Occupy Eugene Education Alliance Occupies UO Senate Meeting

November 30, 2011
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE press [at] occupyeugenemedia.org

The Occupy Eugene Education Alliance and Action Committee facilitated a student walkout at the University of Oregon today, which began with a rally at the Erb Memorial Union amphitheater at 12:15 p.m. The walkout was titled “WTF – Why Tuition Fees?” and brought attention to the rising costs of higher education. Occupiers encouraged students to list their student loan debt on a poster. The highest debt recorded was $100,000, reported by a PhD student.

Rally speakers included Associated Students of the University of Oregon Senator Jeremy Hedlund, UO sociology instructor Chuck Hunt and SEIU local 085 chair James Jacobson (SEIU represents classified staff at the UO).

Approximately 100 students, staff, faculty and members of the Graduate Teaching Fellows Federation, the graduate student workers’ union, were also present.

During the walkout, which followed the rally, Occupy Eugene occupied Johnson Hall, which houses UO administration; Oregon Hall, which houses the Financial Aid office; and Lillis Hall, which houses the UO Lundquist College of Business.

Members of Occupy Eugene “mic checked” the UO Senate meeting, which was held at 3 p.m. at Mac Court to discuss the Oregon University System board’s decision to remove UO President Richard Lariviere.

Occupier Scotty Perey said, “The bulk of what we said was taken directly from (the UO’s) mission statement.”

During the mic check, UO Senate President Robert Kyr repeatedly knocked his gavel, shouting, “order!”

The mic checking occupiers said in unison: “We are here to present the university’s own mission statement as the criteria in selecting the new president of this institution. These principles include a continuing commitment to affordable public higher education as well as a conviction that freedom of thought and expression is the bedrock principle on which university activity is based; and finally the acceptance of the challenge of an evolving social, political, and technological environment by welcoming and guiding change rather than reacting to it. Thank you very much.”

During the senate meeting, UO student Cims Gillespie testified before Kyr and OUS Chancellor George Pernsteiner that Lariviere’s “firing made as little sense as his hiring,” outlining the president’s attempt to in effect privatize the UO and become more reliant on corporate donors such as Phil Knight, billionaire Nike co-founder and board chairman.

At the walkout rally earlier in the day, ASUO Senator Hedlund noted that Knight, a major UO donor, had withdrawn a donation from the UO in 2000 because the institution had signed on with factory monitoring organization Workers Rights Consortium. UO’s involvement in the WRC was brought about by student activism, and because of Knight’s donation withdrawal, the UO left the consortium. Since then, student activism had died down. “We are the agitators in this country,” said Hedlund during the rally, encouraging students to rise up again. “The student movement is back. No good social movement has been won without students.”

At this evening’s Occupy Eugene General Assembly, occupier Sweet reported that the Education Alliance had held a teach-in at the UO on Tuesday night, which featured updates from occupations worldwide. He said it had been very informative, and had been followed by an open discussion. “It’s only a matter of time before we have a satellite occupation there at the university,” he said. “Props to everybody who have helped with this committee.”

The next Education Alliance meeting is on Friday, December 2nd, at 3 p.m. in the EMU Ben Linder room. The next Action Committee meeting is tomorrow, December 1st, at 4 p.m. on the Occupy Eugene site at Washington/Jefferson Park.

This press release has been approved by the general assembly of Occupy Eugene.