Although members of the Occupy movement acknowledge the lack of a uniform message, they nevertheless proved their ability to stand as one. Last semester, Occupy Cal reached its peak when public policy professor Robert Reich spoke to thousands on the evening of Nov. 15. In the time since that moment of unity, though, the occupation of UC Berkeley has lagged despite efforts to remain salient on campus.
Since Thursday, tents have once again been a fixture in front of Sproul Hall, celebrating the three-month anniversary of the Nov. 9, 2011 protests. But Occupy Cal hasn’t regained any of its relevance. It is not enough to celebrate past glories and hope that the community will remember what made the message so effective. Occupiers must return to what made their movement matter on Nov. 9; they must reiterate the moral outrage Reich talked about in his speech.
Furthermore, Occupy Cal needs something new. It needs to draw out the reasons we — as students at the University of California — may feel wronged, because Occupy Cal is not Occupy Wall Street or Occupy Oakland. The grievances students have may overlap with wider issues like income inequality, but if students cannot define their unique demands, then the point of demonstrating on campus is lost.
The administration’s reaction to the new tents is also concerning. It suggests a lack of preparation for encampments, even after what happened last semester. While the process by which our campus learns and copes with past events from an administrative standpoint is still ongoing, informing occupiers that their presence is unwelcome without taking action does nothing but restate the obvious.
Both protesters and administrators know what they want. Both protesters and administrators are going through the motions of expressing their desires. Neither party is doing so effectively, nor have they demonstrated an understanding of past events. The campus community should expect more from their peers who protest and the administrators whose duty it is to enforce policy.
The ideas that spawned from Occupy Cal, as Reich said, “cannot be stopped and will not be stopped.” Let’s not allow those ideas to languish.