Occupy FAU march attracts dozens of supporters

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Occupy FAU march attracts dozens of supporters

Marissa Tirro, a junior anthropology major, explains her views about FAU's budget cuts.

Marissa Tirro, a junior anthropology major, explains her views about FAU's budget cuts.

Char Pratt

Marissa Tirro, a junior anthropology major, explains her views about FAU's budget cuts.

Char Pratt

Char Pratt

Marissa Tirro, a junior anthropology major, explains her views about FAU's budget cuts.

Chris Persaud

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Marissa Tirro, a junior anthropology major, explains her views about FAU's budget cuts. Photo by Charles Pratt.

Over 50 students and faculty walked down the Breezeway on Oct. 13, chanting against increasing tuition, university budget cuts and corporate influence on government.

The protest, led by Occupy FAU, was part of a national walk-out organized by Occupy Colleges, which supports Occupy Wall Street in its opposition to corporate bailouts and the nation’s wealthiest owning most of the nation’s wealth. The first walk-out on Oct. 5 had 15-20 supporters, according to Occupy FAU members.

“Is it fair that one percent of the population receives benefits that you don’t get to see?” asked undecided freshman Marco Aletto to a group of sign-wielding students. “Ninety-nine percent of us don’t have the power, privilege or benefits the one percent does.”

Aletto, an Occupy FAU member, helped organize the protest with senior economics major Gonzalo Vizcardo — who Aletto referred to as the “main guy.”

Vizcardo told the UP he thinks FAU favors corporations over students. “The university is increasingly being run by, and as, a corporation.”

When asked how, Vizcardo used Bank of America, which he said funds lectures at FAU, as an example. “The university’s purpose is to be a place of learning and autonomy,” he said.

Electrical engineering freshman Andres Mendof writes, "I'm pissed off!!! Occupy FAU." Photo by Charles Pratt.

Occupy FAU supporters started their march at the Free Speech Lawn, where they voiced their frustrations about rising tuition, budget cuts to education and their own financial situations. Some supporters said they were thousands in debt.

“I want change. That’s why I’m here,” said junior anthropology major Marissa Tirro, holding up a sign saying that she paid $5,500 for FAU and can’t afford chalk. “My teacher will walk up to the board, and there’s only a tiny bit of chalk to write with,” she told the UP as she pinched her fingers to mimick writing on a board.

As the Occupy FAU protestors marched down the Breezeway chanting “We! Are! The 99%!”, several FAU police officers arrived to tell Aletto the students can’t disturb classes in session with “loud chanting.”

There was no clash between police and protestors, and Occupy FAU kept marching and chanting to the Rec Center at 4:30 p.m. — the same time Student Body President Ayden Maher was supposed to give the annual State of the Student Body address.

There was no clash between the Occupy FAU and Student Government either, and the protestors left before Maher began speaking. Vizcardo and Aletto told the UP they had no idea Maher would give his speech at the same place and time as the march.

“It was a bit of a coincidence,” Aletto said, “but we believe the [student body] president can help students by giving us equal treatment by voting against tuition increases, unlike what he’s done in the past.”

In response, Maher said: “If you cut higher education, you have to fund it with higher tuition. I think it’s sad that tuition is raised, but it’s sadder when the state and federal government cut higher education funding.”

On the protest, he added, “Students are definitely part of the 99%.”

Not all students at the protest supported Occupy FAU. Senior communications major Mack Stine and senior criminal justice major Chris Stenson argued the real problem was the federal-government-authorized Federal Reserve printing money.

“It deflates the value of a dollar, which makes things cost more,” said Stenson.

Vizcardo disagreed. “It’s true that printing money causes inflation, but it lowers interest rates and causes growth,” he said.

Students weren’t the only ones who went to the walk-out — several professors also showed their support.

Professor Keith Platt, who teaches social work, told the UP, “I believe in the message that there’s a real problem with America, and this movement is something students are doing to wake people up. I’ve been teaching here since 1996, and I haven’t seen anything like this.”

Communication professor Becky Mulvaney also showed support for Occupy FAU, but felt the protesters still had a way to go. “I’m very interested in joining, but they seem unfocused at the moment,” she told the UP.

“You know what? I think is great.” Anthropology Department Chair Michael Harris told the UP. “That young people are finding their voice.”

“It’s about time,” Mulvaney added, with a laugh.

Occupy Colleges has set a tentative nationwide protest date for Nov. 1. Since its creation on Oct. 5, Occupy FAU’s Facebook page has 87 likes as of press time.