Why I Stand with Occupy
— Elizabeth Roland
SOME OF YOU might know me; I’m Elizabeth Roland and a senior at Saint Mary’s. I am a women’s studies major and history minor and have worked damn hard to keep a 3.808 GPA. I am super active and social on campus, the only thing is…. I am not on campus this semester.
Instead, I work in a factory, 45 hours a week making aerospace printers for minimum wage. I am sure that sentence was hard to comprehend but, yes there is such a thing as aerospace printers, and yes I work in a factory that makes them.
I got to this point because my SMC scholarship was cut by 78% for the 2011-2012 school year. When I tell this to people, I am asked “Did your parents make more money?” The answer is no.
My scholarship was cut because I pursued another scholarship, the saddest oxymoron a college student can experience. I was offered the position of Resident Advisor for this school year, only to have to turn it down. The sum for the RA scholarship was simply subtracted from the original financial aid I have been receiving for three years. It is a math problem a fifth grader could do:
Original financial aid – sum of the RA scholarship +RA scholarship = the exact same amount of money towards financial aid, but now you have to work full-time and be an RA to receive it.
This logic still makes no sense to me. So instead of spending the first half of my senior year in a collegial, educational atmosphere surrounded by friends and professors, I am surrounded by printers.
The Occupy movement on St. Mary’s campus has been criticized for being these “selfish, privileged kids protesting for no reason and if they have such a problem with SMC they should just go somewhere else.” Here’s a Facebook post:
“How’s this, if you don’t like how much you have to pay to attend SMC, go to a state college or another school that can provide you with better opportunities for scholarships. So instead of wasting your tuition dollars by walking out of a class early on Wednesday maybe you should be thankful that you’ve been able to attend Saint Mary’s as long as you have.”
The Occupy protesters are protesting for me. They protest for students who are unfairly treated by institutions that are supposed to protect them. We do not want to go to another college. We want our college to be a place that values students’ educations over money.
It feels amazing to know there are students — some I know, some I don’t — who are walking out of class and protesting on the streets for me. When I say “for me,” I mean not only for my experience, but for any student who has been through something like this and has not had the opportunity to share her voice.
I have felt so silenced this semester, so let down by a college I call home. That is why I am sharing my very personal story. I want the college community to know how my pain and realize that change needs to happen, or there will be more stories like mine.
I am asking YOU the reader, to imagine my story with your best friend in my place. I bet you would be protesting for them. Make it personal and you will understand the Occupy Movement.
Hearing about Occupy SMC has given me hope, given me hope that our college will be accountable for its actions and for its students. I’m returning to finish my degree in the January term and will be graduating in spring (thank you AP credits) but I will stand in solidarity and protest for all the students who have been silenced in the past.
Thank you Occupy SMC, for everything you have done for me.
[After this statement was circulated to the entire faculty, the financial aid office “restructured” her package.]
January/February 2012, ATC 156