“Activists launch ‘debt strike’ against college chain” by Ned Resnikoff (Al Jazeera America)

Corinthian colleges

The debt forgiveness movement born out of Occupy Wall Street has entered a new stage in its activism around student loans. On Monday a wing of the campaign known as Debt Collective announced a “debt strike” by 15 former students of the for-profit college chain Corinthian Colleges Inc.

The former students have said they will not repay any more of their student loans, in protest of what they describe as predatory lending practices on the part of Corinthian Colleges and the U.S. Department of Education (DOE). Organizers working with Debt Collective said the coordinated action was a test run for larger debt refusal actions.

Debt Collective organizer Ann Larson compared the action to work stoppages conducted by the labor movement.

“This is the same kind of collective organizing,” she told Al Jazeera. “Collective bargaining can happen along economic lines when debtors join together.”

For their test case, Debt Collective selected a particularly ripe target: Corinthian Colleges has been the subject of state and federal investigations regarding its lending practices. Since June 2014 the company has been under tight financial supervision from the DOE, which is shepherding it through the process of selling off some of its campuses and shutting down others.

Ann Bowers, 54, one of the former Corinthian students who is refusing to pay down her loans, told Al Jazeera she owes $30,000 to $40,000 after three years in the Everest College system, which is owned by Corinthian. She earned her associate degree at Everest and had completed her first year in an online bachelor’s degree program when she found out that Corinthian was in trouble with the DOE.

“I asked them about transferring,” said Bowers, who lives in Fort Myers, Florida. “I went through the process with one school, and they didn’t accept all of my credits. And I found out Everest had taken six years of my lifetime funding [in federal loan eligibility] in three years. I was devastated.”

Bowers, who is disabled, said she has been unemployed for the year since she left Everest. “I feel like the students are the ones suffering the consequences for what Corinthian did,” she said. “It’s not fair. And why isn’t the Department of Education helping us? It’s helping a school that even lied to them.”

In October 2013, California sued Corinthian for allegedly misleading potential students as part of a “predatory scheme.” More recently, at the beginning of this month, the federal Consumer Financial Protection Bureau announced $480 million in debt relief for students who had “been harmed by Corinthian’s predatory lending scheme.”

Debt Collective wants more relief from private and federal loans. The group has criticized the DOE for “coddling for-profit colleges” and dispatched protesters to department hearings to demand that it cancel the debt on federal loans owed by Corinthian attendees. If some private loans awarded to Corinthian students were predatory, Larson said, “then the federal loans are also predatory, and they should be canceled.”

“The Department of Education’s job is to regulate higher education and how they’re treating students and to regulate which colleges have access to student loan funds that are disbursed by the department,” she said. “Their job was to make sure this didn’t happen in the first place, that students were preyed on by a predatory lender.”

Also on Monday, Rolling Jubilee, another arm of the same campaign as Debt Collective, said that it recently purchased and canceled $13.4 million in debt, which organizers said has diminished the debt burdens of more than 9,400 people, for a total of $14.7 million in canceled debt as of Feb. 20. Rolling Jubilee was launched in 2012 with the intent of purchasing large amounts of student debt for pennies on the dollar and then refusing to collect on it.

Yet even several million dollars is a drop in the bucket compared with the outstanding student loan total in the United States. Last week the Federal Reserve of New York issued a report that found Americans owe $1.16 trillion in student loans. Rolling Jubilee skeptics such as left-wing economics commentator Doug Henwood have asked whether a program of purchasing and forgiving debt can ever be more than “purely symbolic.”

Laura Hanna, one of the activists behind the Rolling Jubilee, said that’s part of the reason the campaign is shifting focus to “debt strikes.”

“The Rolling Jubilee is an educational project,” she said. “It’s a tactic, not a solution. And our long-term project is collective organizing.”

Neither Corinthian nor the DOE returned requests for comment.

Berkeley Post Office occupation: February 22 and 23

First they came for the homeless's photo.
First they came for the homeless's photo.

First they came for the homeless:  

February 22:  3 people have said this is offensive and disrespects the flag. We inform them this is a signal of Americans in distress. We also inform them our protest is a free speech zone and that combat veterans hung it. They fought, they will be respected.

Free speech, even if offensive. We fight for what’s a right as well. Freedom of speech is under attack enough by our government, we can’t be attacking it in the home of free speech as well.

–Mike Zint

February 23:  Last night, the police came by on a noise complaint. They were called at 4:30, by me. The police took 25 minutes to respond. The noise came from the group the postal police moved next to us. They were arguing loudly, throwing things, and breaking glass in the road. By the time the police showed, things had settled down. They stayed for three minutes, and never left their car. The only good thing, when I called it in, I specified it was not the protest. The police pulled up to the other group. This means they can distinguish between the protest area, and the other group.

If an attempt to dismantle this protest is occurring, there will be a record of some of those complaints coming from the protest itself.

As of noon, no postal police have been by. If they don’t show up, we are taking that as evidence the postal police purposely moved the tweakers to blow this protest up.

What do you think?

–Mike Zint

Occupy Forum presents . . . a dialogue with Dennis Rivers, writer, activist & communication skills trainer, on Monday, February 23

Monday, February 23rd from 6 – 8 pm at Global Exchange

2017 Mission Street near 16th Street BART

Information, discussion & community! Monday Night Forum!!

Occupy Forum Presents…

Resilience Resources

in the face of “Slow Violence”

and “Enduring Emergencies”

A Dialogue with Dennis Rivers, Writer, Activist

& Communication Skills Trainer

Many of the problems that we face are going to unfold over decades or even centuries, for example, climate change and radioactive contamination. But our models of political mobilization and participation are often models more of the hundred-yard dash than of the marathon. In this dialogue and discussion, writer and activist Dennis Rivers will explore ideas about resilience drawn from the work of eco-philosopher Joanna Macy, Stanford psychologist Carol Dweck, communication skills trainer Marshall Rosenberg, and the Appreciative Inquiry school of organizational development consulting (as much as time allows).

According to Rivers, we need to be concerned about resilience because the crises of the world gradually become the crisis of the self. As we work on social problems that embody blatant insanities, such as nuclear weapons that are actually global suicide devices, we necessarily build mental models of those blatant insanities inside of our own minds, which can induce a disabling sort of mental and emotional indigestion.

Resilience studies focus on how people mobilize new inner resources to overcome seemingly impossible obstacles.

Dennis Rivers is a long time antinuclear activist, nonviolence trainer, communication skills coach/author, and Internet publisher.  In 1978 he was arrested for the felonious planting of wildflowers on a nuclear reactor site, and has been continuously involved in political protest and social change movements ever since.  In the mid-1970s Dennis trained for the Unitarian ministry, but found it impossible to fit into the social role of a parish minister, and instead became a nonviolence trainer and informal chaplain for antinuclear and antiwar groups in the 1970s and 1980s. Dennis studied with Marshall Rosenberg in the 1980s, and with Joanna Macy from the 1990s to the present time.

Dennis received his MA in interpersonal communication and human development from the Vermont College Graduate Program, and has written several books. His workbook on communication skills, combining NVC with Appreciative Inquiry, is available free of charge as a PDF file atwww.newconversations.net.  The inspirations for his activist and scholarly work include Gandhi, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Joanna Macy, Rachel Carson, Albert Schweitzer, Marshall Rosenberg, Carl Rogers, Archbishop Oscar Romero, and the Austrian Catholic conscientious objector and martyr Franz Jägerstätter.

Announcements follow. Donations welcome, no one turned away!