Circled around the wooden tables and large red umbrellas, members discussed the successes of last year and concerns for the upcoming one.
“It’s about spreading the dialogue between students and workers, and getting them to realize what’s happening,” senior Aidan Crane said.
Crane has been a member of Occupy IU since fall 2011, when it first began.
A large part of discussion involved reflection on the events of last year, including objections to the Board of Trustees and an occupation of the School of Fine Arts that ended in IU Police Department officers removing them from the building.
The Board of Trustees is not elected by students as the governor appoints six of the nine trustees, and the other three are elected by alumni, Crane said.
“We objected to raising tuitions while raising salaries of administration,” Crane said. “It wasn’t about creating dialogue. They weren’t going to be honest with us. It was about reappropriating the space to express our concerns.”
“Money was silencing us,” said Karissa McKelvey, an informatics graduate student.
A pamphlet titled, “A Modern Proposal for Autonomous Student Struggle,” was passed around the meeting. It outlined the purpose and goals of the Occupy movement.
“Traditional negotiations are no longer useful in our situation,” it read.
Crane has been following the Occupy Wall Street movement since its inception. He said he was then intrigued by the Occupy Bloomington group established in Peoples Park.
Inspired by their open communication and dedication to dissent, he decided to seek out Occupy IU.
“Other people had the same concerns about the structure of the University and how it was run,” he said.
McKelvey agreed with Crane’s sentiment.
“It creates a space for us to talk about things that are bothering us,” she said during the meeting. “Before I joined Occupy, I was really angry all the time at national news and politics. Now I have an outlet.”
But it’s not just about anger, it’s about finding a way to take action, McKelvey said.
Meetings are generally weekly at the IMU because it is a public place, Crane said.
Members sit in a circle and openly discuss their concerns. They are encouraged by a “facilitator,” a person who helps move the meeting along and make it easier for everyone to share their opinions. There is no established authority of the group.
“The purpose of the way they are set up is to manufacture consent,” Crane said. “We are supposed to be non-hierarchal. It gives people their voices back when there aren’t any concrete leaders or authority.”
Crane said one of the main goals of the Occupy movement is to encourage dialogue, so any disagreements with any proposed policies or ideas during the meetings are usually discovered through “temperature checks.”
“We check if people agree,” Crane said. “Even if one person disagrees, we’ll stop to talk about why.”
The assembly has already been at work this semester.
During Welcome Week, the movement participated in instituting a “really, really free market” in front of Walmart during Midnight Madness, said Charis Heisey, an IU alumna.
During Midnight Madness, a popular Welcome Week event, students are bused to Walmart to participate in special discounts and activities. A few members of the assembly started giving items away to students for free.
They sought to protest Midnight Madness’ message.
“It was an hour of us being in front of this capitalist spectacle, giving away shit,” Heisey said during the meeting. “And then people starting donating shit too.”
After an hour, the meeting was stopped by the police.
While, currently, plans for this semester are still embryonic, their goal is clear,
“More than anything, it’s about ending apathy,” Crane said. “If no one does anything, the University is going to continue to screw us.”
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