One of the biggest myths about the Occupy Colleges movement, similar to misconceptions about Occupy Wall Street, is that there is a lack of focus. Occupy Colleges originated in the same way as its “mother” movement—spur of the moment, without a strong idea of what the future would look like, but with a sustained focus on problems that specifically affect colleges and universities across the nation, student debt being the most obvious example.
In an attempt to gain both focus and traction, Occupy Colleges is staging National Solidarity Teach-ins on November 2nd and 3rd. The purpose in holding these teach-ins is to educate interested university community members about Occupy Wall Street, cultivate new ideas and possible solutions and ways to contribute, and effectively participate in steering the course of the largest social movement our generation has yet to see.
The Occupy Colleges website provides resources for students to make organizing teach-ins not too arduous a task. In addition to helpful guides, here are some other details to keep in mind when aiming to conduct the most effective teach-in possible.
Keep it local. While it’s important to address Occupy Wall Street on a broad scale and within an international context, it would be problematic for colleges to ignore local concerns occurring in their own backyards. Giving your teach-in a local perspective is necessary in order to create an inclusionary social movement. Colleges and universities, especially private institutions, often attain reputations for being “ivory towers on the hill” and separating themselves from local off-campus communities. Working together with the local city or town that your college is geographically situated in is integral to the teach-in and the Occupy movement in general.
Address ‘the right’ issues. Each campus is unique in its current struggles and the issues that face the surrounding local community. Seek out a representative from the local movement who can most accurately speak to these issues at the teach-in, but also remember to present the unified issues that Occupy Colleges and Occupy Wall Street stand for on a national level — higher taxes on the "one percent," the closing of corporate tax loopholes, student debt forgiveness, a more regulated financial services industry and a forthright, well-funded effort to put people back to work.
Reserve an appropriate space on campus. Students are more likely to attend the teach-in if it’s physically accessible to them. It’s also important to reinforce one of the founding ideas behind Occupy Colleges: university students are capable of bringing the Occupy movement to their own schools, even if it’s not feasible to attend a protest in one of the big cities in which the movement has taken root. The room’s general set up is also an important component to consider—allow for sufficient space and seating, and try to find a comfortable environment.
Acknowledge your social location. Coming to terms with our own sites of privilege and oppression in relation to the other unique experiences of Occupy Colleges, Occupy Wall Street and teach-in participants is necessary when attempting to organize a cohesive and balanced social movement. In an effort to avoid further oppression and the perpetuation of privilege within the Occupy movement, it’s not only essential to include a variety of perspectives in the teach-in but also for each student to be aware of their own intersections of race, class, gender-identity, sexual-identity, etc. when organizing ideas and discussion topics.
Recruit informed, involved, and willing participants. Seek out professors, students, and faculty members who will contribute accurately and effectively, and also challenge common misconceptions about the movement. Actively engaged individuals will provide interesting dialogue and increased awareness about Occupy Wall Street. Campus activists, intellectuals, journalists, politicians, and researchers can simultaneously provide different and important perspectives and, in turn, spark mass interest.
Students shouldn’t hesitate to jump on the Occupy bandwagon and bring this social movement to their own campuses. These are issues worth fighting for and directly affect our futures as students, Americans, and members of the 99 percent. We’ve reached a point where we can no longer accept the false stereotypes of a “quiet generation”—there is nothing more important than participating in the largest demonstration of social change in our lives and contributing our own perspectives to the movement.