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Is Occupy Iowa City's teach-in worth skipping class?

BY DI EDITORIAL BOARD | NOVEMBER 17, 2011 7:20 AM

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Yes

It is definitely worth it to leave and miss class today to participate in Occupy Iowa City's Walkout — besides, that's kind of the point.

Students are not just leaving class for the purpose of leaving class. While it will be a disturbance, and in a way, a demonstration, the fuel behind this project is to educate students about their potential roles in the Occupy movement.

The teach-in that will take place on the Pentacrest will talk to university students about the effects of debt and the current economic crisis on students and the history of activism and change in Iowa, and it will create an environment in which students may voice their concerns about the movement, its effects on student life, or their views on what it means to be a part of the 99 percent.

Students will have the chance to speak openly and engage in conversation, participate in activities, and see a presentation. Many students are not aware of the power they can have over their student-debt and loan situations through demonstration and advocacy, and in addition, they know very little about the loan application and payment process themselves.

I would argue that learning about the role one can have in a revolution is worth skipping two and a half hours of class for one day. While I do not have any classes during this time, I would participate in the walk-out if I did. Many teachers are being very understanding with students who will walk out of their class — in fact, some of them are very supportive and encourage the entire class to walk out.

Despite the hundreds of headlines focused on spreading news about the Occupy movement, the reality is that many people know very little about its intentions, are misinformed about its goals and desires, and know very little about the issues that catalyzed this revolution. While I can see why university students would have their concerns about missing class, the reality is that this event is a Walkout, and to walk out is the point. If students are concerned about falling behind, they can always visit their teachers during office hours.

This event is a way for students to learn about financial issues that will affect them far into the future, and I believe that it is worth walking out and missing a little bit of class.

— Sarah Damsky

No

A classroom walkout is not an appropriate step for the Occupy Iowa City movement to pursue, nor is it an efficient way of garnering further community support.

When analyzing the necessity to expand outward with protests, it's important to remain grounded to terrestrial actions. While Occupy Iowa City may certainly believe the time is right to stage an event like a walkout, the movement lacks the urgency to justify such a decision.

Although this week saw major developments in the Occupy movement on a national level — particularly in the movement's birthplace, New York City's Zuccotti Park — the Iowa City chapter has seen very little in the way of community relevance in recent weeks.

Still, there's a more glaring problem that becomes visible when considering the viability of a walkout. An event specifically targeting an institution such as the University of Iowa requires a strict set of goals or demands for the institution to reconcile with. Unfortunately, the Occupy Iowa City movement has come up with little in terms of real demands for the university and instead is relying on students to more or less share their gripes.

While dialogue is almost always beneficial, dialogue without a clear course of action is often needlessly wasted. For many critics, this would effectively summarize the flaws in the Occupy movement. Empty dialogue begets more empty dialogue, they argue.

For those disinclined to supporting the Occupy movement, an illogical course of action such as this only works to strengthen these stereotypes. For a movement already overwhelmingly misunderstood, this could prove to be extremely detrimental. What Occupiers should instead do is look to gain cohesiveness in working toward a strict set of goals.

Thus, the walkout scheduled for today seems akin to nothing other than mobilizing for the sake of mobilizing. Not only could this course of action potentially damage legitimate aspirations of Occupy Iowa City, it could also alienate their base. Iowa City Occupiers should avoid such foolhardy decisions in the future without first considering their intent.

— Matt Heinze


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