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Occupy Wall Street comes to Stanford

While the recent Occupy Wall Street movement has been spreading to major cities across the nation over the past month, the campaign has now recently appeared on campus.

Earlier this week, fliers advertising a “general assembly” to be held today at noon in White Plaza began to appear across campus.

This will be the first event for a group called “Occupy Stanford.” While there has not been a specific organization, students have been participating in local protests, including those in San Francisco and Oakland. Only a handful of students participated at the Occupy Palo Alto event held Wednesday at the Bank of America branch on El Camino.

The protest was organized by the Peninsula Peace and Justice Center (PPJC), an organization that dates back to Vietnam War protests in the 60s, and took place less than two miles from Stanford Campus. This protest did see the members of a newly formed Occupy Stanford group meeting with the more seasoned protesters of the PPJC.

“This is a class issue and Stanford is a private university,” said Aurora David ’12, a Stanford student who attended the Occupy Palo Alto protest. “Our students may not be the people worst affected but this is starting the discussion. “

First year Ph.D student in statistics Joshua Loftus, another Stanford protester at the Occupy Palo Alto protest, said he was motivated to attend because he was concerned over what he saw as an eroding opportunity in education.

“I am a first generation college graduate and went to school with a Pell Grant,” Loftus said. “I have eight nieces and nephews and I don’t know that they will even have that opportunity because they are cutting Pell grants instead of raising taxes.”

While Loftus was passionately supportive of the movement, he also gave voice to two other issues that could hinder its popularity on campus — uncertainty of the value of the protests and students’ lack of time.

“When I heard about the ‘Occupy’ protests I was glad that somebody was going to do it, but I was pessimistic and I am still pretty pessimistic,” Loftus said. “It was a split-second decision whether or not to participate — honestly, I should probably be studying.”

What Loftus was not concerned with, however, was the charge that the movement lacks tangible goals.

“The lack of focus allows it to grow more,” Loftus said. “If it was based around one specific policy that might turn off all those who don’t know about that policy, but this is based around anger that many people are feeling.”

Stanford professor of sociology Sarah Soule, who specializes in social movements, agrees that it is too early to fault Occupy Wall Street for not having clearer goals.

“I think that we must remember that this movement is relatively young,” Soule wrote in an email to The Daily. “It would be hard to argue, I think, that most historic movements arrived on a coherent set of goals in a few short weeks.”

  • Anonymous

    If the protestors could articulate a coherent purpose for demonstrating, it would help their cause.  What are you against?   You live in the best country in the history of the world.  People from all over the planet risk their lives to get here.  Do you want socialism like Cuba?

    If you don’t like your bank fees than choose a different bank.  Their are over 100 to choose from, many now are online.  There is plenty of competition in banking.  Don’t be lazy.  Look for a bank that suits your needs.

    If you don’t like the status quo then vote out Obama and the Democrats.  That will effect change much more than blocking traffic.

  • yellow95

    As a Stanford alum who has found herself unemployed and prey to unethical banking practices and ridiculous health insurance costs, I can assures Stanford students that the Occupy Wall St Movement is definitely something they should be supporting now. Sadly, unless change happens very soon, these students will soon be joining our ranks.

    When none of our officials are working for our best interests, civil disobedience is the only option.

  • http://www.facebook.com/joftius Joshua Loftus

    I haven’t insulted you. I only pointed out that you didn’t do your homework, and I still think that’s a fair assessment. I do not intend to have a confrontational tone. Please interpret the rest of my response not as a counter-argument, but just as neutral information about why I support the OWS movement.

    The US is by no means a democracy. It’s supposed to be a representative democracy, but it’s broken. Politicians represent those who pay for their political campaigns so they can get reelected. This system has resulted in the accumulation of both economic and political power in the hands of a very small minority of “citizens.” You can see the effects of this by looking at a few example issues:

    1) The vast majority of Americans have long supported ceasing our military interventions, but our government ignores us and instead keeps entering new arenas of conflict.

    2) A large majority of Americans have for a while now supported raising taxes on the wealthy, but instead our government keeps re-instating the Bush tax cuts.

    3) The majority of Americans want a “public option” for health insurance and are opposed to “Obamacare”–we didn’t get the first, and we did get the second.

    This list could go on.

    When the system is this broken, it does not help to try to change it from within. Those of us on the left tried to do that in the last election and it failed. Obama was campaigning on all the right things for us, but his actual presidency has been almost indistinguishable from a 3rd Bush term (with the exception of, maybe, appointing some competent people instead of his friends to head various agencies). In many ways he has actually been worse than Bush. As you indicate, the democrats had a “stranglehold” on power–but they didn’t do anything we wanted. That should be an indication that they aren’t actually representing us… which would fit perfectly with the explanation that almost none of the politicians are actually representing us. We can’t just vote Obama and the democrats out because we currently don’t have other viable options.

