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To Occupy or not to Occupy?

[caption id="attachment_359" align="aligncenter" width="640" caption="Oct. 23: Protesters stave off wind and wet in the nation's capital for another week of Occupy Ottawa"][/caption]

As the Bard put it so eloquently, that is the question. With Occupy protests moving into another week both in Canada and abroad, many youth are beginning to seriously ponder the fundamentals of the movement. While some see the protesters as amassing into a much overdue grassroots movement against the corporate agenda, others see them as a misguided, ineffective - even spoiled - bunch of vagabonds.

Over at Maclean’s, columnist Andrew Coyne admonishes Canadian protesters for instigating what he calls a “phony class war.”

“The sight of the near-rich casting covetous eyes at the rich—all in the name of denouncing “greed”—is, you’ll forgive me, a bit rich,” he writes.

To be sure, Mr. Coyne has a point. Much of the so-called “ninety-nine percent” are not living in dire straights - especially in Canada - but are instead making ends meet and then some with income from study jobs.

But Occupy protests around the world have also attracted huge numbers of a particular demographic with a particular agenda: students. On the streets of Manhattan, Vancouver, and Toronto, students are uniting under the banner of relief from crushing debt.

The average American student walks away from college with a degree and $24,000 in debt. Jarring on its own, this amount of debt is compounded by the fact that so many recent graduates cannot find work. This past summer, the unemployment rate among youth in the United States was 18.1 percent; in other words, more than 4 million youth were out of a job.

Canada as a whole has fared better through the economic storm, and Canadian youth are no exception. In May, Statistics Canada reported that youth unemployment was down to 15 percent. On the other hand, more than two years ago, Canada Student Loan debt had already reached $13 billion.

The disparities might differ, but that doesn’t mean that students - and protesters at large - shouldn’t be questioning their current situation in a nonviolent albeit disruptive manner.

Here at OOHLALA, a driving force behind our mission is to help make student life more affordable for students. While the team subscribes to differing views on the merit of the Occupy movement, we all agree that the costs of postsecondary education are deserving of discussion in Canada and abroad.

Sure, we might not want to camp out in downtown Vancouver for weeks on end just to make a point to the "one percent." But at least the Occupy protests got us thinking.

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