University News

Occupiers see lack of campus engagement with movement

Senior Staff Writer
Thursday, October 13, 2011

After Wednesday night’s teach-in explored the broader aims of the Occupy movement, about 30 people attended the Occupy College Hill assembly meeting yesterday, turning their attention inwards.

The assembly focused on anti-oppression efforts within the group and discussed how best to conduct meetings so that all involved felt comfortable voicing their opinions.

The deliberations were an attempt to acknowledge how oppression can work its way into even the safest of spaces. The discussion was placed on the agenda because combating oppression is a constant effort, and opposing injustice in one incarnation “doesn’t mean you’re an angel,” said Justin Kuritzkes ’12, an Occupy College Hill participant and facilitator at the meeting.

Oppression is insidious, so actively working to ensure all voices that want to be heard have a chance to realize that desire is a necessary step for fighting oppression, said Eduarda de Araujo ’15.

Because students on College Hill enjoy a position of relative economic privilege, they must be cognizant of the struggles many in Providence face on account of that privilege, de Araujo said. There is a perception among Providence residents that students benefit from the city but do not give back to the community by getting involved and fighting for locals’ well-being, she said.

“I feel like that’s a responsibility you get with so much privilege,” she said.

De Araujo said she felt the campus at large is disengaged from the movement and that members of the Brown community do not identify with its goals. But she added she was optimistic that more people will latch onto the cause as it grows in the coming months. Around 60 people attended Occupy College Hill’s first rally last week.

Though gauging interest in the cause is difficult, students are affected by the questions the group explores, such as a lackluster job market, Kuritzkes said.

Yesterday’s meeting came one day after Occupy Providence’s teach-in on the demonstrations Wednesday night, at which city activists and Brown professors offered context on the Occupy movement to more than 300 audience members. The movement began on Wall Street two weeks ago in protest of perceived corporate greed and dominance of the wealthiest Americans over the rest of society.

The teach-in was a crucial event that is part of the “constant learning process” and dialogue of the movement, but it was not perfect, de Araujo said — Occupy Providence’s members spoke only after Brown professors, seemingly de-emphasizing the prominence of movement participants. Instead, they should have spoken earlier in the evening to voice the diverse perspectives that College Hill denizens need to hear, she said.

“They have to say exactly what we don’t hear in the classroom,” de Araujo said.

Kuritzkes voiced disappointment that audience members began to leave once professors turned the stage over to Occupy Providence members.

Some members of Occupy College Hill — which comprises Brown undergraduates and graduate students as well as community members and activists involved with other local movements — plan to march down the hill this Saturday to participate in Occupy Providence’s occupation of Burnside Park in Kennedy Plaza, part of a global show of support for the movement.

Occupy College Hill’s independence from the city-wide movement allows it to better address the specifics problems afflicting Brown and the neighborhood, de Araujo said.

Outreach efforts were also on the agenda, with some talk of looking to work with other groups on campus, such as the Sarah Doyle and Third World centers.