The Occupy Stanford group that has kept vigil in Meyer Library since fall will present an open letter during the Occupy Education California rally at UC-Berkeley tomorrow. The group projects attendance at the rally to be in the tens of thousands.
Occupy Education is an offshoot of the Occupy Wall Street movement specifically targeting the rising cost of public universities, seeking to make higher education accessible for anyone.
“What I think, in the last month, we’ve decided is that … education is one of the most prominent things to be concerned with,” said Occupy Stanford member Luke Wigren ‘11 of the shift in the Occupy movement toward education. “Eventually what we’re going to be doing is redefining education here at Stanford and making this a more accessible institution.”
At a Wednesday night meeting to draft the open letter, Occupy Stanford members discussed changing University attitudes from focusing only on accruing money and resources for use at Stanford, to also sharing those resources with others in education.
Occupy Education declared Thursday a National Day of Action entitled “Take Back Your Campus” in support of public education. The Berkeley rally is at the epicenter of the movement for the Bay Area.
Some of the specific demands of Occupy Education California are the passage of The Millionaire Tax of 2012 and the Tax Oil to Fund Education Act. The first is a proposed ballot initiative that would raise taxes on the wealthiest Californians, and the second is a measure that would apply a 15-percent severance tax on gas and oil extracted from California. Revenue from both would directly go toward supporting education.
The group also notes the discrepancy between California per capita state prison spending, which is first in the nation, and education spending, which is 43rd in the nation. Occupy Education rejects California Governor Jerry Brown’s proposed cuts to public education funding.
Underlying these demands is the rising cost of tuition to California public universities. At Berkeley, for example, yearly in-state undergraduate fees have risen over 500 percent in the last decade, from just over 4,000 dollars to almost 14,500 dollars this academic year.
“[Education] is something that should be available for everyone if they wish to take that opportunity,” said Zoe Lidstrom ‘12, an Occupy Stanford member.
The Stanford group, however, opted to take a different approach in its open letter from the usual political demands. Acknowledging that as a private school, state education funding does not directly affect students, the group chose instead to draft a more poetic letter in solidarity with the movement’s cause. Members of the group will take turns reading personal statements about their support for the movement, hoping to include Stanford in the cause.
“There is no debate,” Wigren said of Stanford’s presence in the movement. “Right now we’re trying to make the debate. We’re committing to make this debate heard.”
Others in the group focused on the contributions that public education has to Stanford students’ lives, whether in K-12 education or in society.
“I wouldn’t be here if it weren’t for public school teachers being underpaid to make sure that I understood things,” said Ben Wilson, a doctoral candidate and an Occupy member. “We’re all a part of the same education system.”
Occupy members also emphasized that private and public education will have to evolve together as technology facilitates information sharing and learning.
“The future purpose of a university may be just a place where people can come and engage in discourse and pump out research and talk about issues,” Wilson said.
Occupy Education’s National Day of Action rally will begin this morning at Berkeley. The event will include teach-ins and a march from Berkeley to Oakland.