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VIDEO: SUNY Students Occupy Purchase This Week

Undergraduates at SUNY Purchase are bringing the Occupy Wall Street movement to their campus.

For weeks now, national attention has been focused on the Occupy Wall Street protesters camped in Manhattan's Zuccotti Park. At 1:30 a.m Tuesday morning, NYPD moved in to attempt a forcible eviction of the park; an action live-streamed by protesters in real-time.

What do they want? Who is in charge? How long will they stay? 

But the most provocative question may be: What will they do next? It seems the Occupy movement is spreading its influence across the country and at SUNY Purchase. 

"None of the ties are formal" said student Melanie MacCaskie. "We're in contact with Occupy Wall Street." She said three representatives from the Wall Street group who work on education and outreach have visited campus to share lessons about consensus building and peaceful assemblies, but their group is honed on their campus. 

MacCaskie, a senior majoring in anthropology from Southbury, CT who plans to attend graduate school; Elan Cohen, of Edgemont, NY, a philosophy major with interests that include education; and Zachary Brady, most recently of Mount Vernon, a new media major interested in using his web design skills in early childhood education, are just three of the students taking an active role in organizing SUNY Purchase students to spawn their version of the Occupy movement and focus on the social issues most important to them.

The trio have made frequent trips to Zuccotti Park. After Zachary was arrested on Brooklyn Bridge, the trio was motivated to really get more deeply involved. 

All three say their experiences with Occupy Wall Street have profoundly affected them. 

"It's changing my future plans," said Cohen. "I didn't expect that at all." MacCaskie agreed saying whatever her future plans, they would surely involve working on issues of wealth inequality and social justice.

Cohen has been working as a medic at Zuccotti Park, often spending entire weekends there helping the protesters.

Yet they all agree the physical location of Occupy Wall Street is not the point of the movement.

"There's too much focus on Zuccotti Park," said Brady. "It's a call to action, a call to see the issues in our immediate communities." For their group, SUNY Purchase General Assembly, those issues are tuition, student debt and access to higher education.

"Zuccotti Park is almost a distraction," Cohen said in agreement.

MacCaskie said, "I haven't been down there [Zuccotti Park] in weeks. I live here. I've been getting things off the ground here."

Since Sunday, the SUNY Purchase General Assembly has claimed the academic mall near the campus clock tower. Saying they are "inspired by" and "stand in solidarity with" the Occupy Wall Street movement, the group's website proclaims: "Together we do what we can to protest the economic and democratic injustice that keeps 99% of the country from the fair pursuit of happiness."

For many critics, those kinds of statements seem vague and imprecise. But the students organizing the event wouldn't have it any other way.

"The cool thing about a general protest is that it doesn't have to offer a solution," said MacCaskie. In fact, all three had a different opinion of the most important issues.

"There are a laundry list of problems," said Cohen. "The point is to empower responsibility for change. The main problem is that we've been trained to be consumers instead of citizens."

On Tuesday, Melanie, Elan and Zachary will participate in a day-long slate of events inspired by the Occupy Wall Street movement. The SUNY Purchase General Assembly will gather to discuss a host of social issues including campus administration, property rights and the tax code, the history of campus activism at SUNY Purchase and the formulation of a group statement.

Then events will continue throughout the week, and they hope long into the future.

"People have been taught their problems are their own fault," said MacCaskie. "But we can change things. You have more power than you think you have."

For more information about the SUNY Purchase General Assembly and their events, check their website here. Check out their Facebook page or follow their Twitter feed @PurchaseGA

