GU Occupy teach-in addresses income inequality in America

On Sunday, Georgetown Occupy organized a teach-in in Red Square, inviting speakers of various backgrounds to spread awareness about income inequality. Held in response to the Wall Street Training Boot Camp taking place on campus for aspiring investment bankers and other members of the financial sector, the Occupy event also attracted students from American University and members of the greater D.C. community.

The day of events included a discussion of the dangers of Wall Street risk-taking, income inequality, a symbolic cleansing of the American flag, and a Georgetown Chimes appearance that started as a counter-protest but ended as a group dialogue on Jesuit ideals.

Georgetown Solidarity Committee kicked off the event by explaining how the University can enact a policy of socially responsible investment by dissociating itself from undiscerning corporations as well as by supporting corporations that do promote the greater good.

The first two guest speakers of the day, Sarah Anderson of the progressive think tank the Institute for Policy Studies and Bart Naylor, a financial policy advocate at the consumer interest lobby Public Citizen, responded most directly to the Wall Street Training Bootcamp across campus. Anderson, while acknowledging that certain financial sector jobs are vitally important, asserted that Wall Street has grown entirely too large. The system of rewarding risky ventures and high-frequency computerized trades, she said, could cause another financial collapse.

Naylor addressed Wall Street’s relationship with legislators. He reported that for every lobbyist on the side of the consumer, the financial sector has 150, the type of disparity that accounts in part for the power of banks.

Rory O’Sullivan of Young Invincibles spoke next about the effects of economic inequality on youth. “Young people are a canary in the mine for the ailments in our society,” O’Sullivan said, citing education debt and unemployment as troubling topics.

Later, Justice and Peace Studies professor Barbara Wien led the group in an activity focused on the history of collective action, followed by a discussion about the Occupy movement’s productivity led by Zach Zill of Occupy D.C.

Though it was approved by consensus, as is customary procedure for Occupy movements, Wien’s next act was perhaps the most controversial of the whole event: a symbolic cleansing of the American flag to wash away “atrocities” committed against individuals in the United States and around the world.

Wien emphasized that her actions were meant lovingly, to “reclaim democracy, fairness, the Constitution.”

“We have to protect the Constitution,” she insisted.

Professor Eli McCarthy, another Justice and Peace professor, followed Wien with a discussion of Jesuit values and their implications for the Occupy movement. In the middle of McCarthy’s presentation, however, the event was interrupted by a group of Chimes alumni singing “America the Beautiful” in the archway in Red Square. Though it began as a type of counter-protest, the Occupy group joined them, and they all went on to sing the Georgetown fight song together.

Later, the Chimes joined in the discussion led by Professor McCarthy about Jesuit ideals and social justice, and the group grew to the biggest it was all day—nearly 50 participants.

Another student behind the event, Rachel Nethery (COL ’12), was pleased that Georgetown Occupy’s outreach had been effective.

“We’ve had a strong constant presence,” she said.

Photo: Lucia He

16 Comments on “GU Occupy teach-in addresses income inequality in America

  1. Care to define what “cleansing the american flag” means?

  2. Seriously, consensus? That s**t worked in 1st grade to get everyone to watch the beauty and the beast. Societies fail because they often look back too much. Wall Street messed up, we get it, no they’re moving on, and so are we. What do you want? The barter system back? Because that also worked great.

    Furthermore, the MSB appears to be the only school graduating kids with good jobs, not all in wall street, so maybe the college should look to them about how to succeed. Companies like PWC and Deloitte have strong social responbility policies. This protesting occupy crap has come to target people who have different interests, and try to make them feel guilty, when really it just empowers them more to want to succeed. If we are all “equal”, we all have nothing. Having some people with more allows them to help out those with less.

    Seriously, go away, be productive and make the world better actively rather than complaining. Start your own bank with good socail values- I don’t know.

    Also. These reCaptcha’s suck. I can’t read them. They can go away too.

