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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.”

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