Today, several hundred students at Stanford University will gather for teach-ins and a rally as part of the Occupy the Future movement started a few weeks ago. The objective of the teach-ins, according to the movement’s [website](to build awareness about social inequality, the erosion of American democracy, and the link between unrestrained growth and the current environmental crisis.), is “to build awareness about social inequality, the erosion of American democracy, and the link between unrestrained growth and the current environmental crisis.”
Several students and faculty have already joined the Occupy the Future efforts. For the past several days, students and faculty have published op-eds pertaining to topics of inequality, poverty, health, education, environmentalism, and others. The movement began with a meeting between students and Professors Rob Reich and Doug McAdams, both of whom are now contributing to the op-eds and the teach-ins. Other prominent faculty contributors include Professors Ken Arrow, David Laitlin, Michele Elam, Debra Satz, and David Polumbo-Liu.
While Stanford has had an Occupy Stanford movement operating for several weeks, the Occupy the Future effort is fairly recent and has seemingly benefited from university support. Aside from just the faculty who have involved themselves, the movement is supported by the Haas Center for Public Service. Even Dean Julie Lythcott-Haimes has thrown her support behind the movement, sending out a mass email to all undergraduate students. She wrote:
Students, faculty, and staff have come together to create an opportunity to better understand, engage, and act within a critical moment in our country by looking at structural inequalities from many different perspectives…regardless of your perspective I encourage you to become more informed, as I plan to!
Some students have expressed concern about the university’s rather explicit involvement in the Occupy the Future event. According to Tom Schnaubelt, executive director of the Haas Center, the Haas Center has thus far provided meeting space for planning, website management, and mentorship to the student leaders of the group.
Schnaubelt replied to some of these concerns in an email to the Review. He explained that the Haas Center became involved when he was approached about being part of a group of faculty “who were concerned that the Stanford community was not taking advantage of an opportunity to educate students about the Occupy movement and the issues that it raises.”
He explained that part of the Haas Center’s strategic plan is to support students in activism. When asked what he thought about the Haas Center supporting a political event like Occupy the Future, Schnaubelt responded, ” If by political you mean promoting ‘the public welfare by exercising an influence in behalf of humanity and civilization,’ then this event might indeed be considered political.” He noted that the quote comes from the university founding grant.
He also mentioned that the Haas Center has a *Military Service as Public Service *effort, which he imagines “infuriates some of our supporters, just as I’m sure that our support of Occupy the Future makes others uncomfortable.” He continued, “But I don’t believe the Haas Center’s role is to veer away from topics that make people uncomfortable. I view our role as exposing students to ideas that we all must confront, so that they can clarify their values in a way that is informed by experience and reason.”
The extent of political rhetoric that the event will involve is not yet known. Schnaubelt concluded, “Fundamentally, however, I view the event as educational.”
I will post tomorrow after the event with follow-up commentary. Below is the schedule of teach-ins: