Northeastern Students ‘Occupy Colleges’ In Support Of ‘Occupy Boston’

Students protested on the Northeastern University campus Wednesday. (Bianca Vazquez Toness/WBUR)

Students protested on the Northeastern University campus Wednesday. (Bianca Vazquez Toness/WBUR)

BOSTON — Students at Northeastern University walked out of class and demonstrated on their campus commons Wednesday in support of the “Occupy Boston” and “Occupy Wall Street” movements. They complained about student debt, high unemployment and corporate greed.

It’s not clear how many Northeastern students abandoned class, but about 100 of them met on the lawn to voice their grievances.

“End the war, tax the rich,” the students chanted. “How do you fix the deficit? End the war, tax the rich.”

They were clean cut. Many wore Northeastern sweatshirts and fashionable sunglasses. They definitely didn’t look like the counterculture kids who came from the “Occupy Boston” movement to cheer on the college protest.

The Northeastern students had a unifying identity, and with it, some concrete complaints.

“I am a typical Northeastern student,” said a woman who identified herself as Alyssa, but wouldn’t give her last name. “When I graduate I’m going to have over $125,000 of loans, which is $1,500 a month starting six months after I graduate. I ask you, ‘How am I supposed to afford to live off of that?’ ”

She said most of her classmates are similarly worried about their post-college lives.

“I don’t know anybody who feels secure about their economic future,” said third-year student Victoria Porell, who helped organize the rally at Northeastern. She had just 36 hours to do it because she wanted Northeastern to walk out at the same time as other universities across the country.

“I don’t know anybody who feels secure about their economic future.”
– Victoria Porell, Northeastern student

“Students don’t have lobbyists,” Porell said. “We work hard. We pay our taxes. We are the future. Who’s going to look out for our interests other than us? We don’t have anyone else on our side and that’s pretty much been proven.”

Jon Phoenix, a senior who studies political science, jumped up on a small concrete wall to address the crowd. He spoke of the rising unemployment for college graduates and a May study showing 50 percent have taken jobs that don’t require college degrees.

“In our world we have banks getting bailed out and people getting sold out,” Phoenix told the crowd. “At our school, we have students homeless and sleeping in the library, while we at the same time have President Aoun living in a $9 million mansion on Beacon Hill. Now let me ask, y’all, is that fair?”

Northeastern university says it’s great that its students are passionate about today’s issues, but it wouldn’t comment on President Joseph Aoun’s living situation or his salary, which is now close to $1 million.

Phoenix says university priorities are out of whack. He circulated a petition among the students to freeze tuition rates and he urged them all to form a student union.

“College was supposed to be the be all, end all,” Phoenix said. “It’s supposed to be the place where no matter how crazy your background, you go into college, you come out and you’re supposed to be guaranteed entry into the middle class.”

But Phoenix worries they won’t realize that dream is no longer guaranteed until they’re out of school and looking for a job and it’s too late to form a student union.

In any case, the “Occupy Colleges” movement might be catching on. Northeastern students will be meeting with student leaders from other campuses in the Boston area Thursday, to plan more demonstrations.

Please follow our community rules when engaging in comment discussion on wbur.org.
  • Mags la Roche

    Congratulations to the students who spoke up and took control of the future!  Build your lives better than the older generations did, sorry we let you down.

  • litekeep

    Good job NE students!  Don’t forget what you have learned, and the value of economic justice.  This is something you will need to remember for the rest of your lives!  Thank you for stepping up!

    • Nonsense

      Economic justice?  Really?  So let’s see, these kids probably graduated HS within the last 3 years.  They most likely visited NEU with their parents prior to enrolling. They most likely visited OTHER schools prior to enrolling at NEU.  Their parents have obviously weighed the costs of the school and decided that loans were necessary.  Assuming loans were required, they made the effort to sign up for the loans and have already paid their tuition for this year, and years past.  They have the freedom to enroll with any major they choose, art, history, communication, business, law, engineering, or biology knowing full well what the typical salary is for college graduates with those degrees. 

      So you mean to tell me that, with the tuition of the school public information, the interest rates of the loans guaranteed by the govt., the fact that a credit check is necessary for the loans, and the public knowledge of what certain professions pay on the average, they are still somehow in an unjust situation when they graduate and get a “real job” (whatever that means) and have loan payments which are high? 

      Here’s a solution, do a bit of thinking, take a bit of responsibility and go to a state school if NEU is too expensive.  There are options for people who don’t want debt, don’t throw around the word “justice” like these kids are somehow oppressed.

  • Laura from Somerville, MA

    I have to be a tiny little devil’s advocate on a few different points… I have my Bachelor’s in Communications, from a private, Boston school.  I paid off my loans working in non-profit (about $90k total).  I am now working towards a BSN/MSN to be a Nurse Practitioner at Regis College in Weston. By the time I’m done, I’ll have picked up at least $100k in loans. I fully intend to pay them off 100% by my own hard work.  I picked my degree and school based on the job I anticipate getting when I get out.  If I didn’t think that I would be able to get a job with this degree, I wouldn’t have started the program.

    Basically, all I’m saying is that people have choices to make: pick public over private and you won’t be saddled with so much debt or find scholarships. Most jobs don’t care if you went to a public or private university to get your degree: it’s more about your experience and ability.

    My other point is that while I don’t believe anyone really needs to earn $1 million (seriously, how much can you really spend? My husband and I live off the tiniest fraction of that!). HOWEVER, in order to have a school as highly regarded as NEU, you must pay a very smart, highly skilled person to run the school.  It’s not an easy job, and he should be compensated for his hard work.  As someone who worked in the non-profit work for 7 years, it makes me sick that people think “Oh, it’s a non-profit. You shouldn’t get paid much.” That’s so untrue: you need skill to accomplish a mission and move it forward, and people have bills (like me, my own student loans!) to pay.

    • Beez

       I think what happens is a failure to properly educate students on the middle and HS levels in terms of a “real world” education. We don’t learn about establishing and maintaining credit, we don’t learn about personal finances, etc.  We are taught to go to the best school, just do whatever it takes to get through school, and you’ll be rewarded in the long run. I think that’s what the speaker Jon Phoenix was trying to convey when he said college is supposed to be the end all be all.
       It sounds like you had the proper critical-thinking skills necessary to make a wise decision!
       Many people, such as myself, have parents who didn’t go to college and maybe didn’t have the experience to help guide us through the process and just supported our desire to attend college, no matter the school, or it’s cost.
       I went to NU. I was given a good financial aid package – with many grants – which went more and more the way of loans as I progressed. I eventually was “blocked financially” from enrolling and was subject to a 50% collection fee of the tuition balance I had! I worked “regular” jobs in an attempt to pay off the debt, and when I offered a lump-sum settlement (after paying the tuition balance plus thousands in collection fees), my transcripts were only released with the understanding I could never go back to NU again!
       I finished my degree at U-Mass. I know lots of others who ended up doing the same thing. 
       Now I can help guide my children if they aren’t fortunate enough to get a scholarship. Take basic courses at a CC, consider public school, etc. A support system is critical is making these important life decisions. Even my kids want to go to Harvard, I’ll do my best to send them, but at least I have the knowledge now to pass on to the next generation.
      Isn’t that what it’s all about?!
      Anyways… I’m proud of these kids all over the country!
      (Pardon the long post but as you can see I feel strongly about it!)

  • Ashley Elisabeth

    Unfortunately, Northeastern students can protest all they want, but two years ago the school’s debt was greater than its endowment and rumor has it that in January 2010, they were counting the returning students and transfer applications down to the penny to make sure they could open its doors. They aren’t dropping tuition prices anytime soon to recoup the massive losses its has incurred in the market and enormous amount in loans it has taken out over the last 10 years.  

    You can thank Mr. Freeland for his poorly thought out massive building plan. Isn’t it great how graduates saddled with loans are expected to be financially responsible with no option for “loan forgiveness” or bankruptcy, and yet leaders of their institutions get to spend their funds like it’s Monopoly money? 

    At least NE kids have a great co-op program to give them a decent chance at a solid good paying job, unlike its neighbors along the Charles River….

    • Tara

      If you believe this is sheerly about tuition, you are certainly mistaken. It is about the people who are losing their homes. The people who cant eat. The exponential growth of soup kitchens and homeless shelters. Parents of students losing their jobs. Parents feeling overwhelming guilt that they have to pull their children out of school. THAT is the problem. The tuition is a symptom of inflation, which has been exacerbated  by the deficit. The top one 1% of this country would not suffer one bit if they had to contribute more money to our governmental system. Im not asking everyone to be a philanthropist, I am simply asking for the corporations who are legally obligated to pay taxes, do so! And our government to stop treating it’s citizens as unequals, and tax the richest individuals of this nation at the same rate people who make significantly less are taxed. 

      As a response to your last statement, the occupation and march (for that matter) is intended to fight for all the schools in boston, they just choose not to take a stand on the national walk out day. Even if you are fine with the socioeconomic road block to success this country has thrown up against the bottom 99%, that doesn’t change the fact that you are still a part of that percentage. 

      Much Love,

    • Anonymous

      Please sign the WhiteHouse petition to forgivestudentloandebt.com and join our cause on facebook. Your future is in your hands. There are no other options.

