Occupy Wall Street began Sept. 17. By late October, some students and faculty were wondering why it seemed no one was reacting at Colby. So they took action and organized two events to engage students, faculty, and staff in discussions about the issues brought forth by the Occupy movement and issues at Colby that participants thought should be addressed.
A post on a campus-wide e-mail list by Associate Professor Walter Hatch (government) read: “We fill Ostrove to hear representatives from Wall Street talk about the virtues of ‘The Private Sector,’ and yet we do not participate in any of the ‘Occupy Maine’ events. What’s up with that? If you are as curious as I am by the silence at Colby, join me in the Diamond Atrium at 3:45 on Tuesday.”
About 70 people did, including about 20 professors, and the small-group conversations that followed seemed more like seminar discussions than activist meetings. Topics included definitions of success, fear, and social class. “It was successful beyond my wildest imagination,” said Hatch of the Oct. 25 event. “It was just a level of creative thinking that I appreciated.”
Hannah DeAngelis ’12, who said she thought Colby’s silence was related to a lack of identification with the movement among students, agreed. She spoke of the egalitarian nature of the discussions—faculty participating with everyone else, and no clear leader—and the “solidarity” she saw at the event. “It felt like it was real, and other people cared,” she said.
Afterwards, said Renzo Moyano ’14, the movement became part of conversations across campus—from the classroom to the dinner table and on the Community Digest of Civil Discourse, an all-campus e-mail list. “To me that in itself was a huge victory,” said the New York City native.
A second event, on Nov. 10, which included visitors from the Occupy Augusta movement, focused on specific issues at Colby: pesticide use, income disparity, and safety, to name three. Students broke into discussion groups and reconvened with action items, some of which, like transparency in Colby’s investments, are currently being pursued.
Back in New York for winter break, an enthusiastic Moyano spent a day at Occupy Wall Street. “I hope that more people become involved and I hope that there is even more discussion on campus,” he said. Whether people agree with the movement or not, he sees it as inspiring individual thought. “Because once you think for yourself, you’re no longer thinking within a set structure anymore. You’re questioning things and you use common sense.”