Coffee, Tea, and Politics Occupies BC

Photograph by Jwanah Qudsi

About 50 Bellevue College students came together on Wednesday, March 7 to discuss a controversial political issue: The Occupy Movement. The event was organized by the Campus Activity Board and sponsored by the Political Science and International Studies programs. It took place in rooms C120 A and B, behind the BC cafeteria.

The movement started in late September 2011. Under the slogan “We Are the 99 Percent,” young protesters demanded that the U.S. economy, and consequently the U.S. in general, not to be controlled by the richest one percent of Americans.

The panel at the event took place between four BC professors: Dr. Trevor Tate, the mediator, Dr. Chace Stiehl, Dr. Russ Payne and Dr. Jim Maynard. There was also a student present, Katya Case, who was answering questions and arguing from the point of view of America’s college students.

The event lasted two hours. Among the questions asked by Dr. Tate were the following: Is democracy alive and well, or has this event shed some light on the matter? How has the wealth gap—the income gap—affected minorities in America? Americans have a very short memory; do you think that, come spring, Americans will have forgotten about the Occupy Movement?

To this last question, the speakers had different answers.

Dr. Maynard, for instance, thought that the presidential election would have a critical impact on the Occupy Movement, while Dr. Payne was uncertain about whether or not the movement will flourish because the movement is still at the “screening stage.”
Dr. Stiehl added that the presidential election wasn’t the sole factor; another problem concerned the elites “who are trying to control society and keep it in their favor” through Super PACS.

Another question was “Have the politicians, the leaders paid attention in your view? Is there evidence that they’ve actually listened [to the Occupy Movement]”

To this, Payne answered, “They’re not scared enough yet.”

Students also had the chance to participate and ask their questions. Among the many questions asked were: How do we promote good politicians without spending a lot of money? How do we go back to caring about voting?

At the end of the discussion each speaker was given a chance to present his or her final opinion.

Dr. Maynard said that “democracy is in trouble,” and suggested that constitutional amendments be made to overthrow the “corporations are people” principle.

Dr. Payne said that to solve the problem brought forth by the Occupy Movement, people needed to start reasoning from values. He also added that he hoped that one day the GDP would not be such an important factor in the determination of a population’s happiness.

Later, Dr. Tate stated that he thought the event was very helpful in expanding the discourse concerning the Occupy Movement and shedding light on the issue.
He added his own opinion on the matter of income inequality. “We can accept inequality to a certain extent, but when it becomes large and gaping, and when it robs a large majority of the population of their own sense of equal opportunity…we begin to find that things are thrown out of work.”

The event was, according to Dr. Tate, “all in all, a good turnout.” He also made a point of thanking the Campus Activities Board for all of their contributions to the organization of the event. “They did a magnificent job…they do a line share of the work for Coffee, Tea and Politics…I couldn’t have done it at all without the help of Nora Lance and her wonderful assistance.”