Forum Post: News: Almost 350 Columbia professors have signed a petition supporting the Occupy Wall Street demonstrators,
Posted 5 years ago on Oct. 18, 2011, 8:50 a.m. EST by BrandonRussell
from Lancaster, TX
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Almost 350 Columbia professors have signed a petition supporting the Occupy Wall Street demonstrators, who have flooded downtown Manhattan for more than three weeks to protest income inequality.
The petition had 346 signatures by Monday night, and was signed by two former provosts—history professor Alan Brinkley and sociology professor Jonathan Cole—and several well-known professors, including Pulitzer Prize-winning history professor Eric Foner and Earth Institute Director Jeffrey Sachs.
“So many of us, through our research and personal experience, have watched all of the economic inequality that we’re talking about in the country increase,” said anthropology professor Paige West, who came up with the idea for a petition. “And I just wanted to show my solidarity with all the brave people who are spending their time down at Wall Street.”
The petition originated on Oct. 6 from within the Faculty Action Committee, a group of Columbia and Barnard professors that formed in 2007. There was some discussion on FAC’s Google Groups page Thursday about issuing a statement supporting the protests before West suggested writing a petition.
West said she was not surprised that the petition gained signatures so rapidly.
“From speaking to my colleagues, I knew many people had been down to the march on Wednesday,” she said.
Associate religion professor Courtney Bender, who signed the petition, said that faculty have been fairly united in their support.
“I think, among faculty, it’s less of a contentious issue than some of the other issues that have been contentious on campus—things like ROTC, and so on,” Bender said.
The Occupy Wall Street protestors have been seen by some as lacking a coherent message, but professors who signed the petition said that the movement stands for reducing income inequality.
Some signatories said that the protests are also a response to Wall Street’s role in the recent economic downturn. Psychiatry professor J. Blake Turner blamed Wall Street greed and a lack of regulation for the financial crisis.
“It’s not like that’s a thing of the past—it’s not like things have changed,” Turner said. “I don’t know what’s going to happen as a result of this [OWS], but … it’s refreshing. Unless the system is changed a little bit, we are going to have more and more financial crises.”
Religion professor Bernard Faure said the movement reminded him of France in 1968, and of “the resentment at the time of a frozen situation.” He said he hopes OWS will “bring some messages to political rulers and bring some political change.”
“The situation, with Wall Street and 2008, has really gone beyond the acceptable limits,” Faure said. “And I was really pleased to see that something was being done about it, not just at Columbia, but in the larger society.”
Professors who signed the petition also expressed admiration for the diversity of the protesters. Assistant English professor Patricia Dailey, who signed the petition, said she believes the variety of political perspectives helps the protestors’ cause.
“It brings together extreme right- and extreme left-wing individuals from all over the country, which is a sign of a really powerful movement,” Dailey said.
West attended the demonstrations on Oct. 5, and saw Columbia students and faculty, union members, environmentalists, and many other groups represented.
“I was struck by what a peaceful showing of solidarity it was, and how many diverse people came together around the issues of economic injustice that are plaguing this country,” West said.