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Occupy CU Responds to Barnard’s Lockdown

The Occupiers are getting feisty. Last night an email was sent out from their alias (which shows up as “Lee Bollinger”) to the offices of Dean Hinkson, President Spar, President Bollinger, and various contacts from Jezebel, Gawker, Gothamist, and the New York Times, demanding an explanation from the administration for the increased police presence during last week’s General Assembly. Occupy CU’s attempt to organize a meeting at Barnard was thwarted by dispersal from Public Safety, while the NYPD kept a close eye on the entrances to campus:

We demand that Barnard administrators promptly and directly respond to their serious acts of repression with an explanation. We will accept a response in writing or in person at our next Barnard General Assembly, Wednesday, November 30th, 12:00pm at our originally intended location, outside Barnard Hall. We hope that this statement and administrators’ subsequent response can begin a productive dialogue and framework under which we can discuss and express our concerns freely and be heard, not repressed.Our movement here on campus, in our community, and in our city is growing. The issues we face in this University are not independent from those of the movement at large. This is the time for meaningful change, and Occupy Columbia University welcomes all who wish to participate. An injury to one is an injury to all.

While Occupy Columbia have been making a lot of noise, it’s not clear that their numbers are growing significantly. There were only around 30 45 people at the Barnard GA, despite the overreactive security measures. Spec published an interesting piece last week on divided perspectives among students on OWS, which explores why some people care more than others. Whether the executive offices that OCU is targeting will care remains to be seen. We’ve contacted some members of the administration for comment. You can read the full email below.

On Tuesday, November 22nd, Occupy Columbia University was to hold a General Assembly in front of Barnard Hall at 8pm. The focus of the GA was to be Barnard-specific issues, and, as always, this GA was open to all members of the university community including students, faculty and staff, as well as members of the the community. However, students were met with a public safety and NYPD lockdown of the Barnard Campus called for by the administration. We relocated to the Diana Center, where we were met with further police screening and questioning.

For twenty minutes, public safety officers and administrators, including Dean Avis Hinkson, questioned students, “Why are you here? What are you doing?” before retreating behind a wall to “listen in” on the General Assembly, despite invitations to participate in the discussions. Photos can be found in Bwog’s coverage of the event.

Tuesday’s events, while not physically violent like the recent repression of students’ rights and freedoms at UC-Davis and CUNY Baruch, demonstrated that Barnard administrators too desire to silence voices critical of their policies and practices. This kind of message is utterly opposed to the type of open, caring community that Barnard claims to promote. Our discussions, however, cannot and will not cease.

We will shed light on the violations of student rights by individually and collectively reexamining the framework under which we attempt to grow and learn. We will call out the individuals who neglect their responsibilities to the students of Barnard College and Columbia University.  Their ruthless disregard for student opposition to policy changes and lack of transparency regarding actions that affect the daily lives of students cannot be tolerated.

Claiming that the lockdown and NYPD presence were necessary for students’ safety does not convince us. NYPD on campus does not make us feel safe. You will find that during recent acts of student activism, the only source of physical violence was the police, and it was committed against students. We must also remember that state violence and repression go on every day in the prison-industrial complex, in stop-and-frisking, and in racial profiling that occurs even on our own campuses. We stand in solidarity with all our student sisters and brothers and everyone who is targeted through systematic repression.

We demand that Barnard administrators promptly and directly respond to their serious acts of repression with an explanation. We will accept a response in writing or in person at our next Barnard General Assembly, Wednesday, November 30th, 12:00pm at our originally intended location, outside Barnard Hall. We hope that this statement and administrators’ subsequent response can begin a productive dialogue and framework under which we can discuss and express our concerns freely and be heard, not repressed.

Our movement here on campus, in our community, and in our city is growing. The issues we face in this University are not independent from those of the movement at large. This is the time for meaningful change, and Occupy Columbia University welcomes all who wish to participate. An injury to one is an injury to all.

