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Occupy CU’s “Fireside” Chat

The view from outside

While a select few Columbians were sipping mineral water in PrezBo’s cozy living room, an even smaller contingent endured less luxurious conditions to hold their own conversation. Bwog’s Human Microphone Translator John Sarlitto reports from Occupy CU’s “Fireside Chat.”

While the Occupy CU “Fireside Chat” on the sidewalk outside PrezBo Manor was scheduled to start at 5:30 pm, it took a while for the purely figurative fire to ignite. Your correspondent, however, was not a minute late. For the first hour or so, the number of “journalists” (including Bwog + Bwog’s indulgent friend) roughly equaled the number of participants. Such awkwardness seemed to register with some of the occupiers (“did we accidentally put ‘Riverside’ on the flier?”), who graciously attempted to deflect the tension by sharing stories from the field and making quips about Mr. Bollinger’s ostentatious lifestyle and abode. For a time, it seemed that the event’s only brush with the Man’s Authority would be a young security guard’s polite refusal of hot chocolate.

By 6:30 pm, enough of a crowd had gathered that a few more senior members decided to move into Occupy’s General Assembly-style meeting, beginning with the iconic “Mic Check.” Elliott Grieco, CC ’12, facilitated the meeting, and each attendee introduced his or herself as well as a problem that they would like to see addressed at Columbia. These varied widely, ranging from paltry financial aid at GS, to the plight of adjunct faculty, to the Manhattanville expansion.

The discussion then swung back to the history of Occupy CU, but only briefly, for the wrought iron jaws of the beaux-arts beast suddenly opened, and a certain Sean from PrezBo’s office emerged to address the assembly. He stated that the president was interested in what was taking place below, and would be more than happy to address the concerns of the group or to read anything conveyed to him in writing. After a moment or two of silence, a consensus emerged that nothing could be done without consensus, so Sean retreated, and the group resolved to write down their questions on the back of unused fliers and leave them at the door. A rather blunt woman who had previously identified herself as a journalist from Vienna, paying no attention to the “stack” (OWS speak for the established order of speaking), asked the group why they would’ve passed up such an unexpected opportunity for direct engagement. The general response – that student-to-student dialogue and the Occupy “process” needed to be honored first and foremost, and that to merely send a question or a representative upstairs would, as Elliott put it, “pervert” this process – seemed characteristic of the group’s journey-over-destination prioritization scheme. While Occupy CU’s “destination” seems at this point undefined, there are certainly worse ways to spend a curiously lukewarm winter’s night than journeying however uncertainly with a group of hospitable and well-intentioned Columbians.

An honorable mansion via

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  • LOL says:

    @LOL Get a job.
    Occupy a desk.
    Suck it, you entitled whiners.

  • OH LAWDZ says:

    @OH LAWDZ This is what the New York Review of Books (Michael Greenberg) noted in its last article about OWS: the occupiers can’t actually effect anything, and deliberately *won’t* effect anything, because to effectuate anything would be too hierarchical/heteronormative/Orientalist/etc./etc.

    Meanwhile, corporations/Koch Bros/heteros/etc./etc. who *do* recognize the power of actualization are running train on the 2012 election.

    Pure anarchy will *not* work for OWS: you can’t smash the state if you won’t pick up the hammer.

    – CC ’12

    1. #OCU says:


      1. Ignatius of Loyola says:

        @Ignatius of Loyola “We must go in by their door so they can go out by ours.”

        (I understand some of the absurdity of quoting Ignatius/a Jesuit line in this context, but it’s worth pondering whether ‘conversion’ has to operate through their terms in order to come to another).

    2. Occupy all-or-nothing says:

      @Occupy all-or-nothing I have read this article, and my take-away isn’t as much “the occupiers can’t actually effect anything” as much as that Occupy as a single-minded actor will not affect anything; by its very structure, it is unable to reach these kind of clear goals. However, analogously, the University does not necessarily “affect” anything on its own, but its philosophy of formation does make a difference. It produces faculty, research, patents, and the training of professionals, among other things. There is not a mission statement as much as there are principles, with the hope that the construction of this space will somehow later produce a better world. Of course, the realization of these principles is not perfect. Mr. Greenberg’s conclusion: “It seems possible that the wars and recessions of the past decade have given rise to a politicized generation that will have, over the coming years, a lasting effect on the country. The months leading up to the 2012 presidential election this fall will most likely tell us more about what that effect will be. “

  • PrezLacan says:

    @PrezLacan As hysterics, you demand a new master. You will get one!

  • Anonymous says:

    @Anonymous I am an overly entitled, apathetic individual. I go to Columbia and am fairly certain that soon I will be making millions of dollars at a high profile job that either directly or indirectly screws other people for profit. This absolves me from all social responsibility, so I’m going to go on Bwog and attack people who actually give a shit. Whine, whine, whine.

  • ... says:

    @... one day, safe time travel for living human beings will be developed at columbia. it won’t be a professor, nor a graduate student, post-doc or other form of professional researcher. it will be an undergraduate, deeply motivated by the possibility of undoing the grand mistake he/she had made just a few years earlier…

  • Anonymous says:

    @Anonymous the spec did a better job? Back to uni writing bwog

  • Anonymous says:

    @Anonymous Diversity of tactics is important. Failing to send a question (even a loaded one) to PrezBo was dumb. I don’t think that failing to reach a consensus or ignoring a direct line to protest the President conflates with Occupy’s goals. That said, this still shows that the death of Occupy has been exaggerated.

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