Occupy FAU wants more money for students and faculty

Chris Persaud

There wasn’t as much noise at this Occupy event as there was at the Oct. 13 march, but Occupy FAU drew over 70 students and faculty to its teach-in – plus, it clarified what it wanted.

The Wednesday event was meant to let people know what the group is all about, according to organizer Gonzalo Vizcardo.

The senior economics major told the UP that Occupy FAU wouldn’t make a list of demands. “That implies we want to take something from them.” When Vizcardo says “them,” he refers to government and the wealthiest one percent of the nation.

A musical guest, Mr. Entertainment, played at the teach-in. He was invited by FAU Faculty Union President Chris Robè, a film professor, who previously told the UP the union supports the Occupy movement.

The event was supposed to have an amplifier for anyone who wanted to speak, but FAU administrators and police told the occupiers that wasn’t allowed on the Free Speech Lawn. The event went on regardless of that.

Tom Aletto, another organizer, told the UP that consensus was formed on what Occupy FAU wants.

“We feel that – this is a generalized view – that not enough money is being spent towards education. Faculty have been taking pay cuts regardless of the fact that there has been inflation. Students have had tuition raises because of inflation, and yet that money has not gone back to the teachers,” said the freshman with no declared major.

Aletto opined that FAU could take money from some departments to fund education. Specifically, he suggested, “Money spent on Athletics, money for coaches.” He added, “I would appreciate if revenue generated from the stadium would return to the actual education system. But we see that money from the stadium covers the costs of the stadium, and then generates revenue for the coaches … so we don’t see it generating much revenue for the students.”

Neither Athletics Director Craig Angelos nor anyone in his stead was immediately available to respond.

Speaking for himself, Aletto thought that university president Mary Jane Saunders should take a pay cut. “I’m not saying that she doesn’t deserve it, because she’s our president. But if the students have to suffer, and the faculty have to suffer, our leader has to suffer.”

Saunders could not be reached for immediate response.

Aletto added that he believes that money transferred to education from Athletics – and other “little things” in FAU’s budget – could help decrease the cost of tuition.

“Our student body president received $20,000 a year. He does not pay his tuition prices, because he is elected to that office, and does a certain job. But his salary was raised in a time of economic crisis. Other Student Government members’ salaries were raised in a time of economic crisis. And we feel like that’s not fair.”  The Student Body President actually receives $18,871 in compensation. Last year (2010-11), that was $16,853.90 according to SG’s 2010-11 budget.

Aletto added that the position of student body president should not receive tuition reimbursement, as it currently does.

To that, Student Body President Ayden Maher said, “Occupy movements are about the disparity between the rich and poor and corporate influence on government. My tuition waiver does not do either of those. If they want a student who works other jobs outside of school and does not focus on students then take away the waiver. The waiver provides equal opportunity for whomever wishes to serve the students regardless of personal wealth.”

On the Occupy movement itself, Aletto commented, “The one combining factor for all people in Occupy FAU – for all people in the Occupy Wall Street movement – is economic polarization, which is the gap between the high-class and the middle-class … A person with a vast amount of money is able to make political campaign donations. Really, the term is ‘lobbying,’” which he thinks should be banned.

As of press time, Occupy FAU has scheduled no future events. To learn more about the group, visit their Facebook page.