Yale students made their official entrance into the Occupy movement Tuesday evening with a protest at a Morgan Stanley information session.
Armed with signs scrawled with slogans such as “Occupy your mind” and “Is this your dream?”, a group of 25 Yale students gathered around 5:30 p.m. outside of the Study Hotel on Chapel Street, where the session for the global financial services firm was to be held. Their chanting soon attracted the attention of passersby and other Yalies.
As the potential Morgan Stanley recruits began to arrive around 6:00 p.m. in suits and formal dresses, the now nearly 45 protesters handed them letters intended to prompt them to reconsider their career plans.
Tuesday’s protest was the first public event spearheaded by the Yale Working Group, a student branch of Occupy New Haven that held its first meeting Oct. 27.
Only a handful of Yale students have been involved in the Occupy New Haven movement on the Green since it began just over a month ago: While most of them have been attending its weekly “General Assembly” meetings and a few have slept there, only after the formation of the Working Group — which is both part of Occupy New Haven and a Dwight Hall “short-term project” — did a large number of Yalies get involved.
“There was always a support for the movement, but students didn’t really direct their energies [toward it] until the Working Group was manifested,” said Martina Crouch ’14, one of the Working Group’s members who has also been involved with the protest from the beginning.
Still, the relationship between Yale students and Occupy New Haven remains undefined.
EXPANDING TO CAMPUS
The idea for the Morgan Stanley protest arose early last week during the third weekly meeting of the Yale Working Group. The Working Group itself began as a result of a panel of professors organized by Marina Keegan ’12, president of Yale College Democrats, and Thomas Smyth ’12. The professors spoke in Linsly-Chittenden Hall room 101 on Oct. 25 about the Occupy movement and its evolution.
“Thomas and I were frustrated with the portrayal of Occupy people as uneducated and uninformed,” Keegan said about why they decided to host the panel.
She explained that, after the panel, those present could sign up to get involved in a Yale Working Group for Occupy New Haven. Two days later, Keegan said, a group of students from Yale College, the Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies and the Yale Law School, attended the first meeting at Sage Hall for the Yale Working Group.
Even though students conceived of the Working Group as an extension of Occupy New Haven, the Dwight Hall Executive Committee soon approved the group as a “short-term project.” Their meetings are held in Dwight Hall, not on the Green, and as a Dwight Hall project they have access to its resources, such as cars, a copy machine and funding, Dwight Hall co-coordinator Joseph Breen ’12 wrote in an email.
Breen added that since the group’s formation, roughly 120 people in total have expressed interest in contributing.
“Nobody has a voice anymore, except for people who can buy it,” said Avani Mehta ’15 on why she joined the group. She added that, as has been a slogan of the nationwide Occupy movement, she wanted to help bring “the power back to the bottom, to the 99 percent.”
According to their plan for the Morgan Stanley protest, the students of the Working Group met along with others at Dwight Hall Tuesday at 4:30 p.m. to make signs, and headed to the sidewalk in front of the Study an hour later. By 6:00 p.m., the whole group had moved from their post in front of the Study across the street to the steps of Green Hall, where two Yale faculty members hosted an “alternative” information session.
“I think it is important to support the students protesting here and recognizing their courage and their choices,” one of the speakers and Yale Law School Teaching Fellow Annie Lai said. “These students are showing that even the people that can be the 1 percent care about the 99 percent.”
At least 30 people from the Working Group, as well as many other students were present at the Morgan Stanley protest.
“I’m impressed by the turnout,” Working Group member Emily Villano ’13 said. “I think it is a very powerful statement.”
CALLING ALL YALIES
While roughly 60 tents at Occupy New Haven are staked at the campground across the street from Phelps Gate, only one of them officially houses Yale students. Dwight Hall provided the Working Group with three tents for students camping on the Green with the rest of the Occupiers, but only this one tent has been installed, which usually two or three Yalies at a time have been sleeping in over the past two weeks.
Still, several protesters interviewed over the weekend told the News that they haven’t interacted with many Yale students so far in the camp.
“I know Yale students have been helping with donations of food and water and setting up tents, but I vaguely know any of them,” said a protester called Moose who works with the protest’s “Security Team.”
Moose said he believes students may be hesitant about joining because “they might think they are part of the 1 percent.”
Nathan Robinson LAW ’14, present at the General Assembly meeting last Sunday, said he believes that Yalies’ limited involvement in Occupy stems from discomfort with lowering their living standards on campus, as well as safety concerns.
“Yale is a place of comfort, the camp is not,” Robinson said. “This involves sacrifice.”
Yalies who have spent time in the encampment on the Green said the relationships they have developed with the protesters there have been rewarding.
“A lot of our communication here [at Yale] is very manicured: you can hold on to your set of beliefs and people won’t challenge you,” Crouch said. “But when you go out there, you’re challenged every time and you have to adapt.”
Occupy New Haven members on the Green welcomed the involvement of Yale students in the movement and said that their participation may help counter any negative perceptions of the Occupy movement.
“We want Yale students out here,” Evelyn Silva FES ’07 said. “It will definitely improve the perception of the demonstrators: Stgroup remains part of Occupy New Haven.
Members of Occupy New Haven were invited to join the Morgan Stanley info session protest, but the group had already planned for a march through the city to be held at the same time.
A few Occupy New Haven members joined the protest after their march Tuesday evening. In the future, both groups expressed a desire to collaborate with each other and plan to meet soon to discuss possibilities toward that end.
“We are still trying to define our relationship with the camp,” Dwight Hall co-coordinator Alexandra Brodsky ’12 said.
Collaboration within the Occupy Movement is important to both the protesters on the Green and the Yale Working Group, wrote Breen in an email.
An Occupy New Haven protester known in the camp as Somalia Horn said that although Yalies’ overnight presence in the camp has been limited so far, some are deeply committed to the protest and its values.
“The Working Group may be focusing on the University, but we are all working for the same cause: change,” Horn said.
Still, he added, an increase in the students’ presence on the Green would be “a bold statement of unity.”
Keegan said that even though the Working Group holds separate meetings, they still collaborate with Occupy New Haven and aim to operate within their consensus.
“It’s a way to show our solidarity,” she said.