Sunday, September 25, 2011

Occupy Wall Street: Why are students flocking to protest?

Occupy Wall Street: Why are students flocking to protest?

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EMILY ANNE EPSTEIN/METRO

The crowd of protesters in Zuccotti Park is largely made up of college students who have come to NYC from schools across the country.

The Occupy Wall Street movement, now in its sixth day, is largely comprised of college students. Why is this demographic so attracted to this protest? Metro spent a night with protestors in Zuccotti park and spoke to college students about what brings them there.

In the midst of a "student work group," college students sat on the pavement into the early morning hours to discuss what they wanted out of the protest. Within minutes, it was clear that each student had very different demands and ideas of what has gone wrong with the current system.

"Basically, every semester they are raising tuition by, like, $300," said Chris, a Hunter College student who didn't want his last name used. "I understand if they have to raise tuition, but doing that every semester as a multi-year plan is going to screw so many people out of college."

Linnea M. Palmer Paton, a grad student at NYU, heard about the protest on Saturday and decided to join to promote environmental awareness.

"Our economic policies are forcing people to give up their agrarian life style," she said. "And we do that on top of allowing ourselves to buy goods from countries that either exploit their workers or whose environmental standards are so low that many of their people suffer from health conditions."

Students encouraged each other to protect their textbooks and notes in a safe spot within the park, reach out to professors and ask other students to join the protest. The protesters acknowledged that there are many different messages floating around the camp, but said they discuss their differences during daily "people's general assemblies."

Columbia University professor Todd Gitlin spent the 1960’s protesting the Vietnam War and corporate aid to the apartheid regime in South Africa. He said the protesters would need more than anger to sustain the movement.

“They may have some sort of sentiment, but that isn’t enough to maintain any momentum or win allies or accomplish anything,” Gitlin said.

Palmer Paton said she hopes Occupy Wall Street will at least serve as a reminder to her generation that it must find a political voice.

"Numbers say that we don’t vote that much and I think that’s very dangerous, not only for democracy but also our society," she said. "If you don’t have an informed democratic society that actually goes out and votes and continues a public dialogue about what is right and just and fair, then you end up with corporate control of the government."

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