ITHACA, BUFFALO STATE
Students sit in against prisons
On Dec. 5, hundreds of Ithaca College students took over the
school's Office of Admissions to protest corporate investment
in privately owned U.S. prisons. Seven students maintained a
34-hour sit-in. Others, locked outside by the administration,
remained to support them.
On Dec. 7, over 100 Buffalo State College students and
community members rallied for the same demand. Forty students
occupied an administration building for two hours until they
won a meeting with the college vice-president.
Ithaca College, Buffalo State College and over 500 other
colleges and universities hold food service contracts with
Sodexho-Marriot. Sodexho-Marriot makes $1.2 billion annually
from these contracts.
According to press releases issued by the students, 48
percent of Sodexho-Marriot is owned by Sodexho-Alliance, a
French transnational corporation. Sodexho-Alliance is one of
the world's largest investors in private prisons in the U.S.,
England and Australia. It is the single largest investor in
Corrections of America, a corporation that owns private
These students are demanding that their colleges break their
contracts with Sodexho-Marriot. Plans are set for an April 4
Day of Action.
At Ithaca, more than 24 hours into the occupation, the
executive assistant to the president of Ithaca College forcibly
removed one protester. A few hours later, 12 more students
began a sit-in at Alumni Hall in solidarity with the initial
Late on the second day, Ithaca College's president agreed to
meet with students. The college granted four of their demands:
student participation in the college's review of its contract
with Sodexho-Marriot; a meeting with the trustees to discuss
the contract; a community forum sponsored by the college to
discuss the issue of private prisons, and a letter addressing
student concerns written personally by the president to the
corporation and the college community.
The Ithaca College president has been flooded with letters
of support for student demands.
Workers World spoke with Kevin Pranis, a board member of the
Prison Moratorium Project who took part in the Ithaca College
sit-in. Pranis reported that more than 50 campuses have taken
up a campaign against their colleges' contracts with
"These sit-ins are part of a growing movement against
private prisons, corporate investment in them and prison
expansion in general," said Pranis. "This involves prison
activists, students of color organizations, the anti-sweatshop
movement and student-labor activists."
Monica Moorehead, WWP presidential candidate and a leader of
Millions for Mumia and the International Action Center,
explained: "These investments are very similar to the U.S.
investments made into the South African apartheid system. These
investments helped to strengthen and sustain the extreme system
and conditions of racism for millions of oppressed Black South
"The same holds true of the investments in prisons," she
continued. "This blood money that strengthens the slave labor
for super-profits inside the prisons threatens the livelihood
of every worker who is attempting to make a decent wage."
In addition, "Slave labor inside these prisons constitutes
cruel and unusual punishment and needs to be opposed on every
level--including by presidents of colleges and universities who
are concerned with humanitarian issues. "
Moorehead concluded, "Instead of building prisons, those
monies should be put into building universities to insure that
everyone receives a decent education."
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