  3. “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it”

  4. Kudos to your great ideas… particularly the one about starting a bank with good social values… because that’s really the best option to fix social inequalities… starting a bank with good social values… yes… genius… im off to do that right now…. or maybe i’ll be a teacher, work at a non-profit, work for the government, or any of the million other things that are significantly better for the world than both banking and sitting around.

    also take a hard look at the other schools and the educations they offer… while they also have high job placement rates, they also don’t necessarily measure their success by placing students into “good jobs”, particularly banking, finance, and general business. That may be your measure of success, but it definitely isn’t everyones

  5. “My idea of a perfect government is one guy who sits in a small room at a desk, and the only thing he’s allowed to decide is who to nuke. The man is chosen based on some kind of IQ test, and maybe also a physical tournament, like a decathlon. And women are brought to him, maybe…when he desires them.” -Ron Swanson

    I think you all should go away.

  6. That comment was honestly one of the most wildly uninformed and childish (and whiny) comments I’ve read on here. Even if you don’t agree with Occupy, you don’t have to whine unproductively and make stupid suggestions because you disagree with them. Honestly, it’s a bit ironic that you’re calling them out for targeting people with different interests and for being unproductive when you’re doing just that.

  7. Instead of cleansing the american flag, I need to go cleanse myself because even reading about how stupid these #occupy people are makes me dirty.

  8. Thanks for covering, Vox. Just wanted to share the full context of my quote: “To me, the Chimes symbolize Georgetown’s very mixed tradition. As an all-male, overwhelmingly white organization, they represent the pursuit of truth within a campus built by slaves; that precluded women’s access; that silenced Civil Rights/anti-war/LGBTQ activists in the 1960s; and remains utterly socioeconomically exclusive. Never in my lifetime did I expect a literal circle of Chime alumni and a circle of new-wave student activists to come together to sing the Georgetown fight song and have an authentic conversation on inequality. It was truly a momentous occasion, if only because it serves as a rare example of civil discourse and mutual respect at this university.”

  9. working for the government… definitely the best way to make the world a better place. Q. What makes poor peoples lives better? the slew of non profits clamoring to protect them, or say, Phillips making cheap and efficient lighting, or Haines making socks and undies that both rich and poor americans wear? But nah, non-profits teaching kids how to pick kale on a hipster farm is way more important. Honestly, its cool to do that and can do some good. But I think you overlook how wonderful the soulless market economy has been in improving the lot of the poor.

  10. You don’t have any idea what non-profits actually do, do you?


    “According to a new National Labor Committee report, an estimated 200 children, some 11 years old or even younger, are sewing clothing for Hanes, Wal-Mart, J.C. Penney, and Puma at the Harvest Rich factory in Bangladesh.

    The children report being routinely slapped and beaten, sometimes falling down from exhaustion, forced to work 12 to 14 hours a day, even some all-night, 19-to-20-hour shifts, often seven days a week, for wages as low as 6 ½ cents an hour. The wages are so wretchedly low that many of the child workers get up at 5:00 a.m. each morning to brush their teeth using just their finger and ashes from the fire, since they cannot afford a toothbrush or toothpaste.”

    But at least poor Americans can afford it, right?

  12. Although both situations are unfortunate, many times the “sweat shops” are actually the better option compared to prostitution or indentured servitude for those children. It’s higher-paying and its safer; the lesser of two evils.

    Just trying to play devil’s advocate.

    Source: Naked Economics, 2010 (revised edition)

  13. Yes, you’re right – there has never been civil discourse or mutual respect at this university. That’s why we’re relying on slaves to build the new science center, I have never had a class with a female student, protests (like the Occupy protest I so desperately wanted to attend in Red Square) are forbidden – especially if they deal with any sort of civil rights, anti-war, or (god forbid!) anything related to LGBTQ, and I am unable to receive any form of financial aid. Thank god Georgetown has never changed and will never change! Thank my oppressive God that anyone that ever considered attending Georgetown before self-righteous crusaders like you were crucified trying to fix it is inherintly racist and evil and represent only the worst about our shared past!

  14. @Seriously, @Rob Byrne

    I think the point is that Georgetown’s not going to come around on this independent of external pressure (e.g. from the city, the courts, or a generally accepted shift in social morays). For example, LGBT groups had to *SUE* for their right to exist on campus and the university only came around when Mayor Barry threatened to withhold a bond guarantee.

    Now more than ever, Georgetown is an institution guided by the same old corporate amoralism that animates any big organization, including most of our nation’s universities.

    So, anyone that has legitimate grievances with the university shouldn’t bank on its “Jesuit vaues”; that’s what we call branding. Instead, get yourself a lawyer, call the Tenant Advocate, or testify before the city council/zoning commission.

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