Students and community members speak out against Smarter System

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Students rally against the Smarter System privatization plan during a street performance put on by the Save Our Community Coalition. The performance outlined the creation of the Smarter System plan and was followed by a march into the tower by protesters.

Ethan Oblak | Daily Texan Staff

Photo Credit: Ethan Oblak | Daily Texan Staff

Chants rang through the halls of the Tower as members of Save Our Community Coalition went to deliver a letter to President William Powers Jr. Wednesday, expressing their concern with an outsourcing plan Powers’ Committee on Business Productivity released last year.

The committee, composed of business leaders outside the UT community, wrote the plan titled “Smarter Systems for a Greater UT” to identify untapped revenue sources and methods the University might use to increase efficiency. One recommendation the report made was a potential increase in parking, food and housing prices.

The group began its protest with a street performance providing background on the Smarter Systems plan. After the performance, the coalition walked into the Tower to
request a meeting with Powers about the group’s unhappiness with the plan.

The coalition began last semester in response to the Smarter Systems plan, and is composed of student organizations, faith leaders, local nonprofit organizations and the Texas State Employees Union, which protests the outsourcing and privatization of on-campus job and services. The coalition was formed by the United Students Against Sweatshops, a group which aims to protect the rights of student workers on and off campus. 

“Taking outsourcing off the table is a basic, minimal request from the community because this plan is wide reaching and we already know that outsourcing and privatization has a devastating effects on local economies and our community as a whole,” Plan II junior Bianca Hinz-Foley said.  

The president’s office was locked when the group marched up the narrow staircases of the building. 

According to coalition member Sophie Poitier, a philosophy and rhetoric senior, the group plans to send an email since they were unable to deliver the letter directly. Poitier said the coalition will keep running the campaign until they get an acceptable response.

“We don’t think it’s right for a university to cut costs when humans are involved,” Poitier said. “There are other ways costs could be cut than a person’s livelihood.”

Alonzo Mendoza, a 2012 UT alumnus who graduated with a masters in special education, has been involved with the United Students Against Sweatshops for several years. Mendoza has been in the coalition since it was founded in January.

“[The protest] is important to me because even though I’m not being directly affected by this, the reputation of UT is at stake,” Mendoza said. “As an [alumnus], I want to be proud of my university.”