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Occupy Duke one of few collegiate demonstrations

Not only is Occupy Duke one of the few Occupy movements on a college campus, Occupy Duke does not associate with Occupy Durham.
Not only is Occupy Duke one of the few Occupy movements on a college campus, Occupy Duke does not associate with Occupy Durham.

Occupy Duke stands out as one of the only Occupy movements protesting directly on a college campus.

Similar protests at Duke’s peer institutions are working with their corresponding, local Occupy movements. Students of Occupy Duke, however, are distinct from Occupy Durham, a result of not just student independence but of a weakening local movement.

Until the Duke student body decides to rally around the Occupy movement more forcefully, there are no plans to collaborate with Occupy Durham, said Occupy Duke member Anastasia Karklina, a sophomore.

“Social activism should come from young people, those in universities and other educational institutions, but these young people on campus [Duke students] are not as involved as they should be,” Karklina said.

The weak connection between the two movements could also be due to problems within Occupy Durham, said sophomore Casey Williams, a member of Occupy Duke. Occupy Durham’s encampment at the CCB Plaza on Corcoran Street was shut down and electricity was withdrawn by Durham officials last month.

“Occupy Durham is having a lot of problems and we have become less connected with them and sort of focused more on the University,” Williams said.

Occupy Durham has pulled back the movement to reflect and resolve conflicts that have come up with meeting individual needs, movement participant Vanessa Hernandez said.

“No one has the intention of quitting or stopping Occupy Durham, but we’re regrouping [to] what best fits our model and not trying to imitate any other cities,” she said.

The tents and the tables on the plaza were taken down this weekend due to the weather, and encampment logistics are to be discussed Thursday’s general assembly meeting Hernandez added.

Ultimately, Karklina hopes that Occupy Duke will grow and be able to affiliate officially with the Occupy Durham movement. When she went to the Durham general assembly to announce the beginning of the Occupy Duke movement, Karklina said the crowd cheered in approval, signaling that Occupy Durham is open to further collaboration with the University movement.

“There’s an inevitable connection between Duke and issues raised by Occupy Wall Street, and we can’t deny our presence in the Durham community,” Karklina said.

Different from its peers

Students at universities such as Brown University and Yale University have shown their solidarity in the Occupy movement by joining local protests near—but not on—their campuses.

Occupy Duke does not see their campout on Duke’s campus as anything other than a way to create a platform for discussion, Karklina said.

“A lot of students here are from different economic backgrounds, and this is a self expression, a way to protest and express the way your discontents with the way things are, so I don’t see it as occupying yourself or occupying a privileged institution,” Karklina said.

Julie Pittman, a senior at Brown and a participant in the Occupy Providence and Occupy College Hill movements, stressed the importance of college Occupy movements getting involved with the local community. Although it would have been easier to stage a protest on campus, discussing issues of economic justice and participatory democracy within the student body is not as powerful as engaging with community members about the issues, Pittman said. Staging a one-night campout Oct. 20 as part of Occupy Providence, students at Brown have made an effort in affiliating with local Occupy movements.

“There is a real difference between a very privileged university having a mini-occupation and us raising awareness, starting dialogue and encouraging people to be more involved with Occupy Providence,” Pittman said.

Columbia University has students who participate in the larger Occupy Wall Street movement as well as hold a general assembly on campus, inspired by the Occupy Wall Street movements but unaffiliated from it. Sophomore Karla Jimenez said she only goes down to protest with the larger Occupy movement, but notes that some students use the student-run general assembly to discuss issues specific to Columbia, such as students being pushed into money making professions and how that culture is fostered on campus.

“As Columbia students, we are in a privileged spot, but I think that because the that we do have to speak out against [the problems]” Jimenez said.

At Yale University, students have not only joined local protests but also have created groups in protest of the Occupy movement. Yale junior Alec Torres, a participant of Occupy Occupy New Haven, a counter movement against Occupy New Haven, agreed with some issues brought by Occupy New Haven such as economic inequality and close relationship between corporations and politics, but did not want to be seen as part of the occupy movements.

“I don’t think their methods for solving—if they have any—are any good and in fact they are just a misdirected force of anger that is detrimental to the political system that we have,” Torres said.

‘Faculty in solidarity’

Duke administrators have permitted students to campout in front of the Duke Chapel indefinitely. Dean of Students Sue Wasiolek said when she met with the students from the movement they showed a high level of commitment to the issues and that the administration has not, so far, had any issues with the movement.

Calling themselves the “Faculty in Solidarity,” various staff members and professors have showed their support for the student-led movement on campus.

Sophomore Maria Arias said having faculty members present has helped students understand the complexities of the arguments surrounding the Occupy movement and has helped educate students passing by the encampment about the major issues. Currently, Occupy Duke tries to have one faculty or staff member present at the movement at all times.

“It’s a good cause, well worth supporting,” Professor of Literature Kenneth Surin said.

Other universities, however, have faced opposition from administrators and faculty in creating a student-run Occupy movement. At The New School, a liberal arts institution in New York City, administrators have kept close vigilance on movements related to Occupy on campus. This has forced students devoted to the cause to use their personal emails, rather than New School emails, to organize events, freshman Wayne Trotman said. A participant at Occupy Wall Street, Trotman said he advocates for more discussion and awareness on The New School campus.

“The school makes a commitment to socially active ideas, but they don’t want too many things to happen,” he said.

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