CC Dissent Sparks Debate on Campus

Photo from Wikimedia Commons

Editor’s Note: This is the fourth installment in a series covering the Occupy Wall Street movement and its effects both on and off campus.

On Guy Fawkes Day, also known as “the fifth of November,” fifteen Connecticut College students travelled to New York City to continue protesting the influence of corporate wealth in politics and economic inequality.

The day marked the 406th celebration of Guy Fawkes Day, which commemorates Fawkes’ attempt to lead a plot to blow up the Houses of Parliament and bring down England’s Protestant monarchy. He was caught, imprisoned, tortured and ultimately sentenced to death by hanging. The sinister image of Fawkes’ face was first popularized by the 1980s graphic novel V For Vendetta, and the subsequent 2006 film adaptation. The international hacking collective Anonymous appropriated the image, and it has since become iconic on the streets of New York and in Zuccotti Park.

While the day was celebrated with the movement’s typical motions, including marching, general assemblies and stack lists, the commemoration of Fawkes never reached radical proportions. CC Dissent Organizer Juan Pablo Pacheco ’13 said, “The march to the Court of Justice in NYC on Saturday had the potential to organically develop into a massive act of civil disobedience. But it did not. Why? I believe it is because the people were expecting an established plan when there was none; people were too scared to act collectively in an improvised fashion.”

Pacheco compared this type of protesting to protests in his native Colombia, where resistance movements develop when just a few people take to the streets. “People could have used the momentum in an improvised, organic and collective way. The energy was there, but it was lost because of fear. Thus, as much as I respect the level of horizontal organization kept by this growing movement, it seems as if the angry masses are letting the historical opportunity of resisting and confronting pass under their noses.”

Freshman Cesar Moran attributes this fear that Pacheco describes as coming from “a corrupt society [that tells us] to hoard and defend our space, property and resources. Dare to teach the world a new reality where hospitality, generosity and compassion are the norm.”

In addition to fear, the media circus that has kept tabs on the Occupy Wall Street movements has proved disheartening to protesters attempting to express their beliefs. Carrie Rubury’12 noted, “The actual bodies of the media, people not interested in following the actions of the rest of the other marchers, had an negative effect on the peacefulness of the protest.”

As the movement has continued its momentum in New York, across the United States and around the world, a new group called CC Dissent at Connecticut College has attempted to advocate for the goals and agenda of the movement on campus.

Initially, the group co-authored a letter to Connecticut College’s Student Government Association advocating for the school’s support for the Occupy movement on campus, as many peer institutions have done.

One portion of the original letter clearly outlined the real-life impact of economic disparity, particularly on students:

“For three decades those at the very top of the economic ladder have prospered while the vast majority of our population is increasingly indebted and impoverished. The concentration of great wealth in poorly regulated banks and corporations threatens our democracy and enables the plundering of our national resources. The gap between rich and poor is greater than ever before in our nation’s history. Our wealthiest citizens are not paying their fair share. We join Occupy New London and Occupy Wall Street in demanding solutions to improve the economic and social circumstances of everyday people. This crisis and the austerity measures under consideration by the government will affect the future of our generation. Many of us, now deeply in debt, may find ourselves unemployed when we graduate. The current economic situation is such that some of us will probably carry these debts for decades to come. Where is the federal bailout for students, crushed and dispirited by debt?”

When CC Dissent brought the letter to SGA, it was met with hesitation, and many senators outright rejected the letter for myriad reasons. Some were uncertain about how their constituents would feel about a vote of support for the letter, while some maintained their own biases in rejecting the letter.

For instance, the house senator of River Ridge and Winchester, Nicholas Gollner ’14, sent an email to his constituents vilifying the movement, and warning students to “check your facts and formulate your own views; resist the urge of many a liberal college student to become swept up by a popular idea. I am open to discussion, please email me or stop by my house sometime.”

Meanwhile, CC Dissent has changed their letter significantly, and removed any mention of the Occupy movement itself. Instead, they framed their support in terms of “local and national social movements working to bring about much needed change in our society, in particular the end of structural inequalities as they exist today. We conceive of civil disobedience and the non-violent occupation of public spaces as clear examples of direct action that have historically furthered the democratic cause.”

According to one anonymous source in SGA, the new letter “is as general as something that could have been written for the Tea Party. There really is no reason why we can’t pass it.”

