Students Open Up About Occupy Wall Street
November 18, 2011
Max Weylandt ’13, Andrew Chesley ’13 and Alex Toole ’14.
Since a group of protesters, angry over America’s rising level of economic inequality, first setup camp near New York City’s financial district two months ago, the Occupy Wall Street movement has gained international headlines and a global following.
On Monday, Nov. 21, Fordham University Assistant Professor of Sociology Heather Gautney will discuss the foundations and rapid growth of this new grassroots movement and what its potential impact will be on American society. Gautney’s lecture, which is free and open to the public, begins at 7 p.m. in the Stern Center Great Room.
In advance of Monday’s event, several Dickinson students shared their own thoughts on the Occupy movement. We hope these comments help stimulate discussion about this important topic and demonstrate the thoughtful way in which Dickinson students approach issues of the day:
Max Weylandt ’13
Hometown: Windhoek, Namibia
Major: Political Science
Students are natural allies of Occupy Wall Street. Young people are increasingly aware of growing up in a world where a small elite is advantaged at the disadvantage of the vast majority.
Clearly, this inequality is systematic. The Occupy movement has not formulated specific policy demands so far, and that's OK. The protests are simply an expression of discontent with the current way the system is operating.
So, what's the alternative? Overthrowing the system is not going to happen, but the national discourse is shifting because of the protests, and I’m hopeful that one day, demanding a basic standard of living for all citizens won't be considered un-American.
Students, fueled by their energy, their resources and the knowledge that they have to deal with the immediate fallout, are bound to play a role in carrying this movement forward.
Andrew Chesley ’13
Hometown: Winnetka, Ill.
Majors: Economics and Mathematics
Occupy Wall Street is the most significant social movement to emerge in the United States in the last decade. It’s an expression of extreme frustration at the nature and structure of our economy and the myriad ways in which reality has failed to live up to expectations. For our entire lives, the mantra of American capitalism has been: get good grades, work hard, get into a good college, do well there, and then you’ll get a high-paying job. Your loans won’t matter because you’ll have a steady income and you’ll be happy. That hasn’t materialized for an incredible number of young people in this country, and that’s a tremendous disgrace.
Talking about Occupy Wall Street is important everywhere, but it’s especially important at liberal arts colleges like Dickinson because of the new full-frontal assault on students who major in humanities, arts and other non-STEM and business fields. There are many commentators who are trying to blame the students who majored in English or art for their inability to find jobs, rather than looking at the atrocious macroeconomic conditions as the root cause. No matter what their major, new college graduates are finding it harder and harder to get jobs. This isn’t entirely Wall Street’s fault, of course, but asking questions—such as whether those who earn more should be contributing more towards a stable social safety net—are part of a fair conversation, and it’s one we should be having at Dickinson.
Alex Toole ’14
Hometown: Brunswick, Maine
Major: Political Science
Regardless of your stance on the issue, Occupy Wall Street is monumentally important in our nation’s social-justice history. Its scope and duration make it unique, and it is a direct product of the globally connected world in which we live. To throw Occupy Wall Street aside would be to waste a precious learning opportunity.
I find that many people—including some of my fellow students at Dickinson—misunderstand the movement’s purpose. They seem to think of the protesters as lazy, unemployed hippies who are more preoccupied with fulfilling a self-righteous quest against corporate greed than trying to find a job. While this description may apply to a select few, it is important to understand that a majority of Occupy participants are actually demonstrating their frustration with bank corruption, failed government policies and a perpetually suffering economic climate. Isn’t this frustration something we can all relate to?
The Occupy Wall Street event next week is a perfect forum in which students can learn more about the movement and expand their understanding of social-justice issues in our nation’s history. The Nov. 21 lecture aims to create informed discussion rather than misunderstood debate.