Students Launch 'Occupy the Facts'

About 20 students Sunday night launched “Occupy the Facts,” a nascent student organization hoping to combat charges that protestors in the Occupy movement are uninformed about public policy issues.

The organization seeks to conduct important policy research and make their findings accessible to Occupy protesters and the public. The group will spend the next three weeks developing information packages.

“I want to see if we [can] create something that could research public policy surrounding the occupiers’ demands,” said Peter D. Davis ’12, one of the project facilitators. “We want to be able to create fact sheets.”

One of the projects’ goals is to eventually transform their policy findings into various formats, including educational YouTube videos and info-graphics.

Davis said that the inspiration for “Occupy the Facts” is the potential for Occupy to affect social change.

“I see the Occupy movement as a platform that might just have a chance at making the kind of change that a lot of people in our generation have been dreaming of,” Davis said.

Talia B. Lavin ’12, another active student participant, protested the criticism levied against the movement.

“I’ve noticed this persistent criticism that the demands of the movement aren’t specific enough,” Talia B. Lavin ’12 said. “The goal is to reach out to people who have heard a lot about Occupy but aren’t sure what Occupy is trying to achieve.”

Davis believes the charges that Occupy participants are uninformed are distracting from the movement’s potential.

“This group is calling those peoples’ bluffs,” Davis said.

Davis met with a small group last week to determine how they could help the Occupy movement. They came to the conclusion that they could leverage Harvard’s research resources to make policy information more accessible and conclusive.

“Occupy is not a closed movement—it’s an open platform. It’s not something that you have to remain a spectator of,” Davis said. “We can get involved.”

Sunday’s meeting included Harvard students ranging from first-years to a Ph.D candidate.

According to Davis, the organization hopes to draw from the “comparative advantage of Harvard students.”

“We have access to a lot of research resources,” he said. “We have access to professors, who are knowledgeable about these issues, and we have an amazing library system.”

The group has yet to begin research, but it has already established a framework of research practices meant to provide guidance moving forward.

These policies include sourcing every fact included in published material and maintaining a neutral research approach.

Although many of the participants are sympathetic to the Occupy movement, Lavin stresses the group’s mission to remain as neutral and objective as possible—which might mean publishing results that may not be taken favorably by Occupy supporters.

“We want to release objective, clear, independent public policy research. Not serving as propaganda for Occupy Boston, but non-biased informational materials,” Lavin said.

—Staff writer Jose A. DelReal can be reached at jdelreal@college.harvard.edu.

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