This weekend, we published a preliminary petition declaring the support of Columbia and Barnard faculty for the Occupy Wall Street movement. The petition has been officially released today on behalf of the Faculty Action Committee with
328 over 350 signatures (and no repetitions this time), by Professor Paige West. You can read the full press release that accompanies the petition, which includes a statement from former Provost Johnathon Cole, by following the link at the bottom of the post.
Many observers have expressed a desire to understand who these protesters are, rather than simply sympathizing with their frustration. Two recent Columbia grads, Victor Suarez, CC’11 and Laura LaPerche, CC’10 made a short documentary, ‘More Than One Demand’ to tackle just that question. It examines the multifaceted messages of the protesters, by asking individuals to explain the meaning of their signs. The doc even includes one of our own! From 2:06-2:41 Columbia Philosophy Professor John Collins describes the inclusiveness of the protests as “a stroke of genius.” The New Yorker recently published a list of some of the signs held up at a recent march, which simply presents the spectrum of opinion.
NY, October 10, 2011. – Today faculty from Columbia University released a petition signed by over 300 professors expressing their support for the Occupy Wall Street movement. Signatories to the petition come from across the faculty of Columbia University and Barnard College. In their petition, the professors join the Occupy Wall Street movement in condemning the growth of economic, social, and political inequalities. According to the petition, claims that the movement lacks focus are inaccurate and ignore the many important issues that the Occupy Wall Street movement has raised.
“I understand the message of the Occupy Wall Street movement clearly,” said Columbia professor and former University provost, Jonathan R. Cole. “The movement speaks to the growing economic inequalities in our society: 1 percent of the population holds almost 40 percent of the nation’s wealth; as inequality has increased taxes on the wealthy have plunged; often wealth rather than merit determines who receives educational opportunities; and millions of citizens have lost their homes while those on Wall Street, who are responsible for much of the economic crisis, are rewarded rather than punished.”
Many professors expressed admiration for the movement’s ability to refocus public debate to include discussion of equality and economic justice. “While my generation of scholars focused on the important issues of civil rights and women’s rights, it has been said we did not do enough to draw attention to the growth in economic inequality. There’s just enough truth in this for me to be very moved in a personal way that so many people from all walks of life, old and young, are uniting now around a platform of basic economic fairness,” said Bruce Robbins, the Old Dominion Foundation Professor in the Humanities. Professor Hamid Dabashi said, “We owe it to the generations of students we have taught to oppose the systematic erosion of the common good, of the inalienable rights to a decent healthcare, to public education, and to a dignified life.”
The professors also believe that the movement provides an opportunity to address these issues with students. “As a law professor, I feel a particular responsibility in speaking out in support of the Occupy Wall Street protests,” said Katherine Franke, the Isidor and Seville Sulzbacher Professor of Law at Columbia Law School. “Lawyers have played no small role in providing legal cover for the overreaching and irresponsibility undertaken on Wall Street. My hope is that Columbia Law School will see these protests as an opportunity to remind our students that legal ethics require that lawyers be bound to represent not only private, but also larger societal, interests.”
The full petition can be seen at http://www.ipetitions.com/petition/faculty_action_committee/signatures