Universities are bringing Occupy into the classroom

Professor Jeff Edwards, who is teaching “Occupy Everywhere” at Roosevelt University in Chicago this semester, says a third of the political science majors are enrolled in the course.

Edwards says Roosevelt allows professors to teach a class one time before the official approval process as long as the department approves it. He says the Occupy movement, which started in September near New York’s Wall Street as a protest against economic inequality, is having enough of an impact on American culture to stand alone in its own course.

“This movement is playing out in front of us and I thought it would be negligent if I didn’t create a space for our students to evaluate it,” Edwards says.

Several other universities have also moved quickly to fashion Occupy courses this semester:

Brown University‘s visiting assistant professor Derek Seidman created a seminar: “The Occupy Movement in Historical Context” after an Occupy teach-in at the University in October attracted about 600 people.

•Channa Newman, a professor at Point Park University in Pittsburgh, teaches “Wealthy White Males,” where “the 99% vs. the 1% is the premise for the course.” Newman started teaching the course 10 years ago, but this year she has changed it to include the Occupy movement.

UC San Diego professor Ivan Evans’ course “Social Movements” is zeroing in on the Occupy movement this semester. “Now we focus on the organization and structure of social movements because of Occupy’s unique model,” Evans says.

New York University is offering “Cultures and Economies: Why Occupy Wall Street? The History and Politics of Debt and Finance” taught by professor Lisa Duggan.

Cory Schenn, 21, an active member of Occupy Chicago, is enrolled in “Occupy Everywhere,” at Roosevelt University and he says the course wasn’t what he had expected.

“When the class began I though that students would have a better grasp of what’s going on or would be more sympathetic to the movement, but there has been a lot of criticism,” Schenn says. “People think we are being brainwashed, but that’s not the case — it’s very critical.”

Roosevelt student Anna Gurevich, 19, has gotten a “mixed bag” of reactions when she talks to people about taking a course on Occupy Wall Street.

“You get people who laugh it off and say, ‘that’s not a college course’ or ‘that’s silly,’ ” Gurevich says. “Some people say it should just be part of another course on social movements, but a lot of people think it’s a very good course offering.”

Edwards says it is inevitable that courses on the movement will appear at other colleges

“I have had a lot of syllabus requests from students and professors at other colleges who want to start a class like this on their campuses,” Edwards says.

At Columbia University, an Occupy course was listed to be available this spring on the University’s website, but it did not run because it hadn’t gone through the approval process, says Vice President for Public Affairs Brian Connolly. Connolly says it had nothing to do with the content of the course and that a class of that nature is something that Columbia would consider for the future.