Social media fuels Occupy Colleges movement

“This is bigger than just rising tuition fees. Occupy Wall Street is focused on the effects of corporate greed brought on by corporate person-hood. Once we get the money from Wall Street out of politics we as students will see direct improvements in our lives,” the letter said.

The national student loan default rate jumped from 7 percent to 8.8 percent this year, according to a September report released by the U.S. Department of Education (ED). The default rate among students who attended for-profit college is considerably higher: 15 percent, up from 11 percent.

Ericka Hoffman, a junior at California State University (CSU) Bakersfield and an Occupy Colleges protest facilitator, said college students’ constant checking of their Twitter and Facebook feeds has proved critical to growing the movement in higher education.

With nearly instant web-based communication, Hoffman said, organizers can rally students quickly and spread the message virally.

“People are so consumed with [social media], so when they start to notice us, they are inclined to spread the word, especially if they agree with the message,” she said.

CSU Bakersfield organizers used Facebook to recruit members to make phone calls about charges of police brutality at Occupy demonstrations. Hoffman said students responded to the Facebook request for help within minutes.

Hoffman said “98 percent” of the group’s Twitter messages have been positive, and that students from across the political spectrum have, at the very least, shown support for the demonstrations, even if they don’t join the protests.

“No matter what political orientation they are, I think students are coming together and realizing something has to change here,” she said. “We’ve gone from valuing people to valuing corporations, and people are starting to see that now.”

College Republicans said they have tracked the Occupy groups on Twitter and Facebook this month, but haven’t used the social sites to gather student groups who oppose the Occupy message.

“I don’t think this movement means anything, so I don’t know what I’d be counter-protesting,” said Mark Ciavola, president of the University of Nevada Las Vegas (UNLV) College Republicans and state chair of the state’s College Republicans. “The whole movement is a joke, frankly … and I just don’t think it’s worth our time.”

UNLV doesn’t have its own Occupy Colleges offshoot. Ciavola said the group Occupy Las Vegas has used UNLV’s campus as a meeting place after hours.

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