Dan Seidel November 15, 2011 at 04:25 PM
let's see: OWS: what to do next? OPEN YOUR BOOKS, READ THEM, LEARN THE COURSE MATERIALS AND GET A 4.0 maybe that's too tough........TRY A 3.7!! GO FOR CUM LAUDE!!! useful idiots........
SRT November 15, 2011 at 09:15 PM
Dan, I thought you were a big free speech guy? Why are you so derisive of what these students are doing?Do you think all knowledge comes from courses and books?
Dan Seidel November 15, 2011 at 09:38 PM
I am, but enough is enough. I am the product of a "free school" - some positives, MOSTLY NEGATIVES looking back on it. I've done the demo thing, been gassed, charged by police on horses, I teach college kids, I taught young kids - I see what they are missing today, and I see what I missed yesterday. These kids would be better off taking the lesson "we" learned and putting it to good use - LEARN, LEARN, LEARN!!! I admire the kids's exploring altruism - all good (tikkun olam - Jewish concept - take care of the earth and everything on it, in it - we are stewards) , but do this for effect. Wouldn't they be better off writing legislation, learning how to do that, learning about the wonders that the Constitution allows? the finesses required? the process? SO I pick on them for failing in this and turning the "revolution" into a circus of derision. MY revolution has been stolen and these kids are acting like a lynch mob, almost like the S.A. of pre war Germany. Enough. Get off the streets - see who is bankrolling all this. Time to roll up the sleeves and do work - want change? EFFECT CHANGE thru the law!! good idea? ANd yeah, I'd say most knowledge come from books and learning. OJT has it's merit, but one has to learn background - like an iceberg - 9/10ths is under water holding itself up.
Donna November 16, 2011 at 12:31 AM
Well, they are closing down OWS in Manhattan so I think the party is over...how about going to school, getting a job, etc.? After all, all those hot shot big money makers who work in corporations didn't get to where they are today by sitting around and protesting.
Johan November 16, 2011 at 12:32 AM
Haha they better get used to being squatters and hippies. 3 useless majors right there. Not to mention they know nothing about the real world. Hope they didn't take out loans that they'll eventually want others to pay for.
Melanie Mac Caskie November 16, 2011 at 03:48 PM
I have a 3.74 GPA, I'm double majoring in two very different disciplines (Anthropology and Literature), this is the first semester I've taken fewer than 17 credits, I have an on-campus job, and I work as a museum educator two days a week... please don't tell me that I'm not doing enough studying or working. I am learning a lot. I am learning so much about event planning and public communication through my efforts with Occupy -- these are practical skills you can't learn from a book. As an educator and as a student of pedagogical theory, I disagree with your statement that "most knowledge comes from books." Although being able to write legislation would be wonderful, as a 21 year old college student, I have neither the skills nor the access to such opportunity. I don't believe that the law is the only venue for change, and I don't believe that it's the best venue for change, either -- I think that we need to effect social change, as well as learn to be and teach others to be citizens in a democracy. I do not feel represented by the people who are nominated to run for public office anyway -- I am a young liberal woman from a lower-middle class background. Even writing letters to my representatives, how can they empathize? They have the power to vote however they like, regardless of what I want. I would like to see a broader array of representatives as one concrete effect of this movement. And please do not ever lightly compare anyone to a lynch mob. It's incredibly offensive.
Purchase Guerrilla Army November 16, 2011 at 08:53 PM
These kids do not represent our school.
James November 17, 2011 at 04:39 AM
Ugh... I pass by them every day... Half of them don't even know what they're talking about... And setting up tents? Seriously?? They live 5 minutes away (walking). You'd be contributing more by joining the big picture in NYC. "Occupy Purchase"... lol
Jill Gertz November 17, 2011 at 10:45 AM
I was a grad assistant for a Marxist historian in SUNY system. I have friends I went to uni with who are Marxist (neo-Marxist more accurately) professors now. All the social/economic justice stuff is just class warfare and Marxist ideology cloaked in the language of civil rights movement. SEIU officials were busted on video months ago (at Pace College no less) describing how the unions were growing useless, and a new more radical movement needed to sieze the day. The plan called for destabilizing Wall Street while making it seem like a grass roots movement and not the usual suspects (SEIU, ACORN, MoveOn etc.) stirring the pot. Google SEIU and Stephen Lerner and riots. Kids want to feel important so they fall for all the "save the world" business. Their futures have been trashed but Obama and crew are as guilty as anyone but they are pointing the finger. Barney Frank et al ruined the mortgage biz and Obama took in more Wall St money than anyone - and yet they both want to cause division and point to wealthy (and white) people and Wall St. They actually want riots and mayhem because they broke the Dem party with the help of Soros, MoveOn, ACORN etc. Its a radical anti- American party now pretending to be about fairness when its about power. "ACORN Officials Exposed as Players Behind Occupy Wall Street Protests http://www.foxnews.com/us/2011/11/03/acorn-officials-scramble-firing-workers-and-shredding-documents-after-exposed/#ixzz1dxRrwjYc
