Hey everyone! Yesterday Jess and I traveled to Newark, Delaware to take part in the Sallie Mae shareholder meeting protest, held at Sallie Mae's headquarters. It was organized by the Student Labor Action Project (SLAP), Jobs with Justice, the United States Student Association, and Rebuild the Dream. Here's a write-up of what happened! To kick things off, here's the image that Tyler and Kimberly created for folks to share online as a virtual solidarity action: If you think it's as awesome as we do, head to our Facebook page to share it with your friends. Rebuild the Dream was there to deliver our petition asking CEO Albert Lord to make Sallie Mae work with students, rather than against them, and provide more repayment options. Over 42,000 members signed it. Five of us would be going into the shareholder meeting to deliver the petition signatures -- here we are, pictured below (L-R), Curtis Hierro, Chris Hicks (SLAP), Annie Mombourquette, Dan Apfel (Responsible Endowments Coalition), and me! [caption id="attachment_5286" align="aligncenter" width="510" caption="From Twitter user @JessLivMo"][/caption] There were two components to the protest -- and both ended up working incredibly together to get the most out of the action. Folks would be protesting outside of the Sallie Mae headquarters where the shareholder meeting was taking place. The other component was that Curtis, Chris, Annie, Dan, and I would be making our way into the actual shareholder meeting to take control of the question and answer session and deliver the petition. Hundreds of folks turned out to hold a protest outside. Students, graduates, labor unions, community groups, and tons of others took part in a mock graduation to complete with ball and chain props to signify debt. Sallie Mae was ready for us -- they had set up orange cones and sent lots of police officers to greet us. [caption id="attachment_5290" align="aligncenter" width="510" caption="From Twitter user @jwjnational"][/caption] [caption id="attachment_5285" align="aligncenter" width="510" caption="Orange cones set up on front of Sallie Mae."][/caption] The other component took place inside of Sallie Mae. In order to attend a shareholder meeting, you have to be a shareholder. Some of us had purchased shares, and some of us were proxies, meaning that we had permission to attend the meeting on behalf of an actual shareholder. Here are some pictures I (discreetly) took from inside the building... where we could HEAR the protest going on outside! Amazing power. [caption id="attachment_5283" align="aligncenter" width="510" caption="One busload of students were dropped off -- still awaiting the others."][/caption] And the best one -- evidence of what Sallie Mae was expecting: [caption id="attachment_5284" align="aligncenter" width="510" caption="Police in riot gear"][/caption] We made it into the meeting just as the question and answer session was starting. The session allows shareholders to ask the corporate board questions that relate to the meeting's proposals. We had each prepared a question intended to evoke responses -- but the main purpose was to make a statement. Unfortunately, they didn't allow cell phones in the meeting so we don't have footage from inside. Curtis told his story of being tens of thousands in debt. Annie shared that two months ago, she was arrested at a Sallie Mae protest held in DC. Chris and Dan demanded that Sallie Mae stop profiting off the backs of students, and I presented the petition with the help of everyone else. But they wouldn't allow us to deliver it to CEO Albert Lord himself -- even though he was sitting right up front. It was as if he was untouchable! So, his right-hand man offered to hand it to Lord himself and repeat back to us what our demands were! This action was one part of a larger struggle in student debt -- it isn't just focused on Sallie Mae. Yesterday, the Senate voted again on the interest rate... and it failed again. We have so far to go, but we have the power to organize and get our messages out. We have the power to make people listen. We're young, and we're ready. Edited To Add: Our Sallie Mae protest got media coverage from NewsWorks and the USA Today!
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