Struggling to occupy

CU movement battles low attendance, student apathy

photo by Blair Madole

In the early-morning hours of Oct. 14, the Occupy Denver
protest area was dismantled by police, and more than 20 protesters were
arrested as hundreds looked on in a packed Lincoln Park.

That wasn’t quite the scene the day before at the University
of Colorado Boulder, as a 2:30 rally planned on Norlin Quad attracted about 10
participants and a few more onlookers. Protesters made and handed out signs
reading “Forgive Student Debt” and “No Taxation Without Representation.” They occasionally
addressed passing students, but generally stayed in a group.

One protester, sophomore Max d’Hauthuille, copied charts
taken from a Business Insider blog post onto cardboard signs. He said he was
surprised by the turnout.

“There’s 30,000 people here at CU,” he said. “I was hoping
for at least a couple hundred.

“I thought this school was pretty liberal, and besides the
whole pot-smoking thing, I haven’t been proven right. A lot of people call
themselves liberal, but I just don’t see it.”

Surrounded by sunbathers lying on the grass, d’Hauthuille
expressed frustration at how unmotivated his peers seemed. He told a story of a
teacher asking a class of 100 how many wanted to join Occupy Wall Street or
other Occupy movements. D’Hauthuille was the only one who raised his hand, he

“I feel as if a lot of my generation is pretty apathetic to
this cause,” he said. “They think that the American dream is still alive, and
that’s a lie. Social mobility is at an all-time low. The American dream’s dead,
and people have to wake up now.”

For CU students, that might be a struggle. Many said they
couldn’t occupy anywhere when they were so occupied with schoolwork.

“When I’m in college, I don’t know anything in the outside
world,” said Delaney Rockwell, a sophomore.

“I haven’t been following it,” said Kevin Eno. He said he’d
consider protesting if it was something he believed in, but he wasn’t sure
Occupy CU — which seemed to argue that “corporations are bad,” Eno said — was
something he would be involved in.

“I have no idea what it’s about,” said Nicole Rodriguez,
although her friend Desiree Ramirez said she’s seen coverage of the Occupy
movements from The Daily Show. Ramirez said she isn’t big on protests and she
“doesn’t find CU to be a very liberal place.”

And while Rodriguez wasn’t aware of the movement’s “We are
the 99 percent” slogan, she offered her own take: “Ninety-nine percent what?

Asked if they’d participate in a class walkout, student
responses were tepid at best. “If everyone was doing it, then I would have
participated,” said sophomore Ryan Helle.

There were students in the quad with a familiarity of the
Occupy movements, like Kevin Klinkel, who said some of his friends are planning
to go to Denver’s movement this weekend. But Klinkel admitted he didn’t know
about the campus event and said he’s “in his own engineering bubble.”

For d’Hauthuille, these are symptoms of the problem. “This
school is mostly attended by the upper-middle-class,” he said. “And they don’t
see the poverty that’s affecting a lot of people. I’m hoping people are going
to wake up.”

—Blair Madole
contributed to this report.