Activists center efforts on colleges, surrounding neighborhood and the environment.
A sect of Occupy Philadelphia, student activist group Occupy Temple, mirrors many other movements across the country. However, this group is now focusing more on student-related concerns involving budget cuts, university encroachment on surrounding neighborhoods and environmental issues.
Today, Feb. 7, members of Occupy Temple said, the group will hold a protest on Main Campus following Gov. Tom Corbett’s budget announcement that some have speculated will include more budget cuts to higher education, which would place even more financial hardships on students after a tuition increase of more than $1,100 this past year.
Dissimilarly, Temple University College Republicans argues Corbett possesses little influence concerning funding cuts to state-related universities and Temple has relied on stimulus money during the last several years, which has been slowly declining, leaving no option but to raise tuition costs. Furthermore TUCR said that Occupy members wish to see their college tuition annulled without any financial responsibility.
A change.org petition by the group has surfaced, demanding Temple to freeze tuition and open its democratic processes. At press time, 53 signatures out of 5,000 were pledged.
But Occupy Temple is focusing on other issues too.
“We’re trying to build relations in the community and as students we are a part of that community,” junior film and media arts major Steph Irwin said after a meeting on Feb. 1. “We are going to build relations with [North Philadelphia residents] not just through political rallies and protests, but by banding together and listening to their problems they have as a community.”
Citing the “shaky relationship” between members of the local community and Temple students, Irwin stressed the importance of a mutual respect level amid the ongoing challenge of building an open relationship.
She insisted that a mutual respect is needed “before going on to plan specific actions with North Philadelphia community members.”
Following the evictions of several local community members in which Irwin claimed was for the sole purpose of expanding student housing, Occupy Temple hopes to show solidarity with displaced community members.
“We really wanted to communicate that police brutality is something that we will not stand for,” Irwin said.
However, the question to many lies in the willingness of protestors to participate in an open dialogue with university administration, local city council members and state legislators to push the demanded reform.
“There is a proper channel [for discussion] and they are not willing to go through it,” Darin Bartholomew, junior management information systems major and vice president of TUCR, said.
TUCR member and sophomore political science major Joe Oleksak said that Occupy Temple’s members lacked knowledge of fundamental economics and a central argument in their most recent protest at the Bell Tower in November 2011.
President of TUCR and junior political science major Erik Jacobs also pointed to the heavy influence of the Tea Party as an alternative to the Occupy movement for those who want policy reform and fiscal responsibility through an appropriate political process.
But Occupy Temple members maintain that traditional politics fail to address the issues plaguing the country.
“We cannot kid ourselves anymore and tell ourselves that contacting legislators works and things like voting for two party candidates works, because it is more than obvious that those things will fail us and continue to fail us as long as we are stuck in relying on writing letters when it is really all controlled by people with money,” Irwin said.
Irwin said she feels that Occupy Temple’s past actions have been tuned out by the city, but she insists that the organization of a regional conference involving other Occupy members in the Philadelphia area outside Occupy Temple has made a noticeable impact.
Mark Staver can be reached at email@example.com.