‘Occupy’ may become the word of the year, as the movement that started with Occupy Wall Street has swept across the U.S. and overseas in the last few months.
It started as an expression of general dissatisfaction over corporate practices, banks, unemployment and the overall state of the economy. Occupy Tampa started last month and now the movement has come to colleges including USF.
Now, perhaps because the movement never had a coherent platform or obvious leaders, the protest are getting out of hand, as demonstrators set up makeshift camps, often illegally, in parks and some take the message to the extreme and call for the end of capitalism altogether.
The movement, by virtue of its large scale, may be able to accomplish its goals, if it can decide what those are, but Occupy USF is more likely to fail.
A few demonstrators gathered in front of Cooper Hall last week and met with administrators Wednesday, protesting tuition hikes, the quality of food in the dining halls and President Judy Genshaft. The group’s beef with Genshaft is unclear, other than that she has been identified as the “1 percent” of USF.
Occupy USF is missing the point of the larger movement. USF had little to do with the economic collapse or high unemployment. If anything, universities contribute to the economy by creating graduates who can land higher-paying jobs. USF faculty and administrators may earn more than students, but most can hardly be labeled exploitative capitalists who amassed vast sums of wealth at the expense of the little people.
Even with tuition increases, something no student likes, the protesters are barking up the wrong tree. Florida is 45th in the nation when it comes to tuition costs, according to the College Board, so protesters should be glad they’re still paying less than the majority of U.S. students.
With students paying comparatively little and ever-decreasing state funding, USF is being squeezed from both sides, making tuition hikes a necessary step, not an egregious abuse of power. Half of the increase was state-mandated, anyway.
Sure, USF could find ways to better spend the money it does have. Perhaps we don’t need so many flags. Yet, camping out in front of Cooper Hall is not likely to change much.
Protesters won’t even be on campus on the weekends, and since they were encouraged to bring homework, it will be difficult to even distinguish them from the usual crowd that gathers in front of Cooper Hall.
They lack the resolve of their counterparts in Zuccotti Park, who have been camping for months, and the loose platforms Occupy USF has picked makes them look like uninformed complainers.