Capilano students occupy cafeteria to provoke dialogue on politics

// Sarah Vitet

A recent initiative at Capilano saw both professors and pupils come together to discuss and promote the Occupy Movement. On Oct. 25, the lower cafeteria was transformed into an arena of discussion, starting at 8:30am and going late into the evening, with varying numbers of students in attendance throughout the day.

Occupy Capilano started with an introduction to the consensus model of organizing by Richard Porteous, an organizer of and active participant in Occupy Vancouver. According to one of the Occupy Capilano organizers, Teeanna Munro, having Porteous attend “really helped facilitate conversation, and answered many students' questions about the Vancouver movement.”

“I can only speak for myself,” says Munro. “But my initial aim for Occupy Capilano was to create an open environment where we could discuss the movement as a whole and find our own voices as students within the movement. I personally think that the Occupy movement affects students and I wanted an environment which facilitated student dialogue.”

Capilano was the first post-secondary institution in the Lower Mainland to organize an Occupy event, though SFU has now held their own as well. Throughout the United States, over 87 post-secondary institutions have held events in solidarity with Occupy Wall Street, hosting teach-ins to raise awareness of the issues regarding OWS, and help students understand their place in the movement.

Current Capilano student Rowen Shier attended over five hours of Occupy Capilano, and encouraged her friends at Langara College to organize their own Occupy event. “I went because, first of all, I had the time, but more importantly, I really support the Occupy movement – and I haven't had much time to participate in Occupy Vancouver,” says Shier. “I wish there had been more people [at Occupy Capilano]. But overall, I thought it was really great. The speakers were very interesting and brought up some great issues. And the discussions were amazing!”

There were many teach-ins throughout the day, both by Capilano instructors, students, and alumni, as well as by external activists and community figures. A wide range of topics were covered, including decolonization, thoughts on GMO's, Vancouver City Hall's response to Occupy Vancouver, and protest genres. There were also open mic sessions and group discussions, as well as a media cafe to help students learn how to identify bias in news reporting. The event was organized by a collective of students and faculty, who purposely did not seek permission from the University to use the space.

“The issues that came up are clearly very complicated and in order to make any headway, Occupy Capilano needs to be ongoing,” Shier says. Although Occupy Capilano was only planned for one day, the interest in continuing the dialogue is apparent, as Munro collected over 40 email addresses from interested students.

“Meetings are in the future because this is now out of my hands and in a collective body of eager students,” says Munro. “Now that we have the email list, we can have meetings and discussions to come up with the issues we feel are necessary to pursue.”

// Sarah Vitet, Editor-in-Chief
// Photograph by Natahsha Prakash

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© 2011 The Capilano Courier. phone: 604.984.4949 fax: 604.984.1787 email: editor@capilanocourier.com