Photo Essay By Forest and Chase
The Occupy Boston Student Summit this past Sunday (the 12th) was the first time the many Occupy student groups in Boston convened in one, large space outside the context of a general assembly.
Held in a philosophy building near Harvard Yard, the summit saw more than a hundred attendees from over a dozen schools both in the area, and as far away as Vermont.
This actually isn’t at the summit. This is UMass Boston, where students have set up a small tent city inside their student center to fight the increasing privatization of the supposedly public university. This is the back of the camp; the front area with a table and literature is in the background of the photograph. This photograph was taken the day that Occupy UMass Boston mic checked the board of trustees that was meeting a floor above the camp.
Banner from UMass Boston hanging over one of the conference rooms at the summit, which was located at Harvard. Other schools represented in the attendees included Tufts, MIT, SMFA, Lesley, Northeastern, Berklee, Boston College, Emerson College, Bridgewater State University, Bennington College, Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts, and many others.
The eight hour conference passed rather quickly. The day began with a group speak-outs on class and education inequality, and another on student debt. Soon following those were identity breakout groups in which separate spaces were given to discuss and contemplate particular conditions of oppression facing women, people of color, and queer/trans people with insight to how these might be understood within the student community of Occupy Boston. The day ended with a Q&A panel, followed by planning for future actions/tactics.
Professor Sam Christiansen from Northeastern gave a riveting talk addressing the history of student movements, and the continued revolutionary potential of student activism in society today. Christiansen said that students as seekers of truth are in the right place to directly act on society. She encouraged students to start cross-campus reading groups and to think of activism as a central aspect of education. She reminded us of events in the 1960s such as when students and workers united to shut down Paris, the release of the Port Huron Statement, and worldwide changes arising from the universities—finally concluding that these cannot be so much models to follow as things to remember and be informed by.
Noam Chomsky spoke afterwards. Chomsky’s presence at the summit (it’s rumored) was not widely publicized so the event wouldn’t get flooded with non-summit participants. This meant it was really just him having a conversation with us, which was very nice. His talk addressed some of the causes for present restructuring of universities in the image of the corporation. Chomsky spoke about the present—and past—relationships between education and business in America, pointing to Lewis Powell’s 1971 memorandum to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce which more or less points toward the present situation <http://reclaimdemocracy.org/
corporate_accountability/>. He also drew attention to other countries such as Mexico that have maintained a free university system precisely through student strikes and struggle against privatization. powell_memo_lewis.html
Here’s the video of Christiansen’s talk followed by Chomsky’s: