Friends of Forest Park Plans Demonstration at Commencement; UNH Administrator Cari Moorhead Tries to Squash Student Activism

On Saturday, May 19th 2007, the day of Commencement, Friends of Forest Park is planning a demonstration on the UNH campus to raise awareness about the lack of affordable family housing on campus and the increasingly dire financial situation residents of Forest Park find themselves in.

The UNH Administration has gotten wind of our plans to take advantage of this historic opportunity to educate the thousands of people coming to Durham about the UNH Administration’s blatant disregard for the well being of the residents of Forest Park. It is the UNH Administration’s refusal to take responsibility for a decision THEY created that has led us to mount public protests and demonstrations. UNH has shown time and again that they do not care that there children living in grinding poverty on this campus and that they have students who do not eat every day because of decisions this university has made.

In response to their discovery of our plans, a UNH administrator, Cari Moorhead, Associate Dean of the Graduate School, sent this letter to selected members of Friends of Forest Park:

It has come to my attention that there may be a Friends of Forest Park (FOFP) protest planned for Saturday. My point in sending this message is to basically share my opinion with you as students who may be involved. It is my sincere belief that graduation is not the time to protest, given how hard our Forest Park students have worked, and how much many families have sacrificed to get their loved ones to this wonderful point in their journey. Faculty are currently working without a contract and the union has taken other opportunities to protest throughout the year. However, as a sign of the significance the university community places on the graduation ceremony the faculty union has taken the stand that they will not protest on Saturday.

On a related note, I have a concern that the FOFP are being seen by the broader community as the actual residents of Forest park. In essence, the general community does not know the difference and therefore, if the FOFP protest it will be seen as the FP tenants protesting. In conversations with me FOFP members have indicated that they would not want to speak for the FP residents, yet that is what will be the outcome here (for example, I cannot tell you how many people have asked me why the Forest Park residents were on T-Hall lawn a couple of weeks ago.) I am not sure whether the actual residents of Forest Park are aware and/or have weighed in on the event but if there is to be an event it would seem to be important that the resident’s be aware of the implications for them.

Hope all is well with everyone.
Fingers crossed for sun on Saturday,

Cari

Cari Moorhead, Ph.D.,
Associate Dean,
Graduate School,
University of New Hampshire,
Durham, NH 03824-0275
Ph 603-862-3007
Fax 603-862-0275
cari.moorhead@unh.edu

It should be noted that every concern she has in this letter is unfounded and every claim she makes about Friends of Forest Park is wrong. To wit: It is not the intention of Friends of Forest Park to disrupt commencement in any way or to denigrate the accomplishments of the graduates. We are merely using the event as an opportunity to educate hundreds, possibly thousands of people about this important issue.

Secondly, it is inappropriate to compare Friends of Forest Park to the AAUP. Is Cari suggesting that a grassroots group that advocates for the rights and dignity of a marginalized group of students and their families is comparable to a union of mostly white, highly-educated, middle class academics? I didn’t think so. The issue of affordable housing for students with families is more important than the fact that the professors on this campus, many of whom are making six figures a year, and none of whom are making $14,200 (The highest stipend for PhD students in the Chemistry Department) are working without a contract.

Furthermore, Friends of Forest Park has never hidden the fact that it is a group of non-resident student allies. That is why the group is called Friends of Forest Park, not Friends of Ourselves, Forest Park Residents. Friends of Forest Park cannot and will not be held responsible for the thoughts and impressions of every last person who witnesses our actions. Friends of Forest Park would not exist were it not for the willful negligence of the Department of Housing and the UNH Administration.

Friends of Forest Park has always and will continue to work closely with the Forest Park Tenants Committee and the residents of Forest Park. We don’t do anything without talking to the residents. We are their allies and friends. The administration’s tactic of wearing Forest Park resident-activists down has created the need for more non-residents to advocate on the residents’ behalf. Furthermore, many of the residents of Forest Park, particularly international students, are scared of being retaliated against by the university. It has therefore become necessary for the non-resident domestic undergraduate students of Friends of Forest Park to do more ally work because we have fewer responsibilities and less to lose.

In conclusion, this letter has only emboldened us. We see it as a sign that our tactics are working. We will continue to protest, demonstrate and advocate until the UNH administration makes Forest Park and affordable family housing a priority.

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One response to “Friends of Forest Park Plans Demonstration at Commencement; UNH Administrator Cari Moorhead Tries to Squash Student Activism

  1. A Concerned Graduating Graduate Student

    I would like to comment on the planned protest of graduation about which I’ve just heard. Being a graduating graduate student, I know that I will be greatly disappointed to have my graduation ceremony disrupted by some students protesting something that has absolutely nothing to do with the graduation ceremony or my academic accomplishments that have allowed me to walk across that stage. I understand that your goal is to educate, but as Dean Moorhead said, this may not be the best place to do it. Additionally, if you MUST protest, I think it is imperative that you actively display the fact that you do not actually live in Forest Park. Make buttons or something to wear that say something like, “I don’t live in Forest Park, and I’m still appalled!” — something along those lines. When the residents of Forest Park think that things are so bad that they cannot go on, then they will join you in your protests and they can wear buttons that say, “I live in Forest Park, and I’m pissed!”

    As far as the ‘injustice’ that is playing out at Forest Park, I think it is necessary to put things in perspective. First, the fact that the residents of Forest Park are here as graduate students is amazing in itself. Second, many of them are on assistantships, which puts them in the top tier of grad students. Third, the fact that they are able to live on campus makes them even more privileged. There are many many many more graduate students that are not only paying to be here (and putting themselves into debt), but are not living on campus. Additionally, there a TONS of grad students with families (international and domestic) that live off campus (probably paying more than FP residents) and are managing to support themselves on grad student stipends.

    The residents of Forest Park on assistantships are not paying to be here, in fact, they’re being paid. They GET to live on campus, which cuts down on transportation costs, and their utilities are included in their rent (which is lower than most rent off campus, which doesn’t include utilities).

    Being poor is part of being a graduate student — it is just the way it goes. Prior to coming to grad school, I knew (as all incoming students know) that I would be paid $14,500. The residents of Forest Park made a choice to live where they are, and they made a choice to come to grad school here. I know TONS of international graduate students who have not brought their families with them to the US for grad school because they know the stipend that they will be paid (which is designed to support ONE person) will not be sufficient for supporting a family.

    Now, I completely think that it SUCKS that students have to leave their families to get an education in the US, but that is an issue that is FAR beyond UNH. I agree that it should not be that way, but until we have free education for all, I’m afraid it may continue that way.

    I know you’ve said you’re sick of talk, but I can assure you that talking and working with administrators is the only way you’re going to really accomplish anything.

    I also think that you should be excited and work to publicize the good things that have happened. For example, health insurance — which was not granted to grad assistants because they protested and refused to talk to administrators. The health insurance plan was granted because of a LOT of hard work and talking between grad students and administrators. This is essentially giving students on an assistantship $1400 dollars for an insurance plan that blows the socks off the previous plan (and I’m unfortunately missing the boat on this one). No one is going out of their way to say thank you to the administration for their hard work. If you insist on protesting graduation, why not hold up a sign that says, thank you for getting us health insurance?!?

    I’m not looking to change your minds, I’m just hoping to put things in perspective for you. And, please make sure you have the actual FACTS before you go around shouting to people (all policies about stipends and such are online and available to the public). Here is a breakdown of stipends for next year — these are the MINIMUM amounts that grad students can get paid; departments (or individual advisors) can increase stipend levels if they choose.

    This has been copied and pasted from the following website:

    http://www.gradschool.unh.edu/home/grad_appt.html

    Stipends: Level 1 – $13,500 all masters’ students and PhD students with a bachelor’s degree who have less than 2 years experience as a GA or RA at UNH; Level 2 – $14,000 PhD students with a Master’s degree or PhD students with a bachelor’s degree who have 2 years experience as a GA or RA @ UNH; Level 3 – $14,750 PhD students @ candidacy. Departments may pay a higher base stipend for assistants to meet the recruitment needs of the program. Graduate associates and part-time lecturers normally receive a stipend equal to the rate of instructor. Graduate fellows, trainees and interns receive a stipend in accordance with the terms of their award.

    Please be careful of the accusations that you make, and please be respectful of the graduaing students and their families.

    -A Concerned Graduating Graduate Student

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