Pre-Occupied: Apathetic ‘Eaters

For the last couple of weeks, thousands of Orange County citizens have been making their way to the Irvine Civic Center to be a part of Occupy Orange County CA, a branch of the Occupy Wall Street movement that began in New York City.

The crowd wasn’t full of hippies and people singing songs about peace and bringing down the government, though. People of all ages and political opinions from all over Orange County marched together, chanting slogans like, “We are the 99 percent,” and expressing the same frustration that brought them together.

The “Occupy” movement primarily places its focus on corporations and their ties to the federal government. While there have been many proposed goals thrown into the mix, the protestors share a common grievance, that the corporations have directly contributed to the uneven distribution of wealth in the United States.

At Occupy Los Angeles, several UCLA students and faculty made their way to City Hall on Saturday, Oct. 8, labeled the global “Day of Rage,” joining rallies in cities around the world, denouncing various issues centered on economic crises and inequality. Our more well-spoken peers at Occupy Berkeley are doing their part as well.

About 40 students and protestors gathered in front of Aldrich Hall on Wednesday, Oct. 19 as members of Occupy OC. Given the large numbers of students who walk by that area on Ring Road, many should have seen and heard them, and there were at least a few who seemed interested.

On the other hand, there were many who looked like they just didn’t care.

Maybe that’s not true. What if they had other things on their mind? Psychology students would scream, “Attribution error!” at such a statement.

Yet there remains a sentiment that UC Irvine students steer clear of anything considered too radical. Do Anteaters really fit into the stereotypical mold of a conservative Orange County resident?

Interestingly enough, there was nothing conservative, in terms of passion, about the protestors at the Irvine Civic Center. In fact, the some of the more outspoken people there were those of the right wing, and many of them were senior citizens.

So where were the masses of loud, boisterous college students? Certainly, that one university down Harvard Avenue should have thousands of students discussing issues absolutely prevalent to their future. Those 40 who marched last week can’t be the only ones who are aware of the Occupy protests.

Unfortunately, the attitude of many UCI students may go beyond not knowing. Many are stuck in the rut of not caring.

Not that UCI students don’t care about anything. Of course not; we wouldn’t be in a four-year university if we were apathetic people.

The issue lies in what we care about. For many students, college offers a social life, networking opportunities and, of course, knowledge. For many of these students, unfortunately, college becomes everything to them. There is nothing inherently wrong with studying or becoming involved with clubs and organizations, but if involvement becomes everything, students ignore one other critical aspect of college: becoming more aware of different perspectives and learning to present your own.

The UC Regents raised tuition by 9.6 percent beginning this quarter, an increase of $1,068 per quarter from last year. They are also holding off on voting on a plan that would require tuition hikes of 8-16 percent a year for the next four years, eventually taking total tuition possibly up to $22,000 by 2015.

Welcome to UC Irvine, class of 2015. Enjoy your sweatshirts while you can.

Why is this happening, you ask? Good! That is exactly what you, as a university student, should be asking.

With a bit of research, one will find that the reasons behind tuition hikes and budget cuts run much more deeply than just the level of the Regents. There are issues at the political and economic levels that directly affect their decisions, issues that students should be concerned with as future members of society.

One saying we commonly use, perhaps too lightly, is: “Shit just got real.” In terms of the Occupy movement, the issues they are addressing are real enough already, and any more real would involve actual, more serious “shit” happening.

Higher education serves to broaden our perspectives as we meet people and hear opinions from all walks of life. We are given opportunities to give opinions as well to people who are open to listening. Hopefully, we graduate having met amazing individuals and prepared to enter the world beyond UCI. Again, key words: beyond UCI. The Occupy movement may seem foreign to students, but the issues being discussed will affect students and future graduates alike.

Let your voice be heard, and lend your ears to others. Colleges and universities are the perfect forums for discourse. Anyone should be able to present his or her opinion and expect a civil response.

Take advantage of this opportunity that the University provides, and if you happen to find students with whom you share similar opinions or frustrations, combine your voices to let those in power know. Student activism has been integral to significant movements. If you want examples beyond the Arab Spring, check the Wikipedia article on student activism. The list is quite extensive.

Is there something you are frustrated with? Is it an issue that goes beyond the Irvine sphere and affects several other members of society? Then maybe you should say, or, for Peter’s sake, do something about it.

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