The social movement known as Occupy <>Wall Street (OWS) is growing and raising issues of direct relevance to the faculty, students and staff of the University of California including contracting opportunities and increasing debt loads for our students created by a system of privatized education and a refusal to provide high quality affordable public higher education. TheCouncil of UC Faculty Associations, on behalf of all UC faculty, is making a petition supporting OWS available for UC faculty to sign.The petition is available here.
OWS has been variously criticized for their lack of clear objectives, but in fact it seems to me the opposite is true. Two young participants being interviewed the other day, from different parts of the country, when asked what is that they wanted, were adamantly clear: they wanted to find a job, buy a house, start a family, and pay down their student loans.
These are middle class dreams, and it's remarkable that this aspect of the social compact that has been in place for a long time, has finally unraveled, with the financial crisis putting the final nail in the coffin. Maybe this time around the revolution is a dinner party.
The mention of student loans is also remarkable, and one of the most jarring consequences of the crisis. High levels of student debt might have been acceptable during the good times, when the prospects of finding a good job after college were reasonable (even this is debatable, as it presupposes that higher education is only a private good). But it is a real racket now, with lenders and universities (public, private and for-profit) equally addicted to the student-loan money, while the Feds are just watching and untold numbers of students are getting screwed. (Student loans cannot be dismissed, not even by a bankruptcy court; this is supposed to make lenders more willing to lend, and make more kids go to college, but the absence of such protection does not seem to make mortgages or car loans any more difficult. Go figure.)
Finally, one of the more colorful slogans from OWS: "I'll believe corporations are people when the State of Texas executes one of them."