a strong student/worker coalition at UT, and a historical perspective of TSEU’s on-going fight against privatization. This included the understanding that our battle in Texas on the issue of privatization is part of a national fight for the preservation of public services in the face of an agenda that would sell public assets off to enrich those at the top rather than serve the interests of the majority. After the panel discussion, the conversation was opened up to the audience for a question and answer session. The general consensus was that privatization will be a pervasive issue on university campuses in the coming months and years and that organizing is the key to fighting back. Both the UT organizing committee and USAS agreed that signing up more university workers into TSEU and enlisting more students in the cause is critical to successfully defending against privatization.