Since September 17th, 2011, the Occupy Movement has spread across the world, and it is no longer confined to the financial monopolies of America. The movement has spread to college and university campuses as well.
The root of the Occupy Movement, both on and off university campuses, is money; fiscal transparency is a demand, and so are accountability and consequences for the heads of the institutions. Some of the universities that have active Occupy Movements are Pittsburg University, the University of California’s Irvine Campus and Harvard University. For years, students have wondered where their money is going, and their voices were never heard. But, with the start of the social demonstrations taking place around the globe, people have more confidence in standing up and saying something.
There is a group on campus called Occupy LIU; the group is not a club and says, “We do not want to become an official club on campus. Our goal is to reform things on campus, and becoming a club that accepts money from the administration we are trying to change would be counterproductive to our cause,” says Jeremiah Wenutu, a senior Film major, here at Post.
Occupy LIU is unique in that it is not just comprised of students but also of faculty members. Many of the things that affect students affect faculty as well. The level of education students receive is based on the support and resources teachers have. When students and faculty see eye to eye, there is a greater chance of change because the two groups are usually pit against each other, or one is forced to be silent. Bridging that divide forms an alliance in the battle to initiate change.
One of the group’s goals is to have more transparency between the Board of Trustees, the faculty and the students before huge fiscal decisions are made.
LIU students and faculty were shocked by two very big decisions made by the Board of Trustees and the administration this year. The first came when full-time professors were asked to sign their new contracts, which entailed a zero-percent pay increase for five years, while having to pay an increased amount toward their health insurance plans. This is after the faculty’s last contract, which also included a five-year pay freeze. Then, the multi-million dollar rebranding initiative took place. The University claims the initiative “will help bring in more students if we change our look and advertise to a wider market.”
Professor Soupios responded by stating, “It’s window dressing; none of the real problems are fixed.”
The major complaint among students at LIU Post is in the service it provides, including to the students in the dorms, to the advisement staff and to financial aid. How is this University supposed to keep the students they bring in without fixing the problems they have? Students have the freedom of transfer to a school that will charge less or the same for tuition, and they will get what they are looking for. Professor Carlin, an Earth Science instructor, poses a question: “With this rebranding officially done, what is the vision for this campus in the future?”
The Occupy LIU group is planning “Teach-Ins” that coincide with the National Student Solidarity Protest in preparation for the March for Education that will take place in New York and in Washington D.C. The topics they are trying to push are student debt, the steady rise of tuition prices, and the students’ unfortunate need to take out astronomical loans to pay for their educations. The Occupy LIU group is trying to push these issues to the forefront and join the national movement to lower student debt. Student debt goes up as the years go by; it never goes down. Jobs are harder to find, so paying off these loans upon graduation has become more difficult for every graduating class.
Occupy LIU is not just about the financial problems but also about other campus and administrative issues that occur at Post. They want to create working groups that can provide them with real data about the number of students experiencing certain problems that are either unique to the groups they fall into (for example: international students, LGBT, etc.) or general problems. This will be a part of “increasing accountability of the administration for their responsibilities,” Pastor John Dornheim, the Protestant Chaplain at LIU Post, explains.
Student opinion on this group varies. Jessica Singh, a senior English Adolescent Education major, says, “I think that this group is trying to address many topics that are prevalent, not only to the students and the faculty but also to the present time we are in. However, I am unsure of how successful they will be because some of the problems they are addressing are complicated to resolve.”
However, William Lindberg, a senior graduate student, says, “I think it’s a very good idea; since the students pay a lot in tuition, it should be obvious that they should know what is being done with their money. Students, teachers and other faculty members know what needs to be improved, and, therefore, they should have influence. If it’s organized in a good way, it could definitely work. As far as the fiscal transparency, that is a big necessity, and it needs to be addressed immediately.”