Occupy NU discusses student-debt refusal campaign, upcoming plans

Stephanie Haines

Twelve people attended the Occupy Northwestern meeting Monday to discuss the group’s future plans, including how to increase the NU community’s involvement in the movement.

Five undergraduate students, six graduate students and an NU faculty member attended the meeting in Kresge Hall.

The agenda consisted of discussing plans for the 2012 Winter Quarter, finding methods to support the NU Living Wage Campaign, drafting a constitution and discussing the “student-debt refusal” campaign, according to their Facebook event page.

“It is important for all students on any campus to be aware of the Occupy movement because the University should be a space for the exchange of free ideas,” Department of French and Italian Prof. Scott Hiley said. “Education should be a public good.”

Some participants said they hoped they could expand NU community support by talking to faculty and the Associated Student Government.

The participants also said they want to screen a movie about college student debt during Reading Week this quarter in order to connect the Occupy Movement to more students.

Participants also discussed how it could be difficult to unify support from both graduate and undergraduate students.

One anonymous participant said it may be especially difficult for graduate students because some graduate student contracts prohibit students to unionize.

“One of my professors told me to avoid associating with Occupy publicly because I could potentially lose my job as a graduate student and research assistant,” the anonymous student said. “He’s looking out for me.”

The anonymous participant also said graduate students generally refrain from discussing unions because they have a strong fear that this will affect future job opportunities.

“Being involved with unions or even Occupy can be viewed as a red flag to employers,” he said.

The attendees discussed a recent Coalition Against Corporate Higher Education meeting in which student debt was a core topic on the agenda.

According to a November article in the Chronicle of Higher Education, Occupy Wall Street protesters announced a “student-debt refusal campaign,” which aims to combat student debt by creating pledges to be signed by debtors, faculty and nondebtors.

Another discussion topic included supporting NU’s Living Wage Campaign by protesting HEI Hotels and Resorts, a company that prohibits employee unionizing.

Fliers about HEI were distributed to participants during the Friday Occupy NU speak-out.

According to the flier, universities like Harvard and University of Chicago have invested endowment money in HEI.

The flier said students, faculty and staff of these universities are organizing against this support for HEI admid the Occupy Movement.

The participants of the meeting said they hoped not only to make NU students aware of this company, but also to make students aware of other corporations which prevent unionizing.

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