U of Occupy educates Dal
Questions university’s motives on education
The tents were pitched, the group assembled, and for a moment, it looked like Occupy had come to Dalhousie — which they had — for a day. U of Occupy put on the ‘Ideas are Free’ event Nov. 16 at Dal campus to invite students into the dialogue of the movement.
Through discussion groups, letter writing, a panel discussion and an overall re-creation of the Occupy group, students got a chance to ask questions about Occupy in a less intimidating environment.
Alex Redfield, a local farmer in Hants County, spoke about food, politics and corporatization on campus. He says the university has become too comfortable stepping into the role of a corporation. “The university is a very interesting microcosm of capitalism,” he says. “With the Loaded Ladle, for example, I know that there was some bylaw issues that were very similar to the Occupy Nova Scotia protest.”
Redfield says that though the university is unique as a corporation, the structure and the method of decision-making is the same.
According to Anna Bishop, the organizer of the Ideas Are Free event, Occupy within the university is a necessary step for the Occupy movement. “Universities are arguably as important as Wall Street at maintaining the system that we have right now and chaining people to the system through debt. And they maintain this ideology through mass-produced education.”
She says if nothing else, U of Occupy can effectively get students to think more critically about issues within the university institution. “Because when you’re in a classroom and you have the price tag for that class for tens of thousands of dollars hanging over your head, you just want to get the marks on your transcripts that equal the amount of dollars that you’re putting in.”
Hamish Nelson has been camping out at the Grand Parade for 28 days, on and off. He says he’s there because of the issues students face such as rising tuition costs, a rough job market when they graduate and the increasing corporate influence over universities. “Look at the business school, for example. It is very well endowed because the lovely Mr. Rowe can donate money to the school’s departments when the school is struggling – he’s got a lot of corporate interest in financing research there.”
Nelson says the general theme of the 99 per cent is that people don’t have the voice they should have because the one per cent use their wealth to influence the decisions being made. He says that is exactly what’s happening here.
He says it’s actually surprising that there weren’t more students at Grand Parade camping out. He guesses only 20 per cent of the people there were university students.
According to Redfield, there has been some criticism toward students involved in the Occupy movement in the past. “People say, ‘Look at all these privileged kids with their fancy MEC tents and their iPhones’ and they call the students hypocritical. But to expect that a protest is going to exist outside of a system in which we are all entrenched in, is a little outlandish.”
“I think when you take a casual glance at the Occupy movement, it’s hard to understand what it is. But if you take anything more than a casual glance, it’s very, very clear.”
“This is the only thing in my lifetime where people have been talking about making a better world in a very real way and I think that’s more inspiring than people are giving it credit for.”