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.
“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.