Winter is approaching. The occupiers of the Occupy Wall Street movement (OWS) could be running out of steam because of the cold. Camping out in downtown New York in December is a true test of political fortitude. In addition, impressive muscular interventions by police have cleared out several of the protest sights across the United States. Many of the loyal are now behind bars.
A recent video showed another form of protest somewhat reminiscent of the 1960s. In front of a JP Morgan recruiter, students at Princeton University read a statement and then walked out of the meeting room. The students were far from the group in Parc de Bastion in Geneva. Princeton, after all, is Princeton. Those students, or more likely their parents, pay over $50,000 a year to attend the elite Ivy League institution which serves as a stepping stone for successful careers, many on Wall Street.
A recent court case by the original donors of the Woodrow Wilson School at Princeton charged that instead of pursuing careers in the interests of American diplomacy, as stated in the original endowment, students were pursuing careers in venture capital or consulting firms.
The protest caught on the video is reminiscent of protests in the 1960s when students demonstrated against any recruiters on college campuses, especially those associated with the military, such as Dow Chemical at the time. The argument was that academic institutions were for intellectual pursuits, not preparation for the military-industrial complex. These battles are long past. In the name of free choice, military recruiters have even returned to Harvard.
But, the students who walked out at Princeton may be part of a larger movement that rejects working on Wall Street in general. Could we imagine the best and the brightest refusing to join Goldman Sachs even with attractive salaries? It's hard to imagine. Not all of the students walked out of the room at Princeton.
Given the cold winter approaching, the OWS movement will have to move indoors to find new, creative means of defending their position. Occupations, after all, should have a temporal limitation. It may be time to move in out of the cold to new venues as well as employing new tactics. The students at Princeton tried something that has had limited reverberations. If the OWS movement is to have an effect, other creative means will have to be found. For the moment, OWS has had little effect on the current presidential campaign or political process in the United States. And the gross inequalities they are criticizing remain.
December 14, 2011