New Occupy USM group seeks to engage students, staff and faculty

Katherine Hulit, an organizer of Occupy USM, speaks at an Occupy Maine teach-in Dec. 1. Occupy USM was formed as an effort to reengage students in the Occupy movement.
Dylan Martin | The Free Press
Katherine Hulit, an organizer of Occupy USM, speaks at an Occupy Maine teach-in Dec. 1. Occupy USM was formed as an effort to reengage students in the Occupy movement.

Posted on March 02, 2012 in News
By Dylan Martin

In an effort to ignite student involvement with the Occupy Wall Street movement, two students and one alumnus from the University of Southern Maine have formed a new Occupy group centered around the university.

Occupy USM’s founders said the group will also focus on issues concerning higher education and student debt, as well as the core issues of the Occupy Wall Street movement like economic inequality and corruption.

The group’s first meeting is scheduled for March 6 near the USM Portland Bookstore in the Woodbury Campus Center.

Katherine Hulit, one of the group’s co-founders, said the group was formed as an attempt to bring students back to the movement — something she said the Occupy Maine group began to lack after its first few months.

“What we’re trying to do is say the issues of the Occupy movement directly concern students,” said Hulit, a senior philosophy and women and gender studies major. In addition, Hulit said she also hopes the group attracts USM faculty and staff. “Occupy USM isn’t just for students. It’s about owning the insitution you’re involved with.”

So far Hulit said there are a few staff members and students who have expressed interest. She also said it’s likely some faculty members will become involved because of their past involvement with Occupy Maine.

Jacob Lowry, another co-founder, said many students became less involved because of work and school obligations. The two said they hope the new group will make it easier for students to participate.

Occupy Maine began last October when protesters rallied in Monument Square to express solidarity with the Occupy Wall Street movement. The movement created an encampment in Lincoln Park, which quickly grew in size and stayed there until early February when the City of Portland ordered them to vacate following a court ruling that found Occupy Maine didn’t have a constitutional right to camp overnight.

Both Lowry and Hulit have been involved with Occupy Maine and other Occupy movements, including Occupy Wall Street and Occupy DC.

For issues specifically pertaining to USM, Lowry, a junior English major, said he finds issue with the university’s recent budget cuts when considering the University of Maine System’s in-state tuition freeze, because he’s concerned about the resources USM will lose as a result.

“Institutes of higher learning shouldn’t be about profit margins,” Lowry said.

Though co-founders Hulit, Lowry and Nigel Stevens, a 2010 philosophy graduate, have general issues for Occupy USM to focus on, Lowry said no specific actions are planned until the group reaches a consensus in the first few meetings. He said the meetings will be structured similarly to other Occupy groups, where the meetings will focus on “general assemblies.”

“It’s the anarchist model of consensus-based decision making,” Lowry said.

Lowry said even if the group doesn’t pick up traction immediately, it will continue to operate for an indefinite amount of time.

“Once you start an Occupy group, you can’t end it. We learned that with Occupy Maine,” Lowry said. “Hopefully it inspires people to think about the issues.”

Though the group hasn’t made any decisions about what to do, Lowry and Hulit said they want to encourage students to take part of the “Operation May Day – General Strike” on May 1, a nationally organized event that will protest economic and social justice among many other things.

“With the coming spring, we’re going to see a whole resurgence,” Hulit said. “It’s going to be a perfect time to get involved.”