“How are we going to move forward in terms of space and community?” In reference to occupying the 90 Fifth Avenue building, the president of the Student Senate began the discussion claiming that this was the objective of our meeting. The forum was open to any and all students and faculty that have concerns about the Occupy Wall Street movement in relation to the vandalism of the meeting space. Although I was unaware of what she was referring to, the first speaker outlined his concerns very passionately.
“Students completely destroyed this space,” began Adam Rodriguez, one of the many in charge of maintaining the 90 Fifth Avenue building. “Now where is the common sense? Where does the security lie in this space when there is graffiti all over the walls? How are people going to take our school seriously?”
A heated man sitting in the audience countered this argument: “this is a progressive school. Shouldn’t art be political?” Many listeners nodded their heads in agreement with this anonymous person, but Rodriguez fired back with “I worked there. You just took away my job.”
The meeting continued with speakers from both ends of the spectrums, starting with Rodriguez and working through over 20 speakers, in which they shared their personal opinions.
“Let’s be honest, are we criticizing the overall movement or the graffiti?” asked Bobby Totman, a student at The New School University. “The people responsible for the graffiti were the minority of the protestors. I understand all the criticism but none of this has to do with making a better space for the protestors.”
The Student Senate president chimed in many times, somewhat agreeing with Totman and trying to guide the discussion towards moving “forward in terms of space and community.” However, many of the speakers ignored her attempts to direct the conversation towards a productive discussion, and, instead of offering suggestions, continued to express their own views of the movement.
At the very end of the meeting, the Student Senate president asked the room if they believe it would be useful for them to set aside a new space for the occupy movement.
“As an artist,” answered Andrea, a fine arts student at the New School, “art is a sign of resistance and political organizing. It seems necessary that a gallery space is a good place for this. It's places of culture that allow for these discussions.