Students organize Occupy Geneseo general assembly

After weeks of organization, Occupy Geneseo has been set in motion, with a general assembly scheduled for Thursday Nov. 3 at 5 p.m. on the College Green.

 "The general assembly is arguably the staple of the movement," said junior Nick Sloper, one of the movement's organizers. "It's a directly democratic group. Every single person has the opportunity to voice any opinion, idea or proposal and if it's a proposal, the rest of the group votes on it. There's no leadership involved. It's run by facilitators; essentially a group of people to keep it running smoothly."

Sloper explained that the assembly is geared toward gaining an understanding – a consensus rather than a majority.

"The goal is to have every single person agree, not necessarily on opinions, but on proposals," said Sloper.

According to Sloper, the movement is not affiliated with either left or right wing parties, although the media, especially in the beginning, has often portrayed the movement as being very leftist. However, that seems to be changing.

"Everyone, from students to professors to veterans, and even a few CEOs have endorsed [the movement,]" he said.

The Occupy Geneseo general assembly will focus on education, economic inequality, social inequality and the environment.

"Those would be the easiest routes to direct conversations toward, but where the conversation will go is completely up to the general assembly," he said.

Sloper said he believes that the criticism the movement is receiving for a lack of focus is a misconception.

"I think that all of the different groups are able to come under the one umbrella of corporate corruption," he said. "I think the overarching idea is that if we were able to remove money from politics throughout the world … then all the issues that have come together would have light shed upon them."

Sloper used the environmental issue as an example.  

"The interests of corporations and their need to profit off of fossil fuels is completely outweighing public health," he said. "New York State is currently at risk of [hydro]fracking … if it passes it will make all of the water in Upstate New York undrinkable … Even though there's been community outcry, it's still getting pushed forward because corporations will profit off of it."

Sloper said he hopes that students, professors and community members will "come together to decide, as a collective society, what should be corrected and maybe further relay that to our representatives."

"We kind of recognize that Congress isn't doing its job and world leaders aren't doing their job," he said. "There's far too much corruption within the systems that we depend on to survive as a society. In theory they're fantastic, but they've been corrupted to the point that we can't rely on our representatives to advocate our beliefs."

Occupy Wall Street has stated that they are an example of a society that could be possible. They've created a society within the occupation; they have a medical tent, a media team and even a library.

Sloper and his friends have gone to New York City twice for Occupy Wall Street. The second weekend of the movement, he said he left a little less than impressed. According to Sloper, however, when they returned weeks later, the "society" had been established.

"The development was extreme," he said. Sloper and his friends, juniors Kevin Castañeda and Josh Kent, were so captivated by the organization, they immediately began organizing Occupy Geneseo.

Since they began meeting, they've gathered a group of about 15-20 regular attendees. Meetings have focused on organizing the general assembly; there are no plans for a protest.

On Wednesday Nov. 2, Joan Mandell, executive director of Democracy Matters Organization, discussed the movement in her lecture, "Student Activism: Occupy Wall Street." The lecture was held in Newton 203 at 2:30 p.m. and organized by Democracy Matters.

According to Mandell, Occupy Wall Street calls on the American people, especially university students, to take a second look at social and political issues, encouraging students to challenge the government to create a more democratic system, focusing specifically on the issues of money in politics.

Mandell attributed the rising awareness of political activism to the Occupy Wall Street Movement.

"They have said what needs to be said, and they have raised the issues that need to be raised," she said.

One of Mandell's key points was the necessity to change "the political system in a deep way so that regular people can run for government without reliance on major corporations."

She added that the system should allow citizens to run for office relying on funds from public resources, rather than private corporations.

Staff writer Emily Wrynn contributed additional reporting to this article.