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A new student group, OccupyPenn, will hold its first event on Friday: a teach-in on Locust Walk outside Huntsman Hall.

At 2 p.m., English professor Ania Loomba, Philadelphia sheriff candidate Cheri Honkala and School of Social Policy and Practice professor Toorjo Ghose will speak about the Occupy movement and afterward students will join in discussion.

Both Loomba and Ghose signed an Oct. 11 letter written in solidarity with the Occupy Wall Street movement.

The new student organization is part of the wave of Occupy movements that have spread across the world, including an Occupy Colleges movement, OccupyPenn member and College senior Zev Fagin explained.

After Occupy Cantor — when local protesters and Penn students assembled in and outside Huntsman Hall after House Majority Leader Eric Cantor canceled a planned visit — some Penn community members began forming a Penn-specific movement, member Murat Keyder said.

Keyder, who received a master’s degree in Anthropology of Music at Penn and now teaches guitar, first became involved in the Occupy Philadelphia protests. When passing out flyers around Penn, he experienced some “hostile reactions,” he said, adding that “Wharton students seemed to take it very personally.” Others expressed apathy toward the movement, and Keyder became interested in educating the Penn community.

OccupyPenn will “stand in solidarity” with Occupy Philadelphia, but the movements are separate, Fagin said.

The goal of the group is to “raise student consciousness to the systemic problems of our society,” he said, adding that it will educate Penn students about the movement in ways that “we don’t trust media” to do.

The group is horizontally structured, with no leaders; group decisions are made by all members together. OccupyPenn includes student and faculty members, but its “doors are open to absolutely anyone,” Fagin said.

Keyder considers himself part of the “99 percent” of Americans whose lower incomes exemplify a consolidation of political clout by the richest citizens — though his upbringing was in no way “downtrodden,” with two parents in academia, he said. However, he believes anyone can challenge our “unfair and unequal society.”

Fagin considers himself part of the remaining “1 percent,” and acknowledged it may be a challenge to create interest in the group among Penn students, many of whom are part of the upper echelons of society.

However, “the 99 percent has their door open for the 1 percent,” Fagin said, adding that “morally, we hope they feel an obligation to fight for the society as a whole.”

In the future, OccupyPenn plans to host more teach-ins and the group encourages students to participate in a planned protest against a Mitt Romney fundraiser in Philadelphia that will also occur today.


For some at Penn, Occupy movement fails to ring true
Topics: Occupy movement

This article has been corrected to reflect that Murat Keyder did not study music for two years at Penn without receiving a degree.

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