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Occupy UMB: Discourse and Dissent

Occupy UMB is concluding its first week of protest in the first floor terrace of the Campus Center with the addition of non UMass Boston students who came to support the movement after a letter from the administration sparked fears of eviction.

Protesters from Occupy Boston, Occupy Wall Street, Occupy DC and Occupy Harvard came to campus to express solidarity with UMass Boston occupiers and help prevent the eviction, which did not materialize.

The student protestors plan to stay put until their demands are met.

Like other branches of the Occupy movement, Occupy UMB does not have a single representative or leader, but protester and graduate student Tamzid Chowdhury outlined some of the group’s major concerns.

“The 8% tuition increase is a major issue,” Chowdhury said. “This university is supposed to be affordable to the urban population. The Board of Trustees should be done away with, the healthcare plan offered by the school is terrible, and state funding of the campus continues to dwindle, putting the cost on students.”

Occupy UMB did not ask permission to stage their occupation, but have been allowed to stay so far, despite an official letter issued Thursday afternoon asking protesters to respect Campus Center operating hours and not stay overnight. It is not clear whether the university plans to take any action to remove protesters from campus overnight.

Associate Dean of Students Mark Jannoni said that he would not describe the letter as an eviction notice.

“It’s more of a request,” Jannoni said. “We are willing to treat them like any other student group provided they follow the protocol that any student group would have to follow.”

Jannoni said he had several “polite” conversations with the protestors.

“We take the concerns of any student seriously, and welcome open dialogue,” he said.

Dewayne Lehman, director of communications, concurred with Jannoni on the subject of open dialogue and spoke to some of the protestors’ grievances.

“The Board of Trustees is appointed by the Governor. The board makes decisions regarding fees, and as fees have increased, so has financial aid. The board has handed down no decisions regarding next year’s fees,” Lehman said.

Students on campus have had a mixed reaction to the occupation.

History major Gary Uter said he supports the protesters’ right to express their opinions.

“It is important that people are able to express themselves and stand up for what they believe in, so I commend them for that, as long as it is not negatively effecting anyone else,” said Uter.

Others, like psychology major James Bouhuys, are less supportive of the movement.

“They are mad at the fee’s increase and don’t think we should have to pay it, and I see their point but they are not going to effect change by walking around with microphones and sleeping in a tent saying ‘Occupy UMass’ and ‘Follow on us on twitter.’ It is just not going to do anything,” Bouhuys said.

A different group of students started an online petition against the protest. On its webpage the group asked Occupy UMB to remove the tents from the first floor terrace.

“[Occupiers] have become a detriment to the environment of UMass Boston, one of academic excellence, creativity, and most importantly, respect. By continuing their occupation in this way, and in this location, they have become an unwelcome group because of their lack of respect towards those who wish to study or socialize in this area,” the petition reads.

About 50 people have signed the petition so far.

The “Occupy UMass Boston” Facebook page has about 180 “likes.”

About the Contributor
Shira Kaminsky served as the following positions for The Mass Media the following years Editor-in-Chief: Spring 2012; 2012-2013 Managing Editor: Fall 2011 Arts Editor: Fall 2010