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Occupy’ protests spark Ohio State discussion

Courtesy of MCT

The “Occupy” protest movement is gaining momentum. The demonstrations, which started on Wall Street, have spread beyond borders with similar “Occupy” protests popping up not only in various cities across the United States, but in many European countries as well.

Ohio State students are having their own protest this coming Monday, Oct. 24, which they have coined “Occupy The Oval.”

Chelsea Pflum, a fourth-year in philosophy and international studies, is one of the students organizing the demonstration.

“Occupy The Oval is a microcosm about students and how we’re affected by corporate greed, especially if you look at student debt,” Pflum said. “These banks were bailed out billions of dollars and students are on average, $20,000 in debt and they are having trouble finding jobs and nobody is helping them with that.”

Additionally, Pflum said they will be protesting the privatization of parking at OSU.

“This is about a public good from a public university being taken away by a private cooperation and President Gee is for this, even though corporations have proven that they are not looking out for the welfare of the average person,” Pflum said. “(The privatization agreement) is a 50-year lease and they are allowed to raise the price of parking 7.5 percent every year for the next 10 years.”

According to economics senior lecturer Ida Mirzaie, it is the current economic situation of the U.S. that has led to the widespread protests.

“Not only is current unemployment rate high, but also it is taking a longer time for an average unemployed worker to find a new job compared to previous economic down turns. This worries both those who are unemployed and these who are still in school and will enter the job market in near future,” Mirzaie said. “Even though interest rates on many loans are low, interest rates on student loans are on their all time high.”

Political science professor Thomas Nelson said people are also upset at the government’s economic policies when it comes to dealing with big corporations.

“It’s the Wall Street bailouts as this example of investment bankers who got the benefit of government support in bailing them out of all these risky investments that they made, and they turned around and paid bonuses to their executives and hedge fund managers,” Nelson said. “The argument is that looser regulations have permitted this kind of thing to happen so you will hear the argument that what happens on Wall Street is they privatize the benefits and socialize the cost.”

Michael Colina, a fourth-year in economics and classics, thinks the protesters have every right to be upset.

“I think (the protests) could wake a lot of people up, it could have an effect on how people perceive Wall Street, at least right now,” Colina said. “I think people need to open their eyes to how much power the consumer has. If Bank of America charges you too much, if they have overdraft fees, you can go to a credit union. I think people need to realize they have options.”

While Occupy Wall Street has become increasingly visible, many are questioning if it has what it takes to be effective. It is often compared the Tea Party movement, which has succeeded in becoming a political force.

“I think they are going to have very little effect, quite frankly. Wall Street is Wall Street and it’s been Wall Street for a very long time,” said Connor Heaton, a first-year in business. “People protesting Wall Street or criticizing it is really nothing new, and while I respect what they are trying to do, I don’t think it will be very effective. There have been a lot of attempts to regulate Wall Street with mixed success, that’s just history.”

Others disagree.

“It’s been great to watch the protest develop,” said Michael Triozzi, a fourth-year in history and president of the College Democrats at OSU. “I think there is a lot of frustration out there and think a lot of people don’t know how to express it, this has been one of the most visible expressions of it. I have a lot of faith in the movement actually.”

While the Tea Party was able to find its political niche within the Republican party, Nelson said the Occupy movement may find it more difficult to do so.

“Occupy Wall Street is a little trickier, they seem to be largely left of center, and on the liberal end of things but they have so many agenda items that they want to pursue so its kind of a big catch all,” Nelson said. “As I see it, Obama and so forth are gingerly trying to figure out how to capture some of the energy of this movement and turn it toward something politically productive. This could definitely affect the 2012 elections.”

Communication assistant professor Erik Nisbet shares that sentiment.

“People are attacking (Occupy Wall Street) for lack of message so it is hard for the media to communicate what they are about,” Nisbet said. “You have an almost somewhat instantaneous uprising because they really lack organization.”

Additionally, Nisbet said that media coverage of the Occupy movement has not always been favorable.

“The media typically does a bad job of covering protests movements, especially ones that challenge a political movement,” he said. “They often try to paint protest movements as deviant, and with this protest movement they are painting them as anarchists who want to tear down the system, and extreme leftists.”

Nelson said this portrayal of the protesters may make it harder for them to find a political backing.

“People on the right are dismissive of it and people on the left are a little bit wary of it. Here’s a bunch of potential supporters, on the other hand politicians don’t want to be on record endorsing the destruction of the capitalist system,” he said. “Many of their opponents, particularly conservatives who don’t like some of what they hear coming out of this movement will dismiss them as hippies and kids who just want to have a good time and party.”

Some think the problem is less about the system and more about the individual.

“I’m not a huge fan of (Occupy Wall Street),” said John Slone, a fourth-year in civil engineering. “I kind of look at it as a bunch of college kids just getting out of college and not finding jobs and they’re just complaining really. There are jobs out there, you just might not get paid very much, and it might not be in your field. I just look at it as a complaint.”

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