Showing posts with label Occupy Wall Street. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Occupy Wall Street. Show all posts

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Don't Mess With the Man: Occupy Wall Street Activist Cecily McMillan Gets Three Months In Jail

I lived in Alaska for nine years, a state that takes its wildlife very seriously.  If you were accused of bank robbery or murder, you could expect justice.  But heaven help you if you shot a moose out of season!

Cecily McMillan
America's elitist colleges have a similar scheme of skewed values. Our elitist institutions encourage students to focus on trivial issues.  When Dartmouth students took over the college president's office to demand gender-neutral bathrooms, Dartmouth treated them with utmost respect. Likewise, our elitist colleges are happy to entertain bizarre student demands to put warning labels on great works of literature.  Warning! The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn contains racist language!

Why do colleges put up with such mindless student antics? Because they don't want students to start thinking about true injustices: the cost of tuition, the out-of-control student loan program, the economic injustice perpetrated by the corporate banks and our federal financial policies.

No--when students protest about important things, the authorities come down hard. Remember the Occupy Wall Street protesters at UC Davis awhile back?  UC Davis police pepper-sprayed students sitting passively on a sidewalk.  Don't mess with Wall Street!

And Cecily McMillan, a graduate student at the New School, was recently sentenced to three months in jail for allegedly assaulting a police officer during an Occupy Wall Street demonstration in New York City.  Ms. McMillan denied the charge, saying that she was only defending herself against a police officer who grabbed her breast. Personally, I think her only crime was to challenge the economic order in an Occupy Wall Street demonstration.  She should have barricaded herself in a college president's office demanding an end to "abilityism."  The college president would probably have served her coffee!

Cecily McMillan

Yes, college presidents and professors will talk with students for hours about the rights of transgender students to go to the bathroom, whether the college endowment fund should divest itself of coal-company stocks, or whether warning labels should be placed on The Great Gatsby. But don't ask them about bloated tuition costs, excessive executive-compensation packages, or the ties between academia and the finance industry.  If you ask difficult questions, you are liable to get pepper sprayed.


James C. McKinley Jr. Despite Calls for Release, Activist in Occupy Case Gets Three Months. New York Times, May 20, 2014.

Jennifer Medina. Warning: The Literary Canon Could Make Students Squirm. New York Times, May 18, 2014. p. 1.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

The UC Davis Pepper Spray Incident and the Boston Massacre: Universities Should Respond Quickly to Outrageous Conduct on Their Campuses

More than one million people have viewed the You Tube video showing UC Davis police officers pepper-spraying peaceful students on the UC Davis campus last November. Any eight-year old who views that video can tell you that the police used unnecessary force against university students who were peaceful protesting economic conditions as part of the Occupy Wall Street demonstrations. 
But apparently UC Davis does not have the capacity to respond quickly and decisively when their own employees assault students in broad daylight on the University’s own campus. Almost five months after its students were attacked, the University issued a 190-page report prepared by a 13-member committee and chaired by a former California Supreme Court justice. Evidently, the committee thought the incident was too complicated to be investigated by laypeople, so it hired an outside consulting firm to find out what happened. To no one’s surprise, the report concluded that University officials made lots of mistakes.
In some ways, the UC pepper spray incident is like the Boston Massacre of 1770, in which a squad of British soldiers fired into a crowd of belligerent citizens and killed five people. Both incidents sparked a nationwide sense of outrage. But the official response to the Boston Massacre was quite different from the way UC Davis responded to the pepper spray incident.
Almost immediately after the Boston killings, all the soldiers who participated in the shootings were arrested, along with their commanding officer; and they were tried for murder. Captain Preston, the officer in command, was acquitted. The jury believed Captain Preston’s testimony that he gave his soldiers no order to fire on the crowd. In a separate trial, most of the soldiers were acquitted as well, although two were convicted of manslaughter. The soldiers were pinned into a corner by a threatening mob when they fired their guns and probably feared for their lives.
The point of my comparison is this. After the Boston Massacre, local officials responded quickly and forthrightly. British soldiers who participated in the incident were arrested and tried in a criminal court. In contrast, all UC Davis has done in response to the pepper-spray outrage is issue press releases, suspend some of the employees who were involved in the incident, and write a 190-page report.
If you disagree, look again at the You Tube video. Shouldn’t someone be punished?

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Occupy Wall Street Needs a Clear Objective: How About Bankruptcy Relief for Overburdened Student-Loan Debtors?

You can fool all of the people some of the time, Lincoln observed, and some of the people all of the time. “[B]ut you can’t fool all of the people all of the time.” The Occupy Wall Street protestors--huddled in tents and shanties in cities across America--are some of the folks who are not fooled about economic conditions in the United States. Conservative pundits revile the Occupy Wall Street protestors as communists, anarchists, and criminals; and counter-protestors hold up der isive signs that read, “Get a Job!”

But of course that is the point. Many of the protestors are unemployed or severely underemployed. If these people had good jobs they wouldn’t be camping in urban parks or subjecting themselves to police beatings and arrest. No--the Occupy Wall Street protestors are not wild-eyed radicals. Most are simply angry Americans demanding economic justice. (Lacey, 2011).

Unfortunately, the Occupy Wall Street movement cannot achieve its goals for economic justice without defining some clear objectives--which so far it has not done. It is not enough to say Congress should tax the rich or regulate the financial sector better. Occupy Wall Street needs to boil down its broad demand for economic justice to articulate some clear and realistic political goals.

Student Loan Default Rates Are Catastrophic

Let me suggest one plank for OWS’s economic justice platform--bankruptcy relief for overburdened student-loan debtors. Although the U.S. Department of Education won’t admit it, default rates on student loans are catastrophic--especially for students who borrowed money to attend for-profit colleges and vocational programs.

Even by DOE’s own anemic standard for measuring default rates, those rates have doubled over the past few years (Blumenstyk, 2011). And DOE’s rating system only measures defaults in the first two years of the student-loan repayment period. When the measurement period is expanded to three years--which DOE will soon do--the default rate will spikes dramatically--particularly for students who borrowed to attend for-profit institutions.

 And even these numbers don’t tell the full story. Students who qualify for economic hardship deferments are not making their loan payments, but they are not counted as defaulters. Some for-profit institutions have encouraged their students to apply for economic hardship deferments in order to keep their institutions’ official student-loan default rates down. Unfortunately, for most of the people who have economic hardship deferments, the interest on their loans continues to accrue (In re Halverson, 2009). If student-loan debtors defer their payments for just two or three years, they will see the outstanding balance on their loans grow significantly--perhaps to an amount so high that they will never be able to pay back their loans.

Some experts estimate that the student-loan default rate for students who attended two-year for-profit institutions is 40 percent (Field, 2010); and another analysis concluded that a majority of students who borrowed money to attend for-profit institutions are in default (Lewin, 2010). And of course a student-loan default subjects the defaulter to a torrent of bad consequences. Their credit is ruined; they become subject to all the wiles and torments of debt collectors; they can have their income-tax refunds garnished; they can even have their Social Security checks dunned (Fossey & Cloud, 2011; Cloud, 2006). In short, as a recent New York Times editorial put it, defaulting student-loan debtors wind up in “financial purgatory” (Editorial, 2011, p. A34).  

Conclusion?  OWS Should Demand Bankruptcy Relief for Student-Loan Debtors

For complete article and references click here