The Independent Student Newspaper of St. John's University

The Torch

The Independent Student Newspaper of St. John's University

The Torch

The Independent Student Newspaper of St. John's University

The Torch

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Enter San Man: Protest Principles Aligned With University Mission

I’ve been asked a lot lately about why I support Occupy Wall Street.

At first, I didn’t really think I had an answer. I’d half-heartedly respond with, “fighting corruption, wherever it may be or wherever it may take place.” While it is a fine reason to show support, my heart lay somewhere else, and as the movement has exploded into the news cycle, I now believe I’m in favor of the movement for a much different reason.

Over the last few weeks, many people have posted their “I am the 99 percent” stories to a Tumblr page of the same name, sharing the ways in which Wall Street has put them in tight financial situations. In response, a contradictory post has emerged in which the storyteller talks about how he’s penny-pinched his way into having zero student-loan debt as he approaches graduation while depriving himself of some of the luxuries you and I take for granted, such as a new car or iPad. He talks about working hard and using his money wisely and encourages others to quit being lazy and do the same.

I found the post shocking, not because it was created, but because it went viral so quickly and shared by so many. Multiple friends of mine, many of
whom St. John’s students, shared the post on their Facebook pages with a witty remark and a chuckle.

It is sickening that they lack not only a fundamental understanding of the protests, but of what it means to be a St. John’s student.

St. John’s prides itself on closely following the Vincentian mission, so much so that a statue bearing the saint’s likeness sits outside Marillac Hall. It is alarming how quickly his mission — one of the privileged using its available resources to aid the less fortunate — can be so carelessly tossed aside by those friends of mine.

Why do I support Occupy Wall Street? Why do I so badly hope the movement succeeds in changing the corporate and economic landscape of America? Because for the many people out there milking their unemployment and welfare benefits without looking for work, there are so many more who depend on every scrap they can get their hands on to survive.

I support Occupy Wall Street because I hope a day comes where the 99 percent will no longer exist.

I support the movement because I hold an obligation to them—to those who may need a place to sleep, because they’ve been kicked out of their homes, or food, because the government-issued stamps haven’t yet arrived. It saddens me that there are members of the St. John’s community who don’t feel
this way.

And I think St. Vincent himself would agree with me.

We have a responsibility that far exceeds 8000 Utopia Parkway, or any of the other campuses St. John’s calls home. It is a responsibility that exceeds the now-nationwide protests — to help people, of any walk of life, who may need our help. They are our brothers and sisters, “God’s children,” and it is up to us to run to them — not walk, or care solely about ourselves and our own fortunes — when we find them in need.

As St. John’s students, we are all part of the 99 percent, all the time. It is the most basic principle that drives this University. Where there are people in need, we are there to scoop them up and dust them off.

Most of the time, St. John’s does a great job serving the less fortunate. Just last week, St. John’s held a number of events to raise money for breast
cancer awareness. The school also constantly participates in service trips to help the homeless and to build homes in disaster-stricken areas.

But for as progressive as St. John’s can be, it can also be as narrow-minded. The University still does not have a Gay-Straight Alliance despite the
well-documented interest in one on the Queens campus, and hides behind a Catholic (Roman Catholic, as in the religion — not the definition of the
word meaning “universally-accepting,” which it also stresses) value that homosexuality is morally wrong. It took a great deal of lobbying for the St. John’s chapter of the Muslim Students Association to finally get a place on campus at which to worship, and according to sources, the Student Government, Inc.’s Budget Committee recently rejected a request made by MSA to invite a speaker — one who has spoken at St. John’s before — to enlighten the organization on the Islamic faith’s notion of the end of the world, citing that such an event wouldn’t keep consistent with the Vincentian mission.

These groups many not have been kicked out of their homes, or lost their jobs, but it is our responsibility to help them, too, with welcoming and opened arms. Jesus didn’t have a lot to say about homosexuals or Muslims, but he sure had a hell of a lot to say about loving your neighbor. Does it really matter, then, if the Vatican or a Diocese takes issue with it?

St. John’s was founded in 1870 on trailblazing principles, to give a predominantly-immigrant population in New York City the opportunity to receive an affordable education amid working to provide for their families.

The University community has to recognize that, though this particular demographic has and always will be a major part of the St. John’s mission, new groups of people who need our help emerge every day.

It has to realize that the 99 percent isn’t just limited to those occupying Wall Street.

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    Annoyed with the TorchOct 24, 2011 at 2:50 pm

    Now THIS is a real editorial. It is based off a real event, a newsworthy conversation, and although it is laced with opinions and personal experiences, it provides me with NEWS and INFORMATION that I crave when reading a newspaper.

    Thank you for being an editor who knows how to also be a journalist.