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On Thursday, the Philomathean Society’s “Examining Occupy” discussion placed the movement under an intellectual lens.

During the panel discussion, Urban Studies professor Andy Lamas, English professor Ania Loomba and Legal Studies professor Phil Nichols interpreted Occupy from their fields of expertise. The audience of about 60, mostly comprised of students, participated by writing questions down on index cards.

The panelists addressed the potential of the movement. “I love Occupy — because when I see Occupy, I see the same faces I saw in Tahrir Square,” Nichols said. Loomba stated that Occupy is “unique” because people are “asking the big questions.” She believed that “we’re living in very special times. We have just seen something amazing take shape.”

During a discussion of economic fairness, Nichols rose amid laughter from the audience to draw a diagram showing a broken link between state and capital. Nichols called for a “hypernational modification” to help solve this problem. Loomba responded, stating that laissez-faire capitalism is “corporate fascism.” She advocated the separation of government and big business.

The subject of local versus global also spurred much debate. Nichols suggested that perhaps all things local affect the global. In contrast, Loomba entreated the audience to remember that “[Thomas] Friedman is wrong. The world is not flat. We really are living in a hierarchical world.” She used the disparities in regulations on global travel as an exposure of the “global hierarchy.”

In order for the movement to create tangible change, Lamas believed that it must spread to “larger sections of society.” He addressed students, reminding them that their student debt has limited the dreams they may have had. “Be willing to be a class striker,” he said, appealing to the building of movements out of individuals reaching across differences. He drew attention to what he sees as the “privileged class” at Penn, including the faculty and students. He reminded listeners that there are also many employees and contractors that receive comparatively fewer benefits.

Students in attendance felt they gained perspective from the talk. “What I learned is the degree of uncertainty of our times,” College junior Moshe Bitterman said. “It really struck me in the end when it was asked what will happen. I heard a Penn professor say, ‘I don’t know,’ meaning this really is an experience we’re all going through that we shouldn’t feel separate from.”

College junior Paul Mitchell, a Philo member and an organizer of the event, observed that “it’s very important as a student in UPenn that we remain critical of the privileges, power and money that allow us to be students here. It’s important in the interest of intellectual freedom.”


Topics: Occupy movement

This story has been updated from a previous version to reflect that roughly 60 were in attendance.

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