Tufts Occupiers protest student debt with kiss-in
Published: Thursday, April 12, 2012
Updated: Thursday, April 12, 2012 19:04
Members of Tufts Occupiers on Saturday were joined by members of Students Occupy Boston at a kiss-in protest at Dewey Square.
Roughly 20 students held banners, posted letters of protest and kissed each other in front of the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston, Citibank and the Massachusetts State House. The theme of the event, highlighted by the tag line “If the banks can make out like bandits, so can we,” was meant to draw attention to the issue of persistent student debt, according to Nate Matthews, a member of Tufts Occupiers who planned the event.
“We just thought it was a cheery, fun thing to do that would get people talking about it,” Matthews, a freshman, said.
The kiss-in concept was inspired by student protests for education reform last summer in Chile, according to Tufts Occupiers member Rachel Greenspan.
“There’s a lot of historical precedence for it,” Greenspan, a junior, said.
Greenspan added that although the Tufts Occupiers participate in standard protest marches, this strategy has been somewhat normalized and is now less impactful.
“I think it’s good to use a diversity of tactics,” she said. “You need creativity to spark momentum and spark public interest.”
The Tufts Occupiers group chose to focus on student debt because, according to literature members handed out at the event, it has surpassed credit card debt and reached more than $1 trillion nationwide. Protesters voiced concerns that leaving recent graduates burdened by debt could lead to more widespread economic problems.
“It’s got terrible consequences for the economy if the debt bubble bursts,” Matthews said.
In a letter posted by members on the banks the group visited, the Tufts Occupiers proposed significantly changing policies related to public colleges, specifically mentioning overall tuition hikes and loans. Their ultimate goal is to completely curtail debt from student loans.
“I view student debt as one of the most pressing issues not just for students, but for everyone,” Greenspan said. “Abolishing student debt would be in the best interest of our economy as a whole.”
Meg Lazar, a student from Northeastern University who participated in the protest, expressed frustration that, for many people, college and post-graduate life have become about making money rather than expanding the mind and innovating.
“Once you graduate, you are forced into an absolute pressure cooker,” she said.
The gathered students relayed this message to passersby with fliers, slogans chalked on the sidewalk and the act of kissing. The kissing lasted for 15 seconds in front of each place where they stopped. Every participant wore a large piece of blue tape with the name of his or her kissing partner, eliminating any confusion as to whether they were doing it voluntarily.
“We have a very strict consent policy,” Matthews said.
Students Occupy Boston worked on plans for the event with a parallel group in New York that was planning a solidarity kiss-in, according to Matthews. However, he was unsure of the outcome of that group’s protest and even questioned the success of his own.
“Our original vision was to have a bunch of students there from all over the place,” Matthews said. “That didn’t happen, I think mostly because I
scheduled it on Easter and Passover weekend.”
However, with kissers from Northeastern University, Emerson College, Boston University and the University of Massachusetts Boston in attendance, Matthews said the kiss-in was generally enjoyable if not completely successful.
“It’s fun,” Lazar said. “I mean, you’re making out with someone.”