November 15, 2011

The Nation’s Third Oldest College Newspaper

Volume 82, Issue 5

NU discusses Occupy movement

(Photo courtesy of Alicia Wainwright)

(Photo courtesy of Alicia Wainwright)

The Occupy Wall Street movement has inspired similar protests in 950 cities in 82 countries around the world.

NU communications professor Doug Tewksbury recently attended the protests at Wall Street and said it is the most congealed and sustained social movement I've ever seen.

On Nov. 2, Tewksbury was part of a panel to stimulate discussion on campus about the movement. Philosophy professor Alex Bertland was also on the panel and encouraged Niagara students to get involved. As college students, you don't realize how much political power you have he said.

Political science professor David Reilly, also on the panel, said that student loan debt is now higher than credit card debt in America and Tewksbury added that unemployment for Americans between 16 and 29 years old is at 56 percent, explaining that the Occupy movement is relevant to students at NU.

If you disagree with the movement, or if you agree, or if you just want to say something, my recommendation is to go, said Bertland. He explained that students at NU can easily get to Niagara Square in Buffalo to participate in the movement. People have been living in Niagara Square, occupying Buffalo, for more than a month.

Reilly challenged students to bring the movement to campus, suggesting they try to get the administration involved to bring change by doing things such as supporting local bookstores instead of having a large corporate bookstore on campus.

NU junior Alicia Wainwright said that prior to the movement people were ready, even waiting, for an opportunity to change things. Now that an opportunity has risen, many people support the movement, when I've stood with others with our signs by the side of the road, I've heard more people honking in support than screaming at us in disgust, she said.

To me, it's all about how we take care of each other, how we can come together as a community, said Joe Fitzpatrick, who graduated from NU in 2009 and has spent several weeks living in Niagara Square in support of the movement. He explained that the protests allow for people to form a close-knit community and work together toward progress.

A prominent criticism of the Occupy movement is that it lacks specificity in its aim. Until you can narrow it down to specific objectives, concerns and goals, it goes nowhere, said Reilly.

NU senior Scott Erikson added, If they want their voice to be heard more, then they have to express to the right people, suggesting that the movement should be based in Washington D.C. instead of on Wall Street.

The student loan debt situation in America makes this movement very much relevant to college students. Part of what has lead to the massive student loan debt is a lack of personal responsibility Erikson said. Another senior at NU, Pat Fetzer, explained a major contributor to the debt is students that don't have a plan of action; it's great that you want to be a political science or a philosophy major but what's your plan after college to pay back those student loans?

Mike Rockwood, also a senior at NU, said the student loan situation has been caused by the universities themselves meaning that universities have such high tuition, that students are forced to take out numerous loans. Rockwood predicts a shift away from private schools towards public schools in the future as tuition prices continue to rise.

Finance professor Ed Hutton was also on the panel, he gave the perspective of the one percent. He said, If someone has student debts and didn't have a plan and can't pay his loans, why is that my problem? Hutton explained that when financial institutions loan money to students, they do it with the expectation that those students will use their degree to get a job and be able to re-pay their debts.

Tewksbury explained that an over-arching theme of the global movement is justice, specifically thinking about justice in terms of fairness and equality. Reilly added, We hear short-term answers to short-term problems so officials can get re-elected, we don't hear about fundamental changes from the government.

Wainwright said, The protesters know that the system is corrupt; that corporations influence our government, buy our politicians; and run our foreign affairs. We know that the distribution of wealth is not just uneven, but was achieved through an unfair system. But we do not have an answer as to how to fix it.

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