Students Respond to “Occupy”
by The Milton Measure on Friday, December 9th, 2011
As the Occupy Movement gains more national attention, Milton students have become increasingly interested in its affairs. Students attending a Straus Dessert on Tuesday, November 29th, where Public Issues Board invited three Occupy Boston activists to discuss the Occupy Boston movement with Mr. Hilgendorf, expressed mixed views of the movement.
At the Dessert, the three Occupy Boston activists explained the rationale behind the movement and their reasons for supporting it, while Mr. Hilgendorf discussed the similarities and differences between the Occupy Boston movement and his experiences during the Civil Rights and Anti-Vietnam War movements.
The night was widely well-received by students. Meg Broderick (I) shared, “The number of people there and the fact that it ran an hour long show that at least some of the Milton Community is interested in the movement.” Mr. Hilgendorf added, “There was clearly a lively discussion between our four panelists and the student body and students left quite engaged and animated over the ideas discussed.”
Many students expressed interest in Occupy Boston at the Straus Dessert, whether they agreed or disagreed with the movement. Russell Clarida (IV) explained that Milton students conveyed differing views; “some resonated with the movement, while others disagreed, always in a respectful manner.” Russell added, “Occupy Boston interested me because of its proximity to the school and because of the problems it is attempting to bring into the public forum.”
While Russell criticized the movement for being slightly disorganized, he shared that learning about the movement by attending a Straus Dessert “is important because the movement is full of dedicated people who want to change a corrupt and predatory financial system.” Russell said he left the Dessert with a new understanding of the movement: “the Occupy Movement is really a disorganized brand name that’s main purpose is to slightly hassle people enough to bring ideas into the mainstream. It is an interesting concept, and one that I did not understand before.”
Nicole Rufus (I) agreed that the movement is important in bringing about national attention. She said, “The occupation movements are the first time in our lifetimes that we’ve seen such a large movement towards an important cause. I’m a supporter of the movement as a protest of injustice and inequality, but I do not believe in the movement as a means of substantial change.”
Some students, however, found Occupy Boston an interesting event for other reasons. Ari Spilo (II) said, “I am interested in Occupy Boston because I find the majority of their principles to be ridiculous.” Ari added that he “learned more about the principles and ideas that the Occupy campaigns are founded on, but agreed with very few things that the speakers said.” For instance, he noted that the issue of government corruption was a key point made by the speakers, but says that, “corruption is a very hard thing to prevent.”
On the other hand, some students did not support either side and attended the Straus Dessert merely to learn more about the movement in general. Meg said, “ I went to the Straus Dessert on Tuesday because I felt like I wasn’t educated about the Occupy movement.” Meg stated that before the Dessert she was “writing them off as a bunch of losers in tents without having heard their perspective on why they were there.” She was motivated to go to the Dessert because she is now able to vote, and added, “The fact that I’m really not very educated about current events scares me because it proves how people can have an impact without knowing what they are talking about.”
What some students found most interesting about the meeting was the tone, which Nicole found to be “very telling of Milton.” She said, “I was shocked to see how disrespectful and hostile some of the students were toward our guests.
Many didn’t come for the exchange of ideas, but only to argue and belittle”. Disappointed with the comments of some students, Nicole asserted, “What resonated with me the most was when one of the speakers asked a student if he thought greed was bad and the student replied no.” She believes that some students lack the fundamental “empathy” to “be open minded enough to really engage in thoughtful discussion about the movement.”
However, she goes on to add that she thinks “some are interested in [Occupy Boston] for genuine reasons, whether those reasons are in agreement or disagreement with the movement.”
Views about the movement on campus are certainly mixed. Yet, the overall response to the Dessert was that it provided a much needed forum for students to learn more about the movement and express their own opinions. Meg expressed this response, commenting,“I’d never been to a Straus Dessert before, and loved it. I thought that the speakers were really interesting and the students were engaged and passionate about what they were saying. The majority of the people there were open to different opinions rather than set in their mindset which made it a true discussion.”
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