    • Goesbetween777@aol.com

      Check into the collegs Comprehensive Annual Financial Report (CAFR)  They are required to have one….It is NOT the budget report.  It is a sum of ALL $$$ in investments etc.   These second set of books often reveal great wealth…

  • Brian

    I graduated with a BA in Political Science last year from the University of Vermont. I am from  Lexington MA and returned home after school only to find that I would be turned down from job after job for lack of experience. One interviewer put it as simply as he could showing me a stack of applications a thick as a college BioChem text book and said “Sorry, but these are all grad students and professionals, we aren’t even looking at college grads right now”. What am I supposed to do with that when I have loans that need to be paid, and living expenses? Everywhere I go its the same story. I ended up taking three part time jobs in order to keep my head above water, but you can’t do that forever, and eventually everyone burns out. I studied hard, did my part, and graduated. I don’t want any bailout I just want the chance to work hard at a good job in my field that I spent over $120,000 to study!

    • Anonymous

      At this point, Brian, it’s not about a bailout, it’s about justice. The banking industry has bought your congress, duped you at the inception of the lending process, contributed to Corps exporting our jobs, and you will have to fight for the right to work and have a liveable wage and career. We at Forgivestudentloandebt.com have tried to discuss options, many communincated with their lenders, struggled without jobs or with part-time or no jobs, and all they got in return was sold-loans and unscrupulous interest charges, as well as abusive, threatening phone calls and a defamed credit report. Justice has not been done, and you have to fight to get it back.  Recognize what is real and act in behalf of your future and the people in the same situation. Congress is bought – join forgivestudentloandebt.com and sign the WhiteHouse petition.

  • Anonymous

    Bravo for you. As a member of forgivestudentloandebt.com I applaud the students who recognize they have been duped.  Please continue to fight for your rights and justice. As a babyboomer, and political activist, I am ashamed that young people today are left with this horrific student loan debt, and having to deal with a corrupt lending process and a Bought Congress. Grownups, parents, grandparents, stand tall and fight for justice and removal of money influence in politics. Your children, their grandchildrens futures and your retirement are at stake! 

  • Anonymous

    Please sign our petition at signon.org and at the Whitehouse webb site. We have two of the largest and fastest growing petitions in the country to help our young people and students of all ages be addressed and have studentloandebt forgiven. It wasn’t the banks the Bought Congress should have helped, it was their constituents. Unfortunately, we aren’t quite as wealthy as their special interests. People know. People are aware. The game is over.

  • Pete

    Why didn’t anyone take the time to explain to these misguided kids how getting a job and therefore paying off a loan works?  You need hard skills or exposure of your talent to get a job that can provide enough money for you to make your loan payments.  I work in high tech.  I’ve interviewed driven grads of both Northeastern and MIT who’ve made their way in the world, working hard to make connections during their years at school, working as coops and interns, and making those connections pay off in the end by getting their foot in the door and actually getting jobs.  They’ll make their loan payments earning a good honest living in high tech.  I’ve also interviewed others who seemed to think that by the weight of their degree, they’d be a shoo in for a job.  The latter tended to be cocky, dismissive, and more interested in their degree than answering actual technical questions relating to the job they were interviewing for.  I could pick out either of the groups within 5 minutes of starting an interview.  Perhaps courses in work ethic and poise should be a priority for these kids.  The latter complaining that they (or their unfortunate parents, if they cosigned the loan(s)) agreed to shell out a kingly sum for a guarantee of immediate riches is the height of hubris.  You have to make it on your own in this world, it isn’t handed to you on a silver platter (unless you make the right connections with the political elite, of course).  I’ve worked hard to achieve my middle class status.  I quit state college after 2 years, finding that 4 contiguous part-time jobs and full-time schooling was burning me out physically and mentally, and I was getting less bang for my buck every semester.  However, one of my 4 part-time jobs gave me the experience to interview for and land a good full time job in high tech, which I’ve nurtured and expanded into a career.  The others have given me experience I can put on a resume.  I’ve paid off my school loans, bought a small house I can afford a mortgage for, and have 3 young kids by a wonderful wife.  If I get laid off by my employer, I will either find quick work doing what I do best or go back to working as many part-time jobs as I need to to support myself and family.  And I won’t complain.  I’ll just do it.

  • lcpl in the USMC

    You chose to go to that school, you chose to take out that money. Maybe you should have thought about it before hand. I don’t not pity you, should have thought about how much you were going to have to pay back when you took out the loans.

  • Sedai

    Whine-ass, lazy, complacent people probably will have trouble getting by, because they don’t want to have to actually do anything. Say, didn’t you agree to pay that money when you like, asked for it?  It must be all the “rich” people’s fault for being so evil as to work hard and actually make something of themselves. Since you are all acting like such spoiled brats, perhaps you all need a time out? You certainly can’t handle adult issues in an adult world.

    Fair? Life ISN’T fair, genius. It’s hard, and it gets harder, but you know what, many of us got through it and we live just fine, right here in the middle class. Grow up, crybabies.

  • Supra

    If more people would choose useful majors, we wouldn’t have such a problem. There is a shortage of engineering graduates in this country, and there are students left and right pursuing degrees in Unemployment Studies.

  • Anonymous

    I can only hope all students get active in this occupy colleges movement

    National march on oct 13th, 2011 at 4:30pm 

Most Popular