Students walked out of class Wednesday in protest of wealth inequality, corporate greed, and government corruption, joining over 100 colleges across the country and showing solidarity with Occupy Wall Street protests.
Approximately 200 students, organized in less than 18 hours by Jordan Pescrillo ’12 and Emily Penna ’14, gathered in front of the Student Center bearing the slogan, “We are the 99%.”
“We are the 99 percent that doesn’t have a say in our government,” Penna said. The one percent has the power of campaign donations and politicians conform to their wishes.
“We are just trying to add to the movement,” Pescrillo said. “We plan to put all these pictures, all these statements online to add to the blogs that are going with Occupy Wall Street.”
Pescrillo said no protests of this magnitude have been organized on campus since 2004 and the goal of this one is to create a dialogue. “I think this is just the beginning of students and teachers working together to make some changes even within the local level,” Pescrillo said.
The students’ goal was to get as many people involved as possible, showing them that with numbers comes government attention, although the protest was unrelated to any campus or political organization. “We want people to have their opinions valued,” Penna said.
“Everyone complains in class but where is the active class?” Pescrillo said. “This is our active class today.”
Tiara Davis ’14 and Jordyn Pasiak ’14 said they joined the protest because their professors, Traci Fordham-Hernandez and John Collins respectively, attended instead of holding class.
“I didn’t grow up with a lot of money so I’ve watched this one percent tower over us my entire life – probably a little bit more than a lot of the kids here – but I’m glad that people are finally starting to open their eyes,” Pasiak said.
“It’s kind of scary though to think they have all this control, the one percent and we are the 99 percent. That’s a major red flag,” Davis said. She said she’s worried about her own future with student debt and unemployment.
Penna and Pescrillo said they disagree with class separation among students, some of whom felt they are rich enough to avoid debt and be indifferent to corruption.
Alex Epstein ’12, an environmental major who joined the protests, said he felt divided because the stock market helps pay for his tuition. “I’m actually going against my own economic interests, which to most would seem a little idiotic, but I feel that human compassion should trump the love of money,” Epstein said.
Dan DeBernardi ’12 said, “I’d rather be silent than misinformed. I don’t think I’m the right authority to make people change or to tell people to change.”
“I’m not telling people to change. I’m saying that we need to tell our government to change,” Penna said.
“The government is made up of people. It’s not a monster,” DeBernardi said.
“At this point it’s such an elite group of people and the only people that they are listening to is one percent of the population,” Penna said. “Six corporations own all the media outlets. We are getting very biased information. We need to change that. We are just trying to get the correct information out there.”
Doug Geraghty ’12, an economics and math double major, said he stopped by the protests to gauge the level of economic understanding among protestors. “I think Wall Street is the main target for these protesters but it’s so much bigger than that,” he said.
Geraghty said lax loan regulations during the Clinton administration led to defaults, which triggered the financial crisis, but he understands the need for fair housing practices.
“We just don’t really know who to go to for the right answer,” Geraghty said. “You know there’s corruption in every industry, not just Wall Street, not just the government.”
Occupy Wall Street protests have been going on for three weeks and resulted in hundreds of arrests. The movement has swelled recently from the support of union leaders, according to CNN.