Students, staff and members of the community alike gathered last Wednesday to participate in a panel discussion regarding the civil discourse of the ongoing Occupy Movement. The multi-faceted presentation, was organized by the Culturally Focused Clubs Council (CFCC) and Sociologists Together Empowering People (STEP).
The forum kicked off with a short video clip that affirmed that USF’s administration is supportive of the movement. Father Stephen A. Privett, S.J. asserted, “We’re clearly in the 99%.”
Provost and Vice President of Academic Affairs Jennifer Turpin clarified USF’s stance and said, “[In relation to the Occupy Movement] the University’s role, first and foremost, is to support student learning.”
This verbal confirmation of USF’s benevolence towards the Occupy Movement comes after supportive gestures towards Occupy USF by the Administration. Bon Appétit, for example, gave food to the occupiers during their brief camp out in Gleeson Plaza.
Following the video introduction, audience members were asked to get into groups and discuss their concerns, thoughts and feelings about the movement. Everyone was encouraged to be respectful of the opinions of others.
As the low hum of relatively cordial discussion filled the room, there were a few issues that seemed to be on the lips of people in every circle.
Those concerns were succinctly phrased by Sophomore Eric Bader, “There’s a lot of disorganization in the movement and it seems like that’s creating a lot of confusion with the goals of Occupy. What are the goals? What’s next?”
While most of these shared thoughts were met with a degree of respect, Freshman Nick Sousa reported an instance of intolerance in his discussion group.
“One girl was being a little critical of the Occupy Movement and she rais
ed some good points about the problems with disorganization; then someone else basically slammed her in front of everyone. It was incredibly rude and disrespectful,” Sousa said.
After the discussions, a panel commenced to discuss certain issues regarding the Occupy Movement, yet hot button issues such as the lack of overt organization and dearth of cohesive demands from every camp were largely ignored.
The panel was moderated by Associate Professor Corey Cook. He teaches courses on American Politics and is currently involved in an effort to recall Oakland Mayor Jean Quan due to her violent treatment of Occupy Oakland protestors.
The panel itself consisted of a colorful collection of students and professors affiliated with USF.
Such figures included student activist Marcelo Muñoz, who works with Labor Black and Brown Coalition, an organization that encourages African-American and Latino communities to participate in Occupy Oakland, Accounting Professor Todd Sayre who is actively involved in the Finance Committee at Occupy San Francisco as well as Politics and International Studies Professor Annick Wibben, who focused on the aspect of feminism in the Occupy Movement.
The panel also included Sociology Professor Jose Palafox, who is affiliated with the anarchist publisher and distributer AK press and chair of the Middle Eastern Studies program Professor Stephen Zunes. Despite the diversity of the panel, not a single one opposed the Occupy Movement.
All panelists made their passion for Occupy known at one point or another straying from the posed questions to discuss their own experiences and feelings about the movement. However, a question regarding the use of non-violent tactics in the movement elicited a remarkable response both within and beyond the panel.
Moderator Corey Cook offered his own poignant recollections as he described a recent meeting with Oakland Mayor Jean Quan.
He described “sitting just across the table from the mayor as she tried to make it look like what she had done at Occupy Oakland was heroic.” Cook’s composure cracked slightly as his voice shook and said, “[Mayor Jean Quan] hurt my friends and neighbors, with tear gas and rubber bullets.”
When the question of the efficacy of non-violence was raised in the audience, an un-identified student stood up proudly and said clearly, “I’m from Bahrain and we’ve been doing this since February. Stay non-violent, it works!” Bahraini citizens have participated in pro-democracy demonstrations in response to Saudi Arabian troops that entered the country in March of this year. The crowd responded with cheers of approval.
In closing, President of the CFCC Senior Evelyn Obamos revisited the question, but no one in the panel seemed able to answer.
“What are the goals [of the Occupy Movement]? I don’t know. That’s why we’re here, to learn and discuss,” she said.
When the Occupy event closed Teague Harry invited everyone to further discuss the Occupy Movement during an end-of-semester potluck on Friday, December 9th at 4p.m. in the USF Garden.