Occupy Colleges shows solidarity with Occupy Wall Street

Courtesy of wbur.org

The past several weeks have seen Occupy Wall Street movements die in cities across the country, with headlines of violent clashes between protesters and police riddling the news media. Just yesterday, Occupy Philadelphia found itself evicted from its encampment at City Hall. At the same time, it seems that these weeks have also seen the birth of Occupy’s offspring — new movements on university campuses around the nation.

Still, students from Harvard to the University of California Berkeley have staged sit-ins and walkouts shaped by concerns that are reminiscent of Zuccotti Park’s broader grievances about economic inequality. But with the rising costs of tuition, suffocating student debt and feeble job prospects after graduation, college students are expressing disquiet about issues that are incredibly unique to them.

The ripples of inspiration have even stretched to Swarthmore, allowing us a virginal experience with the Sharples General Assembly (complete with the functionally democratic yet continually controversial Human Mic) and other campus events tinged with the fervor of occupation.

Yet our catalog of injustices varies considerably from those of students coordinated by Occupy Colleges, a national group that is working to mobilize college-based protestors against insurmountable tuition hikes. For instance, our objections against sororities as trans-phobic establishments pale in comparison to fellow college students who will graduate with nearly $200,000 in debt — a price virtually unknown to many of us thanks to Swarthmore’s generous financial aid (though not far off considering murmurs from the administration that economic stress might stifle aid to students). This is not to say that our concern with potential gender discrimination on campus is not a legitimate one, just that it doesn’t find consonance with larger Occupy interests. All the while, it still manages to maintain an activist zeal that imbues the protests at Dartmouth, Brown and Boston Universities.

Nonetheless, Swarthmore’s commitment to social equality has found an outlet in a sweeping civic movement that promises to herald tangible change. Perhaps our role is to join the ranks of the disenfranchised, but instead fashion our complaints into conversations, ones that start at the door of members of the administration. For worthwhile reform to be made on a campus that only houses some 1,500 students, there must be sincere attempts to engage those that we consider our version of the “one percent.” Ensuring that tuition doesn’t increase, aid is still provided and facilities are continuously renovated are considerations that would be welcome in the spaces Swarthmore provides for open dialogue, and that most other campuses don’t seem to enjoy.

After all, it doesn’t look like the deans have pepper spray pointed at us.

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