SRT November 17, 2011 at 10:55 AM
So you are one of the "Free speech for me but not for thee" crowd. With all due respect, it appears you learned very little in all your purported years of activism and only wound up bitter and angry. Sorry.
Dan Seidel November 17, 2011 at 11:59 AM
SRT: what the OWS'ers are doing is infringing on MY rights to get around and have my pilice force not incur overtime and then extra pension $$$, and free up OUR poilice to work the beat - see all the shootings spike around the country? cops can't get to do their jobs because these whiners won't leave. So what have they actually accomplished besides pissing everybody off? what concrete action or progess have they engendered? Not a frigging thing. This a lynch mob - all you have to do is give them brownshirts and clubs. Not my idea of "free speechers" - nope. Maybe they should occupy your house and eat you food - share the welath dude!! and if you do not, they will just invade - like that? I do not.
Dan Seidel November 17, 2011 at 12:00 PM
my typing sucks. I have to take a course......
Dan Seidel November 17, 2011 at 12:30 PM
Jill: I AM impressed!! nice citing - now will Citizens read the truth or keep the blinders on? Melanie: you done good kid!! keep up with the studies - the 3.7 will take you further than sitting in a tent watching your navel ("pupik" watching in yiddish). I will tell you from expeience - you want something done right? submit a new or improved law, get a legislative sponsor and go to work on that. THAT works AND getss on the books. Don't like something else? MAKE a test case - simply protesting 24/7 does not cut the mustard - do something like holding hearings: check out the old Vietnam War Vets "Winter Soldier Investigations" - get the CD - watch it, testify in Washington - get a few sponsors - bring your stuff to the law makers and impress them with facts and data. Otherwise, OWS is just another lynchmob (yes it IS) about to go violent (that is the "sponsor plans" - - you do not think you are being used? HAH!! you are - you are pawns and just fodder for other rich fat cats and people who want to keep huge salaries - check out Jill's sources and then link some more. As for legistation writing? Not taught at Purchase? GET A BUDGET LINE AND GET SOME COURSES ON THAT - THAT IS WHERE THE REAL ACTION IS. You do not have to camp out in a park to effect change - that is juvenile at this point. 224 years of Constitutional jurisprudence sets America apart from the savages. Use the law, do not take it out.
Zack Brady November 18, 2011 at 01:46 AM
Hi, Dan. I'm a 4.0 student. Not to brag. Just saying I've met your challenge.
Dan Seidel November 18, 2011 at 02:13 AM
Dude! EXCELLENT!!!!!! with that you get bragging rights!! Now put it to good use - my son did the 5 1/2 year plan at SU - NOW he has a great job, owns a house and is a wanted man - systems engineer - civilian wide area array for airports - hi tech and good for humans. The GPA shows you take stuff seriously - can think and do. It's amazing what one can accomplish by hard work and "just do it" mentality (check SUNY Cobleskill and the design of a mobile pelletizer - Hudson Valley Grass Energy - google that! - biomass fuel for farmers and everyone else - sitting in a tent would not have accomplished this - I had the stationary plant - again, I DID - acted for good, not shouted out feel good slogans which mean nothing). The world can be your oyster, or you can get bogged down in someone else's game (who has control of OWS $$ and why THAT person?) - doing what you are doing takes conviction - now figure out what is going to work NOW and what won't? What do you want? Who is your audience - how do you convince? data and facts - not sloganeering, rules the day. What's the goal and how do you get there? The system, for all it's faults - works. Mobs do not - go read A Tale of Two Cities again. Revolutions have a tendency to eat their own. watch out. Using the law and crafting documents - THERE'S the challenge! Play SimEarth - see what happens - feed back loops and all - eye opener. Put you smarts to good use - sit in a tent on your vacations.
Dan Seidel November 18, 2011 at 12:08 PM
oy....Zach and the rest of you in tents thinking you are really doing something concrete: THERE IS WORK TO BE DONE!!!! FIND A WORTHY CAUSE, ROLL UP YOUR SLEEVES AND GET TO WORK!!!! JUST DO IT! ps: volunteerism leads to good jobs in worthy sectors. go for it!
Cadeyrn November 18, 2011 at 12:10 PM
This is how you take these tantrumists ... http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HaMLzGVnLQo
Cadeyrn November 18, 2011 at 12:21 PM
Melanie ... you've been cocooned too long.
Zack Brady November 18, 2011 at 03:19 PM
