From mic checks to debates: Student ‘Occupy’ group looks ahead

A week after protests and walkouts at on-campus J.P. Morgan and Goldman Sachs recruiting events, students reflected on their experiences and where they hope the Occupy Princeton movement will go next.
 
i-16f0b5286c4f9bdb8bbd95c5fa4aedd4-wb_campus.jpg“The on-campus reaction was exactly as I expected — it’s going to be controversial,” said Evan Warner ’12, a student involved in the Dec. 7 and 8 protests. “What surprised me a little bit was the amount of coverage it’s gotten elsewhere, including The New York Times.”
 
About 20 students targeted sessions held by J.P. Morgan Chase and Goldman Sachs last week as part of Occupy Princeton, founded this fall in response to the Occupy Wall Street campaign. The students, dressed in business attire, carried resumés and networked with recruiters who approached them. After directing pointed questions at the recruiters during the sessions’ question-and-answer periods, the demonstrators used the Occupy movement’s “mic check” call-and-response method to air their grievances.
 

“Your predatory lending practices helped crash our economy, we’ve bailed out your executives’ bonuses, you’ve evicted struggling homeowners while taking their tax money,” the protesters said to J.P. Morgan recruiters. “In light of these actions, we protest the campus culture that whitewashes the crooked dealings of Wall Street as a prestigious career path.” The students then promptly left the room.
 
Protester Polly Korbel ’13 said she was pleased that Occupy Princeton’s actions at the information sessions had generated a strong response at the University.
 
“A dialogue on campus has definitely been started, during lunchtime with my peers and more formally online,” Korbel said in an email. She added that the Princeton Corporate Finance Club had expressed interest in organizing a public debate between the club and Occupy Princeton after winter break.
 
Occupy Princeton intends to continue its actions, Warner said. Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist and political activist Chris Hedges spoke at the group’s weekly general assembly — where supporters stand in a circle outside Frist Campus Center and shout echoes of what various speakers say — on Dec. 13, discussing the corporate world and the campus culture at the University. That same night, several Occupy Princeton supporters held a “direct action” meeting where they talked about their aims, brainstormed new ideas for actions during the holidays and afterward, and updated each other on the progress of their various working groups.
 
Students also hope to collaborate with Occupy the Streets Princeton, a community group that meets weekly on Sunday afternoons outside the Princeton Public Library and has protested via bike rides through downtown Princeton.
 
It is unclear whether Occupy Princeton plans to interrupt any more finance recruiting sessions. Some students noted, however, that such events should not be seen as the sole mode of action for the group.
 
“I just want to stress that not all of our actions will be disruptive,” Joshua Schulman ’13 said. “The point of these disruptive actions is to make people stop and think — we’re also planning and talking about constructive events and actions so we can open up the dialogue here on campus.”
 
Korbel sees a promising future for the student Occupy contingent.
 
“We are listening, we are learning, and, most importantly, we are questioning, in lectures, in classrooms, in dorms, at the dinner table and in information sessions,” she said. “The concerns of the Occupy movement about economic inequality and the factors that engender it are present on Princeton’s campus. These mic checks made that clear.”
 

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Tara Thean ’13 is an ecology and evolutionary biology major from Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.

5 thoughts on “From mic checks to debates: Student ‘Occupy’ group looks ahead

  1. Greg Traver

    Stop and think about economic inequity… seriously? Is it really another citizens fault that one does not have what one thinks they are entitled to? It used to be that if you desired something then you put in the effort to earn it. This concept seems to have gone out the window. “Fairness” sounds so good, so warm and fuzzy, that is until one of your peers is demanding that they have access to the same widget that you bought after working three semesters at the local restaurant until you could afford to buy it. Certainly if one was to seriously be open minded and pursue the truth with due-diligence, they would find in the end that those who have started this so called “revolution” are not seeking to free or liberate citizens, but rather enslave them to a system that dictates and controls their thoughts and actions from the time they are born to the day they die. It has been replayed throughout history, yet for some reason too many get caught up in the ‘feelings’ and forget the ‘objectivity’ Our professors espouse free thought and speech but only when it is compliant to their world view, why is that?

    Reply
  2. loc v. nguyen

    past revolutions always come from young, intellectual, frustrated generations(Russian, French, VietNam,…).
    Now, US.
    I’m with you.

    Reply
  3. Markus Luty

    Kudos to the students of Princeton for speaking truth to power. I hope that the students will get the support of the professors and the university administration for taking the lead on this.

    I am a professor at UC Davis, where peaceful student protesters were recently pepper-sprayed by police ordered in by our Chancellor after a single day of occupying the campus quad. Our university administration has made misstep after misstep, but our students have behaved with honor, and make me proud.

    Reply
  4. Dennis Gravitt

    It’s good hear that this group of students is entertaining the idea of open dialogue. Change can only occur if the younger generation embraces a different paradigm than the one that is being perpetuated by the present one. Crony capitalism has no place in Government politics. Best of Luck!

    Reply

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