However, as of recent, SGA has not formally backed the letter or rejected it, particularly since the new draft is so drastically different. SGA Vice President Teddy Fisher ’12 said, “Given it’s clear that we aren’t ready to make a decision, I encourage constituents to make their voice heard and talk to their senator.” •

 

  

9 thoughts on “CC Dissent Sparks Debate on Campus

  1. Mike Natriello

    Meghan,

    Loving your coverage of this fascinating time in our social history. I’m really perplexed about this movement and interested in it as well. I’m not a participator, and I doubt that I will ever be, but I was just wondering if you could elaborate on why CC Dissent has chosen to include Dissent in their name. I assume it’s because Dissent is the focus of your’s/or their(are you in the group?) campaign. I think it works great as a name because its obviously a really powerful word, but I was wondering what the group has done to dissent other than to refuse seeking SGA’s approval as a club on campus. I’m not saying that this choice was insignificant. It might be quite significant. But with other students writing articles about their apathy towards the goings on of SGA I wonder why a purposeful and published decision not to seek support from SGA would matter in the first place, especially when this current article on a letter written to SGA on the aims of CC Dissent followed immediately after.

    Am I simply missing something here? Is my confusion even relevant? I haven’t the slightest idea. But I wish this group would come out and make a clearer statement as to what they mean by dissent, especially in the context of Conn Coll and the Occupy movement as a whole. The letter is a start but if this group wants to be taken more seriously, which their name implies they do, I think it behooves members of this group to act more decisively.

    Dissent is not something that occurs only in letters to SGA and if the group is committed to the idea of dissent as their focus I would like to see a little bit more out of them as my classmates and peers who I respect. I think if people really wanted to dissent, questioning why we pay one of the highest tuition fees out of any college in the country(and for that matter the world) would be a good start, especially when (as you point) our diplomas may not even be valuable enough to secure us a job.

    If this group is really serious about their goal of dissenting, and I hope they are, I would like to see a little bit more fire in the bellies. Obviously coming from the college on the hill makes it difficult launch these attacks, and I think that everyone in the Occupy Movement who comes from means realizes that even though they are not in the one percent the privileges that they have at the very least complicate their position.That being said I think we can all agree that our system is tragically flawed. The facts speak for themselves, but what I want to know is why should anyone stand with the 99 instead of with the 1 percent when coming from Connecticut College both positions might be readily available. No doubt you will say huge inequities and injustices oblige us to commit ourselves to restoring order so that the majority can benefit. But if the people of the majority are not willing to do anything more than take trips to NYC and downtown New London in between classes and whatever other activities we have here, and our most radical idea of dissenting consists of a letter to SGA than I’m not sure what to think of the objections in the first place. The reactions to these injustices don’t match the injustices themselves and I’m beginning to wonder if this is something even worth caring about. I realize these things take time, but I think CC Dissent can do better, and if they can’t then they really need to reconsider what they’re doing in the first place.

    That being said I wish the group the best of luck, and urge them to be more bold in their demands. Let us not forget that our very own president, BIG HIG, is part of that so objectionable one percent as well. Are we so blind as to not see beyond our noses? Who are we dissenting from if not the very system we involve ourselves with? Dissent ought not to be understood as field trips we take to down towns and wall streets. We have to acknowledge that dissenting might involve realizing that our institution, our parents, our friends, and ourselves are part of the problem. At the very least we are complicit in the problem. I realize people have a lot to loose here, potentially their degrees and relationships with people they value, but if those aren’t worth loosing in the name of justice then the whole point of dissenting is moot. I hope at least with this post to allow CC Dissent to see that there really are things that can be done that are far more drastic than involving SGA in the argument. I will personally not do those things, that’s why I’m not a member of CC Dissent. I just don’t think it would be worth confronting such potentially harsh realities, and the intricate complication of Connecticut College’s place within and outside the one percent. But if you are will to dedicate yourself to this movement and the idea of Dissent then you must be willing to take that leap, if not than this group is nothing more than the kids on the hill playing around with the ideas of a revolution in their free time.

    All the best,

    Mike

    P.S. Congrats on the publication of your article outside of the voice, you should be very proud.

    Reply
  2. Lilah Raptopoulos

    Editors, I think Mike just accidentally wrote an article for the next issue. If my eyeballing is what it used to be, that’s close to a thousand words

    Reply
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