By Nashia Kamal
“Occupy Education,” an event that took place on Monday, Dec. 10, was a three-person panel discussion featuring Gabriel Rockhill, Annika Thiem and Cetin Gurer. The purpose of the event was to enlighten the student body of the true nature and purpose of the nationwide “Occupy” movement.
“I have noticed that in Villanova, and [in] other places, a fake or misinformed image of Occupy has been adapted,” said junior Jeta Mulaj. “I wanted to create an event on ‘Occupy Education’ in order to inform the audience about what Occupy really is, what Occupy is criticizing and, most importantly, what Occupy’s demands are.”
Mulaj is a member of Phi Sigma Tau, the philosophy honors society that teamed up with the Philosophy Graduate Student Union to put the event together. Mulaj played a key role in reaching out to the guest speakers and planning the event. For Mulaj, the motivation to organize the event is personal.
“I am originally from Kosovo, and I grew up during the time when ethnic wars erupted in the Balkans,” said Mulaj. “I came to study in America with the hope [of getting] a better education. I am extemely happy with what I have found here [but] this does not mean that the U.S. system is flawless. In fact, there are many things that should change. When I heard about the Occupy movement, I was reminded of [a self-determination movement in Kosovo] and I started to read and learn more about it.”
Seeing the movement’s potential for positive change, Phi Sigma Tau and the Philosophy Graduate Student Union believed “Occupy Education” would open students eyes to the problems of the current educational system. Indeed, the panel discussion attempted to place the movement into context. It arose out of the ongoing financial crisis that began in 2007 and was amplified by disillusionment with President Obama, rising unemployment and national debt, wealth inequity and global uprising. The “Occupy Education” movement views universities as a massive privatization of education and therefore making them inextricably linked to systematic problems within society.
These inequalities have led to an “Economy of Education” which refers to the virtual impossibility to get skilled, high paying jobs without degrees. This is a system where students feel pressure to seek professional degrees—incurring large debt—in the hopes of getting well-paying jobs. This has a ripple effect on the curriculum of schools, which are placing more and more importance on business and professional programs while deemphasizing liberal arts and sciences.
According to the Occupy Education movement, society must focus on student debt, public funding, and inclusion rather than exclusion. It claims that a new system of education is required, one that reassigns value to these factors in a more manageable and just way.
“This event aimed at awakening the student body to recognize that there are problems, but also possibilities,” said Mulaj. “This [is] one step toward this process. We are working on creating similiar events and encouraging more student action. “