Students Organize Occupy Mary Wash

By YAWEN MAIER

On Thursday Oct. 13, around 100 University of Mary Washington students and alumni gathered in the lobby of Monroe to set the Occupy Mary Washington movement in motion.

The first general assembly aimed to define clearly the common goals of the Occupy UMW movement.

The goals are based on the 99 percent vs. 1 percent notion adapted from the Occupy Wall Street Movement.

The two main issues brought up during the meeting are concerns over tuition and student voice.

Attendees at the meeting proposed that tuition rates should remain the same during all four years of a student’s undergraduate education at UMW; each individual student would enter and graduate the University on the same tuition rate.

Students at the meeting unanimously said they want their voices to be heard more in the decisions of the school.

They would like to have more say in the Board of Visitors (BOV).

Currently, only one student representative is allowed to sit in at the board meetings but does not get a vote.

SGA president Ashley Nixon said it would very difficult for student representatives on the BOV to gain voting rights.

The governor appoints BOV members and she believes it’s extremely lucky that a student representative is allowed to listen at the meetings.

Occupy UMW would also like to gain the support of the Student Government Association.

SGA members met with some of the Occupy members on Oct. 24, according to Nixon.

“It was a very productive meeting in which we realized that we have a lot of the same goals, just different ways of going about them,” she said.

She believes there will be a good working relationship between the two organizations.

Another primary topic students brought up at the meeting was increasing sustainability on campus.

One thing the assembly wants to see is more local foods served at the school to benefit the local economy.

Nixon replied that there is already a lot going on around campus to address sustainability but Student Senate is taking the next step forward with this movement.

The assembly hopes to reach out to other colleges in the area like Germanna Community College and gain power in numbers while staying completely nonviolent.

By Wednesday, Germanna had not formally joined the movement.

Junior Libby Backman, who helped organize the movement, hoped that the meeting would engage students, staff and faculty interest on the issues of Occupy Wall Street.

At the first meeting, members of the Occupy UMW reached a census to endorse the ideas of the Declaration of the Occupation of New York City accepted by NYC General Assembly of the Occupy Wall Street Movement on Sept.29, 2011.

Some of the ideas presented by the NYC General Assembly include, “We come to you at a time when corporations, which place profit over people, self-interest over justice, and oppression over equality, run our governments.”

It was agreed that the Occupy Wall Street movement must be adapted for UMW specifically because what works in New York or Washington D.C. may not work for UMW.

At the second Occupy UMW meeting held last week, students divided up the large group into individual committees to accomplish certain tasks.

The committees include outreach, advertising, facilitation, information and fundraising.

Occupy UMW has an open membership policy.

Sophomore Sef Casim said he came to the meeting to protest the increasing injustice and corruption of the government.

Occupy UMW plans to meet up as a group once a week.

Photo by Emily Montgomery

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9 Comments

  1. Arnold says:

    I applaud the movement toward increased reliance on local foods, and it’s about time someone stood up to President Ashley Nixon and her insistence on using only New England produce at UMW events. Maryland Crab Puffs are better than Vermont Crab Puffs, and I defy anyone to say otherwise.

  2. If students actually stepped up in the more prevalent groups on campus, you wouldn’t need an “Occupy” movement. And I use that word lightly in regard to this gathering.Instead of looking to be accepted by SGA, run for positions.
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    “We come to you at a time when corporations, which place profit over people, self-interest over justice, and oppression over equality, run our governments.” How does that fit into corporate life at Mary Washington? In case you haven’t seen, The government is the one placing limitations on Mary Washington, and the only real corporation on campus is Sodexo. They don’t have much persuasion on school decisions, either.
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    Unless I’m wrong, which by all means, correct me. Please.

  3. Peter Hawes says:

    Hi Fleur de Lulz,

    I agree that students should actively participate in campus governance. Some members of #Occupymarywash already hold elected positions in faculty and student government, while others are involved in a range of clubs and activities.

    That said, I believe that #Occupymarywash allows students and faculty to work outside of an overly bureaucratic power structure. In the past it has been difficult for students to stay informed and to organize popular opposition to bad policies. For years the student senate has passed resolutions to change the school’s drug policy, only to be denied by the administration. In 2009 the senate passed a motion to adopt a “second-chance” drug policy. Now the policy has finally changed, but in doing so the administration ignored student opinion and adopted a policy that still allows for expulsion for first offenses. Clearly the power of student government is limited.

    #Occupymarywash also provides a supportive community to discuss the concerns of students, faculty, and staff. It allows us to engage more effectively with campus governance, but also to work around it where it fails us.

    As for corporate control, we face it constantly as students. Many of us are thousands of dollars in debt with loans from major financial institutions like Bank of America, Wells Fargo, and Sallie Mae. AT&T recently sponsored a leadership conference through the school, and their brand was advertised to a captive audience. Sodexo itself is no small issue. After working as a student manager in Seacobeck, I have serious concerns about their treatment of employees and the honesty of their environmental claims. #Occupymarywash wants transparency. We want to know who we’re paying and who’s paying us.

