Reporting contributed by Trevor Christian
“We are the 99 percent and so are you!” rang through the Student Activity Center plaza and lobby this Thursday as students and faculty gathered for the Occupy Stony Brook Teach-In, which sought to inform the campus community about their numerous concerns as well as the purpose and practices of Occupy Wall Street.
Professor Michael Zweig and graduate student Waylon Lenk were among the event’s speakers, all of whom were assisted by a “mic check,” a technique occupiers use to amplify speeches by repeating them back to the speaker.
According to Cody Moore, a senior studying computer science who represented the advocacy group US Uncut at the birth of Ocuppy Wall Street, the purpose of the movement on campus is “to help raise awareness – to open up discussions and encourage healthy debate. And to stay in solidarity with Occupy Wall Street and to help them spread the message.”
Moore, whose extensive involvement in Occupy Wall Street has been documented in previous articles by The Press, said he decided to stay on campus “to raise awareness for all the occupations I belong to.”
“Every student at Stony Brook, at SUNY, at the University of Michigan, at all the public institutions could go to school for free,” said Zweig, suggesting that the funds used for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan could have gone to better use.
“That is not true today,” he said.
Zweig’s speech was broadcast by cellphone on WUSB, Stony Brook’s radio station.
Lenk, who is a teaching assistant in Stony Brook’s theatre department, criticized the university’s “commodification of students.”
“As a teacher, it tears my heart to see my students struggle to learn because they have to get good grades,” he said.
There were between about 10-15 students who were involved with the protests throughout the day. “I think it’s great,” said Zweig, referring to the student involvement in the protests. “I hope that we can build on it.”
But outside of the circle of protestors, students were less impressed. Few students who weren’t involved in the protest paid the speakers much attention. An indoor market and an Xbox demonstration, both of which were also located in the SAC lobby, attracted more students than the protest. Many of the students who did pay attention were confused about what Occupy Stony Brook’s message is.
“It’s kind of hard to get an idea of what they’re protesting against versus just general anger,” said Stephen Grotticelli, a sophomore philosophy major and observer of the demonstration.
“We have goals, but we don’t have demands,” Moore said. The goals include taking money out of politics and stopping injustice against the middle and poor classes. “To stop police brutality,” he added, probably in light of recent events.
Moore also said that the movement was meant to “promote awareness” about policies such as the repeal of the Glass Steagall Act, “which allows corporations to be treated as people.” He hopes Occupy will help policies like this to be reversed.
But according to Ari Davanelos, the president of WUSB, the movement isn’t only about accomplishing narrow goals.
“Occupy in general is just, you get active and vocalize your problems in your community,” said Davanelos, who goes by Ari D on his radio show and who is displeased with the amount of political apathy on campus. “[Occupy Stony Brook is about] how students can get active and make positive changes for themselves on campus,” he added.
Some believe that the protest would be more effective if it had more direction, such as Lisa Behnke, a senior English major. “I’m a tea party person, but I sympathize with them, I really do,” she said after a lengthy debate with a few of the occupiers.“It’s a great discussion to have, for people to come together from both sides.”
According to a transfer student from Bard University, who like many of the occupiers prefers to remain anonymous, Occupy Wall Street is “about correcting all aspects of the social system.” The student said he was forced to transfer to Stony Brook from Bard for financial reasons.
Thursday was the student’s first Occupy Stony Brook event, and he encouraged others to participate, saying, “For me it’s, no media source has done any justice. You really want to get to know what it’s about, come to a General Assembly meet.”
Occupy Stony Brook will be occupying the SAC plaza every Monday at 5:30pm.
Davanelos will be hosting a radio show that will “give a voice to this new generation and this new movement” every Thursday from 1:00pm to 3:00pm.
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