Occupy URI organizer voices objectives, primary concerns before Student Senate
Last night, Danielle DiRocco, an organizer of the Occupy URI movement, held a public forum during the Student Senate meeting in which she talked about the progress the movement has made so far and what its current plans are for the short-term. She also made an effort to dispel myths about the movement, and further clarify what Occupy URI's mission is.
DiRocco began the meeting with a small arts-and-crafts session, in which she taught the Senate how to quickly fold "tiny tents" out of construction paper. The tents, DiRocco said, symbolize solidarity for the Occupy URI movement and she expressed that she would "like to see them all over campus."
"This is about the extent of ‘occupying' I expect Occupy URI to actually do," DiRocco said, in reference to the "tiny tents." "We're not really interested in camping on the quad. I personally can say that, in my point of view, and from every person I know in the movement, that is definitely not our objective."
While the movement does not have any intentions to set up tents on campus, DiRocco said they have been using the term "occupy" because "[the title] does a lot to rally troops around this cause in general." She also said that they have taken up the title because the group is part of the Occupy Colleges movement, which is a nation-wide collection of colleges that have united under their similar concerns.
According to DiRocco, the primary concern of Occupy URI is to keep an eye on the disparity of wealth between the poor and the wealthy. On campus, the best way to approach that issue, DiRocco said, is to keep an eye on the 9.5 percent tuition hike that approaches next year.
To illustrate her concerns, DiRocco brought up the fact that there is currently a bill going through the state to increase the taxes of those who earn $250,000 and above temporarily by 4 percent, when their taxes are currently at 5.99 percent. DiRocco mentioned how it was "interesting" how the wealthy are getting tax cuts when tuition is being raised.
"When you're taking taxes away at the top, it has to be paid for somewhere, and it's coming out of your tuition," DiRocco said. "Our argument is that if we honestly believe that education is of higher value, we need to work together on bringing this issue to the floor."
Occupy URI's current short -term goal has been to work with the Occupy Colleges movement to get people to sign a national petition. The petition, titled "No Cuts, No Compromises" hopes to get governors to refrain from making any cuts to education in their state budgets. According to DiRocco, the petition needs at least 10,000 signatures to be taken seriously. When over 10,000 names have been collected, the petition will be sent to each of the 50 state governors with the hopes of preventing future tuition hikes.
"Occupy URI's purpose is true and accurate. It's something that can really speak to students," DiRocco said. "It's one thing to complain and be jaded about an issue, but it's another thing entirely to do something about it."
In other news:
Rebecca Linhart, a concerned freshman, spoke at the Senate meeting about a current issue that has recently gone viral called Kony 2012. The movement is centered on bringing a man named Joseph Kony, a Ugandan who has abducted and enslaved many Ugandan children, to justice, and pushing for his arrest. She encouraged Senate to help involve the campus in spreading the word about Kony.
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