  4. student says:

    I don’t think it’s “lucky” that a student is allowed to listen at BOV meetings – it’s our school. They are BOV members because 4,000+ people who choose to learn here. How can they choose a direction of our school without allowing us to know what they think? That is absurd. We need more people to be allowed to sit in on these meetings besides Nixon. Has she, as the president, ever asked any of us what we want from the SGA?
    Her two main goals when going into office, according to this article – http://umwbullet.com/2010/03/17/student-president-has-big-plans/ – were to “increase school spirit and make student voices heard.”

    We need more of a voice with these people that run our school. If only three students know all BOV members, and if the BOV can only name three students who poorly represent us, that is not a relationship – that is an oligarchy.

  5. Arnold says:

    Should UMW be a democracy run by the students?

  6. student says:

    Who else should dictate our education? The state? Some white-haired business people appointed by the governor?
    No. It should be us.
    I’m not saying we need to vote on every change a department wants to make to their staffing, but it is essential that students are given more of an opportunity to voice opinions.
    The Campus Center meetings are a good example. There are so many places where students can voice their opinions, but apparently they did that for Eagle Village too and that building is terrible. Not all of the drawers open, the couches are the most uncomfortable couches I have ever sat on, the paint gets pulled off with any kind of adhesive, you can see the PVC pipe in the shower drain, the elevator is often out of order, they picked carpet instead of wood even though it is harder to clean etc. But, hey, there are granite counter tops, so who cares?
    Not only should the higher-ups let us talk, but they also need to listen and follow through.

  7. Arnold says:

    What about administrators and faculty members who are qualified to handle these issues? Or should we leave it to the students who consistently seem to use the elevators in Eagle Village as urinals and destroy the thermostats on the walls?
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    There’s an element here of what students want not necessarily being what is best for us. Or students not being aware of why certain decisions are made. Hardwood floors would be great, and certainly much easier to clean, but do you have any idea how much hardwood floors cost? Do you know how much money it takes to repair/replace them when they get scratched by the same students who have destroyed many of the other amenities in Eagle Village?
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    Students have a voice, and maybe they should have a greater voice on certain issues. But while we often engage in the hubris of youth, students are not the best qualified people to make decisions about the vast majority of policies at UMW.

  8. student says:

    Arnold, you are in the minority, assuming you are a student.
    Most of us would like to have control over what we call home for 4 years, and what value our degrees have down the road.

  9. Peter, I’ll compile a response asap. As of now, I’m working on a late assignment :/
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    But at the moment, sir student, *SUNGLASSES* I’m going to have to agree with Arnold on this one.
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    You do have control over certain aspects of your career. You pick your classes, your meals (you don’t HAVE to eat on campus unless you’re a freshman – see note later), and whether or not you want to go here.
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    You mention something about the meetings for the campus center, but from what I’ve heard from SGA members, there was a very small amount who showed up to the SGA Executives town hall meeting that was open to everyone this past week. There’s your transparency and ability to ask questions and make your concerns noted. SGA is the body that works for ALL of the students.
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    On the matter of Eagle Landing, for as shoddy as it may be, it was put up in roughly a year. UMW needed housing quickly as they would be shutting down buildings (and still will be) for renovations. Would you rather have something that serves it’s purpose (old apartments have problems, too, just like every other dorm) or would you want to search for limited housing off-campus? For all the issues, don’t expect there to be a silver tray lined with scallops and lobsters. This is Mary Washington, where the students see the need for an Occupy club…the 99%, of course!
    (SIDE NOTE – I know there are issues with Eagle Landing, and I know that a lot of them could have been fixed during its conception, but really…in a state where schools are strapped for cash, they did a good job for what they had. I complain, but I also know that it’s at least decent.)
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    YOU CAN TALK TO ADMINISTRATION! I REPEAT! The administration will be on campus more often than any other year I’ve been here. They’re open to meetings. They will make the time to talk to you if you have a legitimate concern and are willing to not go en masse expecting there to be change right then and there. The issue with a lot of people complaining is their lack of proactive actions. Yea, forming a group is great, but until you start going through the processes that everyone else has to go through to make changes occur, I don’t want to hear it (if it’s only your club leaders that are doing it, again, I don’t want to hear it).
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    “Has she, as the president, ever asked any of us what we want from the SGA?” Have you ever tried talking to her? Have you tried to be a member to make changes yourself? Please, you sound like a part of the whinier 99% that are complaining just to complain.
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    An oligarchy is “a form of power structure in which power effectively rests with an elite class distinguished by royalty, wealth, family ties, commercial, and/or military legitimacy.” Can you explain to me where this fits? HOW is the Board of Visitors an oligarchy? I sure hope you aren’t an English major…

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