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 columbia.edu