Pitt students form own Occupy group

By Gretchen Andersen

The Occupy movement has come to Pitt, but unlike their predecessors, these Occupiers will not be… The Occupy movement has come to Pitt, but unlike their predecessors, these Occupiers will not be camping out.

The group, which is a branch of Occupy Wall Street and separate from Occupy Pittsburgh, had its first general assembly meeting Friday on the first floor of Posvar with about 20 students in attendance. Unlike the other Occupy branches, the group’s goal is to gather students as one voice to talk about issues like student debt, tuition and financial transparency at Pitt.

“We definitely have a one percent, 99 percent paradigm going on here, too,” said group student organizer Lucas Lyons, who camped Downtown for about a month at Occupy Pittsburgh.

The 90-minute meeting commenced with students sharing why they want to be a part of Occupy Pitt. Some stated their frustration with student debt and tuition as the main motivators.

Others said they want to be part of Occupy Pitt because they feel that the University of Pittsburgh has become a business.

Lyons, a student at Pitt’s Graduate School of International and Public Affairs, said he doesn’t like being told his tuition is increasing each year and mentioned that the national average student debt is $25,000.

“This isn’t a club — we’re a movement of change. We want to end apathy on campus and create a better culture,” Lyons said. “We all walk to class, have our heads down. We’ve lost our campus culture, camaraderie. We want to create a way for you to communicate with each other.”

Junior Jenna Baron said the organizers started Occupy Pitt to create a space for students to voice their concerns about the University and share ideas of activism to enact change.

For about a half hour at the meeting, Occupiers split into two working groups, an Actions Group and a Values and Demands group, where they brainstormed and shared ideas about the group’s future plans.

The Values and Demands working group started to formulate Occupy Pitt’s mission statement. Some students said they want to bring attention to further an increase in sustainability, responsible investment and transparency with the University’s endowment.

Jessica Rohan, a junior, said she is concerned with Pitt reproducing social inequality. She explained that there is great disparity between how much the administration and the staff make and voiced concern about how Pitt’s endowment is being used.

“Students should not be a commodity, and Pitt should not act like a corporation,” Rohan said.

Baron said that students want to give Occupy a better reputation, and that with Occupy Pitt there is no face to the movement, but rather a student coalition that she hopes everyone feels they can join.

“The University of Pittsburgh is part of a greater community. We want that to be explicit,” Baron said.

The Occupy movements denounce corporate greed in America. Since the nationwide movement’s inception, police have evicted and raided numerous camps around the country.

Occupy Pittsburgh is in the middle of a court case in which BNY Mellon is trying to move the Occupiers from their camp on Mellon Green. The preliminary injuction hearing ended more than a week ago, and both sides are now filing findings of fact for the judge to review before making a final decision whether or not the Occupiers can stay on the property Downtown.

With the semester already underway, Pitt’s Occupiers acknowledged that they have limited time to accomplish their goals and recruit members.

But Rohan said Occupy Pitt is not worried about the school year ending in three months, and that the group will continue to meet on Fridays at 2 p.m. on the first floor of Posvar Hall.

“We don’t have only three months — it’s a long-term project and movement. And, as we have seen with Occupy Wall Street, you can get a lot done in three months,” Rohan said.