Tents disappear, students stay

  Junior Emily Reynolds does not play video games or watch movies during her spare time; she marches up and down Church Street with the local Occupy movement instead. “Personally, I’ve learned more in this semester than I’ve learned in all the rest of my education combined being an occupier,” Reynolds said. “I would say Occupy is more a part of my life now than school.” Reynolds is not alone in the movement. There are dozens of college students involved in Occupy Burlington. However, there are questions surrounding the level of student involvement and what role the students have. “Students are specifically bringing either student or individual involvement,” Reynolds said. “There’s general assemblies, and sometimes they happen on campus.” Reynolds said the students play an important role in the Occupy movement, but thinks that many other student Occupiers have failed at bringing the message back to campus. “Occupy has made me challenge many of my views on school anyway, and that’s why I’m more involved in Burlington rather than UVM,” she said. “I think there’s a lot of problems with university education, so maybe I should be more involved on campus.” Sophomore Emma Schoenberg is also an Occupier and said the biggest draw for students is the current student debt crisis, which may not be a good way to draw in the collegiate crowd. “UVM students say, ‘I’m pissed because my really expensive school is too expensive.’ Well, I’m pissed because the whole world is too expensive,” Schoenberg said. An Oct. 25 USA Today article stated that the total student debt will surpass $1 trillion for the first time this year.   That is more than all American credit card debt combined, according to the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, the U.S. Department of Education and private sources.   A recent campaign, dubbed Occupy Student Debt, has been created out of the Occupy Wall Street movement and specifically targets issues close to students’ lives. According to an article on the Huffington Post website, “as part of the Occupy Wall Street movement, the national Occupy Student Debt campaign asks that borrowers default on their student loan payments after one million individuals have similarly signed the debtors’ pledge.” Junior environmental studies major and fellow Occupier Sydney Stieler agreed. “I think that student debt is one of the biggest issues facing our economy right now, and I think the students are the ones that need to bring that issue to the forefront of our society,” Stieler said “I think that’s probably one of the most crippling factors in our economic crisis.” Outside observers question the students’ dedication to the movement, despite the unprecedented student debt issues that might otherwise encourage student participation. Students are playing a smaller role in the Occupy movement than in previous movements, according to UVM Director of Student Life Pat Brown. “From what I’ve read and from what I’ve watched on the news, I’m not even really clear how much of a link there is between students on campus and the Occupy Vermont or Burlington group,” Brown said. However, students still involved in Occupy Burlington, which no longer occupies City Hall Park after Josh Pfenning fatally shot himself in the encampment, said they are still dedicated to the ideals of the movement. “[Josh’s death] brought a level of reality to the movement that moved it forward,” Stieler said. “I think there’s a small group of dedicated students.” Occupy Burlington meets weekly in the Fletcher Free Library on College Street. The movement has a student group that aims to increase student involvement.