Partnering with Occupy Ypsilanti for community involvement

Eastern Michigan University’s Students for Ethical and Participatory Education, partnered with Occupy Ypsilanti for a free teach-in on Saturday in Porter Hall. The seminar featured two panels and several workshops focused
on community involvement.

“As a group, we wanted to create a space where we can come together, share knowledge, but also maybe make some change in Ypsi,” Beth Currans, EMU professor and member of Occupy Ypsilanti said.

The first panel, titled Contemporary Struggles in Historical Contexts, touched on race, gender, student reform
and government.

The panelists included Ian Robinson, a professor at the University of Michigan, speaking on liberalism and its transition into neo-liberalism, William Daniels of SEPE, speaking on international youth movements, Nicole Carter, a doctorate student at EMU, speaking on black movements in Michigan and Beth Currans, speaking about justice for women.

Daniels shared the story of the Chilean Winter, saying although it did not go along with the traditional occupy movement, the message was similar. The students of Santiago, Chile came together and held a large number of
protests to get their government to reform the country’s education system.

Nicole Carter explained the start of Idlewild, NAACP and the separation between African Americans and Caucasians in Grand Rapids, starting with migrants from southern states in the 1950s.

“The newcomers did not trust the white establishment and felt that it would be easier to build their own communities, in a manner similar to the various white communities within Grand Rapids,” Carter said, quoting Philip Bostic, a McNair Scholar. “The African-American southern migrants’ negative view of whites and desire for a more self-help approach led to class conflicts with the integration-seeking African-American elite that were already established in Grand Rapids.”

“I really liked the topic about intersectionality,” EMU graduate Cate Stolz, said. “Looking at how all those forms of oppression were linked and how you can’t focus on a single issue because we don’t have single-issue lives.”

The second panel, titled Reclaiming our Commons, focused on local issues.

The panelists comprised of Peter Linebaugh, a professor at the University of Toledo and member of Occupy Ypsilanti, introducing the topic, Brian Whitener, a professor at the University of Michigan, on post crisis, Phil Patterson of SEPE at EMU, on student empowerment and Adam Warner of the Washtenaw Community Action Team, on foreclosures.

Brian Whitener described student debt, the post-university crisis, calling financial aid “predatory lending.”

“Every fall and winter students go to the financial aid office, take out a loan they’ll be paying off for the rest of their lives and they immediately give it to the university,” Whitener said. “Universities are kinds of Wal-Marts, where debt increments are sold to students. You may be coming here to get an education, but you’re also here to be placed in debt servitude.”

“I feel like the student loan issue is something we as students should get together and discuss,” Chardae Korhonen, an EMU senior said. “Being active in general, having an opinion and having that dialog about how things can affect us.”

SEPE member, Phil Patterson shared the successful “Sweatshop-Free EMU” in reference to Eastern no longer using certain clothing companies because of their use or ownership of sweatshops.

“In Ann Arbor and in my high school especially, no one is doing any organizing to get education outside of what we are offered in class,” Mishka Repaska, a junior at Community High School in Ann Arbor said. “To learn and interact the way we did in the teach-in, it was interesting.”

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