Occupy Philly joins OccupyPenn for CUNY speaker
Penn's teach-in will host City University of New York professor David Harvey
November 29, 2011, 10:18 pm · Updated November 30, 2011, 3:05 am·
Justin Cohen | DP
Occupy Philadelphia protesters will march to campus Wednesday to hear City University of New York Graduate Center professor David Harvey speak about their movement.
Harvey will join OccupyPenn’s weekly teach-in meeting outside Van Pelt Library.
At 11 a.m., Occupy Philadelphia protesters plan to march from City Hall to the teach-in.
Students and faculty members affiliated with OccupyPenn also plan to read a list of their concerns, which they have been drafting at periodic meetings, said School of Social Policy & Practice assistant professor Toorjo Ghose, one of the organizers of OccupyPenn.
One of OccupyPenn’s top priorities is a “student debt refusal” pledge, which was unveiled by Occupy Wall Street protestors last week and has quickly gained traction among some Penn students and faculty, Ghose said.
The pledge, which aims to mobilize one million students to refuse to pay their student loans, was created in response to the “student debt crisis and the dependency of U.S. higher education on debt-financing from the people it is supposed to serve,” according to the Occupy Student Debt Campaign website.
“I support the principle of actual debt forgiveness,” Ghose said, explaining that students should not be forced to pay debts they cannot afford.
While it is unclear how many faculty members and students will sign the pledge, all of the professors Ghose has talked to were “concerned about the escalating costs of higher education.”
The burden of student loans after graduation leads to a “very non-diverse class” with “no economic diversity,” he added.
Upon graduation, students may also be forced to take jobs with higher salaries over those with lower salaries that contribute to the public good to help service their debt, Ghose added.
College sophomore Nicole Grabowski — who has visited Occupy Wall Street — said she thinks the pledge will benefit the Occupy movement because “having a document … shows that the movement does have goals other than causing a stir.”
While she is unsure of whether or not she supports the movement, Grabowski said the pledge is “something that a lot of people can support, being that so many students are in that exact same place of hopelessness in repaying debt.”
“My brother joined the Army so he wouldn’t have to worry about paying for his education, and is going to be deployed soon,” she added. “It’s scary to think that those seem to be options of a student who is in the middle class.”
Although Grabowski said she personally would not refuse to pay her student loans, she liked the idea of a pledge.
English professor Suvir Kaul, who has expressed support for the Occupy movement, wrote in an email that, while he “applaud[s] the symbolic import of this pledge,” he feels it is too narrow.
“I also know that there are many non-student constituencies who are burdened with similar crushing debt,” Kaul wrote, referencing the “thousands of working people have lost homes because they can no longer keep up with mortgages.”
Moving forward, OccupyPenn has presented a plan to have a national conference, where supporters from different areas could come to Philadelphia to discuss the next phase of the movement, Ghose said, adding that the idea was presented at Occupy Philadelphia and was “very warmly received.”
“We want to gather people together,” he added. “I call this Occupy Next.”