Oy Dan, please stop making assumptions based on bad stereotypes of college students; primarily activist college students. On top of issues relating to education I tend to help out with feminist, environmentalist, and free speech movements. I currently volunteer at a non-profit that brings music education to elementary schools and help to manage my campus' television station where I urge my fellow students to exercise this amazing opportunity in free speech. I am also a back-end coder/ web developer by trade. Why I don't make enough now with this line of work to live off of, certain opportunities are appearing that will make it possible as a I move toward graduation this year. Dan, your words seem to be full of care and concern for us but I also smell a bit of condescension and a want to label us as lazy misguided, activist college students. Try to tell me I'm lazy and you will not succeed. Try to say I'm not driven and you will also fail. Try telling me that I don't focus on real issues and we can have that long debate. Dan, I applaud you and everyone on this board for speaking your mind. I love you for that. Please don't take my occasional response as trying to silence you. Your posts seem to be challenges and I like challenges.
Zack Brady November 18, 2011 at 03:27 PM
After reading through these comments, I want to express what wasn't expressed in the article: why we created a SPACE (many of us who were involved are no longer comfortable calling what we did an occupation. Great criticism came our way, and have learned). Our sleeping in the middle of campus and in essence setting up camp was not a PROTEST against the school, but rather an effort to create and maintain a space. This space was used to hold teach-ins, workshops, and discussions. We sat there so that people would question us. We sat there for people to ask us why we were there. When they did, we would talk about student debt, student under-representation in administrative decisions at SUNY colleges, and the topics that surround the Occupy movement in general. This was not a protest. It was not an aggressive move. We sat and slept there in order to start a discussion. I believe we did succeed to some extent. We had four days of amazing teach-ins, workshops, events, and discussions. We had intellectual conversations with those for and against the "Occupy" movement in general. We also had great conversations with those who identify with the Occupy movement but disagreed with what we were doing.
Zack Brady November 18, 2011 at 03:28 PM
However, many of the other students involved in this action do not have the same privileges that I do. Many of the others come from a much different economic background than I do. They are some of the most hardworking and passionate people I know. In short, please, in using privilege as a critique, first actually know what privileges we have and which ones we don't. Talk to us, and we'll tell you our stories. In closing, we are in the process of re-assessing our tactics. Some of our critics have joined us to help us with this. Many of us have stopped sleeping in the space as we no longer agree with this tactic and are moving on to other actions. Teach-ins and workshops will continue as we feel that they will greatly benefit the campus community. As for more direct actions, we may be quiet for a little while as we consider strategies. Thank you.
Zack Brady November 18, 2011 at 03:29 PM
We learned from so many and hopefully we shared a great deal of insight as well. Our teach-ins were run by professors, students, and community members and included such topics as budget cuts, housing foreclosures, the Occupy Harlem movement, credit unions, the Southern Civil Rights Movement, and a wide range of other topics. We had a great deal of criticism that was at times to the point and at others off the mark. All criticism, however accurate it was, was useful. It showed that our action had not been the best and we ended up alienating many students by sleeping in that space. Nonetheless, discussion began and continues. One common criticism was one of privilege. We ALL have privilege. As a white male from a middle class family, I have a lot of privilege. We ALL don't have privileges in other aspects. As a bisexual identifying individual, I have awkward footing in both homosexual and heterosexual cultures; I feel kind of out of place in both. By realizing the privileges we have and those that we don't, we can use both of these parts as a starting point for change. Our privileges allow us to help others and the privileges we lack give us the drive to fight for change.
Zack Brady November 18, 2011 at 03:30 PM
Hope that last post stays in order. It was a bit too long.
Zack Brady November 18, 2011 at 03:36 PM
Sorry! I love to talk! I want to end by saying that yes I am still learning. My politics and personal drives are constantly shifting. There are a few things I have stood behind forever and will defend until I drop. One of those being that education should be more accessible to all since its so important to survive (ie. get a job and make a living) in today's world.
SRT November 18, 2011 at 04:06 PM
Zack Thanks for your thoughts and your activism, it is much appreciated.
Blue November 18, 2011 at 08:49 PM
TMI Zack
Dan Seidel November 18, 2011 at 09:55 PM
Zack and crew - I back off. OK!! Fire in the belly!! THAT is much appreciated. Sustainability - I'm in! I see the service given and the topics chosen for discussion - a focus. What happened today at the 4 p.m. Gen.Ass. (sorry- SMILE! - that was a good one) meeting? Maybe I expect too much too soon - my generation has failed because we did raise consumers and not Citizens. OK- time to learn Citizenship - but beware, that eventually brings on a feeling and acknowledgment of American Exceptionalism - a realization that what is here and what we have IS the last best hope. The rest of the world is a very ugly place and getting darker by the second. Solutions? start thinking......

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