Coalition Building after Occupy: Campus Community

All of this talk about who constitutes the 1% makes me think of the university system. Surely, regular, full-time faculty appear to constitute the coveted 1%. We have the some semblance of job security (or at least those with tenure do), better benefits than the contingent faculty, job flexibility, and essentially get paid to think, talk, read, and some get to engage in research. It sounds great. Some have even gone so far to refer to the academic system as one of a feudal society.

I would argue that the student population–both undergraduate and graduate student are in a place of privilege, too. While they are taking classes and many are heavily in debt to do–the act of being on a college campus and opportunity to go to university is in itself a unique opportunity and privilege. Should we move beyond an “us vs them” conversation?

Thus, I’m not completely sure if the framework for who is the 1% completely works–unless we look to the CUPE staff on campus who are doing most of the behind the scenes work on campus–from serving coffee, cleaning the grounds, and working as contingent faculty. I would argue that this group of the university population is the most exploited or constitutes the least privileged group on campus. Of course, this also includes some staff who might make good incomes that exceed 50k annually. This is by no means enough to live comfortably in the capital region; however, it constitutes a good income. My point here is that more people on campus constitute the 99%. And, many in the campus community are not in their career job.

When we think of the university community, it is fair to say that regular, full-time faculty are part of the elite on campus. But, even this group has tiers: senior instructors (new, continuing and Teaching Professors), Assistant Professors, Associate Professors, Full Professors, and Canada Research Chairs. Directors of units or offices are in a good position as well. Then, we move to the various Deanships. Associate Deans and the full Deans. Moving to the next level would be the Associate Vice Presidents, Vice President, Chancellor, and President. There are many tiers of responsibility and privilege on campus. Maybe we should think more like a large community? The campus is its own microcosm. Can we work together for social justice? Is this a reasonable idea? I think that we can work together. The how is the important question.

Lots of great work going on at the campus across multiple units or departments. But, at times we aren’t having cross campus conversations to share this work. We need to get better at this. I don’t have the answers, but I’m thinking about what is next with the occupy movement and how we need a broad-based movement. This movement has touched so many. What is next?

Occupy Wall Street #OWS

It took more than a few days for the Occupy Wall Street or #OWS #OccupyWallStreet movement to make the mainstream press, but it looks like they are finally covering it. However, this coverage varies from making the protesters look like a bunch of middle class saps who have nothing better to do than take over a bridge or sit and complain. But, this would offer a very shallow assessment of what is really taking place.

My favorite laments about the movement is that it’s disorganized and unfocused. To this I think, where do we begin? There is so much to fix and therefore lots to protest about in this latest iteration of social movement protest. Who said that the people involved must have one message or one focal point? Isn’t it enough to say: wake up. We are not happy. We need to fix things! This fix is definitely going to be more thank taking Wall street, it will need to touch every street, circle, drive, crescent and more.

The mainstream or more conservative leaning mainstream press is painting the protest as a bunch of lazy, malcontents who are complaining, but this always happens. We can think of other protests and the ways in which those in power would attempt to discredit the people walking, boycotting, or involved in the movement. It wasn’t too long ago that the news covered the Battle in Seattle and merely focused on the so-called Anarchists. Remember that?

So, when the #OWS movement hits your town, what will you do? I applaud that people are reacting and thinking. And, I also hope that these same people and more will cast their vote in the next election. That’s right–I’m bringing the unconventional political action back to the conventional political action. Don’t forget to vote. Primaries and caucuses are around the corner in the US and then the general election in November 2012.