Inspired by Occupy Wall Street, students from around New York will walk out of their classes and march down to City Hall this afternoon. Once at City Hall, the students will join the larger Community/Labor March to Wall Street, which already has almost 3,000 people attending on Facebook.
A few months ago, New York Students Rising, a "statewide network of students and campus-organizations dedicated to defending public higher education and empowering students in New York State," according to its website, started organizing around budget cuts in the CUNY and SUNY systems and began to plan for a fall protest. Now, thanks to a chance scheduling overlap with Occupy Wall Street, it has morphed into a solidarity march, and other universities are joining in as well.
Students from Columbia, The New School, and NYU have been organizing for the walkouts, scheduled at 3:30 p.m. (for Columbia) and 4 p.m. (for NYU and the New School), in time to get to the 4:30 march. In addition, students and teachers at CUNY and SUNY schools will be holding teach-ins prior to walking out.
According to Joshua Frens-String, a Ph.D student in the history department at NYU and one of the organizers of NYU's student walkout, there are two main reasons why students feel so strongly about Occupy Wall Street: inequalities that directly affect them and a feeling that they lack real political representation.
Staging a walkout will have a "strong symbolic effect," according to Frens-String, but he says the idea came from purely practical considerations: The labor march begins at 4:30 and many people are still in school and at work at that time. Still, the act will not be completely devoid of meaning. "We're inspired by people giving up entire days occupying. The least we can do is give up a few hours," he explained.
Who knows if the walkouts will get any results, but they show that OWS is gaining support from more than just zombies.