    As for the list of 3 things I mentioned, of course people aren’t all going to give the same list. That’s an absurd expectation to have of a movement with literally hundreds of thousands of supporters. But if you took my list and showed it to 100 protesters, I would bet that at least 95 of them would enthusiastically agree with it. They would want to amend it- make some statements stronger, address other issues like the environment or racial inequality, etc. That’s completely normal and to be expected of any large group of people. 

  • Steven Crane

    As Joshua said below, finding consensus within a massive movement will always be a challenge.  In fact, at this stage of the movement (the VERY beginning) I would be amazed if any movement would have all its ducks in a row and have everybody rallying for exactly the same thing.  The point is that strong dissent is being expressed and momentum is gaining.  As it builds and grows it will take shape.  

  • SarahConnor

    http://www.opensecrets.org/pres08/contrib.php?cid=N00009638 Why has Standford given 595,000.00 towards Obama’s re-election or for that matter, why is Stanford giving any money to anybody’s election??????

  • John

    Reminds me of the Iraq war protests we had in the Main Quad during the 02-03 year.  Broaden the coalition, define your goals, and organize, organize, organize.

  • John

    Reminds me of the Iraq war protests we had in the Main Quad during the 02-03 year.  Broaden the coalition, define your goals, and organize, organize, organize.

  • More annoyed at inequality

    Top 1% is about $380k per year. Fewer than 10% of even doctors make that kind of money.

    And I’d rather pay my own way through college and have a corporation-free government than vice versa.  Just because we may benefit in some ways from a high degree of wealth inequality does not make it right and does not mean we can’t seek to change that.  

  • Annoyed Stanford Student

    I’m not sure where you’re getting your physician statistics from but the median salary for medical specialty is $339,738. That number comes from the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, (http://www.bls.gov/oco/ocos074.htm) scroll down the page and you’ll see it. A significant portion of doctors are in medical specialties (dermatology, cardiology, neurology, anesthesiology, surgery, nephrology, etc). As a former pre-med, I know plenty of doctors who doing very well.

    http://www.hschange.com/CONTENT/1078/ This is the link that claims about 60% of doctors are in medical specialties (the rest are primary care). I don’t have time to do a fact check on the data source, but the number sounds about right.

    So if you want to make a ruckus, be fair about it.

    In terms of paying for college, so you want to take out tens of thousands in loans? There is no way you can pay for a Stanford education (or any top school education) with a minimum wage college job. I wish college was cheaper, but the reality is that it’s not. All of the opportunities/resources (Overseas program, Intro Sems, undergrad research, pricey organic foods, etc) we have here at Stanford require a lot of money. Where do you think this money comes from? As a Stanford student, don’t even try and convince me you don’t enjoy the resources of this great University.

    I’m not disagreeing that we should mitigate inequality, but this whole Occupy (insert random location) has no cohesive mission statement. Just as bad as the Tea Party. It just indiscriminately attacks all wealth institutions, regardless of how the institution obtained its wealth. Protest against corrupted banks and politicians, but not against educational institutions trying to provide for their students.

  • Igloo

    Stanford has been one of the leaders in social justice since the start. In the 60′s there were tons of people voicing their opinion there so much the school became famous for it… To be honest, Stanford people are some of the most likely to change the world into something better..  some of the really poor people don’t have the ‘luxury’ to engage in such stuff.. they are too busy just surviving.. 
    So its not just about money, its about social justice. The truth is, a few of the ‘privileged’ people need to speak up just as much as everyone else.. I think warren buffet has admitted he pays too little taxes compared to poor people, so I guess its not about your income, its just your willingness to make the world a better place. Just because you want to make money doesn’t mean you also want to watch everyone else suffer as well. The best people work, not just for themselves, but also so they can also help other people..  Its just that people are complaining that things in this country are out of balance.. and I imagine if enough people complain, eventually people will start listening. 
    Also in response to some comments, implying that Stanford people are hypocrites for caring…    Financial aid, seems like mostly a good thing. I can’t remember the last time people complained about the rare few people in the top %1 giving too much money to schools and stuff.. lol. So, taking money for education is not really high on the list of complaints of the other 99%…  its just that there are a lot of people who are less fortunate than some of the lucky Students at Stanford, and there’s nothing wrong with those people saying that and wanting to help out others either..  Basically if you heckle the fortunate people for speaking out and wanting to help out the other 99%, what do you think the odds of real change are? Last time I looked, our country and congress was pretty much run by the top 1%, so you might need their help as well.. anyways, its not the people who are always bad, but sometimes its the rules that need to be changed to make the game more fair. 
    Its not really a war between the people who were lucky enough to make money and the people who weren’t – its more like the incentives and rules in this country need to change, or the people who are getting the bad end of the deal, will recognize that its such a bad deal they aren’t going to play the game anymore.