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19 October 2011

Occupy movement makes impact on campus, city

Elizabeth Weintraub and Lana Schissell, leaders of the Occupy Miami group on campus, show their support at the rally on Saturday. Robby Wagenseil//The Miami Hurricane

Though rain continues to flood the streets, Occupy Miami protestors continue to occupy the Government Center, Miami-Dade County’s official headquarters located in Downtown.

The Miami segment of Occupy Wall Street gathered supporters weeks before Saturday’s protest by reaching out through social media outlets like Facebook and Twitter. Occupy Wall Street started in New York to protest the role of corporations in American society.

Now, the Occupy Miami movement has gained a following at UM.

“I was in awe of the facilitators, the diversity and the perspectives that were brought together,” graduate student Lana Schissel said.

Along with six other UM students, Schissel spent Saturday night occupying the Government Center.

Two weeks before the event took place, Schissel and her roommate Elizabeth Weintraub, who is also a graduate student, formed the UM Forum for Occupy Miami.

“My roommate and I felt it was necessary to start the group because we knew we couldn’t be the only ones on this campus that were stoked about this movement,” Schissel said. “An informal meeting seemed like the best way to get people talking.”

The group meets Tuesdays at 8 p.m. on the Rock and Thursdays at 2 p.m. in the green area by the Cosford Cinema to discuss issues that are being raised by the Occupy movement. They are not trying to get approved by the Committee on Student Organizations (COSO).

“Right now, we still meet informally and our existence is predicated on the momentum of the Occupy movement,” Schissel said. “As of now, we divide our time and resources between occupying government center and formulating this student platform.”

Many UM students have been attending meetings because they felt an obligation to speak out against the current state of the country.

“This is not just another protest,” junior Dylan Beasley said. “This is becoming a widespread reflection of the issues we all face. I believe that when there is a movement like this, I’ve failed as a human being if I don’t do what I can to push it forward.”

Other students feel that it is an important upcoming political movement.

“I’ve done campaign work on and off for 12 years,” senior Robert Hupf said. “Occupy Miami embodies the spirit of activism and passionate political involvement. I love it coming from a typically apathetic community here at UM.”

The forum wants to differentiate themselves from the greater Occupy Miami movement by focusing on issues that specifically affect the UM campus.

“We want to work on student debt,” sophomore David Moyer said. “It affects us in a greater sense than the average American. It also affects our families. It’s something that really connects a lot of people.”

Students in the forum would also like to foster a relationship with Chartwells employees.

“We need to take on-campus issues, those possibly being student loans or supporting the Chartwells workers, who are part of the 99 percent here on campus,” Beasley said.

Because the movement has no definitive endpoint, students are curious to see how it will develop.

“I see the movement as an organic outgrowth of student activism and involvement in their community,” Hupf said. “I see the UM Forum for Occupy Miami as something that will outlast its initial cause.”