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16 Comments

  • Why more students aren't joining - says:

    @Why more students aren't joining - When something as innocuous as a group of rag tag students wanting to talk about their school and their city outside on campus warrants, in Barnard’s mind, NYPD officers and legitimately shutting down the campus, it’s pretty easy to get why many students can’t actually get to hear or learn about Occupy Columbia, let alone take part.

    If I didn’t know anything about Occupy CU, but I saw policemen, etc. hiding behind a meeting recording and filming it, I would be too intimidated and scared to go to a meeting.

    I love this school and the education I’ve gotten and the people I’ve met, but Barnard’s (man)handling of an outside meeting and Columbia’s handling of protests outside of the Law School (complete with barricades, NYPD galore, and filming) are really disappointing.

  • Person at the GA says:

    @Person at the GA Hi Bwog! Thanks for posting this! However this was never a demonstration, it was always a peaceful assembly, no plans for demo or protest at all.

    Also there were 45 people at the General Assembly that night.

    Thank you!

  • How many... says:

    @How many... Barnard students attended the Barnard general assembly? From facebook it seems like not many…

    1. exactly says:

      @exactly not many resulted in this. We all want a place to study. This DID NOT stop anyone from studying. It was Barnards reaction that put us through this. I am a person who thinks GAs are stupid and i think barnards reaction is worse. I support my fellow students, regardless of how much they might need a shower.

  • Anonymous says:

    @Anonymous We want to study in peace. Use our campus respectfully or get out. Stop embarrassing the rest of the students by contacting newspapers in our names. You do not represent us all!

    1. Racist white person in the 1960s south says:

      @Racist white person in the 1960s south We want to study in peace. Use our campus respectfully or get out. Stop embarrassing the rest of the students by contacting newspapers in our names. You do not represent us all!

      1. Baby punching Nazi in 1930s Germany says:

        @Baby punching Nazi in 1930s Germany We want to study in peace. Use our campus respectfully or get out. Stop embarrassing the rest of the students by contacting newspapers in our names. You do not represent us all!

    2. Anonymous says:

      @Anonymous no one was contacted in your name, or even in your shitty institution’s name. chill out.

  • Anonymous says:

    @Anonymous I feel like the Occupy movement has gotten a bit derailed through confrontations with police. I’m all about the 99% economic/social activism bit, but I don’t see why this has to manifest through hating the police. If anything, they are part of the 99%. The movement shouldn’t get its targets mixed up.

    Granted, there have been some serious incidents of police brutality. The better we can focus our frustrations on Wall St, though, the more legit the movement.

    1. Anonymous says:

      @Anonymous issues of wealth distribution and state surveillance/control are inseparable at this point.

      1. Anonymous says:

        @Anonymous i disagree

    2. Anonymous says:

      @Anonymous in this instance nypd lockdown was TOTALLY unnecessary. there wouldn’t have been beef with the police if they hadn’t created that situation.

    3. we're not hatin' says:

      @we're not hatin' on the police–we are responding to police hatin’ on us!

      1. this isnt about police says:

        @this isnt about police it is how the current admin views us

  • If you guys are interested says:

    @If you guys are interested in further discussing the role that security and police forces play on our campuses and in society in general, there will be an open student/professor dialogue tomorrow night at 8 PM. Here is the facebook event: http://www.facebook.com/#!/event.php?eid=198318020249723. Let’s have a good discussion!

  • Anonymous says:

    @Anonymous the admins wouldn’t have overreacted so much if they didn’t see the meeting as a credible threat. So what exactly is a discussion of economic inequality threatening? I get the impression that university authority is as silly as it seems. Imagine prezbo as a character in a chaplin movie trying to put out a spark by throwing lighter fluid on it. I haven’t been so cool with the protests or their tactics, but this sort of administrative over-everything (reach, response, restriction, reaction) does make me skeptical about whether or not they have our best interests at heart.

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