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