“Framing Indignation” was a particularly appropriate name for the Tuesday night faculty panel on the Occupy movement, “framing” the occupy movement in a university context.
Presented by the Columbia Journal of Literary Criticism, the panel of professors hailed from a variety of academic disciplines and activist backgrounds, and questioned why students and professors should engage in the movement.
“In the fall, we went from a moment to a movement,” said Todd Gitlin, a panelist and Columbia journalism professor. “We have the opportunity to be in a mass movement. However, the key is not what the movement can do—it’s what you should do, and what I should do.”
Though none of the speakers were against the Occupy Wall Street movement, each provided constructive criticism, from the international to the individual level. The audience was composed of members of both the university community and other activists.
Andrew Ross, professor of social and cultural analysis at NYU, brought the particularly relevant issue of increased student debt to the table.
“An indebted citizenry is not a free citizenry,” declared Ross. “I can no longer ignore that my salary is paid for by the debt that students incur to attend the university.”
On the other end of the spectrum, Gitlin brought up the professionals who are, in part, responsible for the nation’s financial woes. He suggested that Occupy Columbia address how the actions of the Business School and related alumni affect the enabling of economic inequality. “I believe that one angle of an Occupy Columbia movement should be addressing correctly the role of this economics and business profession in making legitimate what is essentially a flat earth society idea of how the world works,” he said.
“I think there is a case to be made for teach-ins, or I prefer to think of them as reconciliations, in which some of our colleagues explain themselves,” added Gitlin.
While many believe that the Occupy movement has lost the momentum it had in the fall, this panel suggested that there is a future for the movement which depends on continued participation.
“The best thing about this kind of event is that it inspires all participants to start thinking about immediate action,” said Puya Gerami, CC ’12, the other co-editor of the CJLC. “We feel energy. This campus needs more events like this, organized by the wide range of diverse student groups active here at Columbia. But we also need more activism, the kind of activism that the Occupy movement has inspired in the past few months.”
Although the Occupy movement began and is still primarily carried out on the streets, much of the discussion centered around the role of the educated elite in university reform.
“I think that this kind of discussion is essential to the Occupy movement,” Dorian Bon, CC ’15, said. “It puts what happens on an everyday basis into an ideological context and helps bridge divides between academic communities. It can be a very potent conversation.”
“There is a disquieting gap between our lives as students and our lives as ethical agents who participate in society and politics,” said CJLC co-editor Thomas Bettridge, CC ’12. “The goal of the event was to bridge that gap.”