‘Occupy Wall Street’ protest stakes out spotlight at GOP economic debate

David Martosko Executive Editor
Font Size:

HANOVER, N.H. — Barely 48 hours before nine Republican presidential hopefuls are scheduled to debate at Dartmouth College, signs began appearing on campus Sunday evening announcing a demonstration in support of the Occupy Wall Street protests. A “Students Stand With Staff” organization with ties to the Service Employees International Union is organizing the event.

The group plans to hold its rally on the center of campus during the four hours immediately preceding Tuesday evening’s high-profile debate.

Sterling Beard, a senior at the college and editor-in-chief of The Dartmouth Review, a conservative campus newspaper, told The Daily Caller that organized labor’s grievances with Dartmouth — and the Students Stand With Staff organization — go back several years.

“President [Jim] Kim came in and inherited a $100 million budget gap,” Beard said of Dartmouth College’s president, who took over in July 2009. “He turned it around, but the unions didn’t like the way he did it. He really ticked off the SEIU. And that’s when Students Stand With Staff came about. It’s all about protecting the union.”

“There’s a feeling here that as individual people, members of the staff are great,” he explained. “But the union has driven up costs. We had a tuition hike this spring, and students see it as partly connected to the union. The SEIU seems to think their wages should be protected, that their benefits should be sacrosanct, and that none of them should be able to be laid off. Students resent that.”

Karenina Rojas, a Dartmouth junior and a frequent organizer of protests for progressive causes, confirmed in an email that Students Stand with Staff is “a pro-union, pro-worker’s rights group on campus.”

“We are currently planning a ‘Support Occupy Wall Street’ event on the Green on Tuesday,” Rojas told TheDC, “and are planning on having a constant presence from 4PM to 8PM.”

Rojas also said that the SEIU may hold its own rally, distinct from the students’ activity. Her organization will be “protesting GOP economic policies, in addition to expressing solidarity with the Occupy Wall Street movement.”

The SEIU Local 560’s website includes a photograph of a sign advertising a Dartmouth Students Stand With Staff “candlelight vigil” dating from February 2010, shortly after Dartmouth began a limited program of staff layoffs to balance its budget.

SEIU vice president Chris Peck did not respond to The Daily Caller’s request for comment.

David is The Daily Caller’s executive editor and a Dartmouth alumnus. Follow him on Twitter