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TMC at Left Forum

Interiew with Annie Spencer - Occupy Student Debt Campaign

by Geordie Gwalgen Dent

New York - The TMC interviews Annie Spencer, with the Occupy Student Debt Campaign.  Annie is a Doctorate Student at the CUNY Graduate Center and spoke at Left Forum on the Student Serfdom Panel.

Toronto Media Co-op: Why are you here?

Annie Spencer: The student debt issue is gaining prominence.  Dissent and Jacobin (panel partipants) decided to promote a student debt campaign that focused on having a critical discussion and not look at it as a policy issue.  We feel it’s time for some kind of direct action and not to try to deal with the issue through policy or legislation.

There are currently a number of petitions being submitted to governments…when a million people have signed on we’ll be calling for a debt strike on paying back student debt.

Many of the topics and presentations here are heavily using the ‘OCCUPY’ lexicon.  Do you feel that this is case where people are invoking the Occupy movement after it has started to slow down as a movement?

TMC:  We've noticed that a lot of the panels here are using the 'Occupy' lexicon.  Do you feel that this is a good idea given that many of the Occupy camps are now gone?

AS: I don’t know if I’d agree that Occupy is slowing down.  The physical encampments are phasing down, but I think many people just moved indoors for the winter.  I know a number of people are planning for things this spring.

Yes, Occupy is a buzzword but I truly believe both academically and politically that student debt is a means for tapping into people’s future wealth.  We are part of the Occupy movement in the sense that we are calling for actions but not making a set series of demands.  We’re highlighting the problem.

The Occupy Student Debt Campaign has four principles: free education, interest free loans for education, that private educational institutions open their books to see what student tuition is going towards and a massive write off of student debt.

Most of the student debt is held by private financial institutions. April 25th will be the approximate date that student debt in the US will top $1 Trillion dollars, so we have called for a day of action on that day.  This is more than the current levels of credit card debt in the US.

TMC: What are you hoping to get out of coming to Left Forum?

AS: We’re mostly here to reach people.  The ‘left’ is pretty broadly defined and it’s pretty easy for us to reach people on campuses so we’re here to reach like-minded people not necessarily on campus.

TMC: Ontario, Canada just passed a bill that offers a large tuition rebate.  Is anything like that happening federally or at the state level in the US?

AS: There are some minor bills that won’t see the light of day in early initial stages.  Obama is making some changes to student debt but they start in 2012.  The biggest difference between Canada and the US (I find) is that here, education is not discussed as a public good, but instead in consumerist terms.

For more information on the Occupy Student Debt Campaign and the $1 Trillion Day campaign go to and

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