Around fifteen students sat in an upstairs room of the Umbrella House on Oct. 19, carefully planning out exactly what their new group was about. An appointed “scribe” kept meeting minutes in the corner as the group discussed. They decided to be called the Albion Student General Assembly (ASGA), carefully named so as not to be directly affiliated with the College. They then worked out a mission statement, goals and procedures.
The ASGA formed after a group of nearly 30 students attended the Occupy protests in Detroit and Lansing on Oct. 14 and Oct. 15, respectively.
The Occupy Wall Street movements that started on Sept. 17 in New York have been the inspiration for calls for political and economic reform around the nation. Several students in Albion took notice of this and became ignited by the cause.
Jordan Adams, Chesaning senior, was one of the three students who brought the student group together. He currently holds one of two facilitator positions in the ASGA. A facilitator helps run the meetings, making sure everyone follows procedure.
“I have been following the Occupy movement since the first day of occupation took place in New York City,” Adams said. “When Occupy Boston protesters were attacked by police (on Oct. 10), I felt the need to take a more active role in the movement by trying to organize support around Albion.”
Adams went on to explain that the overarching goals of the ASGA did not stop with the Occupy movements.
“We’re giving Albion students, particularly underclassmen, the tools and knowledge they need to participate in activist movements,” Adams said. “People see things going on that they don’t agree with, but don’t know what to do about it. One of our goals is to teach students how to articulate those feelings effectively.”
Nick Perry, Brownstown sophomore, is the Master of Ceremonies for the ASGA. The Master of Ceremonies’ job is to introduce new topics and agenda items to the general assembly. He spoke of the specific goals for the ASGA.
“We are interested in educating ourselves and our community about what really is going on (with the Occupy movements), because mainstream media is misrepresenting the protest and protesters,” Perry said. “Its very hard to get the truth about this unless you go to the movements.”
Eric Highers, Monroe senior, said he believes the movements are about igniting a spark of hope in people.
“Its not about bitching about how bad things are, its about how do we think society should be,” Highers said.
The mission statement of the ASGA reads as follows:
“We, the Albion Student General Assembly, exist to aid, educate, inform, and support the Occupy Movements to our best ability. We, in addition, exist to educate, inform, and facilitate the interested Albion student population about and into the Occupation, the issues at hand, and their possible involvement.”
The ASGA has several “working groups” that focus on the different issues the members would like addressed within the group. Some of these groups include “labor reform,” “election reform,” and “financial/education reform.”
Highers is also one of the facilitators for the ASGA. He is involved with the “financial/education reform” working group.
“I am involved with a working group that will address the student debt crisis, working on ways we could alleviate the burden, and working toward solutions to make higher education free, since at this point it is a necessity just like high school education is,” Highers said.
The ASGA also has groups specifically set up for informational purposes and for bringing aid to those who are currently in the Occupy camps in Detroit and Lansing.
“The group will loosely function so long as students are interested in being part of the movement,” Highers said. “I have no particular long standing vision of the group to become a permanent organization on campus, but that is not up for me to solely decide. I think so long as there is an Occupy movement there will be an ASGA.”
Adams said that he hopes the things the students take from this group will have a lasting impression.
“You can wear a button or change your Facebook picture, but all you’re doing is making a statement in a sphere that’s way outside of reality,” Adams said. “We’re teaching students how to centralize manpower and resources, instead of everybody just doing their own thing. We’re also fighting apathy. Apathy is death.”