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Brandeis University's Community Newspaper — Waltham, Mass.

Activists hold ‘teach-in’ to educate about Occupy movement

Published: April 27, 2012
Section: Featured, News

Students for a Democratic Society joined with their peers in a group led by Professor Gordon Fellman (SOC) hosted a teach-in in the Shapiro Campus Center atrium on Tuesday. This teach-in incorporated a series of speakers as part of the group’s Occupy Brandeis Spring Week.

Fellman’s team spent six weeks organizing the teach-in. The idea of a teach-in originated in a conversation Fellman had with Provost Steve Goldstein.

“Since the ’60s and ’70s, I have been taken with that form of education and stimulating awareness and thought, and this seemed like a rich and complex enough topic to warrant dusting off the old teach-in template and seeing where we might be able to go with it now,” Fellman said. “I hope it raised awareness among people who attended of the realities of U.S. society that Occupy addresses, of some of the movement’s actions and ideas, and of the General Assembly method of discussing and moving forward.”

The speakers spoke on topics ranging from media coverage of the Occupy Movement, to environmental issues regarding unequal appropriation of wealth, to the annually celebrated strike, May Day, to women’s and gender issues within the Occupy movement. For organizer Seth Grande ’12, though, one of the most important parts of the teach-in was the Occupy Harvard teach-in.

“I think looking to them for tactics, for demands, for strategies, models can be really helpful,” Grande said. Specifically, sophomore at Harvard, Sandra Korn, discussed the history of student protests at Harvard and how over the past year, they have progressed into developments with the student worker action movement on the Harvard no layoffs campaign.

One of the sessions at the teach-in that students commented on at the General Assembly was President Lawrence’s talk on the recent tuition hikes. Many students felt frustrated by what many felt were avoidances to basic questions about the process, while others sympathized with the financial restraints on Brandeis as an institution.

Students voiced their hopes of what this week’s teach-in could do for the Brandeis community.

“I think it’s particularly relevant at Brandeis because so many people pride Brandeis as this social justice institution. Well, where? We’re talking about this very vague notion of social justice,” Shea Reister ’12 said. Reister urged students to be more mindful of workers’ rights at Brandeis, and how exactly their money is being spent.

Students expressed enthusiasm for the teach-in. “What’s beautiful is just that it’s a radically different kind of event,” Reister said. All of the teach-in sessions culminated in the general assembly, where all attendees could discuss how they felt the day went as well as what issues they would like to address moving forward.

At the assembly, participants were urged to use communication methods used at Occupy sites around the country to promote a progressive, all-inclusive and cooperative dialogue among attendees. Twinkle fingers replaced handclaps, raising an index finger to provide a point of information replaced disruptive interruptions and mic-checks, a device based on call-and-repeat, magnified certain points of dialogue and brought onlookers into the conversation.

One of the demands brought up at the teach-in was to add a requirement for Brandeis students in which a social justice portion is incorporated into every concentration curriculum.

Student Union President Herbie Rosen ’12 encouraged students to get involved in the Student Union. “Have a plan set in motion for next year so we can get students more involved in that process.”

SDS political platform also calls for more student communication with administrators. In a flier protesting the recent tuition increase, the group wrote, “The financial actions of universities including Brandeis have significant social ramifications. We all have the right to be involved in how Brandeis uses and invests its funds.”

Sahar Massachi M.A. ’12 also urged students to reflect back on Brandeis’ roots to set goals moving forward.

“Now it’s time for phase 2. The reason that all these great professors came to Brandeis before it was accredited by the American Association of Universities was because we were meant to be a laboratory for social justice,” Massachi said. “Our job was to teach people how to do good and then send them out to do good.”

One student claimed there’s a problem with that fact that students aren’t aware of Brandeis’ history of social justice. “It’s wrong that you can get out of Brandeis and never ask those questions.”

“I’ve learned a lot of what’s wrong with the world, but I haven’t learned very much at all about how to change it. And I think we should make a difference by changing that part of Brandeis. And I think we can,” admitted Massachi.

Many students involved with SDS have ties to the national Occupy Movement. “I’ve been involved in Occupy since the first day on Occupy Wall Street. It’s extremely important to me that it continues. To me it’s primarily raising consciousness that we at any time can stand up and say hey, we have a voice. We’re not going to go silently while all these things around us happen and affect our lives,” Reister said.

“I’m a first generation college student and a first generation American. My involvement with SDS has allowed me to look back at my family’s history and the way my family thinks and reflect on the unknowing restraints on their ideologies,” Jaclyn Gill ’14 said.