Coverage of Hunter College's General Assembly
The day after the citywide Day of Action in solidarity with Occupy Wall Street, around 20 to 30 Hunter College students gathered for one of their ongoing OWS-style general assemblies to discuss Monday’s march from Madison Square Park to Baruch College. The meeting drew testy exchanges between organizers and attendees.
A fire alarm went off and firefighters came into the building, but it was uncertain whether it was a false alarm or not. Also notable was the free pizza.
The assembly, facilitated by Hunter students Venetia Biney and Medina Beqira, began with a quick introduction explaining the discussion hand gestures borrowed from OWS meetings, including “temperature checks,” which is when people wiggle their fingers to communicate agreement or disagreement. Students of various majors attended, including biology, art and psychology students. The majority of the attendees were freshman, including one of the facilitators.
The students shared report-backs, where different committees involved with the OWS movement shared what they did during the Occupy Wall Street Week of Action. The logistics committee, for example, reported a march last Wednesday to Hunter College President Jennifer J. Raab’s office, where students were unable to use the building’s elevators after school security shut them down. They walked up the five floors to her office, but were unable to reach the office however.
They also reported their Day of Action activities, where protesters held a strike from 7 a.m. to 2 p.m. They protested tuition hikes, the cost of food, a lack of free printing, cuts to adjunct professors’ salary and health care. They also protested against changes in curriculum, complaining that foreign languages and courses on pluralism and diversity were no longer required.
“It devalues our degrees severely,” Beqiri said.
Later in the day, around 40 undergraduate and graduate students marched to the 59th Street and Lexington subways where they participated in OWS’ Occupy the Subway. Then, they joined other protesters in Union Square. Students said they were happy with the community’s support during the march. For instance, they were given free access to the subway station from the MTA agents.
“It was amazing,” Beqiri said. “We filled a subway car and had a people’s mic. I saw one of my TAs there. It made me feel ecstatic to see him down there. It gave me more hope.”
At today’s assembly, some of the attendees left to participate in a General Assembly at The New School where students occupied a building at 90 Fifth Ave. yesterday. Biney and Beqiri said that although the Hunter General Assembly is in solidarity with The New School occupation, they did not officially write a statement in collaboration with them.
Many were frustrated by the group’s inability to stick to the meeting’s schedule. Arguing between participants made the meeting run longer. People argued over when proposals should be made or whether they should be made at all considering the low attendance. Two students proposed the restructuring of how the various committees associated with the General Assembly work.