Senior Allie Atkeson, a member of Occupy Mary Wash, said that the main point of these protests were “to let the Board of Visitors know we’re upset that we don’t have a full speaking voice.”
The protests began on Thursday afternoon with Occupy Mary Wash holding a meeting with Dan Steen, the rector on the BOV.
Atkeson said that Steen was open to hearing the students’ concerns.
On Friday afternoon the group gathered outside the Jepson Alumni Executive Center, while the BOV met inside. They chanted “Whose school? Our school. What do you see? BOV. What does it need? You and me.”
The group read a letter addressed to the BOV. They used the “human microphone-technique,” made popular in the national occupy movement. This technique is when one person would recite a line and the rest of the group would repeat it loudly.
The letter to the BOV demanded change and said, “[they] will no longer accept the dictates of an oppressive governing body, nor will we be satisfied with token representation.”
The letter also stated, “We demand transparency. We demand an end to top-down, hierarchical decision-making. We demand voting membership for students, faculty, and staff. We demand that education take priority over commoditized, quantified measures of intelligence.”
Atkeson said that Occupy Mary Wash is holding these occupations at the BOV’s meetings “in hopes that they may engage in a discussion” with the students.
According to UMW’s website, the BOV is made up of “12 members appointed by the Governor of Virginia.”
Some of the BOV’s main responsibilities include appointing the President and fixing faculty salaries and tuition fees.
According to the Code of Virginia, at least six members of the BOV must be alumni and no more that three can be residents of another state.
At this time students can sit in on the BOV meetings but are not allowed to speak up or vote.
“The Occupy students are commended for their commitment to a non-disruptive, yet direct, display of their issues and concerns,” said Steen.
Steen also stated that the UMW BOV has always had non-voting student representation in the form of the SGA President.”
“I believe SGA President Ashley Nixon is an effective student representative to the Board. She is an active participant in our meetings,” he said.
“The issue of voting representation by students on the BOV is a state prerogative and any change would have to be addressed at that level, likely through state legislation,” said Steen.
On Saturday morning Occupy Mary Wash marched through Fredericksburg with members of Occupy Richmond up to the Stafford Bridge.
The six members of Occupy Richmond were on a six-day march from Richmond to Washington D.C in solidarity with the march of Occupy Wall Street members to D.C.
One of the Occupy Richmond members, Zach Lewis said that he did the march because he felt it was something positive he could do for the movement. “I believe it’s spreading awareness for Occupy.”
He also spoke highly of the time his group spent at UMW.
“It’s been great to see another occupation,” he said. “Everyone’s been wonderful; no matter where you go, it’s the same great sense of community.”
Professor Nissim-Sabat, a psychology professor here at UMW, attended the rally at the Ridderhoff-Martin Gallery Thursday night, as well as the one downtown on Saturday.
He said he chose to attend because he “supports what Occupy Wall Street and the other occupy movements stand for.”
Prof. Nissim-Sabat said that the issue of trying to have a voting faculty member on the BOV has been a “difficult struggle” over the years.
He said that he agrees with Occupy Mary Wash’s attempt to raise support for social consciousness. He said he found the rallies to be successful in “keeping the issue alive.”
The weekend concluded Saturday afternoon with a final occupation outside the Jepson Alumni Executive Center.
Photo by Emily Montgomery