Letter to the Editor: With unemployment, inflation, “Occupy” is relevant

Junior Sam White's "Occupy Geneseo: misplaced activism won't spark change" (The Lamron, Nov. 10) claiming to be "all for the views they hold, but [stating that] the protest itself is backward," irrelevant to Geneseo and "merely preaching to the already convinced choir" reminded me of the age-old rhetorical question: "With friends like this, who needs enemies?"

First (quite relevant for those at Geneseo), rising tuition and other costs are causing students to go deeply into debt – the United States average is more than $20,000 per student by graduation time – and graduates may become part of the 1 out of 5 of their age peers who become unemployed (i.e., even greater than the current overall U.S. unemployment rate of about 1 out of 8). According to this college's website, annual "Direct College Costs & Related Expenses" for current students who are New York State residents at Geneseo are $20,109 annually. Even adjusting for inflation, that's many times more than what I paid when I attended Geneseo and new tuition increases have been proposed. What has happened to the SUNY system reflects a nationwide – and accelerating – trend.

There was a faculty strike backed by students on Nov. 17 at California State University Dominguez Hills (near Los Angeles); a proposal I made in support of that protest (on behalf of Occupy L.A.'s Labor Solidarity Committee) was unanimously endorsed by Occupy L.A. As United Teachers Los Angeles union member Gillian Russom noted, "The CSU still has not given faculty the salary increase it promised them three years ago, and has drastically raised tuition for students, making California's "public" colleges less and less accessible. Meanwhile, top CSU executives have gotten pay increases of nearly 70 percent and whole portions of the university are being privatized." One leaflet's contents are probably self-explanatory: "By taking a stand in this one-day strike, CSU faculty at Dominguez Hills … are fighting for all of us. The County Federation of Labor is calling for unions to join the picket line in solidarity. As educators who want college to be accessible for all our students, we should be there."

During the Vietnam War, two poles of advice were offered about how to force a change in U.S. policy: The first idea matched White's that, "It is up to politicians to come up with the solutions and respond to the issue at hand." The historical victory of forcing U.S. government withdrawal from Vietnam – a war with many of the same U.S. government goals and lies as the current conflict of Afghanistan, etc. – was won as a result of ignoring such advice and following an opposite strategy, namely organizing public actions, teach-ins and protest activities. More than 400 chapters of the Student Mobilization Committee (including the Geneseo chapter of which I served as a chairperson) helped mobilize people for protest activities and mass demonstrations at local campuses, cities and towns, plus (most importantly) Washington, D.C. (including an antiwar march there of more than a 500,000 people).

Apparently, some people refuse to learn the lessons of history. On the other hand, growing numbers will be joining the protests and gatherings initiated by the various "Occupy" sites or by students, unionists and others.

-Barry Schier, Class of 1973

Editor's Note: According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the unemployment rate for 20-24 year olds with a Bachelor's degree was 7.7 percent in 2011.